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10 Supplements That Help Prevent Porous Bones
Natural supplements for osteoporosis include minerals, vitamins and phytoestrogens. These supplements promote the transfer of calcium to the bones and may also directly contribute to bone mineral density. While minerals such as strontium can replace calcium in the bone, some such as magnesium are needed to increase the absorption of calcium and prevent the body from stripping calcium away from the bone. This article identifies the 10 most important natural remedies to look out for in osteoporosis supplements.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the bone. Therefore, it is essential for increasing bone mass and maintaining bone mineral density.
During the formative years, calcium intake is responsible for proper bone mineralization and bone strength. To meet the increased need for calcium necessary for bone development, the recommended calcium intake for children above 4 years is 1,000 mg.
Adults also require the same daily calcium intake but above the age of 50 years, 1,200 mg/day of calcium is recommended. This is because the process of bone loss accelerates in the elderly.
Excellent food sources of calcium include milk, dairy products, green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods.
To help meet the daily calcium intake and reduce the risk of bone fractures, high-dose calcium supplements are usually recommended for people suffering from osteoporosis.
However, studies show that high-dose calcium does little to improve bone health and may actually cause damage in the kidneys and the cardiovascular system. High doses of calcium supplements only increase blood calcium levels and not the calcium content of bones.
While the blood transports this excess calcium, the mineral is deposited in different organs and soft tissues along the way. The two major sites affected are the kidneys and the walls of the arteries. At the kidneys, calcium deposition leads to the formation of calcium stones.
Calcium can also cause the hardening of the arteries and increase the risks of atherosclerosis and stroke.
Safe calcium supplementation requires moderate doses of the mineral. Not more than 600 mg of calcium is recommended to be taken at once. The positive effects of calcium on the body are also improved when it is combined with magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K.
Both vitamins D and K help move calcium from the blood to the bones and, therefore, prevent it from depositing on other tissues of the body.
Magnesium is just as important to bone health as calcium. Although it makes up only 1% of the mineral content of the bone, half of the magnesium found in the body is stored in the bones.
Like calcium, magnesium does not only contribute to the mineral density of the bone but also to its strength.
Magnesium promotes the formation of the crystalline unit that gives strength to the dense, packed bone matrix. When magnesium is lost from the bones, these bone matrix crystals expand while becoming larger and more porous.
The changes in size, structure and strength of these crystals make the bone more brittle and significantly increase the risk of bone fractures.
Besides influencing the basic structure of the bone, magnesium is also needed for calcium absorption and utilization.
Magnesium not only increases the absorption of calcium into the body but also drives it from the blood to the bones. This is why most calcium supplements also contain magnesium.
Some health experts believe that the amount of magnesium ingested should match calcium intake in order to reduce the negative effects of long-term calcium supplementation and improve bone health.
The beneficial effects of magnesium on bone health also involves its ability to make the body more sensitive to the effects of certain hormones including calcitonin, parathyroid hormone and calcitriol (vitamin D).
Studies show that the effects of magnesium on these hormone can increase bone turnover, bone mass, bone mineral density and bone strength.
Lastly, magnesium protects the bone by its alkalizing property. By neutralizing blood acidity, magnesium not only helps in detoxifying the body but actually prevents the body from sacrificing the calcium stored in the bones for the same purpose.
Therefore, magnesium protects the bones by maintaining the acid-alkaline balance of the body.
Like magnesium, zinc is also stored in the bones and it makes up a much smaller mineral content of the bone than calcium.
Furthermore, zinc is also essential to the microcrystalline structural unit of the bone. In this case, zinc is required for the formation of a calcium crystalline complex known as hydroxylapatite. Hydroxylapatite makes up 50% of the weight of the bone.
However, the major contributions of zinc to healthy bones involve insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and the regulation of the activities of bone cells.
Zinc is essential to general growth and maturation because of its ability to trigger the release of IGF-1 from the liver. This hormone-like growth factor drives the development of different tissues and organs of the body including the bone.
IGF-1 is involved in the formation and turnover of bones. It is also involved in the regulation of the calcium content of the bone.
Studies have shown that poor bone health in the elderly is partly caused by low levels of zinc and IGF-1.
Therefore, zinc supplementation can help maintain bone mineral density through the increased release of IGF-1. Besides this direct effect, IGF-1 can also reduce the risk of bone fractures by stimulating the development of the muscles attached to bones.
By preventing muscle atrophy especially in old age, IGF-1 can help maintain muscle strength and reduce the risk of falls that may cause bone fractures.
Zinc is also used to regulate the actions of osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Osteoclasts are responsible for the breakdown and resorption of the bone while osteoblasts are needed to make stronger bones.
Because zinc enhances the activities of osteoblasts while inhibiting osteoclasts, it can help the process of bone-building and prevent bone fractures.
Although boron is known as one of the essential nutrients in plants, its biological role in humans is poorly understood. In addition, it is found in very trace amounts and its deficiency has never been reported.
However, a few studies investigating the importance of boron to health indicate that it improves bone health when given in doses similar to the amount (2.1 – 4.3 mg/day) in which it is found in human diet. One such studies was conducted by the US Department of Agriculture.
By giving a group of postmenopausal women 3 mg/day of boron, the researchers found that the mineral reduced the amount of calcium lost from the body by 44%.
They also found that boron supplementation enhanced the activities of vitamin D and estrogen.
These results show that boron can help return calcium to the bones. By preventing the excretion of calcium from the body, boron keeps calcium in the blood. By activating estrogen and vitamin D, boron promotes the transfer of calcium from the blood back to the bones.
