Women across the Midlands are damaging their bones by adopting seemingly healthy regimes, which often omit calcium-rich dairy products, a new study revealed today.

One in five women admitted they ate less cheese, drank less milk and used less cream in their diets than they did in 1986, and two-thirds claimed they felt much healthier as a result.

Calcium is vital for bones development but only 20 per cent of women quizzed by the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) could name alternatives rich in the mineral - such as baked beans, tofu, leafy green vegetables, boney fish and dried fruit.

A fifth of people said they relied more on ready meals than they did two decades ago, despite being poor sources of vitamins and minerals.

The NOS survey revealed many women are unwittingly putting their bone health at risk, and are facing an increasing risk of developing osteoporosis.

Weight-bearing exercise and eating a balanced, calcium-rich diet are both ways people can improve their bone density and reduce the risk of having brittle bones in later life.

Jackie Parrington, an NOS spokeswoman, said: "Calcium, vitamin D and other important minerals to build and strengthen our skeleton can be obtained from many different foods, like cereal, bread and fruit.

"Our survey also found that one in eight people in the Midlands do not consider their nutritional needs when preparing a meal. This is very concerning as it may mean our bodies are not getting enough of the vitamins and minerals they need."

Statistics reveal 50 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men aged over 50 will break a bone as a result of this disease, nearly 80 per cent of Midlanders said they were not concerned about osteoporosis, but every three minutes someone in the UK breaks a bone because of it.

* For details visit www.nos.org.uk or call 01761 471771