What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone mass or bone density is reduced. Bones are living tissue that is constantly being resorbed and reformed; when more bone is resorbed than reformed, osteoporosis results.
In the past, osteoporosis was believed to be caused by declining female hormone levels that is unique to aging women; it was treated primarily with estrogen therapy. Nowadays, the medical community is beginning to understand that osteoporosis is not so simple—it affects men as well and is caused by a host of factors, including hormonal imbalance, elevated blood sugar, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
Natural interventions such as isoflavones and vitamin K may help maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis from developing.
What are the Causes and Risk Factors for Osteoporosis?
- Sex – women are more likely to develop osteoporosis
- Advanced age
- Family history
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Hormonal imbalance
- Insulin resistance/high blood sugar
- Insufficient vitamin and mineral intake
- Chronic stress and depression, and others
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
- Loss of height
- Dowager’s hump
- Bone fractures
Note: Osteoporosis is generally asymptomatic and goes undetected until a serious fracture occurs. It is therefore essential to take all measures to prevent the disease from developing.
What are the Conventional Medical Treatments for Osteoporosis?
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Conventional HRT has fallen out of favor due to increased risk for breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease
- Other hormone regimens include selective estrogen receptor modifiers (SERMs) for women and testosterone treatment for men
- Bisphosphonates (eg, Actonel, Fosamax) to prevent further bone density loss
- Calcium and vitamin D supplementation
What are Emerging Therapies for Osteoporosis?
- Stem cell therapy
- Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
What Natural Interventions May Help Prevent Osteoporosis?
- Isoflavones. Isoflavones, generally derived from soy, are often referred to as phytoestrogens and may work similarly to HRT. Several isoflavones have been shown in animal models to contribute to increased bone mineralization and strength, while reducing bone resorption.
- Vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential for bone strength. Low vitamin K status is associated with decreased bone mineral density and increased risk of fracture.
- Vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D and calcium are commonly recommended for bone health. Vitamin D triggers the absorption of calcium and deposition in bone, where calcium provides hardness.
- Magnesium. Magnesium regulates active calcium transport. Many older adults are deficient. Supplementation has been shown to reduce bone turnover, favoring bone formation over resorption.
- Silica. Silica, or silicon dioxide, is a component of the Earth’s crust. It is also important in bone formation and health. The addition of silica to a calcium and vitamin D regimen improved production of bone proteins.
- Collagen. Collagen provides essential tensile strength to bones. A collagen calcium chelate was developed and has been shown to improve bone mineral density and femur bone strength.
- Vitamins E and C. Oxidative stress is an important contributor to osteoporosis. Vitamins E and C are antioxidants that play important roles in bone development and mineralization. Supplementation with both vitamins has been shown to help prevent bone loss in elderly men and women.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may reduce activity of bone-resorbing cells, increase that of bone-forming cells, and improve calcium balance. Consuming fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and/or supplementation has been shown to improve several indicators of bone health.
- Other natural interventions that may support bone health and help prevent osteoporosis include boron, curcumin, resveratrol, quercetin, berberine, and hops.