7 Supplements for Better Bones


When we go for a check-up, most healthcare practitioners listen to our hearts, take our weight and blood pressure and may even discuss age- and sex-appropriate cancer-screening tests. Another significant, although less high-profile, aspect of good health that is sometimes overlooked is the condition of our bones.

The primary culprit when it comes to bone health is osteoporosis, a bone-thinning condition that is often called "the silent disease" because, until a bone is broken, there are no symptoms. Unfortunately, as a large part of our population ages, the number of those broken bones is increasing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that hip fractures in older women soared by 40 percent between 1988 and 1996.

Women are especially vulnerable to osteoporosis. In fact, the vast majority of the 25 million Americans who have the disease are women. But that doesn't mean men are immune. About one-fourth of the annual 1.5 million hip fractures in this country occur in men, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, and men are just as likely as women to develop spinal deformities.

Another common misconception is that osteoporosis is an age-related disease. But experts say that the disease occurs at all ages and has its roots in childhood eating habits. In addition to a diet low in bone-building calcium and other nutrients, risk factors include eating disorders, steroid medications, and low levels of either estrogen in women or testosterone in men. Excessive alcohol, soft drink and salt intake, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle also contribute to the bone-thinning process. Genes play a role, too; as very often osteoporosis is passed on from one generation to the next.
Nutrients for better bones

The best way to avoid the disease is with exercise and a balanced, nutritious diet, starting in childhood. But as a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) conference on osteoporosis revealed, only 10 percent of the girls and 25 percent of the boys between the ages of 9 and 17 get sufficient amounts of calcium in their diets to grow healthy bones. And adults don't fare much better. Studies have shown that few men or women get even the RDA of calcium (1,000 mg a day up to age 50, then 1,200 to 1,500 daily).

Here are 7 must-have nutrients necessary for bone health:
1. The Calcium Conundrum

Why is calcium so important? Our bones are continually breaking down and being rebuilt. The rebuilding process, however, requires the mineral calcium in order for the bone-building cells to do their job. If calcium is in short supply, the broken-down bone can't be replaced with new material and bones become weak and porous.

Widely popular, calcium supplements come in several forms, including calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. The primary difference between these supplements is the amount of elemental (or actual) calcium they contain. Calcium carbonate has almost twice as much as citrate, so less needs to be taken. Meanwhile, calcium citrate is often recommended for elderly people, because it may be easier for their digestive systems to absorb. A recent review of calcium and bone mass studies found that calcium citrate malate has high bioavailability in all age ranges, including young girls as well as postmenopausal women.

It's best to take your calcium supplements with meals, to boost absorption; do not, however, take your calcium supplements at the same time in which you are eating a meal containing fiber-rich foods, as such foods will bind to calcium, making it unabsorbable.
2. Calcium assistants: magnesium, potassium and vitamins D and K

Maximizing calcium's effects on your bones requires certain nutrients, too. These include vitamins D and K, magnesium and potassium. A balanced diet and a good daily vitamin usually includes these. But keep in mind, magnesium is especially important for calcium absorption. When shopping for supplements, experts suggest choosing one with a 2-to-1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. (In other words, it should contain twice as much calcium as magnesium.) Divide your RDA into three equal doses and take one-third with each meal. Magnesium is also found in nuts, legumes, whole grains and green vegetables.
3. Boron for Strong Bones

Another mineral necessary to bone health is boron. In fact, although research is preliminary, boron appears to be linked to both healthy bones and arthritis-free joints. In addition, it is believed to facilitate the absorption of calcium.

Diets rich in green leafy vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts can be rich in boron, if the soil in which they were grown contained the nutrient. Although the RDA for boron hasn't been established, recent studies show that toxicity only occurs at very high levels. A safe range is 2 to 3 mg for the average adult, with 3 to 6 mg recommended for postmenopausal women.
4. Versatile Manganese

The mineral manganese is involved in a wide range of processes within our bodies, including cartilage and bone formation, making it a worthwhile weapon for fighting osteoporosis. Ironically, calcium and iron both interfere with the body's ability to absorb this nutrient, so supplements may be necessary. The recommended dosage is between 5 and 15 mg per day. Nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables and wheat germ are rich dietary sources of manganese.
5. Super Silicon

Although silicon's role in bone formation has not been clearly established, it does appear to play a role in that process, and strengthens connective tissue as well. A trace mineral, silicon is found in root vegetables, whole grains and beer. There is no RDA for silicon, but as a supplement, 1 to 2 mg daily should be sufficient. If you prefer herbal supplements, horsetail is an excellent source of silicon. Used for centuries to treat arthritis and other ailments, horsetail also contains potassium and more than a dozen bioflavonoids. Research indicates that silicon is necessary for bone and cartilage building processes. Horsetail is available as a tincture, with recommended dosage between 2 and 6 ml daily. Silicon gels are also available, either mineral (primary-source) or vegetal (secondary source), some prepared according to the levels of orthosilicic acid.
6. Mighty MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane)

