An osteoporosis cocktail

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

April 2012

Osteoporosis is a complicated issue and there is no single mineral such as calcium or vitamin that can prevent it. Aside from the critical importance of weight-bearing physical activity, especially in early life, the body requires a veritable cocktail of nutrients in order to attain and maintain a strong skeleton.

Fortunately, plant foods provide such a cocktail. Cows and horses, after all, don't drink milk or eat meat but they have strong bones in spite of a monotonous diet of grass and other plants. A vegetarian diet for humans, if planned correctly, can be just as beneficial. A meal plan that includes animal products, including fish, makes it easier to get all the necessary nutrients,

When researchers use a single vitamin in order to evaluate its effect on osteoporosis or any other condition the results are often inconclusive. It's not unusual for studies to contradict each other. Vitamin A and its precursor, beta carotene, have had mixed outcomes in research on osteoporosis. Perhaps that's because there are many kinds of carotenes and several forms of vitamin A. Given singly and in high doses, vitamin A and beta carotene have adverse effects. Plant foods that contain generous amounts of both are never harmful because they don't exist in a nutritional vacuum.

The lack of B vitamins can lead to increased inflammation, a condition that is related to osteoporosis as well as to heart disease and other chronic illnesses. A study among Dutch seniors showed that a higher intake of riboflavin (vitamin B2) and pyridoxine (vitamin B6) was associated with increased bone density at the femoral neck, the area of bone that is most often involved in hip fractures. In that study, the beneficial vitamins were part of the diet, not single supplements.

In recent years investigators have learned that other important nutrients are necessary for optimal bone strength. They include vitamins C, E and K as well as the minerals magnesium and boron. All are available in plant foods. Omega-3 fats are also important in bone health. They are present in many plants but they are more plentiful in fish, which is also a good source of protein. Blood vessels and other structural elements in bone require adequate protein, which is often lacking in the diet of seniors.

All the ingredients in this cocktail are available in supplements but they are always the second choice. Nature provides the best source.

Bon appétit!

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.