More than 30 million American women and 10 million men currently have osteoporosis. The number of Americans with a low bone density, not yet severe enough to be labeled as osteoporosis, could be twice this number. A woman’s risk of fracture related to osteoporosis, is higher through her lifetime than her risk of getting breast cancer. (one in six for fracture and one in 8 for breast cancer).

There are several key points in lifestyle modification which can help lower a persons risk of getting osteoporosis, lower the fracture risk, increase longevity and quality of life.

What are these modifiable risks and how do we make changes to promote optimal bone health?

I like to look at bone health from several areas including, diet, nutrition, exercise routines, pH balance of the body, genetic risks and hormonal health.

Today we will focus on Nutrition.

Over the last decade there has been tremendous media attention to push the intake of calcium to prevent bone loss. Over the past 5 years there has been a a lot of attention to Vitamin D intake and it’s critical role in bone and calcium metabolism. I call these nutrients, Calcium and Vitamin D, the “Stars of the show”. Why? Because most doctors today are aware of the importance in educating patients about their intake. Most doctors now even understand the importance of monitoring Vitamin D levels in certain health conditions. What is much less likely to get attention, however, are what I refer to as the supporting cast. There are at least 20 nutrients involved in maintaining optimal bone density. Most physicians are not educated about the critical role of nutrition in bone health and so neglect the supporting cast. Remember, if we understand the body as a whole, there is not one magic bullet or cure all for disease. Rather, it is a well balanced, comprehensive look at all factors contributing and their relationship to each other and the whole that truly prevent disease. So if you are focusing on just calcium and vitamin D intake, you may not be optimizing bone health.

Our current standard American diet (SAD) is often deficient in meeting the bodies needs for nutrients. It is very difficult, even through a whole foods diet, to get adequate amounts of phytonutrients into the body. This is due to a combination of many factors, which may be different for each person. For example, the food we purchase at the grocery store today is not as rich in nutrients as it once was. By the time a fruit or a vegetable reaches the market and then your home, it may have lost a considerable percentage of its nutrients. Our fruits and vegetable may be grown with solutions and pesticides that inhibit the absorption of important nutrients. Additionally, our soil content, due to the industrialization of agriculture, may be less rich in nutrients like minerals that are important in bone health. Let’s not forget that the many people just don’t get enough daily intake of fruits and vegetables all together. All of these factors in combination or isolation, make it easy to understand how our diet today may lack the essential ingredients for bone health.

A report from the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that women who get at least 110 micrograms of vitamin K a day are 30 percent less likely to break a hip than women who get less than that. Among the nurses, eating a serving of lettuce or other green, leafy vegetable a day cut the risk of hip fracture in half when compared with eating one serving a week. Data from the Framingham Heart Study also shows an association between high vitamin K intake and reduced risk of hip fracture in men and women and increased bone mineral density in women. Currently only one in four Americans gets close to the daily required intake for Vitamin K. Vitamin K is very important in bone mineralization and may act synergistically with calcium. Most studies looking at Vitamin K, have focused on vitamin K2, a subtype of vitamin K. There is emerging evidence that Vitamin K1 may also be beneficial in bone health.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Studies many Americans are not getting adequate amounts of nutrients that are important in bone health.

Commonly deficient Vitamins:

  • Vit D
  • Vit A
  • Vit B6
  • Vit B9-folate
  • Vit B12
  • Vit K1 and K2

Commonly deficient Minerals:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Chromium
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Boron

Commonly Deficient Macronutrients:

  • Protein–among select populations, the elderly, athletes, mentally disabled, eating disorders
  • Healthy fats–standard American diets are deficient in omegas 3 fatty acids and high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids

We cannot forget to mention the effects of alcohol and tobacco on bone density. Smokers and heavy drinkers have a much higher incidence of osteoporosis. The elimination of tobacco products and modest intake of alcohol, no more than a serving a day, are imperative to maintain bone density.

I have attached a wonderful list of nutrients important in bone health compiled by Dr. Susan Brown. I suggest reading through the list of nutrients and seeing where the majority of us fall short in intake. I highly recommend discussing supplementation with your doctor as well as nutritional testing for deficiencies. Recall that supplements, like minerals and vitamins, should be considered a prescription. We do not want to give excessive amounts of nutrients that are not in a deficient state for prolonged periods of time. We want to maintain a balance of adequate intake. Always talk to your doctor or a health care provider before giving any supplementation and always consider testing.

Here is the link to Dr Browns list: