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Bone Up On Your Health...

Nearly 45 million Americans are facing a major health threat. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, an estimated 10 million people living in the U.S. today have osteoporosis, and an estimated 34 million are at risk, due to low bone density. Further, while we think of osteoporosis as a "woman's disease," over one quarter of the 45 million of us at risk are men.

OSTEOPOROSIS—characterized by low bone mass, and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leads to bone fragility and an increased vulnerability to fractures, especially of the hip, spine, and wrist. Because there are few symptoms associated with bone loss, many are unaware that they have the disease.

There are ways, however, to detect low bone density, but it is not always easy to predict who will actually suffer an osteoporotic fracture. Bone density tests can measure bone concentration in various areas of the body, and markers of bone resorption can tell if you are likely losing bone at any given time. These tests can detect low bone density and high bone breakdown before a fracture occurs and thus help identify your chances of a future fracture. They, however, cannot predict who will fracture. Given this, everyone, even those with good bone density, would do well to maintain a strong bone building program.

While there is no way to totally reverse osteoporosis, there are ways of preventing, halting and treating it. Because the average woman has acquired 98 percent of her skeletal mass by age 20, building strong bones during childhood and teenage years is the first line of defense. Yet even into adulthood we can gain bone and as we age it is particularity important to consider prevention, causes, treatment, and possible risk factors of osteoporosis.



In my case it began with my grandmother who had both osteoporosis and rickets and who died at the age of 102 after experiencing a hip fracture. At age 36, I was told that I had receding gums. This I knew was an early sign of osteoporosis.

These two personal experiences ignited my interest in bone health and propelled me to undertake a comprehensive "rethinking" of osteoporosis, sorting fact from fiction. To this end, I founded the Osteoporosis Education Project (OEP)—a non profit, public interest group dedicated to exploring the full human potential for building, maintaining, and regaining bone health.

At OEP, we have been rethinking the true nature, causes and best prevention and treatment of osteoporosis for over a decade. We now know that osteoporosis is a rather complicated disorder often presented as a simple problem of calcium or estrogen deficiency. As an anthropologist, I have been able to rethink osteoporosis from a crosscultural perspective, developing critical new insights into this crippling bone disorder.

Rethinking osteoporosis, we have found the nature of osteoporosis to be different than commonly held.

For example, hip fracture rates vary 30 fold around the world, with some cultures being almost immune to osteoporotic fractures. Cultures with highest calcium intake have the highest osteoporosis rates. Further, in many countries, like China, Japan, Germany and Ghana, people have thinner bones than we do, yet they fracture much less than we do.


Adequate levels of many minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and boron are important to bone. Vitamins are also essential. Vitamin D, well known for its role in calcium absorption, is taking on new importance as a growing number of us are now found to be Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin A, on the other hand, should probably be limited to under 10,000 IU daily, as high doses of vitamin A (but not beta carotene) appear to hamper bone health. Excessive intakes of coffee, sugar, fat, alcohol or protein also damage bone. Yet, those who take one or two alcoholic drinks a day actually have better bones than non-drinkers, and low protein intake is just as bad for bone as is excessively high protein intake. Exercise that builds muscle strength builds bone while disuse causes atrophy of both. Weight loss causes bone loss, so dieters need special nutrient supplement programs. Strong medications like steroids have been long known to damage bone. Now research shows that even common non-steroidal pain killers also damage bone by delaying fracture repair. Dear to my heart, the most hidden cause of osteoporosis, namely excessive metabolic acidity, is finally becoming recognized as a major "bad guy" for bone health.


Recognizing the complexity of osteoporosis, we at the Osteoporosis Education Project have developed a comprehensive Eight Step Program for Bone Health Maximization. (SEE BOTTOM BOX BELOW.) Each of the eight steps is life supporting in itself, making this program one that builds better bones and a better body.

Better Bones, Better Body is a great motto for all of us. It is never too early or too late to build and rebuild bone naturally. Furthermore, everything we do for bone can be and should be good for the rest of our body!

For more information, see Better Bones, Better Body, Keats 2000 and visit the Osteoporosis Education Project's website at

©, used by permission

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