Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, helps to retain bone mass and also improves strength and balance, decreasing the risk of falling and breaking a bone.
A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of developing osteoporosis over age 65. Results of studies that have tried to find out whether animal protein increases urinary excretion of calcium are mixed, but we know that sugar does increase calcium loss due to inhibition of renal calcium absorption by the hormone insulin. Caffeine intake can accelerate bone loss, and alcohol can result in decreased bone formation when more than 2 drinks a day are consumed; however, a low intake of alcohol is associated with increased BMD in women and a decreased risk of hip fracture.
In short, changing your lifestyle can help reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis. A healthy whole-foods diet, high in vegetables, especially dark-green leafy ones, fruits, legumes, whole grains and good fats in nuts, seeds and fish, and low in animal protein, sugar, alcohol and bad fats, is recommended.
The following supplements are recommended.
Calcium. You need about 1 000 milligrams a day before the menopause. A healthy diet provides about 500 to 600 mg a day, so 400 mg needs to be supplemented. After the menopause you’ll need 1 200 to 1 500 mg. There are various forms of calcium. Hydroxyapatite is a natural mixture of calcium and phosphorus, trace minerals and glycosaminoglycans and is easily absorbable. Calcium bisglycinate (chelated) and citrate/malate/aspartate (bound complex) are good, and no stomach acid is needed for absorption (stomach acid levels decrease with age). Buffered calcium with ascorbates is good too, and again no acid is needed for absorption. Calcium carbonate is less well absorbed, as adequate stomach acid is needed. Absorption of calcium citrate is 25% higher than that of carbonate.
Magnesium is an important component of bone, and 400 to 700 mg a day is recommended. The best forms are the soluble ones such as malate, citrate and glycinate, and the worst the insoluble ones like chloride, carbonate and oxide.
Vitamin D3. A review of women with osteoporosis hospitalised for hip fractures found 50% to be deficient in vitamin D. Get tested early – I even recommend testing in children. The amount you’ll need to supplement with will be determined by the result of the blood test.
Vitamin K2 is required for the production of osteocalcin, the protein matrix on which mineralisation occurs. The dosage is 45 mg a day.
B vitamins play a number of roles, especially vitamin B6 and folic acid in homocysteine metabolism.
Boron 2 to 3 mg a day reduces urinary excretion of both calcium and magnesium.
Silica, manganese and phosphorus are thought to aid calcium uptake into the bone.
Zinc helps with calcium assimilation. Take 20 to 40mg a day.
Isoflavones. Synthetic isoflavone (ipriflavone 600 mg a day) helps bring calcium into the bones.
Essential fatty acids increase calcium absorption in the intestines and reduce calcium excretion.
Strontium increases BMD and has been shown to reduce the incidence of fractures by more than 40% over a 3-year period. The dosage is 680 mg a day in divided doses. It needs to be taken at a separate time to calcium but with magnesium, calcium and vitamin D to be safe for bones overall.
In conclusion, if you are concerned about your bone health, especially if your mother or grandmother has osteoporosis, start to take care of your bones at a young age with exercise and a good diet. Take a good-quality multivitamin with enough calcium and magnesium, and get your vitamin D levels tested. On reaching menopause, have your first DEXA scan done to determine your risk. If the scan reveals osteopenia or osteoporosis, make sure you are getting sufficient exercise and eating healthily. Don’t just head straight for pharmaceutical drugs – there are many very effective natural medicines without their side-effects. I recommend that you consult a holistic health care provider who can recommend a treatment programme that is likely to work for you, and monitor its effectiveness.