About 44 million American men and women suffer from osteoporosis (severe bone loss) or osteopenia (mild bone loss), with women being affected twice as much as men. Each year, at least 1.5 million hip, vertebra, or wrist fractures occur in the United States because of osteoporosis. Although bone mass normally declines after age thirty-five, bone loss that is severe enough to cause fractures after only a minor trauma is a different problem.

Some of the risk factors for osteoporosis include: small body frame, underweight, Caucasian or Asian race, a sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol or caffeine intake, high intake of carbonated beverages, and having other family member with osteoporosis. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, celiac disease, hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive lung disease, hyperadrenalism, and hyperparathyroidism are also associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. There are also some medications that increase the rate of bone loss such as those prescribed for seizures and blood thinning, prednisone and other steroids, aluminum-containing antacids, and loop diuretics. By engaging in regular weight bearing exercise, avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and quitting smoking, the rate of bone loss will be slowed. Eating adequate amounts of protein and supplementing with various vitamins and minerals also enhances bone health.

Calcium salts are absorbed about the same for most people, absorbing between thirty to forty percent of the administered dose. Those with low stomach acid, hypochlorhydria, should not use calcium carbonate because it is absorbed poorly without stomach acid. For many older people, calcium phosphate is preferable because phosphorus is necessary for normal bone formation. Calcium that is bound to phosphorus is the form in which calcium is stored in the bone, and has a much greater bone activity than other forms.

In order to promote strong bones, vitamin D is a necessary nutrient. Because vitamin D is produced when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit the skin, those people who stay out of the sun, wear sunscreen, or live in a northern latitude are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. Aging also decreases a person’s ability to produce vitamin D in the skin. Supplementation with 700-800 IU of vitamin D per day has been proven to decrease the number of hip fractures by 26%. However, 400 IU per day was ineffective. In addition to improving bone health, vitamin D improves nerve and muscle function in older people, which reduces their risk of falling down. 800 IU of vitamin D per day in elderly women has shown to decrease the number of falls by about 50%. The “safe upper limit,” as determined by The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is 4,000 IU per day. However, you most likely don’t need nearly this much to help bone issues.

Because bone is a living tissue that is constantly remodeling itself and engaging in many biological functions, it has a wide range of nutritional needs. Not getting enough of one or more of the important micronutrients needed is an important contributing factor to osteoporosis. In addition to supplementing with calcium and vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin K, boron, strontium, silicon, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and vitamin C are all shown to have a vital role in bone health. Calcium is a component of the mineral crystals that makes up the bone. Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and prevents falls by improving nerve and muscle function. Magnesium is important in bone mineralization, which is similar to zinc. However, zinc also increases bone loss. Copper also promotes bone mineralization and decreases bone loss. Manganese plays a vital role in the creation of the connective-tissue components of the bone. Boron supports the creation of bone-protecting hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and DHEA. Silicon has a vital role in the synthesis of connective-tissue components in the bone. Deficiency of silicon has been associated with bone abnormalities. B vitamins, including folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, have been shown to lower blood levels of homocysteine. A high level of homocysteine concentration is a very big risk factor for fractures in elderly people. Strontium is a trace mineral that is incorporated into bone and increases bone strength. It stimulates bone formation and inhibits bone breakdown. Vitamin K is best known for its effect on blood clotting. However, it is also required for the creation of osteocalcin, which is a unique protein that is found in bone and participates in the mineralization process. The amount of vitamin K needed for optimal bone health is greater than that amount needed to prevent bleeding. Deficiency in any of these nutrients is often associated with the development of osteoporosis.

There are two forms of vitamin K that are present in food, vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is found in leafy green vegetables and some vegetable oils. Vitamin K2 is found in much smaller amounts in meat, cheese, eggs, and natto. Vitamin K2 can occur in more than one form, menaquinine-4 (MK-4), a licensed prescription drug in Japan, and menaquinone-7 (MK-7), which is extracted from natto. Research has shown that MK-7 is the ideal form of vitamin K. After oral administration, it was better absorber and lasted long in the body compared to MK-4 and vitamin K1. Even though both have shown the ability to prevent osteoporosis, a much lower dosage of MK-7 is required to obtain the beneficial effects. MK-7 has greater biological activity, bioavailability, and more potent effects on the bone.

Strontium is very important in building strong bones. After being studied by bone health researchers, it has been determined that lower doses are not only safer for long-term supplementation, but also have a greater impact on bone health than high doses. Too little of a dose and bone density will be impaired, but too much and health will be impaired. In this case, dosing needs to be just right for optimal impact. Therefore, keeping supplemental strontium at less than 6 mg per day is the best decision.

Nutrients work by different mechanisms than osteoporosis drugs, allowing them to have the ability to be taken with osteoporosis medications and enhance the beneficial effect of these medications. Because calcium and other minerals may interfere with the absorption of osteoporosis medications, they should be taken at least two hours before or two hours after taking osteoporosis medications. It is always best to also discuss the supplements with your healthcare practitioner to create the best health plan for you. The above supplements and other fine products can be found at your friendly internet health food store.

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