No Bones about it

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns facing women today is the threat of osteoporosis. With a majority of the baby boom generation already at their menopausal years, many are swallowing calcium supplements like there’s no tomorrow in the hopes of reducing their chances of getting broken bones and/or hip fractures. A recent study revealed that while calcium supplementation with vitamin Ddid improve bone density scores, they failed to reduce the incidence of fractures, (New England Journal of Medicine 354: 669-83, 2006). So what are women to do?

The problem as many have pointed out, yet orthodox medicine has chosen to ignore, is that osteoporosis does not occur because women don’t get enough calcium but rather because they can’t hang on to the calcium that they do have! Doctors routinely prescribe bisphosphonate drugs like fosomax/adrenolate along with calcium because they get better bone density results. Denser is better – right? Well not if that means that these now dense bones are becoming more brittle which is all that these drugs do. Bones are continually being remodeled in a building up and tearing down process. When estrogen production drops it leads to a reduced ability to retain calcium in the bones.

To make matters worse, women are forced to wade through a myriad of calcium supplements all with different rates of absorption, with or without co-factors. Just to add to the confusion, advice from doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals can often be inconsistent. Consider this, you take a 2:1 calcium-magnesium supplement that provides you with say 1200mg calcium carbonate with 600mg of magnesium oxide with some vitamin D, (400 IU if you’re lucky!). At best you’ll absorb 30% of the calcium (if you take it with food because you need stomach acid to absorb this form), and 4% of the magnesium. If you do the math your 2:1 Cal-Mag supplement is more like a 15 to 1. Is it any wonder that with the calcium loss from bones and intakes from these supplements that our tissues are being loaded with calcium, i.e. kidney stones, calcified arteries, valves etc.?

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with these issues. First of all, make sure that your calcium supplements include all of the necessary cofactors necessary for bone health. The best calcium comes in from of MCHC (microcrystalline calcium hydroxyapetite), magnesium in the form of aspartate and/or bisglycinate would also be extremely beneficial as this adds to bone flexibility while boron contributes to bone hardness.

One extremely important vitamin that gets overlooked is Vitamin K (preferably K2 not K1) as it has been demonstrated that this form of vitamin K prevents the tearing down of old bone while mildly strengthening the bone-building cells called osteoblasts. Vitamin D tends to get more of the press and rightly so as it provides benefits over and above its role in bone health. But it is vitamin K2 which facilitates the proper utilization and distribution of calcium in the body making sure calcium doesn’t end up where it doesn’t belong. The richest natural source of this vitamin comes from natto which is a Japanese condiment derived from fermented soy. Nattokinase, the enzyme derived from natto, is making a stir in the cardiovascular field, as it is a potent clot buster and supports healthy blood flow invaluable to anyone with circulatory issues.

Although those still taking blood thinners like Coumadin will have to avoid nattokinase with vitamin K as Coumadin directly interferes with vitamin K in order to achieve its desired blood thinning effect. Fortunately for the individuals who want this benefit one can still find nattokinase with the vitamin K removed.

One final supplement that anyone already suffering from osteoporosis should consider is strontium. It is a well-established fact that in trace amounts this element, which is related to calcium, is crucial to bone health. In pharmacological doses it has been clinically shown to improve bone strength by actually helping to build new bone and not just prevent bone loss. In fact, a pharmaceutical company is bringing a drug called strontium ranelate to the market for just such a purpose. But we don’t have to wait, as it is more likely that this synthetic form (which can be patented) is no more effective than natural forms of strontium that are already on the market. But remember to take your strontium away from calcium, as calcium will easily out compete strontium for absorption.