Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Sep 2019

How Osteoporosis Accelerates Aging

As bone decays, harmful inflammatory proteins are released along with growth factors that facilitate malignant cell propagation and contribute to vascular calcification.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Heidi Yanoti, DC, on February 2020. Written By Suzanne Ramos.

Osteoporosis affects a staggering number of men and women.

Among those 50 and older, 30% of women and 16% of men have osteoporosis.

In people over 80, those figures skyrocket to 77% of women and 46% of men.1

The disease causes bones to become weak, brittle, and prone to breaking.

But those aren’t the only dangers.

New evidence shows that having osteoporosis is associated with accelerated aging along with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia.

Osteoporosis-induced age acceleration begins in the early stages of bone loss, before most people even know they have it.

Aging bones contain harmful senescent cells—cells that have stopped replicating, and release destructive signaling molecules.2,3

As these inflammatory signals travel through the body they induce a host of degenerative disorders, including dementia and cancer.4-7

Most readers of this magazine take steps to preserve their bone density.

How Bone Loss Speeds Aging

Osteoporotic chart

Healthy bone is constantly being remodeled. Old bone is broken down and new bone is made.

Cells that build bone are called osteoblasts. Cells that break down bone are called osteoclasts.

In young, growing bodies, osteoblast activity surpasses osteoclast activity. In healthy adulthood, the activities are roughly balanced.

But as we age, osteoclast activity begins to exceed osteoblast activity. That leads to bone mineral loss, contributing to higher risk of fractures.

In people suffering from osteoporosis, the activity of osteoclasts is especially high.

Researchers have learned that osteoclasts send out signals that can promote system-wide inflammation.8-11 Chronic inflammation increases risks for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia, and the acceleration of aging.12

Aging bones are a site where senescent cells accumulate with aging.13

These senescent cells damage bones by increasing bone resorption (breakdown) while decreasing new bone formation (the definition of osteoporosis).

Senescent cells and the harmful products they release contribute not only to osteoporosis, but also Alzheimer’s, type II diabetes, cancer, and cardio vascular disease.4,13-15

Osteoporosis and Heart Disease

Osteoporosis increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in ways that go beyond inflammation.

In one study, scientists examined heavily calcified arteries, a major contributor to arterial stiffening and cardiovascular disease, and determined that actual bone was present 6% of the time.16

Osteoclast-like cells are often found in plaque deposits in the arteries.17,18 In osteoporosis patients, a marker of inflammation has been shown to be elevated, along with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.19

Vitamin K2 helps prevent this type of arterial calcification.20

What you need to know

  • Osteoporosis weakens the bones of millions of aging women and men in America, markedly increasing their risk of fractures.
  • Studies now show that the process of bone breakdown releases potent pro-inflammatory molecules throughout the body.
  • Increased inflammation raises the risk for disease and contributes directly to an acceleration of the aging process.
  • Supplementation with eight different nutrients known to protect the bones, including calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K, can help combat osteoporosis, fight inflammation, and slow aging.

Osteoporosis and Dementia

Leafy greens

People with Alzheimer’s disease frequently have low bone mineral density and a higher rate of hip fractures compared to non-Alzheimer’s patients.21

Alzheimer’s disease prevalence is also higher in postmenopausal women with severe osteoporosis, especially those with femoral fractures, than in those without osteoporosis.22 These findings suggest close connections between the two apparently different conditions.

Recent studies have identified disruption of important signaling molecules (in addition to inflammatory cytokines) that seem to drive this association.

In particular is a system called RANKL, which is involved in switching on and off certain genes involved in both osteoporosis and many dementias.23

A related system involving colony stimulating factor-1 regulates both bone resorption by osteoclasts, and also immune cells in the brain that regulate brain cell survival.24

And, the finding of large numbers of senescent cells in osteoporotic bones is likely to further accelerate body-wide aging, including in the brain.4,14

Osteoporosis and Cancer Risk

People with osteoporosis have an increased risk of cancer compared to those whose bones remain healthy with aging.25-27 While having cancer can weaken bones through malnutrition and metastases, the opposite finding is a surprise.

A recent study suggests links between osteoporosis and the risk of cancer. Bone proteins associated with osteoporosis have been identified in the molecular pathways leading to cancer. These growth proteins are normally involved in bone maintenance and healing, but when over-activated they can lead to out-of-control cell growth and replication as seen in cancers.

Similarly, the master inflammation regulator NF-kB stimulates both bone resorption and cancer initiation and promotion.

Finally, many disorders that lead to bone weakness in osteoporosis, such as vitamin D deficiency and elevated parathyroid hormone, are also involved in cancer development.25

Eight Bone-Building Nutrients

Woman stretching

Researchers have identified eight nutrients that safely help protect our bones — and can prevent osteoporosis-induced age acceleration.

