The most common word that people think of when discussing bone health is calcium. The public has been lead to believe that as long as you have adequate calcium in your diet then you have strong bones. Unfortunately, this is a half-truth and the numbers of individuals developing Osteoporosis is increasing despite efforts to increase calcium intake via dairy, fortified foods and supplements. The truth is your bones consist of many different nutrients, in addition to calcium, and there are diet and lifestyle factors that lead to osteoporosis. I would like to discuss some of these key points in this newsletter so that you have a more complete overview on how to keep your bones strong!
Nutrients That Build the Bone Matrix
Bone is a living tissue composed of minerals, proteins (mainly collagen) and water. Bone is constantly building up and breaking down, also known as remodelling. There are cells that are responsible for the building called osteoblasts and the ones that break bone down are called osteoclasts. You need both working properly to be healthy! As I mentioned calcium is not the only mineral required to make healthy, strong bone. Here is a list of minerals and two important vitamins necessary to allow the continual bone remodelling process to occur:
Zinc is involved in osteoblast, the bone-forming cells, production.
Manganese is required for the bone matrix formation.
Copper provides the stable adhesion of elastin to collagen to give bone flexibility so it is strong as steel but light as wood.
Silica is an essential nutrient for healthy bone metabolism, triggering the deposit of calcium and phosphate into bone.
Magnesium is as important as calcium to building bone and should be in a 1 to 1 ratio with calcium. Our diets with excess calcium, especially added to many foods, is creating a magnesium deficient state in many people.
Boron helps reduce urinary excretion of calcium and magnesium thereby preserving these two minerals for bone building.
Vitamin D is critical to facilitate the absorption of calcium from the intestines (from your food) into the bloodstream where it can be utilized by the cells.
Vitamin K2 has a direct bone building effect once calcium is absorbed into the bloodstream as K2 is responsible to deposit calcium into your bones and keep it out of the soft tissues like your joints, arteries and brain.
Foods That Build and Foods That Destroy Bone
I recommend eating a whole foods diet containing high quality animal and plant based products. All the essential minerals and vitamins necessary for excellent health come from these sources and I encourage you to purchase local, organic produce and free range pastured animal products when possible. This latter recommendation is especially important to obtain Vitamin K2 as it has become deficient in the modern diet because of industrial farming practices. Animals that feed on grass, especially in the summer months, obtain Vitamin K2 and then we either eat the eggs, dairy or the meat itself to ensure our supply. Since modern animals are fed only grain, Vitamin K2 is difficult to obtain leading to a functional deficiency as the bacteria in our intestines can manufacture small amounts, but not enough for robust health. Furthermore, the animal products that contain the most Vitamin K2 are the ones people have been dissuaded from eating in the last 40 years under the misguided theory of "they are bad for your heart" such as whole fat milk and dairy products like high fat cheeses such as Brie and Gouda, liver and egg yolks. A fermented soy product called natto, contains high amounts of Vitamin K2 but is not very popular in the West compared to Asia.
The foods that I recommend you remove from your diet such as processed, packaged, deep-fried, microwaveable meals contain very little of the essential minerals and vitamins required to build healthy bone. Furthermore, products like soda pop which are extremely acidic deplete calcium and magnesium stores rapidly, therefore weakening your bone structure quickly. Having a bit of junk food is not the end of the world when the rest of your diet is loaded with essential nutrients, but it goes to show what poor dietary habits do to your body as a whole, your bone matrix in particular!
Exercise to Prevent Bone Loss
Remember that bone is living tissue that requires regular physical activity in order to renew and rebuild itself. Peak bone mass is achieved in adulthood and then begins a slow decline. Exercise is very important in maintaining healthy bone mass. Weight-bearing exercise is one of the most effective remedies against osteoporosis. Your bones are actually very porous and soft, and as you get older, your bones can easily become less dense and hence, more brittle especially if you are inactive.
Resistance training can combat this effect because as you put more tension on your muscles it puts more pressure on your bones, which then respond by continuously creating fresh, new bone. In addition, as you build more muscle, and make the muscle that you already have stronger, you also put more constant pressure on your bones.
Supplements to Help Build and Maintain Strong Bones
There are some good bone building formulas on the market which contain all of the previously mentioned vitamins and minerals. As you know I recommend a good quality multi vitamin and mineral supplement for everyone as most people do not get enough essential nutrients from their diet alone to experience optimal health. For those of you who take a multi, and eat a high quality diet but still want to ensure you don't get Osteoporosis, or for those of you who want to be extra proactive; take a bone building formula and some extra Vitamin K2. For those of you who are taking just calcium and Vitamin D, please add magnesium and Vitamin K2 to make sure you don't have excess calcium build up in your soft tissue, like joints or worse arteries!
I never recommend high doses of Vitamin D without the balancing of Vitamin K2; either through dietary sources and/or supplement form.
This month's featured product is Preferred Nutrition's Vitamin K2 and they use the MK-7 version, which is the most long-lasting in the body. One capsule daily, containing 100mcg, is sufficient for a maintenance dose.
Hopefully, I have presented some information that will make you think about your skeleton differently and how important your living bone structure is to your overall health. Further information can be found from the sources below. I encourage you to purchase Dr. Rheaume-Bleue's book for the latest info on the forgotten nutrient, Vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox “ Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue ND
The Bone “ Building Solution “ Sam Graci and Dr. Carolyn DeMarco MD
The Calcium Lie Every Woman Should Know “ Mercola.com Dec. 2010