Treat and Prevent Osteoporosis Naturally


DID YOU KNOW ... Osteoporosis begins in childhood. By the time you are about 30 years old your peak bone mass is determined. This makes it even more critical to begin your bone-building program as early as possible. For individuals who are over 30, don't despair. Bone is living tissue and remodels and regenerates 24 hours a day, every day. In fact, every eight years we have a whole new skeleton.

Osteoporosis can be devastating. This crippling condition can cause an individual to slump over and shuffle gingerly so as not to risk a fall. Perhaps it has affected your grandmother, your mother, a sister, or an aunt. As this silent epidemic continues its course, osteoporosis will probably touch your life in some way.

Consider these startling facts from the National Osteoporosis Foundation:

One-half of the female population, over age 50, will eventually develop this condition.
A woman's risk of a hip fracture, the most dangerous result of osteoporosis, is equal to the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined.
One in eight men will develop an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
Direct expenditures due to osteoporosis and associated fractures cost the United States almost $14 billion a year.
If left unchecked, the National Osteoporosis Foundation has predicted that in just 15 years there will be almost a 50 percent increase in people diagnosed with osteoporosis or low bone mass. Although it is reaching epidemic proportions, this condition is largely preventable.

"By following a comprehensive prevention plan that can also be used to complement osteoporosis treatment, you can beat the odds and defy the statisticians," explains Freedolph Anderson, M.D., women's health specialist and author of Build Bone Health (IMPAKT 1999).

Dr. Anderson's plan includes the following components:

Diet. Omit foods that can decrease bone mass and incorporate more items that will enhance bone health (see sidebar on following page).
Lifestyle factors. Certain activities within your control can contribute to bone loss while others, such as exercise, can greatly contribute to bone health (see sidebar).
Nutrients. Dozens of specific nutrients have been shown to benefit bone health, especially calcium, magnesium, boron and vitamins D and K.
Ipriflavone. This unique natural substance has been shown in clinical studies to minimize bone loss and maximize bone mass, which are the key goals of any osteoporosis prevention and treatment plan.
"The most successful bone-building/osteoporosis prevention and treatment program features a comprehensive attack," concludes Dr. Anderson.

The scientific community is now confirming the medicinal effectiveness of many natural therapeutic substances. The most impressive agent for bone health is ipriflavone, an isoflavone or compound that naturally occurs in foods and plants.

Alfalfa is the richest source of ipriflavone. However, it is also found in propolis (from bees) and some plants. Now that scientific studies have confirmed the bone health benefits of ipriflavone, researchers have discovered a technology that isolates and mass produces ipriflavone. Today, ipriflavone is available over-the-counter as a dietary supplement in many bone-building formulas.

The chemical name for ipriflavone is 7-isopropoxy isoflavone. The history of plant isoflavones dates back to the 1930s when cattle responded to the estrogenic effects of clover. From there researchers began studying a variety of plant components to determine exact therapeutic value.

"A Hungarian pharmaceutical company actually isolated and discovered ipriflavone in 1969," according to pharmacist Steven Lee, who is research director of Technical Sourcing International. Lee was instrumental in bringing ipriflavone to the United States. He has studied this substance extensively.

"In the early 1980s pharmaceutical companies in Eastern Europe, Italy and Japan started investigating ipriflavone's ability to enhance bone density," explains Lee. "Since the mid-to-late 1980s, ipriflavone has been an approved therapeutic agent for osteoporosis prevention and treatment in Europe and Japan."

Dr. Anderson believes ipriflavone is "perhaps the most thoroughly examined compound in the natural health industry." Ipriflavone has been shown to:

Stimulate the synthesis and secretion of calcitonin, a hormone that promotes calcium metabolism.
Stimulate bone formation while increasing bone mineral density.
Decrease fracture rate and complement prescription estrogen therapy.
Ipriflavone has an impressive scientific record. It has been the subject of more than 60 different clinical studies in Italy, Japan and Hungary, featuring almost 2,800 patients with confirmed osteoporosis. There have been more than 16 randomized, placebo-controlled human studies, with all of them demonstrating either maintenance of bone mineral density or an increase. Dozens of articles have been featured in the scientific literature on ipriflavone's infuence on bone structure. The scientific community is also eagerly awaiting the results of a large multicenter trial on fracture prevention in Italy, expected to be published soon.

Health care professionals in the United States are also witnessing positive clinical results. Popular radio host and medical director of the Hoffman Center in New York City, Ronald Hoffman, M.D., has many ipriflavone success stories. "I use ipriflavone as either an adjunct to medical treatments such as Fosamax or estrogen, or as a stand-alone treatment. Ipriflavone works specifically on bone receptors and is very safe. I have used it on hundreds of patients."

Susan Brown, Ph.D., author of Better Bones, Better Bodies (Keats 1999), is presently conducting various ipriflavone pilot studies at the Osteoporosis Education Project in East Syracuse, New York, of which she is the director. "Ipriflavone is being used as an adjunct therapy for those who require a stronger program to limit bone breakdown and enhance bone formation. Ipriflavone holds more promise as a safe and effective bone-building agent than the drugs presently being used."

In his book, The Osteoporosis Solution (Kensington 1999), Carl Germano, R.D., C.N.S., calls ipriflavone an effective alternative to estrogen and believes it is the biggest breakthrough yet in osteoporosis prevention and treatment.

Many women trying to prevent or treat osteoporosis are often presented with conventional hormone replacement therapy (i.e., Premarin Registered Trademark). For women who cannot tolerate the side effects of estrogen or are concerned about their risk of developing breast cancer, many experts believe ipriflavone is a good alternative to estrogen for bone health. Please note that ipriflavone has only been studied on bone health. The effects it may or may not have on menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, etc., is not known.

While effectiveness is critical, safety is equally as important. Even though a substance is deemed "natural" does not necessarily mean it is safe. In the case of ipriflavone, the information available indicates that it is not only effective but it is also safe when taken at the recommended dosage.

The only side effect noted to date has been minor gastrointestinal discomfort. Toxicity studies reported that this side effect was equal to the placebo group (i.e., participants receiving the sugar pill). However, to help prevent stomach upset, take ipriflavone with a meal.

Ipriflavone is metabolized in the liver. This can cause some concern and should be studied further. Until this issue is clarified, people with liver disease or weakness of the liver should avoid taking ipriflavone unless otherwise directed by their physician.

"We are also not sure how ipriflavone interacts with other medications that are metabolized in the liver, like oral contraceptives, epilepsy medications, some tranquilizers, and some antidepressants," explains Dr. Anderson. "Certainly, when you compare ipriflavone to the drugs presently on the market for osteoporosis, it has fewer side effects."

Ipriflavone is safe for both adults and teenagers. Although it has not been studied on pregnant or lactating women, it is believed to be safe for that group as well. At this time, it is not recommended for small children.

The dosage of ipriflavone used in the studies was 600 mg per day in divided doses (200 mg three times daily). "There is no indication that more than 600 mg daily is ever required," explains Dr. Anderson.

There was a time when physicians viewed osteoporosis as an inevitable part of the aging process, completely out of our control. Nothing could be further from the truth. Osteoporosis is not a "normal" part of aging. In fact, it can be prevented and treated effectively.

"Osteoporosis is the most common bone disorder encountered in clinical practice," according to an October 1997 report by Mayo Clinic researchers. "It is also one of the most important diseases facing our aging population."

As we search for ways to maintain optimum health and prevent illness, we can look to Mother Nature once again. She has provided us with a wonderful new tool we can use to prevent and treat the most damaging and widespread bone condition of our time--osteoporosis.

Popular wellness doctor and author Andrew Weil, M.D., says that optimum health should "bring with it a sense of strength and joy, so that you experience it as more than just absence of disease."

A critical component of optimum health and vitality is a strong foundation built with a healthy bone structure.

Eat plenty of fresh green, leafy vegetables and colored foods, such as tomatoes and peppers. These foods are great sources of bone-building nutrients like calcium and vitamin K.
Eat other foods high in calcium and magnesium such as kale, seeds and nuts, broccoli, brown rice, avocado and beans.
Reduce intake of animal fats and concentrate on "good" fats found in fresh, cold water fish, olive, canola, evening primrose and flax oils.
Reduce sodium, caffeine, alcohol and carbonated drinks because they all leach calcium from the bones.
Don't smoke. Smoking has been shown to increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Eat a moderate amount of protein. Too much or too little protein can lead to poor bone health.
Exercise frequently and consistently, with a special focus on weight-bearing exercises like walking.
Eat organic whenever possible and eat whole gains instead of refined flour.
The dietary and lifestyle guidelines above are from Build Bone Health by Freedolph Anderson, M.D.


By Karolyn A. Gazella

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