Dr. Stephen Holt, MD, a renowned advocate of natural medicine, in a recent report entitled “Skeletal Health, Sports Injuries and Natural Therapies,” notes that over the past decade the reporting of sports injuries has become a progressive part of sports medicine.
Osteopenia: Skeletal Health and Physical Performance
Dr. Stephen Holt, MD, a renowned advocate of natural medicine, in a recent report entitled “Skeletal Health, Sports Injuries and Natural Therapies,” notes that over the past decade the reporting of sports injuries has become a progressive part of sports medicine. While physical fitness has been repropagated as part of a healthy lifestyle and healthy body, the concept of skeletal health and function has emerged as a major concern for trainers, chiropractors and sports medicine physicians. The recurring problem, however, with sports enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and athletes at all levels and genders, as cited by Dr. Holt, is their strong focus on body sculpting and aesthetics at the expense of skeletal health. Dr. Holt reminds us emphatically that the goal should be to build both in unison with one another.
The insidious part of this infraction has been the emergence of a wealth of scientific inquiry concerning supplements and their impact on muscular development and sports performance, without supporting the changing metabolic activity and nutritional needs of a changing skeletal system. While it is common knowledge that there is a link between physical activity and improved muscle strength, bone mineral deposition, and overall bone health versus inactivity and greater bone loss, the question here in this contradiction is how does bone loss occur, even though consumption of calcium-rich foods and supplementation of calcium are good? The remarks by Dr. Weber at the beginning of the article imply that females are at greater risk concerning the maintenance of good bone health, as a result of their physical endeavors. The major problem cited by Dr. Weber is the potential disposition toward stress fractures at earlier ages in the future as a result of dwindling stores of nutrients that facilitate bone density.
Synergism and Significant Change
The answers to the above questions can be categorized via the terms synergistic, metabolic incapacity and significant change. Synergism refers to two or more compounds utilized together to enhance the activity of a primary compound. A significant change in your approach regarding supplemental choices can greatly improve the metabolic capacity of key mechanisms that continuously nourish the bone matrix and, in turn, encourage bone preservation and improved bone density. Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Medical Director of the Nutritional Magnesium Association and author of The Magnesium Miracle, states that individuals who take calcium without balancing it with magnesium put their health at great risk. For instance, less than half of calcium intake is absorbed in the gut; some is excreted, but a large portion is escorted to and implanted into body tissues. This can cause the formation of kidney stones, or calcification of arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack. Magnesium counterbalances this negative equation by enhancing the absorption and metabolism (breakdown) of calcium. This analogy is a prime example of synergism. However, while the overall importance of magnesium is described above, it is only one of a long list of nutrients needed in unison with calcium to enhance its bone-building and restorative capabilities, as well as negating its potential dangers. The following synopsis outlines some of the most researched compounds that work in unity with calcium to help build a strong skeletal system.
The Bone-Building Brigade
Boron: Boron’s effectivity as a bone-building nutrient has only recently been recognized. Studies indicate that boron locks calcium in bones, thus increasing bone density and reducing bone loss. In fact, in a recent study conducted at the University of Medical Sciences in Iran, researchers reported that 2mg of boron daily combined with 300mg of calcium for four weeks substantially increased bone strength and the mechanical properties of bone. Researchers at the University of California also found that boron increases bone mineral density, but was more effective when utilized with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. Additionally, 6mg/d of boron appears to reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Suggested Dose: 2 to 3mg/d
Calcium: Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the body. About 99% of calcium resides in the bones and teeth. Without calcium, adequate development and attainment of peak bone mass can’t be achieved or maintained. This is due in part to the fact that bone is a living entity and goes through cycles of constant building and rebuilding. Bone cells known as osteoclasts break down bone and dissolve it. This process is referred to as resorption. The bone cells known as osteoblasts then make new bone. This resorption and consequent redeposition of new bone is a complicated process. Aging decreases this process due to inadequate dietary intake of calcium, calcium loss, insufficient breakdown and proper absorption. So vital, not only to bone development, but to overall health, the body will break down existing bone to maintain normal blood levels of calcium when intake is inadequate.
Suggested Dose: 1,000 to 1,200mg/d
Note: New data indicate that losses of calcium in sweat can average over 400mg in an intense 2-hour training session. To offset exercise-induced loss of calcium, exercise physiologists recommend that athletes who engage in intense training sessions increase their intake of calcium to 2,000mg/d.
DHEA: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the most abundant hormone found in the human body, regulating the production of 18 various hormones including estrogen, testosterone and the antistress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. These hormones all play a critical role in bone resorption and formation. Revered for its antiaging and stress-reduction capabilities, DHEA is gaining notoriety as the missing link to long-term bone health. Current research data indicate that DHEA regulates the actions of the osteoblast, where DHEA has converted into estrogen via a process known as aromatase activity. This process is further enhanced when aided by vitamin D. Additionally, researchers at Kyushu University in Japan, found that optimal levels of DHEA have a positive effect in increasing bone density even in postmenopausal women. Like most hormones, DHEA levels begin to decline in the late 20s to early 30s age range.
Suggested Dose: 50mg to 200mg/d
Magnesium: Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. About 60% of the body’s magnesium content is found in the bones. Responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions, muscle contractions and energy production, magnesium also keeps bones strong. Low levels of this mineral are associated with improper metabolism of calcium and reduced bone density. Simply put, magnesium and calcium function in unison, and an imbalance of one can cause alterations in the proper metabolism of the other.
