The Overlooked Importance of Bone HealthDecember 2017
By Margaret Willingtion
People often think of bone loss as something that happens mostly to elderly women.
The reality is that more than half of adults over age 50 in the United States—including men—have bone loss or osteoporosis.1,2
Up to one-quarter of men over 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture. Men who suffer from a major fracture are more likely than women to die from the same injury.3
Poor bone health predisposes us to fractures. A bone fracture not only creates painful loss of mobility, but is also life-threatening.
In older adults with hip fractures who are bedridden, risk of pneumonia and formation of deadly clots skyrockets.4-6
Osteoporosis is associated with an increased risk of other age-related conditions, including cancer,7 atherosclerosis,8 dementia,9,10 and depression.11
This makes it essential for men and women to take active steps to prevent bone loss.
In addition to calcium and vitamin D, researchers have identified other key nutrients that promote bone formation, including magnesium, silicon, and boron.12-14
We need to be sure we’re getting these nutrients to optimize bone density—and overall health—as we age.
Calcium Stops Bone Loss
Most people associate calcium with bone health, and for good reason. Adequate calcium intake is needed for the proper mineralization, strength, and structure of bones.15 Despite this common knowledge, most Americans fail to get enough calcium in their diets.16
Studies show that supplementation with calcium (in the form of calcium citrate or calcium carbonate) makes a substantial difference in the rate at which bone breakdown and loss of minerals occurs.16-18
In multiple studies of early- and mid-postmenopausal women, supplementing with 800 mg-1,000 mg of calcium citrate daily was shown to effectively stop bone loss in the lower vertebrae and forearm, two common fracture sites in older adults. It also significantly improved bone density at other sites, including the hip and total body, compared to placebo recipients.19,20
Research has also shown that several markers of bone resorption, or breakdown, decreased in the patients supplementing with calcium citrate.21,22
A 2014 comparison study found that calcium citrate and calcium carbonate are effective in raising serum calcium levels and reducing markers of bone loss.23
Ample calcium intake is a prerequisite for good bone health, but bones are made of more than calcium. They rely on a variety of nutritional and lifestyle factors to support their health.
One key nutrient that works in conjunction with calcium is vitamin D.
Vitamin D’s Bone Health Benefits
Most people don’t get anywhere near the recommended intake of vitamin D.24
This is a major concern because vitamin D insufficiency (below 20 ng/mL) can accelerate osteoporosis, especially in aging men and women.25
Current recommendations are that people with vitamin D levels below 20 ng/mL should supplement with 800-1,000 IU/day, along with adequate calcium intake.25
Life Extension® believes people should strive for precise individualized dosing (5,000-8,000 IU/day) to achieve a blood level greater than 50 ng/mL.
Vitamin D works hand-in-hand with calcium to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It promotes intestinal absorption of calcium and helps direct how calcium is incorporated into bone.26,27 It also facilitates the transfer of calcium from the blood and other extracellular fluids to the surface of bones, where it makes them stronger and less likely to break.28 Vitamin D helps the body absorb zinc and manganese as well, which are trace elements essential for bone metabolism.29
A 2017 study demonstrated that three years of calcium and vitamin D supplementation powerfully influenced both the mineral and the organic protein matrix of bone.30
In a 2016 meta-analysis of eight studies involving nearly 31,000 subjects, supplementation with calcium plus vitamin D was found to reduce the risk of fractures. Together, these two nutrients produced a 15% reduction in the risk of any fracture, and a significant 30% reduction in the risk of hip fractures,31 which are so often the beginning of the end for frail, elderly people.
Calcium and vitamin D are especially important for people taking prescription drugs for osteoporosis.
