Osteoporosis

The latest digital cameras generally have the best resolution. People upgrade the megapixels of their camera to achieve the sharpest pictures technology can offer.

Technologic advances have also provided us with a sharper understanding of bone health. Bones themselves change in a process fittingly known as “remodeling.” The 2006 model of bone health is more comprehensive than calcium, vitamin D, and exercise. The picture of bone health includes minerals, vitamins, toxins, hormones, and the harmful effects of processed food. *

Minerals. Technology has found that bones and the Smithsonian Museum’s famed Hope Diamond have something in common – the trace mineral boron. Boron confers the Hope Diamond’s blue color. Boron is one of several minerals now known to be essential for strong bones.

Vitamins. Vitamin D is needed to absorb enough calcium for strong bones. In contrast vitamin A as retinol can weaken bones. Vitamin K also influences bone health. This suggests that blood-thinners which interact with vitamin K can reduce bone strength.

Toxins. Dense bones (as measured by DEXA) aren’t the same as strong bones (as measured by fracture rate). Lead causes dense, weak bones. Be aware that some calcium insufficiently purified calcium supplements contain lead.

Hormones. Female hormones help regulate bones. An emerging concern is that certain forms of hormonal birth control prevent teenage girls who use them from reaching peak bone mass and may lead to osteoporosis decades later.

Refined carbohydrates. A recent study at the Mayo clinic suggested that children today have more fractures than children in previous decades. Is the cause over-diagnosed x-rays? Faster sports? Less outdoors (lack of vitamin D)? Obesity creating a greater impact with falls? Diet? Soda pop consumption alone could explain the study results.

First, soda is often consumed as a substitute for calcium and protein-rich milk. Second, soda pop including diet soda causes acid to form in the bloodstream. Recent research shows that under some circumstances bones are dissolved to help neutralize the acid. Third, the excessive phosphate contained in soda spends the calcium stored in bones.

In our comparison between camera models and bone models lies an important difference. Camera models are becoming “point and shoot.” In contrast, public health recommendations for bone health are becoming more complex. Let me suggest simple steps for postponing fractures until life’s second century:

• Replace refined carbohydrates (sugars and starches) with vegetables and protein.

• Ask your doctor about the effects of any medications on bone health.

• Take a quality multiple vitamin and mineral supplement, along with calcium.

• Exercise, preferably outside for vitamin D.

(* More on this topic can be found in Scientific Evidence for Musculoskeletal, Bariatric, and Sports Nutrition edited by Dr. Kohlstadt.)