Osteoporosis – “Coming away from my recent visit with you, I felt very assured about the regimen you advised and it made me recall that, during the fifteen years since meeting you, I’ve gone from eating mostly powdery, zero-nutrient things, to enjoying fresh, real foods and quality supplements– with clear improvements in my skin and hair. And last year, after a severe fall displaced my sacrum, the therapeutic massage nurse said over and over that if I did not have such strong bones, they would have fractured, leaving me disabled. I am deeply grateful for you and your healing regimens.”
An estimated 15 to 20 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis (derived from Latin meaning porous bones): thinning of the bones leading to back pain, increased fractures, and frailty, frequently with extensive suffering. Women of Asian or northern European ancestry are more likely than those of African descent to be affected by osteoporosis. Recent evidence indicates that osteoporosis often begins early in life and is not strictly tied to the post-menopausal demographic.
Current statistics have shown that countries with the highest dairy consumption including Finland, Sweden, England and U.S. also have the highest rates of fractures and osteoporosis and are most likely the most vitamin D deficient.
There are three types of osteoporosis
Type 1: A loss of estrogen causes the loss of minerals from the bone to accelerate
Type 2: A deficiency in vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin K2 causing calcium imbalances
Type 3: Occurs in men and women due to illness or drug treatment like chemotherapy, corticosteroids and anti-convulsants
Observational studies have shown that a physically active lifestyle is associated with a 30 percent to 50 percent decrease in vertebral or hip fractures. A recent meta-analysis that determined the effects of exercise on fracture incidence further confirmed these results. Many randomized controlled trials and corresponding meta-analysis studies focusing on fall reduction and bone strength as the main surrogates for fracture risk have also reported significant positive outcomes.
Most importantly, it’s not the type of exercise that matters, it’s how consistent you are with your program or activity. Aim for 3-5 days a week of walking, hiking, swimming, gardening, weight lifting, dancing etc.
Factors influencing calcium absorption:
- Studies report that calcium absorption from one’s diet is within a 20-50 percent range; absorption rates from dairy products ranges from 20-35 percent .1
- Fat-soluble vitamin D3 improves the absorption of calcium, along with lactose, sugar alcohols (like xylitol) and protein. Non-fat and low fat milk products affect absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which in turn affects calcium absorption. Check your vitamin D3 levels; they should be between 50 ng/ml and 80 ng/ml.
- Best sources of calcium are dark green vegetables, yogurt, raw cheese, kefir, salmon and sardines (with the bones), clams and oysters.
- Best sources of vitamin K2 include natto, raw pastured cheese, raw pastured butter and sauerkraut
Factors blocking calcium absorption:
- Phytic acids found in grains, nuts and seeds are possibly one of the main contributing factors to blocking calcium absorption. Phytic acid is neutralized in soaked and fermented grains, nuts and seeds, found in sourdough and sprouted versions.
- Oxalates are found in spinach, rhubarb, Swiss chard, beets, celery, eggplant, greens, okra and squash, as well as currants, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and gooseberries, pecans, peanuts, tea and cocoa. Oxalates chelate calcium and increase calcium excretion.
- Gastrointestinal health-issues like IBD, pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis can cause unabsorbed fatty acids to form insoluble calcium soaps, causing excess calcium loss.
Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D from the sun and the diet is crucial for calcium absorption. Synthetic vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, a disturbance of calcium equilibrium leading to excessive blood calcium and calcification of soft tissues.3 Vitamin D is responsible for calcium metabolism, and if vitamin D levels are too low, calcium absorption is effected dramatically.
Protein and calcium: The protein theory is conflicting; some theories have claimed that a high-protein diet is the reason for the increase in osteoporosis because the acid imbalance causes the body to pull calcium from the bones. Other investigators found that a high protein intake increased calcium absorption when dietary calcium was adequate or high, but not when calcium intake was below 500 mg per day. 2 Our view is that a balanced diet with adequate protein and alkaline-forming vegetables and fruit is the best approach.
Vitamin E: Investigators at Purdue University found that high levels of free radicals from omega-6 linoleic acid (found principally in corn, soy and safflower oils) interfered with bone formation, but that vitamin E gave needed protection in a diet high in polyunsaturates.4 Diets high in polyunsaturated oils (mainly corn, soy and safflower) use up vitamin E.
