I have a bone to pick with you
If you have come across this article while you're sitting or standing near a computer, please be sure to thank your bones. They are, after all, the reason you are able to sit upright. You can also thank them for the breakfast that you ate earlier this morning or the dinner you had last night, because without your teeth you would not have been able to chew the food that nourishes your body. A good analogy to healthy bone structure is the foundation and inner framing of the house. When the house is complete, you can see neither, but without both of these the house would surely fall. So to keep a healthy structure inside you, treat your bones right and be sure to thank them.
Now that you have properly thanked your wonderful skeletal structure that influences every aspect of life, let us begin to explore the most important time for bone growth, some bad habits that can lead to problems, and the crucial vitamins and minerals that go into strong, healthy bones. Most of the research outlined in this article will pertain to osteoporosis. I feel that research pertaining to this degenerative bone disease will be the most beneficial in finding answers for properly maintaining bone health throughout life.
Bone growth is its most prominent during childhood and adolescence. The largest level of bone mass is usually achieved by age 30 or thereabouts. The more bone mass you attain in these crucial years, the less likely you'll be to develop osteoporosis and other disorders related to thinning bones. Experts recommend performing weight bearing exercises for an hour or more per week to help maintain bone mass. These weight bearing exercises can include walking, stair climbing, hiking, jogging and lifting weights.
One widely known bone disease is classified as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become brittle and fragile over time. It affects more women than men, but men are not immune to this disorder. It is currently estimated that 25 million Americans either currently have osteoporosis or are at high risk of developing the disease. Fragile and porous bones are the reason why elderly people can have a fall and break a hip, or any other bone, easily. It also leads to back pain, shortening of the spine and small stress fractures in vertebrae. Now let's go on to explore some bad habits you should avoid.
Habits to avoid:
Excessive alcohol consumption (more than two drinks a day)
Poor diet (eating excess fatty foods and sugars)
Soft drink consumption
Excessive salt intake
Diets that severely restrict calcium intake
Excessive coffee drinking (more than 3 cups a day)
All of these habits are linked to poor bone health. Some of these habits restrict the dietary intake of the individual to such a level that proper bone maintenance cannot take place. Other habits included in this list rob the body of the calcium stores it already has. It is important to understand that eating a cheeseburger and fries, along with a few soft drinks and having a couple of hot coffees won't destroy your bones all in one day. If you keep these habits for a lifetime however, the cumulative wear and tear will be detrimental to your bone health. I've showed you what not to do, now let’s discussed some very vital nutrients that your body requires for good bone health.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and more than 99% of it is housed in the skeletal system. The remaining 1% circulates in the blood and aids in neurotransmission, hormone regulation and blood pressure regulation. Calcium is the major component of your bones. When the diet does not provide the appropriate amount of calcium, the body leeches it from the bones. Natural food sources of calcium include yogurt, milk and cheese. If you don't like dairy products, or you are a vegetarian, calcium supplements are available. Calcium supplements usually come in two forms, calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Calcium citrate is the easier of the two for the body to absorb.
Now that you understand that calcium is a major component in bone health, let's take a look at some figures of deficiency in America. The recommended daily intake of calcium is around 1300 mg while the upper threshold for daily intake is around 2500 mg. A survey conducted by The National Health and Nutrition Examination group in the year 2000 showed that Americans are calcium deficient. The survey evaluated Americans in several different age brackets ranging from children to elderly adults. Around 20 to 25% of people in every age bracket were calcium deficient. Females, in every bracket were the least likely to receive the recommended daily amount of calcium.
It is important to get the proper amount of calcium from your diet, so your body doesn't have to leech it from your bones. Constant leaching of calcium leads to bone diseases such as osteoporosis. There is no question that calcium is directly correlated with bone health, so make sure you're getting enough of it.
Vitamin D is actually more closely related to a hormone than a vitamin. It helps the body regulate calcium absorption, and also calcium incorporation into bones. It reduces the amount of calcium that is excreted out of the body and helps maintain blood levels of calcium. Vitamin D is very closely correlated with bone health. Without an adequate supply of vitamin D, bones will start to deteriorate and turn soft. Vitamin D is actually so important for bone health that it has been added to our food supply since the 1930s because of its ability to reverse and virtually wipe out rickets. Rickets is a disease associated with soft bones and an overall brittle skeletal structure. Rickets is very similar to osteoporosis, but it is usually seen in younger individuals and even children lacking the appropriate amount of vitamin D.
