Is Calcium Really All It Takes For Strong Bones?

One morning this week while I was getting ready for my day, the morning news was on in the background. I was hooked by a ‘teaser’ for an upcoming segment: what women need to do to protect bones as they age. Knowing that this is a huge public health issue of late and reflecting on the growing number of patients coming to my office with low bone density, I made sure to watch, thinking I might learn something new.

Was I wrong. I wanted to rush to my computer and email the station – I wished there was a way to interrupt their broadcast as their guest advocated calcium and estrogen as the two most primary ingredients for bone health. Here is why I was so upset…

Bone health has so much more to do than just calcium and estrogen. I have many women in my practice who have severe osteoporosis and have been on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for years due to having hysterectomies; those high levels of estrogen definitely do not guarantee skeletal health.

Calcium is hugely important in bone and bone health, but we have been talking about it for years and osteoporosis is on the rise in our county. There is much more we need to understand.

Did you know that human bones are dynamic living tissues? Much like other organs in the body, bones contain blood vessels that bring needed nutrients, nerves for the delivery of information and messages and specialized cells (osteocytes) that work to maintain its structure. Large amounts of calcium and phosphorus give bones rigidity and strength, while collagen, a fibrous protein, provides flexibility. Cemented together by the minerals magnesium, sodium and potassium, the primary solid components of bone, calcium, phosphorus and collagen require superior nutrition.

Similar to skin, bones are continually built up and broken down, rebuilding themselves many times. By regulating minerals, vitamin D and specific hormones, bone maintains a continual balance of bone remodeling. This ongoing process ensures density, strength, and resistance to fracture. The aging process presents significant changes in human bones. As women reach peri-menopause and menopause, declining reproductive hormones leave bones vulnerable. When men enter their sixth decade, a slow loss of strength in bone occurs.

While the nutrients needed to sustain bone health are found in foods, current farming techniques actually deplete the soil of many of those key minerals. Vitamin and mineral intake from food has been shown to be much less than it was a century ago! Agricultural chemicals may interfere with the metabolism of vitamins and minerals. Food preservatives such as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) may interfere with absorption of vitamins and minerals. Unhealthy dietary choices and digestive issues may lead to poor absorption of minerals. Supplementation of many key nutrients, not just the common calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, can help ensure strong bones throughout a lifetime.

I frankly think that osteopenia and osteoporosis are “matrix deficiencies”: with the lack of trace minerals getting to healthy bone, calcium doesn’t have any of the minerals it would normally ‘hold on to’ and so easily moves to other parts of the body to help with other functions.

Besides a plant strong, whole foods diet, I recommend a supplement that is comprehensive and complete when supporting bone health, especially if someone has been diagnosed with low bone density or osteoporosis. One with all of the ingredients associated with bone health benefits including boron, vanadium, chromium and a highly bio-available form of Vitamin K2, shown in clinical studies to enhance calcium absorption and bone building function.

Above and beyond a comprehensive formula to support bone health as we age, weight-bearing exercise is imperative. Just as you go to the gym to lift weights, pushing against resistance with your muscles, breaking them down so they build back up stronger, your spine will do the same thing. When it feels resistance against it, it will want to respond the same way. I recommend daily weight resistance exercises for all parts of the body to help maintain healthy bone density. If you need assistance in what exercises to do and how to do them properly, consider hiring a Certified Personal Trainer for a few sessions to get you started with easy and effective exercise at home.

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