Calcium

Calcium is the mineral most of us associate with building strong, healthy bones. Yet many Americans get too little calcium from their diets, with adults 50 and over at particular risk.28

Many different types of calcium supplements are available. But some, like calcium carbonate, don’t release a lot of calcium into the body to meet daily requirements.29 Calcium bisglycinate is better absorbed than calcium carbonate,30 as is calcium fructoborate.

Calcium bisglycinate is completely released into the gut in less than 150 minutes, while calcium carbonate takes four hours and still may not be entirely absorbed.29

Calcium fructoborate is also easily absorbed and provides extra anti-inflammatory benefits that combat the age acceleration brought on by
osteoporosis.

Magnesium

Magnesium supplementation increases bone mineral density.31

But about half of all Americans fail to consume enough of this vital mineral, and more than 40% of post-menopausal women have low magnesium levels in their blood. That puts them at high risk for bone breakdown and the problems that result.32-34

One study showed that magnesium supplementation for 30 days raises blood markers of new bone formation and reduces markers of bone breakdown.34

Manganese

Manganese plays a role in bone health and likely protects against osteoporosis. It may also protect against osteoarthritis.35

Manganese is a required cofactor, or helper molecule, for enzymes called superoxide dismutases that protect mitochondria from accumulated free-radical damage.36

Supplementation with manganese raises superoxide dismutase levels in animal models, resulting in improvements in tissue structure and function.37 Manganese supplementation has been shown to help prevent diet-induced diabetes in mice.38

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is a major contributor to osteoporosis. More than 60% of U.S. adults have either deficient (less than 20 ng/mL) or insufficient (20-30 ng/mL) vitamin D levels, and these numbers are even higher in older people.39,40

Vitamin D also influences functioning of many different organs, so deficiency can induce:41

  • Muscle weakening,
  • Cardiovascular disease,
  • Type II diabetes, and
  • Lower cognitive functioning.

That is why experts now say that year-round vitamin D supplementation is crucial in the elderly.41

Vitamin D supplementation has produced improvement in arterial stiffness and endothelial function in people at high risk for diabetes, helping reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.42,43

A recent animal study found that vitamin D supplementation lowered blood pressure, improved heart function, and prevented liver damage in rats fed a typical Western diet, laden with fat and sugar.44

Much of this benefit comes from a reduction in pro-inflammatory signaling molecules, including those released from osteoclasts during bone breakdown.45,46

Vitamin K

Vitamin K plays a major role in balancing bone formation and destruction.47

Vitamin K supports increased calcium deposition in bones, while reducing its accumulation in blood vessel walls. This means it reduces osteoporosis and
atherosclerosis risk.47

Studies show that vitamin K2 supplementation helps prevent bone deterioration, decreasing the release of inflammatory cytokines that increase aging in all tissues.48,49

In those with chronic kidney disease, supplementation with K2 plus vitamin D slows arterial thickening and progress of atherosclerosis.50

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral critical for supporting healthy protein synthesis, which, when diminished, contributes to osteoporosis.51,52

Zinc deficiency exacerbates the inflammation brought on by bone breakdown, while supplementation in animal models lowers inflammation.53

Human studies show that zinc supplementation is essential for normal tissue maintenance in older adults. It decreases markers of bone resorption (when bone is broken down and the minerals are released into the blood), limiting release of inflammatory compounds from bone.51,54

Recently, zinc has also been shown to promote maturation of bone-forming osteoblasts in animal and preclinical models, supporting bone health and mitigating the age-accelerating effects of bone breakdown.54,55

Boron

A deficiency in the mineral boron is associated with poor immune function and elevated risk for osteoporosis.56,57

Animal studies have shown that boron supplementation can slow bone resorption and enhance new bone formation, fighting osteoporosis.58-61

One human study found sharp reductions in bone-released inflammatory cytokines after supplementation with boron, helping mitigate osteoporosis-induced inflammation and damage to other organ systems.62

Silicon

Higher intake of the mineral silicon correlates with healthier bones.63,64

Animal studies show that supplementation with a water-soluble form of silicon may slow the rapid bone turnover in osteoporosis, preventing the bone-breakdown-associated inflammation that causes disease and speeds aging.65,66

Lab studies of isolated cells further show that silicon stimulates formation of proteins vital to forming the protein-mineral matrix of bones. It also enhances the maturation of bone-forming osteoblasts.67

Summary

Woman stretching

Osteoporosis, the gradual loss of bone mineral density, is not only harmful to bones, but to the entire body as well.

Bone-resorbing cells eat their way into mineralized bone, releasing it into the bloodstream, where it can wind up in arteries and other tissues, impeding their function. Those cells also release powerful inflammatory compounds that fuel harmful inflammation throughout the body.

This type of chronic inflammation raises risks for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia, and accelerates certain aging processes.

Scientists now recognize at least eight different, essential nutrients with powerful bone-protecting properties: calcium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin D, vitamin K, zinc, boron, and silicon.

These nutrients also help temper inflammation and lessen the impact of bone degeneration on the body.

Anyone interested in supporting skeletal health and preventing osteoporosis-induced aging should explore supplementation with these low-cost 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.

References

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