Dietary modification in osteoporosis prevention
In this article I’ll go over the first port-of-call regarding osteoporosis prevention.
It is now estimated that one in three women and one in twelve men over the age of 55 will suffer from osteoporosis in their lifetime. The cause of osteoporosis is multifactorial (i.e. multiple causes, not just one). However, there are many interventions that can promote osteoporosis prevention.
What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is defined as a metabolic bone disease “characterised by low bone mass and micro-architectural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to enhanced bone fragility and a consequent increase in fracture risk”. Attaining peak bone mass in our younger years (around adolescence and through until our 30’s), and slowing the rate of bone loss in our older years is largely dependent on 4 keys factors. These include: genes, hormones, mechanical factors, and nutrition. Here I’ll discuss the nutrition side of things for osteoporosis prevention (although weight lifting, for example, would be another excellent lifestyle habit that would work to attain greater peak bone mass and prevent bone mass loss).
Nutrition, supplements and osteoporosis prevention
Calcium supplements appear to be effective for women post-menopause, particularly in those who consume a diet low in calcium.This criteria would therefore include women 5 or more years passed menopause, who do not regularly consume dairy, nuts and green vegetables. In most other people however – those with sufficient dietary calcium, sufficient vitamin D levels, or those early in the menopause – calcium supplements do not appear warranted.
Vitamin D3 assists the uptake of calcium in the intestine. Thus, combining Vitamin D and Calcium appears effective in reducing the rate of falls and fractures resulting from brittle bones. This is made all the more necessary given that a significant proportion of individuals that suffer a fracture will not return home from hospital. Thus, reducing the risk of fracture should be of paramount importance in osteoporosis prevention, not only to prevent a fall or fracture, but for reasons other than fracture prevention specifically.
Some studies, however, do not show a benefit to calcium and/or vitamin D3 supplementation. It is likely that where calcium shows no positive effect, the individual is either consuming enough via the diet or has sufficient bone mineral density (as alluded to above). Where vitamin D3 shows no benefit is in situations where it is prescribed at low doses e.g. 400IU. Doses of 1000-2000 IU daily should be targeted at minimum starting point, with doses of up to 4000 IU now being considered optimum. In short, calcium combined with vitamin D has a potent protective effect on osteoporosis, reducing the chance of someone suffering a fracture or fall. Where this fails to demonstrate a positive effect, it is likely that the dosing is not sufficient. Given that toxicity levels occurs at very VERY HIGH levels, one should be encouraged to dose vitamin D3 around 2000 IU per day, and increase their intake of dietary calcium from dairy, nuts, oily tinned fish and vegetables.
Vitamin K supplementation has also shown promise in the prevention of osteoporosis. Vitamin K works in synergy with vitamin D; they combine to form a ‘antidote’ greater than the sum of their parts. Therefore, taking Vitamin K alongside vitamin D would be an effective strategy in maximizing the benefits of either supplement individually. Speak to your Doctor or Physician at length about this, and for a more tailored supplemental protocol. However, certainly raise the question.
Magnesium might be one last supplement worth taking. Again it appears to act synergistically with Vitamins D & K, and helps to increase bone mineral density. Magnesium is perhaps one of the only supplements that most people should consider taking, along with vitamin D (dependent upon geographic location), as many people do not get the requisite amount of sunlight required to produce vitamin D levels protective of disease and ill-health, like osteoporosis.
Take home message
Osteoporosis is a common condition that robs the elderly of a comfortable retirement. What’s more, the chances of one succumbing to osteoporosis will decline if one pursues the correct dietary intervention. Calcium, Vitamin D3 (2000IU) & Vitmain K will all help, as will Magnesium (200mg). Consider consuming dairy products regularly, as well as snacking on nuts and eating meat, fish and vegetables frequently. In addition, spend time in the sun without sunscreen on (for brief periods). Consider supplementation (of those listed above) in sufficient quantities to have benefits without causing adverse side-effects.
**Dr Spencer Nadolsky has formulated a ‘near-perfect’ post-menopause bone supplement HERE. The Vitamin D3 is at 2000IU, the Vitamin K2 at 100mcg (as MK-7). On top of that, consider Magnesium at 200 or 250mg, and increase your consumption of calcium