One study found that up to 30% of those taking bone-protective bisphosphonate drugs did not respond well to treatment, which could be a result of low vitamin D levels. Non-responders tended to have low vitamin D and higher loss of a marker of bone loss.32
This study showed that people with vitamin D levels lower than 30 ng/mL were more than four times as likely to fail to respond to drug treatment for osteoporosis.32
Despite the consistency of these findings, many physicians who prescribe bisphosphonate drugs fail to supplement their patients with these critical nutrients.33,34
Magnesium Slows Bone Turnover
Magnesium is another essential component of the bone mineral matrix. About half of all magnesium in the body is stored in bone.35
It’s not surprising that animal studies show a positive correlation between magnesium intake and bone mineral density. Magnesium deficiency has been shown to reduce the number of osteoblasts (cells that build new bone) and increase the number of osteoclasts (cells that break down bone).35
The good news is that in animal models of post-menopause, restoring magnesium levels improved bone formation, reduced breakdown, and ultimately improved bone strength.35 Other studies have shown similar results in male animals as well.36,37
Human studies support these findings, demonstrating significant reductions in bone turnover rates—particularly in markers of bone resorption—in both men and women who took magnesium daily.38,39
Zinc Promotes New Bone Formation
Zinc is another key nutrient that is essential for bone health. Research shows that higher levels of zinc correlate with better bone mineral density, while lower blood levels have been associated with osteoporosis.40
That may be because zinc stimulates the activity of bone-forming osteoblasts, while suppressing bone-resorbing osteoclasts.41,42 Zinc also suppresses the bone-destroying effects of inflammatory compounds by modulating activity of the “master regulator of inflammation” nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kB).41,42
In an animal study of postmenopause, zinc supplementation led to potent increases in bone mineralization as well as improvements in overall bone structure.43 In humans, oral supplementation of zinc prevented significant decreases in whole-body bone density and bone mineralization in women with low zinc consumption.44
Manganese Inhibits Postmenopausal Bone Loss
Manganese is a trace element with numerous properties that promote healthy bones.
In a rat model of postmenopause, manganese supplementation significantly improved both bone mineral content and bone mineral density in the femur, the large bone in the thigh.45
And in a study of postmenopausal women, combination of manganese, zinc and copper with calcium stopped bone loss in its tracks.46
Biological Silicon Promotes New Bone Formation
Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.47 Most people think of this element in terms of its role in computers and engineering applications, but it plays a significant role in a number of life-science areas, including bone mineralization.
Animal studies of postmenopause show that silicon supplementation stops bone loss both in the vertebral column and in the femur (upper leg), while promoting bone growth and mineral density in the femur and tibia (lower leg).48,49 Closer examination in one animal model of postmenopause showed that silicon improved bone quality by reducing bone resorption—especially in those with low calcium intake.50
Human and animal studies indicate that silicon improves bone quality and strength and increases bone mineral density.12 Our bodies don’t absorb silicon very well in its elemental form. Fortunately, animal and human studies show that bioavailable silicon effectively promotes bone formation.49,51-53
Boron Supports Bone Health
Boron is a component of the Earth’s crust that plays an underappreciated part in human health.54
Boron works with magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D to support bone metabolism and bone health.55-57
Clinical studies show that when people don’t get enough boron, they experience signs of bone loss resembling those seen in older men and in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.55
Supplementation with boron has been shown to improve bone health specifically in diabetic mice, an important finding since diabetes is associated with lower bone density, bone quality, and fracture risk.58-60
A human study of a multi-nutrient supplement containing boron, calcium, vitamin D3, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese improved hip-bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, while also relieving back and joint pain.61
Supplementation with at least 3 mg/day of boron is recommended for anyone at risk of osteoporosis, or for those who don’t consume a lot of fruits and vegetables.54
Osteoporosis is a threat to all aging adults—including up to one-quarter of men.
Osteoporosis threatens not only bone strength, but also health throughout the body.
Ample calcium and vitamin D intake are essential for supporting good bone health as we age, but we also need sufficient amounts of other nutrients in order to optimize both skeletal and whole-body wellbeing.
Studies show that magnesium, zinc, manganese, silicon, and boron contribute to increased new bone formation and reduced bone resorption (or both), while also promoting calcium and vitamin D effectiveness.
The best bone-maintenance, osteoporosis-prevention program includes the full profile of bone nutrients.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
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- Mehta KV, Lee HC, Loh JS. Mechanical thromboprophylaxis for patients undergoing hip fracture surgery. J Orthop Surg (Hong Kong). 2010;18(3):287-9.
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