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Bone up on an ageing problem

Does anyone really want to be b-b-b-bad to the bone, as in the George Thorogood hit from the early 1980s? If being bad consists of thin, weak, and fragile bones then I think it’s safe to say no to George, and yes to complementary medicines that can help strengthen bones, specifically when it comes to seniors.

An estimated 924,000 Australians have osteoporosis, and in 2017-18 there were 6838 osteoporosis hospitalisations for those aged 50 and over.¹ Furthermore, there were 93,321 hospitalisations for minimal trauma fractures in people aged 50 and over.¹

Complementary solutions

Calcium and vitamin

“All adults lose bone as they grow older, beginning between the ages of 30 and 40,” says Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian Dr Tim Crowe.

“This can progress to the extent that one in two women and one in three men over 60 years of age in Australia will develop an osteoporotic fracture.

“The two key nutrients here are calcium and vitamin D, and both these nutrients are known to be ‘at-risk’ nutrients in older people – for not getting enough from their diet in the case of calcium, or the sun for vitamin D.”


“There is evidence that when calcium and vitamin D are taken together as supplements, this can help to reduce the risk of falls and bone fractures,” says Dr Crowe.

“Furthermore, supplemental protein in the form of high protein nutritional supplements to add to what is eaten in the diet can also help improve strength and mobility and reduce the risk of malnutrition, which independently helps support bone health as protein needs go up in older age.

“Formulated nutritional supplements designed to provide additional energy, protein and important vitamins and minerals can be a useful way for people who are not eating well and are at risk of malnutrition, to meet their nutritional needs, which will help promote better health.”

Other key nutrients

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation⁵, other key nutrients vital for maintaining bone health include:

  • Magnesium.
  • B vitamins (B6, B12).
  • Vitamin K.
  • Zinc.
  • Vitamin A.

A complementary, collaborative approach

Dr Crowe advises that pharmacy assistants should ensure a collaborative approach is involved when recommending nutritional supplements such as vitamins and minerals for bone health or protein-based powders and drinks.

“It should be in conjunction with specialist advice from a doctor or dietitian who can fully assess the many factors that can affect nutritional health of the person,” he says.

To read the full feature as it appears in the August issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants e-magazine, visit: rpassistants.com.au/magazines/retail-pharmacy-assistants-august-2021/ 


  1. Australian Government (AIHW), 2020. ‘Osteoporosis’. gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/osteoporosis/contents/what-is-osteoporosis
  2. National Osteoporosis Foundation. ‘Get the facts on calcium and vitamin D’. org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/get-the-facts-on-calcium-and-vitamin-d/
  3. Surdykowski AK, et al, 2010. ‘Optimising bone health in older adults: the importance of dietary protein’. doi: 2217/ahe.10.16
  4. Nowson C, et al, 2015. ‘Protein requirements and recommendations for older people: A review’. doi: doi.org/10.3390/nu7085311
  5. International Osteoporosis Foundation. ‘Prevention’. osteoporosis.foundation/health-professionals/prevention/nutrition/protein-and-other-nutrients

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