Saturated Fat: From the same vitamin E study, high levels of saturated fat have been found to protect bones. Saturated fats, like those found in coconut oil, raw grass-fed cheese and butter, play an important role in bone modeling. This may be a major reason that population groups in tropical areas — where coconut and palm oils form a major component of the diet — have very little osteoporosis.
High Phytate diet: In our grain-based society, the proper processing of grains, nuts and seeds has been largely forgotten. Grains, nuts and seeds contain phytic acid, which can block the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. When these are soaked or fermented, the phytic acid is neutralized and occurs in small — but medicinal — doses.
Sodas: Sodas are high in phosphoric acid, creating a high phosphorus environment which forces calcium to be pulled from the bones to create mineral homeostasis.
Fluoridated Water: Drinking fluoridated water on a daily basis can cause skeletal fluorosis (a build up in the bones), which may increase the risk of fractures. In the US, 70% of the water is fluoridated. Since the 1930s. Dr. Alesen, who was the president of the California Medical Association, clearly explains what fluoride does to bone formation. He cites dozens of international scientific studies proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that fluoride has caused thousands of cases of osteoporosis, skeletal thinning, fractures, “rubber bones,” anemia, and rickets. Fluoride also causes osteoporosis by creating a calcium deficiency situation. Fluoride precipitates calcium out of solution, causing low blood calcium, as well as the buildup of calcium stones and crystals in the joints and organs. Reverse osmosis systems are the only ones that remove fluoride from your water.
Coffee: Caffeine in coffee pull calciums from the bones and excretes them, leading to a higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Recommended amounts of calcium: In 1997, recommendations by the Food and Nutrition Board for adequate intake of calcium were set at 1,000 mg daily for adult men and women age 19-50 years, including women during pregnancy and lactation. For adults 51 years and older, the calcium recommendations increase to 1,200mg per day. For postmenopausal women not treated with estrogen, an intake of 1,500mg is suggested. These amounts are currently under investigation due to the complexity of calcium metabolism. If magnesium is too low, then excess calcium can end up in unwanted places in the body and cause calcification. Magnesium acts as a guardian at calcium channels and allows a small amount in for electrical transmission and then rejects the rest. The same is true if vitamin D and K2 are low while calcium intake is high.
Prescription drugs and nutrient depletion: Bisphosphonate is a class of drugs that includes Fosamax and Actonel. While these claim to build bone, the bone made is actually more brittle and prone to fracture. The list of side effects for this group is extremely long and includes: abdominal pain, anxiety, back pain, belching, bladder irritation, bone health-issues and pain, bronchitis, burstitus, cataracts, chest pain, colitis and more. SERM’s (Selective estrogen receptor modulator) include tamoxifen and Evista which pose a significant risk of blood clots.
A healthy organic diet full of fresh vegetables, fruit, wild fish, grass-fed meat, yogurt and kefir will supply many of the nutrients needed for healthy bones. There is however one star that stands out; prunes!
One study published in the British Journal of Nutrition tested two groups of postmenopausal women. Over a 12-month period, the first group, consisting of 55 women, was instructed to consume 100 grams of dried plums (about 10 prunes) each day, while the second — a comparative control group of 45 women — was told to consume 100 grams of dried apples. All of the study’s participants also received daily doses of calcium (500 milligrams) and vitamin D (400 international units). The group that consumed dried plums had significantly higher bone mineral density in the ulna (one of two long bones in the forearm) and spine, in comparison with the group that ate dried apples.
Provides vitamin D, K2, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.
Use a formulation with D3, K, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese for optimal absorption.
The glue that holds bones together.
2. Gropper SS , Smith JL, Groff, JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning; 2009.
3HM Linkswiler, et al, “Calcium retention of young adult males as affected by level or protein and of caclcium intake”, Trans. N. Y. Acad. Sci, 1974 36:333
4.Judith A DeCava, The Real Truth About Vitamins and Antioxidants, Brentwood Academic Press, Columbus Georgia, pp 102-113
5. BA Watkins et al, “Importance of Vitamin E in Bone Formation and in Chondrocyte Function” Purdue University, W. Lafayette, IN 47907