Essential Nutrients for Bone Health
We don’t often give a lot of thought to our bones – until we happen to break one. Although we might think of our bones as inert structures – as scaffolding that holds us up, as protection for our bodily organs, and the structure that allows us to move about – bones are actually crucial to multiple functions in the body.Our bones are living, dynamic, and constantly changing tissues.
Just several years ago it was discovered that bones are actually endocrine organs.1 Our bones make a hormone called osteocalcin, which is secreted by bone cells called osteoblasts.
Even though osteocalcin is secreted by the bones, it behaves like any other hormone by having far-reaching effects throughout the body.
For example, although bone formation is one of its primary functions, osteocalcin also:
- Stimulates the beta-cells in the pancreas to secrete more insulin
- Enhances insulin sensitivity in the adipocytes (fat cells)
- Stimulates adipocytes to release adiponectin, which further enhances insulin sensitivity and exerts a powerful anti-inflammatory effect (inflammation in fat cells is associated with obesity)
- Enhances testosterone production in men
The Importance of Keeping Bones Healthy – Startling Statistics
Unfortunately, for many individuals, a diagnosis of osteoporosis comes only after a bone fracture has occurred. Here’s a look at the stark statistics compiled by the National Osteoporosis Foundation:2
- 10 million Americans have osteoporosis – although many are not aware of it.
- Another 44 million Americans have osteopenia (low bone density), which is the precursor to osteoporosis.
- Half of adults age 50 and older are at risk for breaking a bone because of low bone density.
- Osteoporosis is responsible for more than two million bone fractures every year.
- One in four adults will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
- A woman’s lifetime risk of a bone fracture as a result of osteoporosis is equal to her combined risk for having breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer.
- Men older than 50 have a greater risk for an osteoporotic fracture than for getting prostate cancer.
- 24 percent of hip fracture patients who are older than 50 will die within a year of having the hip fracture.
Banking Bone Should Start Early in Life
While it’s never too late to start protecting your bones, “banking” bone early in life is really the key. The more bone that is banked during those years when more bone is made than bone is being broken down – during childhood and adolescence – the more bone a person will have to spare later on when more bone is broken down than is created.
But here’s the issue: Low bone density is being increasingly recognized as now existing in children and adolescents – the very time when bone should be banked for later use.
Situations or conditions that can contribute to low bone mass in children and adolescents include malabsorption syndromes, gluten enteropathies, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, eating disorders, a sedentary lifestyle, and childhood obesity (which contributes to a vitamin D deficiency).
Female athletes can also present with a condition – known as the female athlete triad – which includes decreased bone mass, menstrual irregularities, and disordered eating.
Supporting Bone Health is Key
In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise – which is extremely important for increasing bone density – several nutritional supplements can provide essential support for bone health.*
The four most important nutrients for supporting bone health are two vitamins and two minerals – vitamins D and K and calcium and magnesium.* These four nutrients help each other do their jobs by, among other things, sending calcium to the bones and keeping it out of the arteries, kidneys, and other soft tissues.*
1. Guntur AR, Rosen CJ. Bone as an endocrine organ. Endocr Pract 2012;18(2):758-762.
2. https://cdn.nof.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Osteoporosis-Fast-Facts.pdf [Accessed July 7, 2017]