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Building Strong Bones and Preventing Osteoporosis
The majority of osteoporosis cases could be prevented. Bone is a living tissue that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. Bone health is dependent on routine weight-bearing exercise, healthy habits (no smoking, moderate alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption, etc.) and an intricate interplay of over a dozen nutrients. Children consuming a typical nutrient-deficient Western diet are setting the stage for the onset of osteoporosis.
Few 12- to 19-year-olds consume the recommended amounts of certain nutrients. Adolescent girls consume only 14% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium, 31% of vitamin A, and only 18% of the RDA for magnesium. Adolescent boys aren’t much better.
Soft drinks, which now make-up one third of an adolescent’s daily beverage intake, depletes, bone building calcium. Ninth- and 10-grade girls who drink sodas have three times the risk of bone fractures compared with those who don’t drink carbonated beverages.
Fifty-six percent of 8-year-olds down soft drinks daily, and a third of teenage boys consume three or more cans of soda a day. The average teenager is getting 20 teaspoons- of sugar a day from soft drinks alone. Teenage boys get 44% of their 34 teaspoons of sugar a day from soft drinks. Teenage girls get 40% of their 24 teaspoons of sugar from soft drinks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that people eating 2,200 calories a day not eat more than 12 teaspoons a day of refined sugar. Sugar consumption upsets the natural homeostasis of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Normally, these minerals exist in a precise ratio of ten to four.
The excess serum calcium, which comes from the bones and teeth, cannot be fully utilized because phosphorus levels are too low. Calcium is excreted in the urine or stored in abnormal deposits such as kidney stones and gallstones. High- fructose corn which is the predominate sugar in soft drinks, inhibits copper metabolism. A deficiency in copper leads to bone fragility, as well as many other unwanted health conditions.
Other research suggests that high-fructose corn syrup, which has climbed from zero consumption in 1966 to 62.6 pounds per person in 2001, alters the magnesium balance in the body, which in turn, accelerates bone loss. An optimal level of magnesium, which helps with calcium absorption, is essential for bone formation. Studies have found that magnesium deficiency is associated with osteoporosis and bone fragility and that adequate magnesium intake results in increased bone mineral density.
The latest government study shows a staggering 68% of Americans do not consume the recommended daily intake of magnesium. Even more frightening are data from this study showing that 19% of Americans do not consume even half of the government’s recommended daily intake of magnesium.
In contrast to the normal nutrient depleted “Western Diet,” research shows that consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables, offer considerable protection from osteoporosis. These foods are a rich source of bone-building vitamins and minerals that and include calcium, magnesium, boron, and vitamin K. Vitamin K helps facilitate the production of osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin keeps calcium molecules anchored within bone. Boron supplementation has been shown to reduce urinary calcium excretion by 44 percent. It’s also required to activate certain important bone building hormones like vitamin D and 17-beta-estradiol, the most active form of estrogen.
Of course most kids won’t go near a green leafy vegetable. And adults aren’t much better. Less than 10 percent of Americans eat the minimum recommendation of two fruits and vegetables a day. And worse, only 51 percent eat at least one vegetable a day.So unfortunately, most folks are setting themselves up for trouble.
Calcium intake is the cornerstone for osteoporosis prevention.Several studies have shown that calcium can reduce bone loss and suppress bone turnover. However, calcium supplementation alone doesn’t halt bone loss completely but does reduce calcium excretion by 30-50 percent. One study shows that postmenopausal women taking one gram of elemental calcium were four and half times less likely to fracture than those on placebo.
The absorption of calcium is dependent on stomach acid for ionization. Because gastric acid facilitates the absorption of insoluble ingested calcium, stomach acid reducing drugs including Tums, Zantac, Nexium, Pepcid, Prilosec, and Tagament increase the risk of bone loss.
Studies show the risk of hip fracture is directly related to the duration of proton pump and antacid drugs, ranging from 22% for 1 year of use to 59% for 4 years of use, relative to nonuse.
