Many people take calcium and magnesium to prevent osteoporosis, but those two nutrients alone aren’t enough to achieve optimal bone health and reduce your risk. What causes osteoporosis and bone loss isn’t just a calcium deficiency, so your osteoporosis prevention plan should also take into consideration the following recommendations:
Balance Your Hormones to Prevent Osteoporosis
The decline in your sex hormones–estrogen, progesterone and testosterone–with age accelerates bone loss and can cause osteoporosis. Here’s why: There are two important cell types in bone tissue, osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts produce new bone tissue while osteoclasts remove existing bone tissue. Without enough estrogen, osteoclast activity speeds up, and bones lose their density. Whereas, progesterone and testosterone has been shown to stimulate osteoblast activity and potentially aid new bone growth. Consider bio-identical hormone replacement if any, or all three, are low. Look for an anti-aging doctor or a naturopathic doctor that specializes in hormone balancing.
Natural Antidepressants Can Lower Your Risk
One major downside of antidepressants is that they are linked to osteoporosis. Two new studies suggest older men and women taking SSRIs, a class of antidepressants that includes Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, are prone to increased bone loss. Plenty of sunlight; a healthy diet rich in protein, minerals and vitamins; regular exercise and good sleep support serotonin production. You can also consider natural alternatives like high dose fish oil (1tbsp twice daily with food), vitamin D (4,000 – 5,000iu daily) and 5HTP (150mg capsules at bedtime and 75mg at breakfast).
Go Green To Get Better Bones
Research has shown that the incidence of osteoporosis is lower in the Mediterranean areas compared to other European countries. Part of this reason may lie in the traditional Mediterranean diet which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and olive oil. One study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM), revealed that consumption of a Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil (compared to a low fat diet) for two years is associated with increased serum osteocalcin concentrations, suggesting a protective effect on bone. All the more reason to include a tablespoon of olive oil in your meals twice daily.
Add Strength Training For Stronger Bones
Bone density has a lot to do with what you do–or do not do–in the gym. Bone is a tissue that is always changing due to hormonal changes and physical activity, or lack thereof. Regular strength training helps to deposit more minerals in the bones, especially those in the legs, hips and spine. The opposite is also true – lack of regular exercise will accelerate bone loss. A study to be published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) suggests that physical activity for premenopausal women is very effective in reducing sclerostin–a known inhibitor of bone formation. The study found that women who had more than two hours of physical activity per week had significantly lower levels of serum sclerostin, and higher IGF-1 levels (your youthful hormone) than those women who had less than two hours of physical activity per week.
Tighten Your Belt Buckle; Prevent Osteoporosis
If you are prone to osteoporosis, you may be shocked to discover that all the calcium in the world isn`t going to help you maintain your bones if your insulin levels are high. In fact, most of that calcium will be eliminated through your urine, or even worse, form calcifications in your arteries. In an important feedback loop, insulin signals osteoblasts to activate a hormone called osteocalcin, which in turn promotes glucose metabolism. Coupled with weight gain caused by insulin resistance, it`s a double whammy that increases your chances or breaking or fracturing a bone. Recent research has revealed that one of the body’s obesity-related hormones–adiponectin–is also linked to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures, as well as reduced muscle strength and lower muscle mass.
In addition to a diet that keeps your insulin levels low, such as the meal plan in The Carb Sensitivity Program, I recommend adding a conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) to your supplement arsenal twice daily with food. CLA has been shown to help preserve lean muscle as well as maintain bone density and muscle mass, improve insulin.
Watch For High Homocysteine Levels
Homocysteine is an inflammatory protein that, if elevated in the blood, is a proven independent risk factor for osteoporosis as well as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and strokes. Homocysteine has been found to increase with insulin resistance. Get your levels tested and if it’s above 6.3 I recommend including a complex of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid in your daily vitamin regimen for at least 3 months or until your next physical exam.
Photo: flickr user Kevin Dooley