A popular treatment for arthritis, allergies, sore muscles and more, MSM is a naturally occurring source of the mineral sulfur, one of the building blocks of healthy cells. Although meats and seafood contain MSM, cooking destroys the substance, so the best dietary sources are found in dairy foods and fresh, raw vegetables. As a supplement, MSM is considered safe even at very high levels. Typically, doses range from 500 to 1,000 mg per day.
7. Keep Bones Strong with Copper

Researchers have established the fact that copper is one of the essential ingredients in bone metabolism. Normally, most of us get the 3 mg of copper needed to keep our bones healthy from a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. But with the increasing popularity of zinc, which inhibits the absorption of copper, deficiencies could become a problem. Add to that the fact that vitamin C can also keep copper from reaching the bones (although not to the same degree as zinc), and it's easy to see how fighting a cold could turn into a bone-thinning experience. Oysters are loaded with copper and nuts, potatoes and vegetables are rich in this mineral, too. If supplements are required, 1 to 3 mg daily is considered safe.
Lifestyle is Half the Battle

Part of the reason osteoporosis is so common may have to do with the fact that growing or keeping strong bones requires more than a few glasses of milk. While dairy products are certainly rich in calcium (with the low- and non-fat varieties containing more of the mineral than the high-fat products), eating a varied diet is a better way to raise your intake. Foods like calcium-fortified orange juice or soy milk, tofu, cooked leafy greens and broccoli are other excellent sources of the mineral, and they supply other nutrients, too.

Still, no matter how carefully you eat, weight-bearing exercise is a must for strong bones. Walking, dancing, hiking and skating are all great ways to build and maintain strong bones, provided they're done for 30 to 60 minutes, 5 to 7 days each week. Strength training with weights or resistance bands is also recommended. Although strong bones may not be the first thing we think of when it comes to good health, their importance can't be denied. Fortunately, with a sound diet, moderate exercise and proper supplements, we can keep our bones healthy for many years to come.
what knees need

The knee is not only the largest joint in the human body, it is also the most vulnerable. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than 6 million people visit the doctor or an emergency room each year for treatment of knee problems. These include everything from bursitis to torn ligaments and tendons, damaged cartilage or bones and osteoarthritis. The solutions can range from simply giving the joint a few days of rest to complete knee replacement.

Here are some suggestions on how to avoid knee injuries:

* First, if you are overweight, understand that you are putting excessive stress on the knee joint. Simply losing a few pounds can improve the situation.
* Be aware that normal, moderate exercise does not damage knees. In fact, according to the Framingham study., a massive research project involving 5,000 people, neither aerobic exercise nor long-distance running increased the risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee, one of the more common ailments found in this joint.
* Do try to avoid long-term, heavy participation in high-impact sports. Activities like basketball, high-jumping and brisk cycling can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knees and other joints
* Warming up with stretches before exercising (particularly the muscles in the thigh), wearing good-fitting shoes and building up left muscles with weights or resistance exercises are other good ways to avoid knee problems
* In the event that you do develop osteoarthritis, numerous studies have shown that a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can help get you back in action. These naturally occurring, nontoxic substances are a terrific alternative to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, that can actually damage the joint further and even cause serious health complications
* In addition, capsaicin creams, made from the cayenne plant, have been shown to relieve the joint pain associated with bursitis and both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Applied externally (it may sting a bit the first few times), the cream can temporarily dampen the mechanisms that send pain signals to the brain
* Finally, the Ayurvedic remedy known as boswellia (or Boswellia serrata) has long been used to treat joint pain caused by osteoarthritis. It has been shown to be as effective as NSAIDs in treating joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis and has few, if any, side effects, if taken at a dosage between 450 to 750 mg of boswellic acids daily.


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McAlindon, T.E., et al. "Risk of radiographic and symptomatic knee osteoarthritis in the elderly," American Journal of Medicine 106: 151-57, 1999.

Nielsen, F.H. "Silicon: a nutritional beneficence for bones, brains and blood vessels?" Nutrition Today 28:13-18, 1993.

Patrick, L. "Comparative absorption of calcium sources and calcium citrate malate for the prevention of osteoporosis," Alternative Medicine Review 4(2):74-85, Apr. 1999.

Saltman, P.D., Strause, L.G. "The role of trace minerals in osteoporosis," Journal of the American College of Nutrition 12(4):384-9, Aug. 1993.

Saxon, L., Finch, C., Bass, S. "Sports participation, sports injuries and osteoarthritis: implications for prevention," Sports Medicine 28(2):123-35, Aug. 1999.


By Brenda Adderly, MHA

Adapted by MHA

Brenda Adderly is the author of 14 books about health. She may be reached through www.stayhealthy.com

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