Therefore, boron can promote bone health by contributing to the maintenance of bone mineral density.
Phosphate is the salt formed from phosphorus. Phosphate salts are essential to all life forms.
In humans, phosphate is found in phospholipids (the man component in the structures of cell membranes) and ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the molecule that provides the energy used for all cellular processes.
Phosphate is also important to bone formation along with calcium. Up to 90% of the phosphorus found in the body is stored in the bones and teeth as a family of compounds known as apatite.
A number of calcium and phosphate compounds make up the bulk of the bone including the crystalline structure known as hydroxyapatite as well as other non-crystalline forms of calcium phosphate.
Therefore, phosphorus (as phosphate salts) is essential to bone health because it is a structural component along with calcium.
Strontium is a trace mineral that is structurally similar to calcium. Therefore, the body sometimes uses it to replace calcium. This substitution is not very significant because the body stores 1000 – 2000 more calcium as strontium.
The body absorbs strontium by the same mechanisms as it absorbs calcium. The strontium absorbed into the body is mostly found in the bones.
Besides simply contributing to the structural mass of the bone, strontium has also been shown to improve the bone-building effects of osteoblasts.
Strontium salts are available as drugs and supplements for treating osteoporosis. Strontium citrate and strontium carbonate are good examples but the most popular strontium salt in osteoporosis therapy is a drug known as strontium ranelate.
One study showed that strontium ranelate increased bone density by 12.7%.
In another study, researchers demonstrated that strontium citrate increased the activity of the enzyme, alkaline phosphatase. This is an indication that the supplement increased the production and activity of osteoblasts in bones.
It should be noted that the increase in bone density caused by strontium is partly due to higher bone density (from depositing strontium in place of calcium in the bone matrix) and partly due to the fact that strontium is heavier (higher atomic weight) than calcium.
Strontium is a very safe supplement/and drug. Researchers found no serious side effects from using it to improve bone health.
However, radioactive strontium (Strontium-90) should be avoided because it can cause various bone diseases including bone cancer.
Recently, the focus among osteoporosis experts has been shifting away from increased need for calcium to increased need for vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential to bone health because it is one of the supplements (minerals, vitamins and hormones) that can help the bone better utilize calcium. Because vitamin D deficiency is a lot more common than calcium deficiency, experts believe that this vitamin may be more important to healthy bones than calcium.
So how does vitamin D improve bone health? By promoting the absorption of calcium in the intestines and also by regulating the blood level of the mineral. One way in which vitamin D achieves the latter is by promoting the actions of parathyroid hormone.
In addition, vitamin D also regulates the blood level of phosphate. Phosphate is also needed for bone formation.
Lastly, vitamin D promotes the re-absorption of bones after they are broken down. In this way, it serves as part of the cleanup crew after osteoclasts break down bones. By preventing the loss of minerals in broken bones, vitamin D provides the building blocks for new bones.
Although the body can make its own vitamin D, supplements may be needed especially for those who do not get sufficient amount of sun exposure.
There are two forms of vitamin D available in supplements. These are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3 is 3 times more potent than vitamin D2 and it is the vitamer that produced the best results in clinical trials. Therefore, you should get a vitamin D3 supplement unless vitamin D2 supplements are the only kind of vitamin D available to you.
The importance of Vitamin K to increasing bone mass is perhaps even greater than that of vitamin D.
Some studies indicate that the addition of vitamin K to calcium-vitamin D combinations produced the biggest improvements in the treatment of osteoporosis with supplements.
Vitamin K also drives calcium from the blood to the bones and promotes its uptake into the bone matrix.
The vitamin enhances the activities of osteoblasts and promotes the binding of the two proteins (osteocalcin and osteopontin) responsible for the tensile strength of bones. Lastly, vitamin K prevents calcium loss from bones and also inhibits some of the other processes that that lead to bone loss.
There are 2 natural vitamers of vitamin K. These are vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.
Although both forms of vitamin K are proven to improve bone health, vitamin K2 is the more effective vitamer. In addition, there are different forms of vitamin K2 designated as “MK”.
With regards to bone health, MK-4 and MK-7 are the most effective sub-types of vitamin K2.
Soy isoflavones are naturally occurring compounds extracted from soy with estrogenic activities.
One of the causes of postmenopausal osteoporosis is the falling level of estrogen that occurs during menopause. To prevent osteoporotic bone fractures, doctors sometimes recommend estrogen replacement therapy for postmenopausal women.
Because soy isoflavones are phytoestrogens, they may provide the same estrogenic benefits of hormone replacement therapy.
A 2012 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine reviewed past studies investigating the benefits of soy isoflavone supplements for women with osteoporosis. The reviewers concluded that significantly increased bone mineral density and decreased bone resorption.
However, the reviewers found that soy isoflavones did not improve new bone formation and that its benefits depended on the type of supplement used, the dose and the length of treatment.
A 2005 study published in the journal, Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, shed more light on how the doses of soy phytoestrogens affected bone health.
The researchers found that phytoestrogens enhanced osteoblast activities at low concentrations but inhibited bone formation at high concentrations.
Therefore, you should avoid high doses soy isoflavones in the treatment of osteoporosis.
Ipriflavone is a synthetic isoflavone derived from daidzein, a soy isoflavone.
Ipriflavone is used to preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Studies have confirmed that it inhibits bone resorption (blocks osteoclasts) and promotes the incorporation of calcium into bones (activates osteoblasts).
The combination of calcium and ipriflavone has been shown to be safe and effective for long-term prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
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