Osteoporosis and low bone mass are not mandatory conditions of aging.With that in mind, natural strategies should help raise expectations for good bone health.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is not part of normal aging although many people continue to believe this is true. A long term, national effort is needed to educate younger generations, so they will have the opportunity to achieve and maintain optimal peak bone mass and reduce the risk of subsequent osteoporotic fractures later in life.
The Foundation estimates that osteoporosis and low bone mass are currently estimated to be a major public health threat for almost 44 million U.S. women and men aged 50 years and older.
As for the prevalence of arthritis, an estimated 50 million adults in the United States reported being told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to natural practitioners, this can be attributed to many reasons. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND and medical director of the Nutritional Magnesium Association said, “Osteoporosis appears to be on the rise because of our aging population, but it’s also because of some of the medications we take. A 2007 study showed that long-term use of the stomach acidinhibiting drugs Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid diminish stomach acid to the extent that minerals such as calcium and magnesium were unable to be absorbed leading to greater risk of hip fracture. Fluoride added to our water supply and in toothpastes replaces calcium in bone and leads to brittle bones. Lead can do the same, building up in bones when we are exposed to this heavy metal in polluted cities.”
Other main causes include an acidic diet, Dr. Dean noted. Eating, drinking and an over-acidic lifestyle stresses the body to maintain a pH of 7.365, which directly leads to sickness and disease. The body is naturally acid forming—natural bodily processes, metabolism and the body’s removal of wastes and toxins lead to small amounts of acid byproducts, she pointed out.
In addition, over calcification of the population through calcium-fortified foods and supplements that are not necessary, said Dr. Dean. “Typically, less than half of calcium intake is absorbed in the gut.1 The rest either being excreted or potentially forming kidney stones or being transported to soft tissues where it can harden (calcify).
“There is a growing amount of scientific evidence pointing to high calcium–low magnesium intake leading to calcification, or hardening, of arteries (atherosclerosis—the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.), osteoporosis and osteoporotic bone fractures,”2,3 said Dr. Dean.
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers nationally, noted that the main causes of loss of bone density are:
• Hormonal deficiencies, including low estrogen in women and to testosterone in men
• Nutritional deficiencies, especially magnesium and vitamin K
• Decreased exercise, as weight-bearing exercises such as walking increase bone density markedly
• Vitamin D deficiency caused by the misguided medical advice to avoid sunshine.The proper advice should be “avoid sunburn, not sunshine!”
“A diet high in inflammation-promoting sugars, white flour, unhealthy fats and deficient in fish oil is driving the increase in inflammatory diseases such as arthritis,” he said.
Some natural approaches to treatment, according to Dr. Dean, are optimizing structure and function of the muscles and bones. “Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones. If a bone is not exercised, it will automatically begin being reabsorbed,” she explained. “The most important advice is to maintain an optimum level of exercise to avoid bone resorption and supplement correctly.”
Dr. Teitelbaum concurred that exercise is imperative when treating osteoperosis or improving bone density, particularly walking in the sunshine for 30-45 minutes daily.
While both Drs. Teitelbaum and Dean noted nutritional support is of high importance, they stress that the emphasis on calcium has been misplaced.“Most doctors and drug companies stress the need for calcium supplementation to prevent osteoporosis,forgetting that up to 20 different nutrients are necessary for bone formation,” said Dr. Dean. “These nutrients include calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, boron, muco-polysaccharides, chondroitin sulfates and many of the B vitamins that are important for the enzymatic production of bone.”
Recent headlines have warned of a link between calcium supplements and risk for heart attacks. “Unfortunately, calcium has been the key nutritional focus of standard medicine while most holistic physicians have discouraged this for decades noting that calcium is not only unnecessary but dangerous when given by itself. This was confirmed in a recent large study that showed that calcium taken by itself increased the risk of heart attack by 31 percent,” said Dr. Teitelbaum, noting that several nutrients are what’s required, including magnesium (200 mg a day), vitamin D (1000 units a day), vitamin K (150 ìg a day), boron (3 mg), and most importantly, strontium (340-680 mg daily).
Strontium, he expressed, deserves special notice as the single most effective nutrient.Numerous placebo-controlled, double-blind studies with follow-up for over eight years have shown that strontium is 170 percent more effective than standard medications like Fosamax, is very safe, and continues to improve bone density and decreased fracture risk long-term. “It is also very low cost,” said Dr. Teitelbaum. “Strontium should be taken at a different time of day than the vitamins D and calcium, however, as they interfere with each other’s absorption. An excellent simple approach? Take strontium 340-680 mg in the morning and a product called OsteoStrong at bedtime (both by EuroPharma). The latter contains all the important nutrients needed for optimizing bone density/strength. Also, adding bioidentical estrogen in women and testosterone in men when appropriate.”
