In the twenty years that I have been in practice, there are certain diseases that just seem more prevalent. One of those conditions is osteoporosis. It seems like the average female patient that I see in my office over the age of sixty is being treated for this condition.
It is estimated that there are approximately 44 million Americans in the United States at this time that are at risk of developing osteoporosis, with 10 million of these people already estimated to have the disease.
What is it?
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone with loss of mineral content, leading to structural deterioration of the bone and increasing the risk of fractures. Although it is thought to be a condition only in elderly women, in point of fact, 20% of all osteoporosis occurs in men. Additionally, osteoporosis can occur at any age. The cost of this condition is enormous. It is estimated in the year 2001 approximately 17 billion dollars were spent in hospitals and nursing homes for patients with osteoporosis and associated fractures. Unfortunately, this number is continuing to rise.
Osteoporosis is one of those silent conditions, much like hypertension, that may give no symptoms until a fracture occurs. Alternatively, one may gradually lose height with the slow collapse of the vertebral bodies in the spine. As indicated above, it most frequently occurs in elderly women, although no one is immune from this condition. Amazingly, women can lose up to 20% of their bone mass in just as little as five years following menopause, putting them at clearly increased risk of osteoporosis. And if you think that breaking a bone is of no major consequence, think otherwise. Approximately 25% of patients over the age of 50 who fracture a hip will die the following year after their fracture. And although hip fractures are two to three times more frequent in women than men, the one year mortality following a hip fracture is nearly twice as high for a man than a woman.
Prevention is always better than Cure
You are never too young to start thinking about this very important condition. In the April addition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a double-blinded study was performed in a group of 16 to 18 year old adolescent girls. 144 adolescent girls were given 1000 mg of calcium supplement daily for 15 months. The group of girls was then randomly assigned to exercise three times weekly (45 minutes each session) versus the other group that did not perform any additional exercise. At the end of the 15 month study, those young girls treated with the calcium supplementation, along with exercise, had a statistically significant increase in bone mineral content.
Fortunately, there are many drugs available on the market that can treat osteoporosis and excessive bone loss. These drugs, however, are expensive and do have potential side effects. There is a more natural approach to preserving bone density. In a landmark study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in September 1997, almost 400 men and women over the age of 65 were randomized to receive either calcium citrate malate 500 mg daily along with 700 units of vitamin D versus the other group that received placebo. Bone density was measured on a six month basis in the study continuing for three years. At the end of the three year study, those individuals treated with the calcium and vitamin D had a statistically significant improvement in mineral bone density with an approximately 60 % reduction in non-vertebral fractures. In a subsequent study performed in 240 healthy women between the ages of 58 and 67, 1 g daily of elemental calcium along with vitamin D3 increased bone density compared to a placebo treated group.
Calcium and vitamin D supplementation can even be beneficial for your teeth. In a study published in the prestigious American Journal of Medicine in October, 145 healthy subjects ages 65 and older completed a three-year randomized placebo controlled trial with calcium and vitamin D supplementation. During the trial, 13% of those taking supplements lost one of more teeth versus 27% losing one of more teeth in the placebo treated group. Aside from exercising and taking proper supplementation, certain foods can likewise have a beneficial effect on your bones. In the March edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism, 71 peri- and post-menopausal women were randomly assigned to consume either soy protein or milk based protein, 40 g daily for three months. At the end of the study, those women consuming the soy protein seemed to have a positive influence on bone and calcium metabolism compared to those women consuming the milk based protein.
Look for a supplement that contains 500 mg of elemental calcium citrate malate (about 2,300 mg of calcium to achieve this elemental level), 250 mg of magnesium along with 700 units of vitamin D, vitamin K1, folic acid and soy isoflavones. Clinical studies have shown that calcium citrate malate is the most effectively absorbed form of calcium.
Also supplementing with calcium citrate malate and malic acid, and supplements that contains calcium citrate malate, magnesium, vitamin D and malic acid. Many multivitamin formulas contain excellent quantities of calcium citrate malate, magnesium, vitamin D and other important minerals, antioxidants, herbs and phytonutrients.
It is never too young to start thinking about maintaining healthy bone mass. I have always been a strong believer that the best way to treat a chronic disease is to prevent it in the first place.
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