Around 35 years of age we start to lose in between 1-1,5% of our bone mass, and even more so in the case of women. Clinical studies have demonstrated that the consumption of calcium, exclusively, is not enough to prevent osteoporosis. To gain bone density, and prevent bone fractures, we must also take vitamin D and vitamin K2. Additionally, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium and vitamin C and B, also contribute to bone stability.
In our country over 8 million people suffer from osteoporosis, a disease included among the ten most common diseases by the World Health Organization. Osteoporosis, or bone loss disease, affects the condition of the bones and can lead to hip or other types of fractures.
What are the causes of osteoporosis?
In ninety-five percent of cases there is no precise information about the causes of osteoporosis. In this case the loss of bone mass is known as primary osteoporosis.
In the case of women, it may occur after menopause in what is known as postmenopausal osteoporosis.
In the case of persons over seventy it is known as senile osteoporosis and is caused by age.
In addition to gender and age, there are other causes of bone loss, such as genetic predisposition, insufficient intake of calcium, lack of vitamins D and vitamin K, smoking, lack of exercise and excessive consumption of alcohol.
Osteoporosis can also be triggered by the continuous use of certain types of drugs such as cortisone, thyroid hormones and anti-epileptics, as well as by hormonal or metabolic disorders .
What are the most common symptoms of osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis does not have specific symptoms. The progressive appearance of osteoporosis throughout life, is the reason why the disease can go unnoticed for some time.
Only when bone mass has decreased below normal levels does the bone become porous, unstable and painful, carrying a greater risk of fractures with no apparent cause.
If you suspect that you may have osteoporosis or if you belong to one of the hight risk groups, the best thing to do is to consult your doctor so that he/she can evaluate the situation.
If the disease is not detected in time, a bone fracture may occur.
Hip fractures are one of the most common, especially with women.
The areas most affected by bone fractures are:
- ulna and radius near the wrist
How can osteoporosis be detected?
The sudden emergence of fractures in the elderly (as with the typical hip fracture, which usually occurs in women) can indicate an elevated osteoporosis risk, although a more complete study would be needed to make the diagnosis, such as measuring bone density by X-ray.
Bone density is measured and compared with the average values of a 30-year-old adult by means of osteodensitometry.
A deviation of between - 1 to - 2.5 could indicate light osteoporosis.
Whenever the deviation is more than - 2.5 this indicates moderate osteoporosis, and anything above this value shows a threat of severe osteoporosis to be present. The level of osteoporosis can also be studied with a CT scan using a computer, although this system subjects the patient to a certain amount of radiation.
What specific medications are used in the treatment of osteoporosis?
The treatment of osteoporosis focuses on positively influencing bone metabolism and relieving pain.
There are different types of medications to treat the osteoporosis, including calcitonin and estrogens, mainly of the bisphosphonates group, which are similar to the endogenous substances responsible for internal bone architecture.
This treatment works to stimulate bone formation and to stabilise bone density, or even increase it. This can help reduce the risk of suffering a fracture, of the hip for example.
What natural nutrients promote bone strength and prevent osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis can be prevented and treated with calcium and vitamins D and K2, in addition to conventional medicines.
In terms of bone health it is also advisable to get some sunlight and if this is not possible, one can compensate for the deficiency through the use of dietary supplements. In order to avoid bone fractures it is important that we have adequate information about this disease.
It is also useful to know that the production of vitamin D through exposure of the skin to the Sun gradually diminishes with age.
Calcium and vitamin D supplements are recommended for the treatment of osteoporosis. The recommended daily dose of calcium is 1000 to 1500 milligrammes. Vitamin D is responsible for calcium absorption by the intestine, while vitamin K2 is in charge of adding calcium to the bones.
The most recent findings with regard to this are as follows: vitamin K2 activates GLA protein, or osteocalcin, which is needed to incorporate calcium into the bones. Vitamin K2 is found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, offal, butter, egg yolk and in some cheeses, although in very small amounts, and especially in natto, a traditional fermented soybean food.
How can osteoporosis be prevented?
- A balanced diet with a high calcium content. The most important sources of calcium include milk, dairy products, calcium-rich mineral water and green leafy vegetables.
- Our diet sometimes does not cover calcium requirements adequately, so taking a multivitamin supplement that is rich in calcium and that also contains vitamin D, vitamin K2 and vitamin C is also recommended.
- Osteoporosis is often caused by a deficiency of magnesium, so this must be present in the diet in order to prevent deterioration of the bones. It is also very important to take copper and zinc for bone health, since they are the elements responsible for maintaining bone density. Therefore the most effective approach is take a multi-vitamin and mineral that provides an optimum dosage of all of these micronutrients.
- Exercise regularly. Physical exercise is very important for preventing and treating osteoporosis, since exercise encourages good bone formation and health, while also ensuring that the muscles stay strong throughout life, thereby helping to prevent skeletal pain.
- By not smoking, controlling caffeine intake and excess salt.
- Limiting the consumption of soft drinks (such as Coca-Cola) and reducing the consumption of alcohol.
- Avoiding drugs that reduce bone mass.
Vitamin D is responsible for ensuring that calcium absorption by the body through the intestine.
Vitamin D, along with calcium and vitamin K2 plays a key role in bone metabolism, particularly in the formation of new bone and the formation of a solid bone structure.
Consequently, the lack of vitamin D may increase the risk of osteoporosis or have broken bones.
A sufficient calcium intake is essential, especially in the elderly, since it helps prevent bone loss.
Taking calcium supplements is also useful for preventing the onset of osteoporosis.
This calcium should be preferably taken along with a meal, to better facilitate its absorption.
Children, adolescents, pregnant women and infants tend to absorb 60 to 75 percent of their calcium through food. In adults, absorption is usually around 30 to 40% and decreases with age.
Magnesium is a crucial mineral for promoting bone health.
An American study found that the cells ageing process are accelerated when facing a magnesium deficiency.
For this reason, a chronic magnesium deficiency can increase the risk of suffering diseases related to ageing such as diabetes.
Additionally it may help to reduce cardiovascular disorders and osteoporosis, as was stated by David Killilea in the Burne Ames report of the University of California, Berkeley.
Selenium is a trace element that is essential for the general health of the body.
It works as a great antioxidant that fights free radicals and prevents cellular degeneration.
It activates and stabilises the immune system, promoting a quicker recovery from diseases. Selenium generates antibodies that defend the body from any type of attack.
Clinical studies have shown that selenium inhibits the emergence of tumour cells.
Selenium is essential to the human body: it is involved in cell metabolism, provides energy, helps to prevent the onset of diseases, and protects the body from the damage produced by free radicals.
Zinc participates in various chemical processes in the human body.
It has an essential role in the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
This mineral is also involved in the production of energy and in the formation of tissues and muscle building.
Zinc is found in many food products, particularly in those of animal origin such as red meats, poultry and offal.
Fish, shellfish and in particular oysters are especially rich in zinc.
Copper plays an essential role in the metabolism of iron and in the development of red blood cells, which are responsible for the absorption of oxygen and its distribution to the cells.
In addition, copper is also involved in skin and hair pigmentation. It is involved in the synthesis of melanin, a natural pigment that gives colour to the skin and hair.
A lack of copper can cause a deficit in the production of melanin and result in skin problems such as blemishes.