Suggested Dose: 400 to 700mg/d
Phosphorus: Phosphorus is found in every cell in the body and amounts to about 2 pounds in an average-sized person. While not highly publicized, phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body next to calcium and is referred to as calcium’s metabolic twin. This reference underscores the critical role phosphorus plays in skeletal health. In fact the same factors that control calcium absorption also determine the amount of phosphorus absorbed. A healthy body will have a 1:1 ratio of calcium/phosphorus to maintain the proper metabolic processes within the skeletal system.
Suggested Dose: 800mg/d
Note: Although phosphorus is found in every cell in the body, it is important to maintain the ratio above as phosphorous, when dominant within this union, can interfere with calcium’s breakdown and absorption.
Protein: Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) plays a critical role in stimulating growth hormone production. IGF-1 also promotes proper bone development. There is new evidence showing that when protein intake is combined with vitamin D and calcium intake, bone health dramatically improves. This is a direct result of IGF-1 signaling various amino acids to increase the absorption of calcium from foodstuffs in the intestines.
Suggested Dose: 1.5 grams × body weight/d
Strontium: Strontium is a mineral found abundantly throughout nature. Although strontium is not considered to be an essential mineral, it has an affinity toward increasing bone mass. Current research shows that strontium positively influences the metabolism of bone and improves bone formation and density by minimizing bone resorption. From all indications, strontium appears to work best when there are adequate calcium and vitamin D levels present in bone.
Suggested Dose: 1g/d
Note: Strontium citrate or strontium ranelate should not be confused with radioactive strontium-90 produced in nuclear fusion reactions.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is known as the master nutrient because it’s a key substance required for the basic fundamental operation of a multitude of metabolic processes. One of those processes is the biosynthesis of collagen, the fibrous part of bone. In a current study appearing in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, researchers reported that patients with high vitamin C intake, as compared with patients with low vitamin C intake, maintained greater bone density, while the low intake group actually showed reductions in bone density.
Vitamin D: Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is essential to calcium’s absorption. Vitamin D3 is manufactured by the skin via ultraviolet rays from the sun and can be enhanced by dietary intake. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is highly active in human tissue, more so than ergosterol (vitamin D2).
Suggested Dose: 400 to 800 IU/d
Please Note: Based on new research health professionals recommend taking 1,000 to 2,000 IU/d.
Vitamin K: This vitamin functions primarily as a coagulation agent, meaning it regulates several proteins that initiate blood clotting. Recently scientists discovered that three proteins within bone, osteocalcin, matrix GLA protein and protein S, are involved with making sure other minerals are properly deposited within the bone. This process is known scientifically as bone mineralization. Bone mineralization processes accelerate normal bone growth and development, however, they need vitamin K to fulfill this physiological function. Additionally, the calcium-regulating protein known as osteocalcin is regulated by vitamin K. When adequate vitamin K is present, osteocalcin generally goes through a process known as carboxylation. During this process osteocalcin binds with the mineral portion of the bone. Without vitamin K, the reverse occurs, unrestrained calcium resorption (removal of minerals) from the bone.
Suggested Dose: 120mcg/d male; 90mcg/d female
Note: Vitamin K shouldn’t be taken in combination with any blood thinning medications. Also make sure you are taking the K2 form and not vitamin K1. The form may also be listed as menaquinone-4 (MK4). This form is more biologically active and in studies it has demonstrated the ability to convert up to 90% of the body’s available K1 into MK4 without the aid of intestinal flora (gut bacteria). MK4 has also been shown to prevent cirrhosis of the liver, bone loss and/ or fractures caused by corticosteroids (prednisone, dexamethasone, prednisolone). Studies show that vitamin K1 itself isn’t absorbed in both the large and small intestines. In 1995, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare approved MK4 in dose ranges up to 45mg/d to treat and prevent osteoporosis.
Food Combining / The Metabolic Incapacity of Calcium
The other part of this equation that disrupts how calcium reaches the bones has to do with the concept of food combining. Essentially what happens here is certain foods consumed at the same time as calcium-rich ones, interfere with absorption of calcium. Simply put, your dietary sources of calcium never reach the bone matrix, and calcium is readily excreted from the body. Dr. Elson M. Haas, MD, author of Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, suggests eating antagonistic foods a few hours before and/or after a meal to avoid this mishap. For example, foods with a high sodium content and/or the excessive use of sodium are calcium’s worst nightmare. Although a mineral itself, sodium not only raises blood pressure, it accelerates the excretion of calcium. Caffeine (all forms: coffee, soda, tea, sports drinks, etc.) is a sodium agonist and shouldn’t be consumed with calcium-rich foods. It, too, inhibits calcium absorption, but more insidious, it acts as a major diuretic focused on hastening the excretion of calcium during urination. One other area of concern in reference to foods and calcium absorption focuses on high-fiber foods. These foods contain chemicals called phytates. Current research data indicate that phytates actually attach or bind themselves with calcium and hasten its excretion. Because fiber is such an integral part of overall health, nutritional researchers suggest increasing supplemental intakes of calcium to offset this negative correlation.
Your body is not static; it is constantly changing and needs a variety of nutrients daily to grow, build, recover and sustain itself. We tend to forget the skeletal system and the bone matrix operate on the same principles as a living, changing system that also requires a variety of nutrients, in addition to calcium daily to grow, build, recover and sustain its health. It is that under armor, so to speak, which allows you to do all those fantastic fitness and athletic things you do. How well your body and skeletal system are and stay nourished—this you control! AF
George L. Redmon, PhD, ND, has developed a 20-year career specializing in vitamins and holistic healthcare within the vitamin and natural healthcare industry. He has served as a Regional and National Education Director for one of the largest retailers of vitamins in the United States. He is a popular guest on many syndicated radio health programs and his articles have appeared in numerous magazines.
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Dr. George Redmon