Dr. Dean said her recommendations begin with:
• Calcium only from dietary sources: about 700 mg per day
• Magnesium from diet and supplements: about 700 mg per day
• An alkaline diet, high in vegetables and low in (but not excluding) animal protein and grains
• Weight bearing exercise
“Our soils are depleted of magnesium and thus it doesn’t appear in most foods,” she added. “If any magnesium survives our current farming practices, it is lost in food processing and cooking, and that is why supplementation is so important.”
For arthritis, Dr. Teitelbaum said the key ingredients are glucosamine (750 mg twice a day), and chondroitin (400 mg three times a day) to help nourish joints. “To treat arthritis and inflammation, the development of a highly absorbed curcumin called BCM 95 has resulted in a dramatic improvement in arthritis care,” he added, noting a recent double- blind study comparing BCM 95 curcumin combined with a special boswellia (BosPure boswellia) that was dramatically more effective than Celebrex in a head-on study.Willow bark is another healthy herb for arthritis, he said.
Dr. Dean also addressed inflammation, noting that “Boswellia and curcumin work as anti-inflammatories, as do other antiarthritis medications. Fortunately they are more effective and much safer and do not cause the 30,000-plus deaths/year estimated to be caused by standard NSAID arthritis medications.”
When suggesting supplements for bone health, Dr. Dean specifically recommends magnesium citrate powder, which helps both calcium and vitamin D absorption.“Magnesium converts vitamin D into its active form so that it can aid calcium absorption.Magnesium also stimulates the hormone calcitonin, which helps to preserve bone structure and draws calcium out of the blood and soft tissues back into the bones, lowering the likelihood of osteoporosis, some forms of arthritis, heart attack and kidney stones.”
Dr. Dean’s other suggestions include zinc and trace minerals (choose an angstromsized liquid mineral product), vitamin B complex and vitamin C with bioflavonoids (choose a food-based organic product) as well as vitamins D3 and K.
While calcium is vital to strong bones and the prevention of osteoporosis, large doses of calcium coupled with a magnesium deficiency can be a dangerous combination, said Ken Whitman, president of Natural Vitality, a Texas-based supplement manufacturer. The company’s Natural Calm is the best-selling magnesium supplement in the natural products market and has been for more than six years, he said.“It balances calcium intake and restores healthy magnesium levels.With magnesium a part of more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, this is extremely important to good health.”
Natural Calm Plus Calcium is a balanced calcium-magnesium formation with key cofactors that is recommended for those with active lifestyles.In addition, the company’s OsteoCalm is an award-winning premium liquid bone formula developed especially for women. It produces balanced calcium-magnesium (1:1) along with vitamin D3, K2, ionic minerals and key vitamins needed for calcium assimilation, said Whitman Blake Ebersole, technical director with Indiana-based ingredient supplier Verdure Sciences, agreed that supplements formulated to help the body use calcium more efficiently may be a potential answer to bone health problems. The company’s CALZBONE Extract, a proprietary extract of Cissus quadrangularis stem, was developed with this in mind, he added.
When CALZBONE was given during a 26- week clinical study to perimenopausal women, who did not supplement calcium, but did consume calcium through their normal diet, their bone mineral density (by DEXA scan) significantly increased by 18 percent from baseline. “This suggests supplemented calcium may be unnecessary to increase bone density in people during a time of their lives when it is decreasing,” Ebersole said, adding that a history of mechanistic research and human use is there for Cissus. In 2009, a study showed that Cissus improved biomineralization in bone by enhancing osteoblast differentiation and function. “People in India call Cissus ‘bone-setter’ because it is commonly used to treat bone fractures, and this has been validated by modern science: another published clinical trial on a CALZBONE formula showed that it reduced fracture healing time by 28 percent.
“Cissus quadrangularis is actually a close cousin of the grape (they are both in the Vitaceae family),” Ebersole noted. “In fact, in Europe Cissus is called the ‘veld grape.’ So, like the grape, Cissus contains some potent compounds, such as phytosteroids,bioflavonoids and stilbenes, such as resveratrol, which may support bone health.”
Another noteworthy approach that has recently come to light is using a natural supplement containing bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP), known as Cyplexinol, according to James Scaffidi, president and CEO of ZyCal Bioceuticals, Inc., an ingredient supplier based in New Jersey.
