Life Extension Update
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Study estimates over half of women with osteoporosis are vitamin D deficient
The study analyzed serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels in 1,536 postmenopausal women being treated for osteoporosis. 25-hydroxy vitamin D is made by the body from precursors of vitamin D, and indicates the level of vitamin D reserves.
Fifty-two percent of the participants were found to have 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels of less than 30 nanograms per mililter, which the researchers defined as inadequate. Vitamin D inadequacy was significantly more prevalent in women who were taking fewer than 400 international units of vitamin D compared to those who were taking more than this amount.
Director of the Toni Stabile Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, Ethel Siris, MD, commented, "While women may know that calcium is an important part of bone health, this research shows that some women on treatment for osteoporosis are unaware of the important role vitamin D plays or are simply not getting adequate amounts as part of their treatment regimen. Getting enough vitamin D, whether through supplements, proper food choices or appropriate and careful exposure to sunlight, is vital to managing osteoporosis."
Female hormone replacement therapy
The benefits of estrogen make it desirable for most menopausal women to maintain youthful levels of this hormone. The question is: can the antiaging benefits of estrogen be obtained without increasing the risk of cancer and arterial blood clots? One alternative to potent hormonal drugs is natural estrogen supplements produced from plant sources. These estrogens are known as "phytoestrogens," and been studied extensively, and may be safer. The literature reveals some interesting findings about plant-derived estrogens. Phytoestrogens from soy reduce hot flashes and protect against age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer (Vincent et al. 2000).
Genistein is one of the active components soy that prevents bone loss in ovariectomized rats. The mechanism of action of genistein (the most abundant soy phytoestrogen) differs from that of estrogens (Fanti et al. 1998). Postmenopausal women received daily either soy protein containing phytoestrogens or milk-derived protein that contained no phytoestrogens. Significant increases in bone density and bone mineral content of the lumbar spine in the women receiving the higher dose of phytoestrogens derived from soy protein diets (which provided 2.25 mg of isoflavones) resulted, but not after milk-derived protein. Soy isoflavones show potential for maintaining bone health (Potter et al. 1998).
In 1998, Leonetti studied the use of over-the-counter natural progesterone cream for the prevention of osteoporosis. The female subjects were immediate post-menopausal (1-5 years after menopause) when bone loss is most rapid. After the first year the positive effects of progesterone were so apparent that the physicians could tell which women were receiving progesterone by the symptoms displayed, including the disappearance of lumps in their breasts, reduced depression, fewer hot flashes, and higher bone densities (although the time interval was too short for the latter to be statistically significant).
No women using progesterone cream had a loss of bone density, whereas the placebo group showed slight bone loss. However, the bone densities did not change significantly (Leonetti, personal communication). Leonetti theorized that the lack of statistical significance may have been because the women were in early menopause when bone loss is highest. During early menopause estrogen deficiency causes the greatest bone loss. The bone-protective effects of progesterone might have been better if the subjects who were estrogen-deficient were given nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese, along with exercise and low-dose estrogen. One should not expect progesterone alone to protect against age-related loss in bone density.
Vitamin D is necessary for utilization of calcium and phosphorus and in many ways acts as a hormone. The two most important forms of vitamin D are cholecalciferol (D3), which is derived from our own cholesterol and ergocalciferol (D2), a plant analogue derived from the diet. The cholecalciferol supplied by the Life Extension Foundation is synthetic, but its form is identical to that which is derived from cholesterol and synthesized by sunlight on the skin. Cholecalciferol is essential for bone growth and maintenance of bone density.
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