A study conducted in 2007 by University of Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center showed the efficacy of vitamin D in osteoporosis treatment protocol. The elderly individuals in the study ranged in ages from 62 to 85. They were supplemented with 700 to 800 IU of vitamin D per day, as well as 700 to 1200 mg of calcium. The research showed that supplementation of calcium and vitamin D reduced the risk of falls, fractures and bone loss. The most significant reduction in fractures occurred in the 85 year old individuals. This study seems to indicate that vitamin D is just as important in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis as is calcium.
Vitamin D can actually be produced by an individual when they are exposed to the sun. Proper exposure ranges from 15 to 20 minutes three times a week to supply the body with an adequate amount of vitamin D. This mechanism is affected by age and the degradation of your skin; so as you get older, the process becomes less and less efficient. A further problem here is that most of us don't get outside much anymore. We are always crammed into our cars, our cubicles, and our houses. On top of all that we are told to limit or completely cut out our exposure to the sun because of the harmful effects of UV radiation. Depending on where you live, you might not have as many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the sun.
It is important to note that there are two types of vitamin D, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3, and of these two variations vitamin D3 is the most easily assimilated into the body. Now that we know all the wonderful properties of vitamin D let's look at the recommended daily intake. Recommended daily intake of vitamin D for people ages 1 to 50 is 5 mcgs(200 IU) per day. At ages 51 to 71 that number doubles to 10 mcgs(400 IU), and if you are fortunate enough to live past 71 that number goes up to 15 mcgs(600 IU) per day. The upper daily intake limit for infants is 25 mcgs(1000 IU). For children and adults the upper daily intake limit is 50 mcgs(2000 IU). There is much debate and disagreement as to whether too much vitamin D can lead to toxicity.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements:
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.
A study conducted in 2009 by the Department of Internal Medicine in Turkey showed that oral magnesium supplements help reduce the rate of bone turnover. The study involved postmenopausal osteoporotic women and took place over 30 days. The participants were split into two groups, and one group received nothing as a control, while the other received 1800 mgs of magnesium per day. Blood was taken from both groups to test for markers of bone turnover. The group that was supplemented with magnesium showed reduction in bone turnover markers when compared with the control group. The researchers concluded that the oral magnesium administered helped to suppress bone turnover. Another similar study was conducted among 12-year-old males in Austria and came to the same conclusion that magnesium supplementation slows bone turnover.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium for adults is around 400 mg a day for males and around 300 mg a day for females. Some natural food sources of magnesium are spinach, nuts and unrefined grains. The problem is that most of us don't eat enough healthy vegetables, nuts and unrefined grains. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, completed in the year 2000, found that a very substantial amount of US adults fail to get the recommended daily amount of magnesium through their diets.
Magnesium deficiency negatively affects calcium metabolism and alters calcium regulating hormones. Since this mineral is required to build strong bones, and it is essential for over 300 functions in the body, make sure you're getting your recommended daily amount, whether through diet or supplementation.
Vitamin K is most notably recognized for its role in blood coagulation. Some food sources of vitamin K include dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale. This vitamin is now coming under the microscope for its new role in maintaining bone health. Throughout life, bone is constantly being broken down and reformed. The rate at which bone is formed is largely dependent on your age. This is where vitamin K has a beneficial effect. It helps to enhance the bone rebuilding process. Interestingly enough, the Japanese often prescribe vitamin K for osteoporosis sufferers. Let's look at recent studies that have shed some light on vitamin K.
A study conducted in China by the Department of Scientific Research showed that increased intake of vitamin K helped increase bone mineral density in osteoporotic patients. The exact dosage of vitamin K(1 mg a day) in these studies was high compared to the recommended daily allowance. The study also went on to conclude that the rate of fractures went down in these patients. Their study showed that the increased vitamin K helped regulate calcium balance and bone metabolism.
