About 60 percent of women and 40 percent of men over 50 have low bone mass, and these numbers increase with age. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 50% of women and 25% of men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetime.
Bone is constantly being broken down (by cells called osteoclasts) and rebuilt (by cells called osteoblasts). In osteoporosis, there is an imbalance between bone formation and bone resorption, leading to a decrease in bone mass and consequently an increase in fracture risk. The best protection against osteoporosis is a combination of exercise and excellent nutrition. These factors tip the balance against bone building.
Weight-bearing training and strength training
When we increase muscle strength, we increase bone strength. The most effective way to strengthen bones and protect against osteoporosis-related fractures is with strength training. The mechanical forces produced by exercise stimulate the activity of the bone-building osteoblasts, leading to denser, stronger bones – not just stronger muscles.
Weight-bearing exercises are ideal for improving balance and building bone strength, and non-weight-bearing strength training of the lower body also helps to increase bone density. Although swimming and cycling are good for cardiovascular conditioning, they do not help protect against osteoporosis such as running or lifting weights. In women at risk for osteoporosis, back-strengthening exercises are particularly beneficial and can provide lasting protection against spinal cord fractures.
For women, in addition to doing weight-bearing exercises, I also recommend wearing a weighted vest for a few hours every day for stronger bones. A weighted vest can be worn, not only during training, but also while working or shopping and bending, standing and moving during the day. Wearing a weighted vest also has other benefits, such as burning more calories, increasing core strength and stabilizing muscles, thus improving balance and reducing the risk of falls.
For a guide to bone-building training, in my DVD Osteoporosis protection for lifeI have put together a comprehensive approach that combines diet and supplement counseling with special bone-strengthening exercises that provide the information needed to put an effective plan for the prevention of osteoporosis into practice.
The best foods for bone health are whole plant foods. Studies show that people with the highest consumption of fruits and vegetables have the strongest bones.
Calcium: Vegetables, seeds and beans
Bone tissue consists mainly of calcium phosphate and collagen, and ninety-nine percent of the body’s calcium is stored in bones. The blend of bone mineral with collagen fibers gives bones strength and flexibility.
A diet full of natural plant foods provides the calcium required to build strong bones. Green vegetables are especially rich sources of calcium. For example, a four-ounce serving of steamed kale has as much calcium as a cup of cow’s milk. Broccoli, bok choy, sesame seeds and garbanzo beans are also excellent sources of calcium. In addition, the body absorbs about 50% of calcium in many green vegetables, compared to only 32% of calcium in milk. High-dose (1000 mg / day) calcium supplements are not recommended because several studies have linked high-dose calcium supplements with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Plus, high-dose calcium supplements have not been better than lower doses in bone fracture prevention studies.
Magnesium: Nuts and seeds
Calcium is important, but it is not the only bone-building mineral. Sixty percent of the body’s magnesium is found in bones. Magnesium is an essential mineral that is essential for all cells, plays a structural role in bone tissue and is essential for bone formation. Magnesium deficiency reduces osteoblast (bone-building cell) activity and promotes osteoporosis. It is noteworthy that nearly half of Americans do not meet the recommended intake of magnesium. Nuts and seeds are especially rich in magnesium.
Vitamin K1: Green vegetables
Vitamin K is an essential component for maintaining healthy bones. A vitamin K-dependent protein called osteocalcin is the most abundant protein in bone tissue after collagen; this protein binds to calcium and is essential for bone mineralization. Higher intake of vitamin K1 is associated with lower rates of bone loss and fractures. Vitamin K is found as K1 and K2; the richest source of K1 is green vegetables, and K2 is produced by microorganisms. It is important to get both K1 from green vegetables and K2 from a supplement.
Plant protein: Beans, seeds and nuts
From the middle of life and especially after the age of 70, it becomes more important to ensure an adequate protein intake for healthy bones. For most people who follow a nutritional diet, adequate protein for maintaining bone mass, muscle mass and muscle strength with age can be easily obtained with seeds, nuts and beans. Animal products can be added if muscle mass begins to drop too low on a completely vegan diet, despite appropriate exercise.
Phytate: Beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds
Phytate was once known as an “anti-nutrient”, a substance that prevents us from absorbing certain minerals, but the phytate in plant foods can actually benefit bone health. Studies have found that women who ingest more phytate had either greater bone mineral density or less bone mass loss over time. Phytate appears to help prevent osteoporosis by preventing bone degradation by osteoclasts (bone-absorbing cells).
Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
A three-month trial of postmenopausal women eating dried plums (compared to dried apples) daily found an increase in bone formation markers, and a one-year trial found an increase in bone mineral density and decreased levels of bone resorption markers. Plum polyphenols have been shown to suppress the activity of osteoclasts. Also, higher markers of oxidative stress are associated with lower bone mineral density, suggesting that the antioxidant content of fruits and vegetables may be partly responsible for their bone health benefits. It is not the case that plums have special powers, but their polyphenol content is certainly higher than that of apples; berries are also particularly high in polyphenols.
Bone-healthy supplements: Vitamin D and Vitamin K2
The biggest source of vitamin D for most people is sun exposure, and vitamin K2 is not easy to get from plant foods. It is important to get adequate amounts of these bone-supporting vitamins, and supplements are helpful. Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus uptake, and vitamin D deficiency is known to increase the risk of rupture. Vitamin K2 supplementation (which is low in plant foods) in postmenopausal women has shown significant reductions in fracture risk: vertebral fractures by 60%, hip fractures by 77% and all non-vertebral fractures by 81%.
Avoid foods that cause calcium loss
The worst foods for bone health are those that cause calcium to be removed from bones and lost in the urine.
- Excess sodium promotes the excretion of calcium.
- Caffeine also contributes to urinary calcium loss. High caffeine intake is associated with increased bone loss and osteoporotic fractures.
- Soda, including diet and decaffeinated sodas, are associated with bone loss. Sodas increase parathyroid hormone (PTH) in the blood, which increases blood calcium levels by stimulating bone breakdown. This increased calcium in the blood is then excreted in the urine.
The nutritional diet combined with the conservative use of supplements (see Vitamin Advisor) ensures individuals that they achieve maximum protection against disease later in life. Achieving adequate muscle mass and bone mass with aging is one of the important benefits of a nutritional lifestyle.
Originally published on DrFuhrman.com
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