“Cyplexinol is available in many products and from several companies, making it one of the fastest growing and unique natural ingredients to be introduced into the market in years,” he said. “It is the only natural BMP ingredient and in recent clinical studies, taken with traditional levels of calcium and vitamin D, has shown to increase bone mass,” he explained. “Since osteoporosis is both the loss of bone mineral and bone tissue, Cyplexinol is the only BMP-complex that turns on stem cells to grow the bone tissue so minerals can bind.”
While calcium is the primary mineral found in bone, additional vitamins and minerals (e.g. vitamin D, vitamin K, zinc, boron, magnesium, silicon) are essential for maintaining optimal bone health, added Kira Schmid, ND, associate director of scientific affairs with Floridabased Life Extension. “Resistance exercises, such as swimming or light weight lifting,can also help build and maintain bone density.
“One bone health nutrient that has been receiving more research recently is vitamin K,” Dr. Schmid added. “Vitamin K comes in two main forms, K1 (phylloquinone), and K2 (including MK-4 and MK-7). Human studies show that forms of vitamin K2 are more bioavailable than K1 and more effectively support bone health.”4-6
Poor lifestyle and diet as well as some medications can take their toll on bones.“Avoid alcohol, which interferes with bone formation,”Dr. Dean suggested. “Smoking also adds to osteoporosis risk.Coffee affects the bones adversely by increasing calcium excretion, probably by its diuretic action.In countries with low protein intake, osteoporosis does not occur in such epidemic proportions as it does in North America.Protein, especially meat with its high phosphorus content, causes calcium loss.Phosphates in soft drinks bind calcium and eliminate it from the body. This is a concern for teens that have a high intake of soft drinks; they are at great risk of developing osteoporosis at a very young age.”
Dr. Teitelbaum concluded with another warning for over-the-counter and pharmaceutical medications. “With the massive toxicity being seen from standard bone health treatments, including NSAIDs for arthritis, which kill an estimated 30,000- plus Americans yearly, and standard osteoporosis medications like Fosamax causing more fractures than they prevent after five years, it is time to pay close attention to the natural therapies have been shown to be very safe yet very effective in repeated studies,” he said. “In addition, it is clear that giving plain calcium, unless vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium are also added, causes far more harm than good.Instead, calcium and other nutrients need to be balanced by the other nutrients needed for healthy bone production.”
1 National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.2011. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium.“Calcium Intakes and Status.”
2 Bolland, MJ, A Grey, A Avenell, GD Gamble, and IR Reid. 2011.“Calcium Supplements with or without Vitamin D and Risk of Cardiovascular Events: Reanalysis of the Women’s Health Initiative Limited Access Dataset and Meta- Analysis.” Epub BMJ (Apr 19): 342:d2040.Doi:10.1136/bmj.d2040. PMID:21505219.
3 Raggi, P, TQ Callister, and LJ Shaw.2004.“Progression of Coronary Artery Calcium and Risk of First Myocardial Infarction in Patients Receiving Cholesterol-Lowering Therapy.” Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 24:1272–77.
4 Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, et al. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jun 26;166(12):1256-61.
5 Koitaya N, Ezaki J, Nishimuta M, et al.Effect of low dose vitamin K2 (MK-4) supplementation on bio-indices in postmenopausal Japanese women. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo).2009 Feb;55(1):15-21.
6 Schurgers LJ, Teunissen KJ, Hamulyák K, et al. Vitamin K-containing dietary supplements: comparison of synthetic vitamin K1 and nattoderived menaquinone-7. Blood. 2007 Apr 15;109(8):3279-83. Epub 2006 Dec 7.
Healthy Take Aways
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is not part of normal aging.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 50 million adults that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia.
The most important advice is to maintain an optimum level of exercise to avoid bone resorption and supplement correctly.
While calcium is the primary mineral found in bone, additional vitamins and minerals—vitamin D, vitamin K, zinc, boron, magnesium, silicon—are essential for maintaining optimal bone health.
Teens that have a high intake of soft drinks are at risk of developing osteoporosis at a young age.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Life Extension, (888) 984-3657, www.lef.org
National Osteoporosis Foundation, www.nof.org
Natural Vitality, (512) 222-1740, www.naturalvitality.com
Nutritional Magnesium Association, www.nutritionalmagnsium.org
Verdure Sciences, (317) 776-3600, www.vs-corp.com
ZyCal Bioceuticals, Inc., (888) 779-9225, www.zycalbio.com
Osteoporosis and low bone mass are not mandatory conditions of aging.With that in mind, natural strategies should help raise expectations for good bone health.