Many of us have heard of “losing your nerve” but losing your bone is quite another matter. Osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become thin and brittle, is characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. As many as two million Canadians are living with this disease. Approximately 25% of diagnosed individuals are women over the age of 50, with only half that number being men. Age isn’t always a factor, however, as osteoporosis can appear at any age.
Osteoporosis can sometimes be confused with osteoarthritis. Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the bones while osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints and surrounding tissue.
The most important mineral for bones is calcium. Working in conjunction with calcium is magnesium. At an early age it is important, especially for women, that our diets give us adequate amounts of both these minerals to ensure that, going into later life, our bones will remain strong and healthy. Along with calcium and magnesium, vitamin D3 also plays a leading role in bone health as it can be responsible for an up to 80% increase in calcium absorption by the body.
Read on in this article to discover the architecture of bones, the role that minerals play, how to provide adequate minerals from nutritional and alternate sources, and the many ways in which physical activity is important in reducing the risk of fractures.
Bone is living tissue. It is constantly renewed through a process in which old bone is removed and replaced by new bone. When we are children and teenagers, we build the bone that lasts us through our lifetime. After our mid 30’s, the cells that build bone are not as efficient, and we begin to gradually lose bone. Significant bone loss can lead to osteoporosis. The result can be fractures, most often of the hip, spine and wrist. At menopause, a woman’s estrogen level falls dramatically, and she usually loses bone more quickly. That’s why women are especially at risk of osteoporosis.
THE ROLE OF MINERALS
Osteoporosis arises for many reasons, some of which include inadequate calcium intake or absorption by the body, inadequate vitamin D levels in the body, hereditary factors, lack of exercise (which is considered a “bone stressor” that keeps bones healthy) and hormone function.
In order to avoid the risk of osteoporosis, it’s best to make sure your intake of essential, or “major”, minerals meets daily requirements. Just remember that no single mineral or vitamin acts alone in your body; all work together in wonderful synergy to ensure smooth and normal functioning. Have a look at your dietary intake first and then consider shoring up your levels with supplements.
Some factors that can decrease mineral content in your body are conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, prescription medications, menopause, excessive exercise, alcohol use and smoking.
There is a whole host of minerals present in our bones, including:
and dozens of other minor minerals. For the purposes of brevity, we’ll just discuss the top four minerals for bones.
Vitamin D must be present in sufficient quantities for bones to absorb the minerals. Vitamin D also helps maintain normal blood calcium levels. When calcium levels drop in the blood, parathyroid hormone is released and stimulates calcium release from our bones.
Calcium is one of the most important and abundant minerals in the body, making up approximately 2% of our total body weight. We carry roughly three pounds of calcium in our body, 98% of which can be found in our bones. Roughly 30% of people in Canada are eating a calcium-deficient diet, which could be one of the reasons why osteoporosis is so common.
Calcium is best absorbed in an acidic environment, which makes calcium citrate the best-absorbed supplemental form of calcium. It does not require extra stomach acid for absorption, which means we can take it anytime during the day, even on an empty stomach. Try and get your largest supply of calcium from dietary sources.
Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body, next to calcium. Approximately 85% of phosphorus in the body can be found in bones and teeth and it is required to metabolize vitamin D.
Phosphorus is absorbed more efficiently than calcium. Nearly 70% of phosphorus is absorbed from the intestines, although the rate depends somewhat on the levels of calcium and vitamin D and the activity of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates the metabolism of phosphorus and calcium.
Great dietary sources include red meat, poultry, hard cheeses and canned fish.
If you are a soda drinker, you may want to reduce the amount of sodas you drink in one day. One can of soda may contain as much as 500mg of phosphorus and too much phosphorus in your diet can interfere with calcium absorption.
Magnesium is not as prevalent in our bodies, making up only roughly .05% of body weight, however calcium and magnesium need each other to work efficiently. Because it suppresses parathyroid hormone, magnesium helps keep more calcium in your bones. Like calcium, magnesium also requires an acidic stomach environment for best absorption. A good idea is to take your “cal/mag” supplements at bedtime as calcium also acts as a muscle relaxant and magnesium is a natural tranquilizer.
Good dietary sources of magnesium include wheat and barleygrass, with sources such as dairy products, meat and fruits running a pretty poor second. The good news? Chocolate is an extremely rich source of magnesium!
Potassium’s role in bone health is routinely underrated. Certain alkalizing potassium compounds neutralize the bone-depleting acids that are produced during normal metabolic processes. This helps maintain the acid-alkaline balance in our bodies, which prevents too much calcium from being excreted in urine. In fact, eating one baked potato or one large banana can conserve up to 60mg of calcium in your body. Higher potassium intake, particularly in the form of fruits and vegetables, is directly associated with overall higher bone mineral density and less bone loss. 1
The lesser minerals such as silica, phosphorus, boron and the vitamins A and C are necessary to regulate calcium and magnesium. A salad of mixed dark greens can supply a good source of calcium, magnesium, plus other minerals and vitamins, which in turn can prevent bone loss.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND BONE LOSS
For healthy bones we need to achieve an ample peak bone mass when we are young, and maintain it as we age. Physical activity, combined with adequate calcium and vitamin D, plays an important role in this process.
Physical activity places an increased “load” or force on our bones. Our bones respond by forming new bone and remodeling the bone to be stronger. Key bones, like the bones in our legs, back and wrist, need to be stimulated by physical activity – so we need to be active in different ways in order to “load” or stimulate these bones and maintain their structural competence and strength.
Physical activity doesn’t only affect bone mass. It improves our balance and coordination which, in turn, reduces our risk of falling – falls that can result in fractures. In addition, improved strength, flexibility and posture can reduce pain and enable people with osteoporosis to do daily tasks more easily.
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
Calcium is required for strong bones, teeth and cardiac function. Calcium not only builds strong bones and teeth but maintains bone density and strength. It helps to regulate heartbeat, blood clotting and muscle contraction. As well as protecting the body from stress, magnesium works with calcium to provide help to these same body systems and participates in more than 50 different biochemical reactions. That’s why magnesium is so important to bone formation, nerve and muscle transmission, and energy production.
The benefits of broad-spectrum vegetarian nutritional supplementation are only now starting to appear in scientific studies. A multiple vitamin and mineral supplement may close the nutritional gaps in our daily diet and may stimulate our immune system to ward off diseases. From these studies it is becoming clear that taking a multiple vitamin and mineral may prevent many chronic degenerative diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease as well as help boost immune function and increase brain function.
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
Further Reading Suggestions…
Osteoporosis Canada has an online “60 Second Osteoporosis Risk Quiz”.
You can take the quiz byCLICKING HERE.
1. Nutrition and Bone Health, Dr. Susan E. Brown, Ph.D.
Healthworld at www.healthy.net, Elson M. Haas, M.D., author of Staying Healthy with Nutrition.
Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology, Seventh Edition