You should know that corticosteroids, and most diuretics (Lasix, Dyazide, Maxzide, and others) also deplete calcium. Vitamin D, a hormone-like substance, is crucial for the absorption of calcium. The skin makes Vitamin D after exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet radiation, and vitamin D deficiency is widespread throughout the United States. In the winter vitamin D levels often plummet. Less than 10% of adults 50 to 70 years old, and only about 2% of people over 70, were found to be getting the recommended amounts of vitamin D from food. Even when supplements were added into consideration, still only about 30% of people aged 50 to 70 and 10% of those over 70 were reaching the recommended vitamin D intake.
How much vitamin D does the average person need? In the summer, those with at least 15 minutes of sun exposure on their skin most days should take 1,000 mg of vitamin D3 each day. In the winter, those with dark skin, or those who have little sun exposure on their skin, should take up to 4,000 mg each day. Suit your vitamin D3 supplementation to your lifestyle: those who have darker skin are older, avoid sun exposure or live in the northern US should take the higher amounts.
Vitamin D is remarkably safe; there have been no deaths caused by the Vitamin D. A blood test that for 25-hydroxyvitamin D is currently the gold standard for accessing vitamin D levels. Ideally patients should test for vitamin D blood levels at or near 50 ng/ml. If it is more than 10% below this level, supplemental sources of vitamin D3 should definitely be increased. People consuming only government-recommended levels of 200-400 IU/day often have blood levels considerably below 50 ng/ml. This means the RDA recommendations are too low, and should be raised in accord with the latest research.
Until recently hormone replacement therapy was considered the best way to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. However, the benefits have to be weighed against recent evidence linking conventional estrogen replacement therapy to increased risk of breast cancer, stroke, heart attack, and blood clots. In 2002, the results of the Women’s Health Initiative were released early. This landmark study followed more than 16,000 women and assessed the effects of conventional HRT (hormone replacement therapy), including estrogen-only therapy and therapy that combined estrogen and synthetic progestin. The findings were surprising and a bit startling; hormone therapy not only failed to protect against heart disease but was also shown to increase the risk of heart attack and breast cancer.
And long-term conventional or synthetic HRT also increases the risk for uterine cancer. The potential side effects of synthetic HRT include weight gain, premenstrual symptoms such as depression and bloating, and breast tenderness.In 2004, the estrogen-only arm of the study was discontinued as well because estrogen-only HRT was found to increase the risk of stroke. Needless to say the findings rang a bell of alarm and prompted millions of women using HRT (up to 70 percent), to discontinue their HRT therapy.
Several studies do show that progesterone stimulates proliferation of bone building osteoblast cells. No doubt about. Of course, like synthetic estrogen, progestins (synthetic progesterone) are associated with numerous, potentially dangerous, side effects.
Based on the pioneering work of John Lee, M.D., compounded (from wild yams) progesterone cream has been safely used by thousands of women to reduce menopause symptoms, prevent bone loss, and reverse osteoporosis. However, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, which uses estrogens and or progestins compounded from wild yam, is most likely a safer option to synthetic HRT, long-term results aren’t fully known yet.
Another, certainly safer option, is to use phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds found in certain foods including fennel, celery, soy, nuts, whole grains, apples, and alfalfa. A semi-synthetic isoflavanoid, known as ipriflavone, is similar in structure to soy and has been approved for osteoporosis prevention in Japan, Hungary, and Italy. Studies show that ipriflavone, now available as a supplement in the U.S., increases bone density in individuals with osteoporosis.
Individuals who wish to avoid osteoporosis would be wise eat more fruits and vegetables, maintain a consistent exercise program, avoid sodas, avoid health robbing habits (smoking, excess alcohol and sugar), and take a good optimal daily allowance multivitamin. Those females who want to reverse bone loss should take in addition to their multivitamin, extra calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and one or more of ancillary treatments mentioned above (ipriflavone and natural progesterone).
But, we need to realize good health doesn’t come from a pill bottle, but from daily dietary choices made over a lifetime. I think I’ll have a green leafy salad with dinner tonight, how about you?
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