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New Research: Can Diet Influence Bone Strength?
By Jen Morganti, ND, NEEDS Education Director

Osteoporosis is still a common disease, despite the extensive knowledge we have gained from the vast amount of research that has been conducted on this bone disease. Osteoporosis is found more commonly in women as it relates to hormonal changes, but don't be misled— men can develop it as well. The disease occurs when the structure of the bone deteriorates, which lowers its strength and density. The weakened bones then become fragile and vulnerable to fracture, even from a simple fall. Bone loss tends to occur as we age and when combined with weaker muscles, slower reflexes, and poor balance, falls are more likely to lead to fractures.

There are various pharmaceutical medications on the market that treat osteoporosis, but their success rates are low because the way that they rebuild bone still leaves bones brittle and weak. The optimal method of preventing fractures is a pre-emptive approach, focusing on minimizing bone loss in later years, rather than trying to rebuild deteriorated bones. This goal is very achievable by following some specific lifestyle recommendations that are simple, but require discipline.

1) Commit to weight-bearing exercise, 4-5 times weekly. This includes lifting weights, jogging, or any activity that jars the bones, which triggers osteoblasts to build more bone tissue.

2) Avoid acid-blocking drugs entirely. We need gastric acid, as it is required to absorb minerals, such as calcium. Look to a holistic physician for alternatives to acid-blocking drugs, if you feel you need them.

3) Take supplements containing vitamin D and K2. These vitamins enhance calcium uptake into your bones, so that high-dose calcium isn't needed.

4) Eat the right healthy foods!

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition focused on defining recommendation #4—eating the right foods. What does that really mean? Very little research has addressed dietary patterns in relation to fracture risk, despite the acceptance that nutrients play an important role in building strong bones.

In this study, data was extracted from a different, but very large study. The researchers evaluated the diet in over 4,000 people for over a decade to see if there was a relationship between dietary patterns and rate of fractures. Two opposing dietary patterns became very clearly linked to either bone loss or bone strength. The group that predominantly consumed sweets, animal fat, and low meat intake had much higher rates of osteoporotic fractures and lower bone density. The group that mainly consumed fruit, vegetables, and dairy had higher bone mineral density and lower risk of osteoporotic fractures.

The reasons as to why the second diet was beneficial may be because some vegetables and dairy products are naturally high in calcium and vitamin D. It's reassuring to know that there are steps you can take to lower your risk of bone deterioration and support healthy bones, beyond pharmaceutical medications with exercise, healthy foods, and supplements!

Am J Clin Nutr. (January 2017). Vol.105 No.1: 203-211.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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