Another study published in Switzerland in the October 2001 edition of Nutrition Magazine showed a synergistic relationship between vitamin K and vitamin D. They performed their studies on osteoporotic patients. The patient showed improved bone density, as well as a reduction in fractures, when administered high doses of vitamin K(around 1 mg per day). They observed and speculated that vitamin K aides the protein osteocalcin, which is involved in bone mineralization. By increasing the rate at which bone mineralizes, bone density can improve.
The daily recommended amount for vitamin K is 120 mcgs for males and 90 mcgs a day for females.
Strontium is a very abundant mineral found on Earth. It is very closely related in molecular structure to calcium. In its pure form it is highly reactive to oxygen and therefore is rarely found in this form. It is named after a small village, where it was first identified in the 1800s. Supplemental strontium should not be confused with the radioactive isotope strontium 90 often seen after nuclear fallout. It is important to note that supplemental strontium is not radioactive. The first credible research conducted on strontium was performed in 1959 by the Mayo Clinic. That research found that supplementation of strontium reduced bone pain, increased bone mass and supported overall bone health in osteoporotic women. Let's look at some more recent research conducted in 2004.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, titled "The Effects of Strontium Ranelate on the Risk of Vertebral Fracture in Women with Postmenopausal Osteoporosis" showed the efficacy of strontium. The study used a pharmaceutical version of strontium called strontium ranelate at dosages of around 2 mg per day. The study included 1649 women with a prior background of osteoporotic problems. The duration was three years, and also involved a control group. Both the strontium group and the control group were supplemented with calcium and vitamin D. The findings showed that fewer new fractures occurred in the strontium group than in the control group by around 49% in the first year and 41% in the second year. The researchers also went on to test bone density levels at the lumbar and neck area and found their respective increases at 14.4% and 8.3% in the strontium group. The researchers further concluded that there were no adverse effects in the strontium groups.
At this time there is no recommended daily allowance for strontium. Supplements that include this mineral generally have anywhere from 5 mg to 350 mg per capsule.
When you think of vitamin B, you should think about energy. While this vitamin is deceptively named, it is actually a group of eight vitamins that work synergistically to promote cellular functions. This wonderful group works with your body to regulate metabolism, produce healthy skin and hair, enhance the function of the nervous and immune system, and promote cellular growth. Vitamin B has recently been linked to bone health. Lets explore the findings of some of the most recent research on this interesting link.
In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine titled, "Homocysteine as a predictive factor for hip fracture in older persons" researchers discovered a very causal link between elevated levels of homocysteine, and the risk of bone fracture among elderly people. It is thought that high levels of homocysteine interfere with the synthesis of cross-linking collagen fibers that are necessary to maintain strong bones. Another study conducted in Japan in 2005 showed that supplementation of vitamin B1 and B12 significantly reduced blood levels of homocysteine. These reduced levels of homocysteine were accompanied by a reduced risk of fracture. The study followed 559 aged 65 or older patients for two years. The group was split nearly in half with one group receiving 5 mg of B1 and 1500 micrograms of B12 daily while the other group received a placebo.
Now that we have explored how homocysteine levels can affect bone health, let's discover how vitamin B helps. Vitamin B helps convert homocysteine into another amino acid called methionine. This conversion helps reduce blood levels of homocysteine that would have otherwise caused harmful effects to the blood vessels and collagen production. The current recommended daily allowance of vitamin B1 is 1.5 mgs, and the RDA for vitamin B 12 is 6mcgs. Some conditions such as reduced acidity in the stomach, whether due to aging or medicine can lower the body's ability to absorb vitamins. These supplements usually come in higher doses than the recommended daily amount because this vitamin is water soluble and your body will merely excrete the amount that you do not need.
Most of this article has relied on research conducted on those with osteoporosis. The reason for this emphasis is because osteoporosis is the epitome of poor bone health. If you take good care of yourself and avoid the bad habits outlined in the beginning, your chances of contracting this bone disease are reduced. Make sure you are getting your proper daily amounts of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, strontium and vitamin B. If you feel that your diet is lacking these vital minerals to maintain bone health, consider supplementation. It is my personal opinion that prevention is key when dealing with bone health. Don't wait until it is too late, and instead of preventing osteoporosis you are treating it.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.