Pop Quiz: Can You Tell Fact From Fiction When It Comes to Common Myths About Bone Health?
With new studies showing that long-term use of osteoporosis medications like Fosamax offer no continuing benefit after five years , people are wondering what to do to improve their bone density…and a lot of people should wonder.
Thirty-five million American women and 17 million men have low bone density: thinning, weakening and breakable bones. One out of two women will have an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime.
The good news is that there are excellent natural treatments that dramatically and safely increase bone density (and health), preventing, slowing and even powerfully reversing osteoporosis.
The bad news? Most physicians aren’t familiar with those treatments!
Fortunately, knowledge is power and this article provides the knowledge you need. Let’s start by examining five common beliefs about bone health. I’ll tell you which ones are TRUE, and which are myths that have been BUSTED — and discuss the very best strategies for building bone.
Five Common Beliefs About Bone Health
MYTH # 1: Antacids are good for strong bones, because they contain lots of calcium.
An analysis of data from the massive Women’s Health Initiative linked calcium supplements to a 31% increased risk of heart attacks. And a new study from Swedish researchers shows that only intakes below 750 mg of calcium a day put a person at increased risk for fractures — while intakes above 1,100 mg might increase risk! In other words, supplementing your diet with high doses of calcium may do you more harm than good!
BEST STRATEGY: Regularly eat calcium-rich foods like leafy greens, fatty fish with bones (such as sardines and salmon) and dairy products. Keep supplementation of calcium (including antacids) to a minimum — no more than 500 to 600 mg daily. (For more info on calcium’s downside, see the Research Briefs section of my February 15, 2012 newsletter.) If taking a calcium supplement, be sure it also contains magnesium and vitamin D.
MYTH # 2: The longer you use osteoporosis medications, the stronger your bones.
New research shows that taking Fosamax for more than five years may actually weaken the crystalline structure of bones, resulting in bones that are less elastic and therefore more fracture-prone.
BEST STRATEGY: If you must take Fosamax, take it with vitamin D — a strategy that makes it five times more likely the drug will effectively build bones. Click here for a list of drug alternatives you may want to consider.
MYTH # 3: Milk is the best source of calcium for your bones.
Dairy foods provide calcium, yes, but there are many other foods rich in calcium, and many even offer MORE calcium than milk.
BEST STRATEGY: If you are looking to take a break from dairy, or would just like to boost your calcium intake and protect your bones reach for foods like leafy greens, kale, tofu or white beans. Each of these foods offers more calcium in a single serving that you’ll find in an 8 oz. glass of milk.
MYTH # 4: You can literally “walk away” from bone fracture risk.
Dozens of studies show that regular walking builds bone. One of the most recent showed that walking or jogging three times a week increased several biomarkers of bone density. Even better is that those who exercised and took 1,000 mg a day of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) had even healthier levels of those biomarkers than people who just exercised.
BEST STRATEGY: A brisk, 30-minute walk, at least three times a week, along with a fish oil supplement, such as Vectomega.
MYTH #5 : Natural remedies for osteoporosis are an unproven scam.
And busted over and over again. For example, the mineral strontium has been shown in many studies to protect bone. In one of the most recent, researchers from Belgium analyzed bone strength in osteoporotic women who had been treated for a decade with strontium and found a 35% reduced risk of spinal fractures and a 38% reduced risk of non-spinal fractures. In another recent study published in the January 2012 edition of Osteoporosis International, strontium outperformed Fosamax in building bones. Another review of dozens of studies with thousands of patients found strontium to be very effective and safe in long-term treatment of osteoporosis. So much for the scam!
BEST STRATEGY: Eggshell calcium is by far the safest, most natural and most effective form. Eggshell calcium contains special transporter proteins that move calcium into the bone matrix where it’s needed, as well as essential trace minerals for increased bone building support. And it’s nearly 20% more absorbable than other types of calcium. Aim for no less than 600mg a day, in combination with the critical co-factors calcium needs in order to properly support bone health. These include vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K, to name a few.
Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2011; 7: 157–166. Published online 2011 May 9. doi: 10.2147/TCRM.S19385
Bolland MJ, et al. BMJ 2011; DOI: doi:10.1136/bmj.d2040.
Warensjo E, et al. BMJ. 2011;342:d1473.
Nutrition Reviews, August 2007(II): S91–S95.
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2011 Dec 20. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.1501 [pub ahead of print]
Carmel AS, et al. Osteoporosis International. 2012 Jan 12. [Epub ahead of print]
Nutrition & Metabolism. 2011 Oct 15;8:71.
Osteoporosis International. 2011 Nov 29 [Epub ahead print]
Ther Adv Musculoskel Dis. 2010;2(3):133-143
Osteoporosis International. 2012 Jan;23(1):305-15. Epub 2011 Sep 10.