Thinning bones has less to do with the menopause than with Western dietary practices, but it can largely be prevented by diet and regular exercise.
Although osteoporosis was never much of a health issue in previous generations, today it is a major public health concern, now affecting some 25 million Americans and one in four in the UK. There are all kinds of books written about it, and millions of women are swallowing millions of pills to keep it at bay.
The thinning of bones that can indicate risk of fracture, most commonly in old age, can occur from a number of causes. However, news reports about the issue have reduced it to two main causes: lack of calcium and lack of oestrogen. Older, alcoholic men are at serious risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures as well, but it has been women who have been targeted by the marketing campaigns of those who sell drugs and milk products. What we are actually being sold is a large helping of fear. Because of that fear, women are swallowing calcium pills and oestrogen pills by the ton, even if they are not individually appropriate.
One of the most interesting epidemiological aspects of osteoporosis is that it occurs more in cities and in "first world" countries, where these practices are common, rather than in rural areas and "third world" countries, where they are not. Specifically, it occurs more in the European and North American countries where people eat large amounts of milk products, than in the African countries, where people eat almost none. It is lowest in those areas of South Africa where people follow traditional ways of life.
Even though osteoporosis and bone fractures usually occur during the later stages of a woman's life, menopause is not the cause of these problems. They are only temporally related. More important for bone health is how we treat our bodies, and especially what we eat.
There are aspects of our diet that impact on our bones because they cause an active calcium loss, or drain, and over time this drain can cause as much trouble as any nutritional deficiency.
The women I know who have broken bones after menopause generally share two or more of the following characteristics:
Their diet was rich in meats, white flour, sugar, potatoes and tomatoes.
They didn't hesitate to take pharmaceutical medicines, either over the counter or prescribed.
They didn't do much exercise.
They were thin, either because they didn't eat enough or because they dieted to stay that way.
The acid alkaline balance
Acids are substances containing hydrogen atoms that are missing electrons, so their tendency is to go steal electrons elsewhere: that thieving tendency makes them corrosive. In the body, acids generally result from metabolic processes such as moving or breathing: these acids are either excreted, or they're buffered (neutralised) by minerals or mineral salts, which in turn are considered alkaline (or basic). For the proper function of our metabolism, our blood plasma has to be slightly alkaline, at a pH of about 7.45 (a pH of 7 is neutral, below 7 is acid, above it is alkaline). This is a highly delicate balance.
The more minerals there are in a food, the more they alkalise the body. Protein and carbohydrate foods are acid forming because they leave behind an acid residue; acid forming foods include sugar, flour, beans, grains, fish, fowl, meat and eggs. Alkalising foods include fruits, vegetables, sea vegetables, soy sauce, miso and salt.