The Anti-Osteoporosis Plan
Stephen Holt, M.D., ChB., FRCP (C) MRCP ( UK ), FACP, FACG, FACN
Physician, best-selling author, New York
Osteoporosis, as manifested in thin or porous bones, has been described as a disease without symptoms. It strikes like a thief in the night, and it robs adults of their health and well-being. The average person and many healthcare givers have thought about bones as inert or inactive structures, but modern science shows us that the bones in our body are highly active and alive. There are 206 bones in the human skeleton that form the framework of our body which allows us to move with agility, but we tend to take our bones for granted, and pay attention to them only when they are injured or diseased. The average person reaches a status of peak bone mass in his or her early thirties. Thereafter, there is a reduction in bone mass density in most people, especially women following menopause.
“The Thief in the Night”
Osteoporosis develops over a period of approximately 20 years from the achievement of peak bone mass to the peri-menopausal (around the menopause) female. Thus, the disease is silent for many years, like the thief in the night, but when it shows itself in broken bones, it causes pain and disability. Clearly, the issue must be to prevent this awful disease which has been inappropriately considered an inevitable consequence of aging. There are ways to decrease the amount of bone loss in many people by a combination of good nutrition and positive lifestyle. It appears that bone loss can be greatly accelerated in women after the cessation of menstrual periods (the menopause). On average, women lose one third of their total bone mass in cortical bones (hard outer bone), and as much as 50% of their trabecular bone after the menopausal period throughout their lifetime.
About 300,000 cases of hip fractures (fractures of the femaral neck) are reported in the U.S. on an annual basis. The striking loss of vertebral bone (trabecular bone) makes spinal column (vertebral fractures) quite common and multiple wedging (partial collapse) of the vertebra can cause the spinal curvature (Dowager’s hump) that is seen in advanced cases of osteoporosis. At least 80% of all spinal and femeral neck fractures are due to osteoporosis. In summary, one quarter of all women over the age of 60 years will sustain a fracture of one or more vertebral and more than one third will fracture their hip (femur). Whilst I have stressed the ravages of osteoporosis in women, men are not immune to the problem of osteoporosis.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Understanding the causes of osteoporosis is a key to preventing and treating thin bones. There is no single cause of osteoporosis. Many factors in our environment or lifestyle will affect the health of our bones and evidence exists that hereditary factors play a role. The slim-built, blue-eyed blonde-haired Northern European woman is a particular risk, and osteoporosis has been shown to “run in families.” Dietary calcium deficiency has gained widespread attention as an important cause of porous bones (osteoporosis). However, other factors, such as estrogen deficiency, lack of exercise, vitamin and trace element deficiency, pollution, excessive smoking and drinking, and a variety of other lifestyle factors may play a role. Drug treatments, including corticosteroids, anticoagulants, diuretics, anticonvulsants, and certain psychoactive medications, may cause osteoporosis. The association of thin bones with a variety of other diseases (e.g. diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, obesity, chronic lung disease and arthritis) is well recognized.
The Antiporosis Plan
Many distinguished researchers have drawn attention to diet and nutritional supplements for the promotion of bone health and the potential prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. The most important nutrients or botanical compounds that can be used in the effective management of osteoporosis include the following:
• High-quality calcium supplements. Calcium supplements of natural origin have been preferred for a variety of reasons, including their make-up and ease of absorption. Novel, new calcium supplements derived from patented technology for processing egg shells give a unique natural calcium supplement that contains 40% calcium by weight. Coral calcium from Okinawa , Japan , has become particularly popular; it is reported that this form of calcium is well absorbed and accompanied by an excellent micronutrient mineral intake that is present in coral.
• It is important to take calcium in a 2:1 balance with magnesium in the diet, and high-quality supplements for osteoporosis provide this balance.
• Vitamin C is important for the growth and maintenance of supporting structures in bones, and vitamin D (cholecalciferol, D3) is needed for proper utilization of calcium in the diet.
• Other elements have been identified as particularly important in bone function, including copper, boron, manganese, and zinc.
• Exciting research shows that soy isoflavones may reverse osteoporosis and probably prevent its occurrence. The related compound ipriflavone has particular value in bone-building. Ipriflavone is a natural product that is used as a prescription drug for osteoporosis in Europe .
• Horsetail and other natural sources of silica have been repeatedly suggested as valuable in bone-building.
Whilst we recognize these valuable supplements for osteoporosis, they are best taken together in combination (e.g. AntiporosisT). Many bone and joint supplements have not provided adequate calcium, and supplements that can supply 1000 mg or more of calcium daily are particularly valuable for both the prevention and management of osteoporosis. The natural sources of calcium (e.g. egg shells and coral calcium) permit holistic minerals and calcium to be given together in a convenient and natural form.
Lifestyle is extremely important in preventing and treating osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise, elimination of substance abuse (e.g. smoking, alcohol consumption, excessive cola and coffee drinking etc.), and a balanced diet are very important components of the “Antiporosis Plan”.
The drug treatment of osteoporosis has been variably successful, and some drugs have extremely serious side effects, e.g. bisphosphonates (alendronate sodium) may cause severe ulcerations and erosions in the upper digestive tract and even peptic ulcers. Some people have commented that the drug treatment for osteoporosis may be worse than the disease. This cynical statement serves little purpose, except to reinforce the importance of lifestyle, nutrition and the appropriate use of dietary supplements in the combat against osteoporosis.
Holt S, “The Antiporosis Plan,” Wellness Publishing Inc., 2002.
Brown SE, “Better Bones, Better Body,” Keats Publishing Inc., NY , NY , 1996.
Gaby AR , “Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis,” Prema Publishing , NY , NY , 1994.