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National Health Insurance Corp.: Osteoporosis Cases Up 1000 Percent Since 1995

National Health Insurance Corp.: Osteoporosis Cases Up 1000 Percent Since 1995

Posted May. 15, 2005 23:26,   


Skin as white and clear as the first snow. A voluptuous body without excess fat. These are the conditions for a Korean belle in 2005.

According to results from research into the nation’s health and nutrition done by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs in 2001, the body mass index (BMI: weight divided by squared height) of Korean women increased slightly from 23.11 in 1998 to 23.42. The BMI for diet-crazed women between ages 25 to 39, however, dropped from the levels set in 1998.

The recent controversial advertisement featuring a model hiding behind a lamppost reflects the extremes that the dieting fad has gone to with today’s young generation. Contrary to young women who obsess over their bodies, however, there are many doctors who say osteoporosis comes to mind when watching the commercial.

“Fasting” Diets Create Bone Diseases-

A statistic in 2003 released by the National Health Insurance Corporation shows the number of patients diagnosed with osteoporosis increased 10.1 times compared to 1995. In the same period, prostatism (11.8 times) ranked in second place. The current number of osteoporosis patients in Korea is estimated to be around two million. Doctors say, “The sole perk to possessing an obese body is that the chances of osteoporosis are small.” The overly skinny are the most prone to osteoporosis. Repetitive “fasting diets” without moderate exercise are the surest ways of contracting osteoporosis.

The bone cells in our bodies are replaced with completely new cells every six to seven years. This is due to the balanced activity of osteoplasts absorbing and destroying aged and weak bone cells, and osteoblasts forming new bone cells. This process is repeated throughout a lifetime, even after the cessation of development. After the mid-30s when the bone density is at its highest, this balance starts to break down indiscriminately, and bone density begins to decrease. At this period, if the absorbing speed of bones is too fast or the renewal speed is too slow, osteoporosis happens.

The biggest factor of decreasing bone density is a lack of everyday muscle exercise. When muscles deteriorate and recede due to lack of exercise, stimulation to the bone surrounded by muscle naturally diminishes. When this happens, blood circulation to the micro blood vessels in the bone dwindles, and weak bone cells deprived of oxygen increase in number. When there are many weakened bone cells, it becomes easy for the activity of osteoplasts to outpace that of osteoblasts.

Is Beautiful Skin Bone-Deprived?-

Functional whitening cosmetics, sun protection… beautiful skin as white as Caucasian skin abounds. But in reality, these alabaster beauties tend to be behind in the bone health department than healthy beauties with golden skin.

One hour of sunbathing in a swimsuit builds up about 2000 units (IU) of vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D accelerates absorption of calcium in the small intestine and helps create bone cells. The recommended daily amount is 400 to 800IU. Doctors advise against putting sunscreen on arms and legs, if not the face.

There is a recent study that reveals Korean women are more in need of vitamin D in their blood than women of other countries. A deficiency in vitamin D greatly increases the danger of ligament osteoporosis. Do not recoil from sunshine and consume as much blue fish and milk as possible.

Prevention When Young-

Bone health depends on how meticulously you treat your bone density before the age of 35, when bone density is at its peak. If osteoporosis symptoms are shown, you must take ineffectual treatments for life. The best prevention method is to watch what you eat and maintain a regular exercise regimen.

Rather than swimming, opt for jump roping, hiking, inline skating, jogging, and other sports that heighten weight shocks and prevent osteoporosis.

(Sources: Severance Hospital Endocrinology professor Lim Sung-gil, Samsung Medical Center professor Min Yong-gi, and Asan Medical Center Gynecology professor Kang Byung-moon.)

TK Sohn sohn@donga.com