Latina Health Project

About Osteoporosis

Partial Myths About Osteoporosis

Myth - Drinking milk / eating yogurt will prevent the onset and progression of osteoporosis

Reality - Not necessarily.  Getting enough calcium in your diet is recommended, especially for people at risk for osteoporosis, but it won’t prevent osteoporosis or even stop it from getting worse, necessarily. Insufficient calcium is called a "risk factor".  In any case, a person’s maximum bone density is reached in early adulthood, so much of the critical calcium consumption years are during childhood and adolescence.  That doesn’t mean older people don’t still need calcium, but don’t expect it to do wonders.

Myth - It is a woman’s disease.  Men are at low risk.

Reality - More women get osteoporosis than men, and all other things being equal a woman has a higher risk than a man of the same age.  But plenty of men get osteoporosis.  In the United States alone, an estimated 2 million men have it.  It is not unmasculine to get osteoporosis.

Myth - Broken bones, although not desirable or fun, are a normal part of life and nothing to be particularly feared.  I broke my arm when I was a kid and after a couple months in a cast I was good as new.

Reality - Kids are still growing and their bones tend to heal faster than those of adults.  Young adults can recover from simple broken bones much faster and more fully than the elderly can.  Further, the type of breaks associated with osteoporosis are complex, like splintering of bone, not clean breaks.

Myth - If I put on weight as I get older, I’ll cut my risk for osteoporosis.

Reality - No.  It is true that heavier people – big-boned people – are less likely to get osteoporosis than small-framed people.  But those body types are established early in life.  Most of use put on body fat as we move into middle age, but those weight gains don’t make your bones thicker or stronger at that point in life.

Myth - Treatment for osteoporosis will make me more masculine or more feminine.

Reality - No.  It used to be that estrogen supplements were part of an osteoporosis prevention and treatment regimen, but they are no longer used for that purpose.  In any case, those supplements did not make you more feminine in any meaningful sense.  Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are finding some use in osteoporosis treatment and selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) are on the horizon for future therapies, but they don’t really make you significantly more masculine or feminine either.