To help fend off
osteoporosis, osteopenia and bone fractures, your body needs more than just
calcium to keep your bones strong. But knowing the right nutrients and how to get
them in ideal amounts is tricky. With guidance from Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD, nutritionist
and bone expert you can get the 7 nutrients you need every day to build bone and
reduce your risk of both bone loss and fracture:
More details about these top nutrients
Your body contains more calcium
than any other mineral — making up about 2% of your total adult body weight. It’s
stored in your bones and teeth, and the skeleton itself is a reserve of calcium.
If your body doesn’t get the calcium it needs from food or supplementation, it takes
it from the skeleton and weakens your bones.
Getting enough calcium isn’t as simple as adding more to your diet. Absorbability
is just as important, if not more important, than a high intake. Calcium absorption
is highly dependent on vitamin D. A person with inadequate vitamin D absorbs 65%
less calcium than someone who has adequate vitamin D (or 32ng/ml). Magnesium is
a powerful companion nutrient for bone-building that should be kept in balance with
Magnesium assures the strength and firmness of bones and makes teeth harder. It’s
one of the key nutrients needed to ensure calcium is both optimally absorbed and
best utilized by the body. It’s also necessary for converting vitamin D into its
active form. What’s more, magnesium is required for over 300 biochemical reactions
in the body.
The majority of the body’s reserves (60%) of magnesium are held in the bone, and
the bones act as a storage reservoir, transferring magnesium to the blood in times
Vitamin D — and
specifically the hormone our body produces from vitamin D — is the most important
regulator of calcium absorption. People with low vitamin D absorb 65% less calcium
than those with adequate levels of this vitamin. Osteoporotic fractures are much
more common in folks with low levels of vitamin D, though fracture incidence can
be dramatically reduced with vitamin D supplementation.
Low levels of vitamin D are also linked to the development of numerous diseases,
- Heart disease
- Muscle weakness
- Auto-immune disease (such as MS)
Emerging research is showing vitamin K2 as MK-7 (menaquinone-7) is one of the keys
for building bone strength, helping to prevent osteoporosis, protecting the heart,
and even reducing mortality. For example, K2 is involved in preventing fractures
in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. An analysis of the results of 19 different
studies focusing on postmenopausal women with osteoporosis showed that vitamin K2
plays a role in improvement of the vertebral bone mineral density and the prevention
Vitamin K2 as MK-7 has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health in healthy
postmenopausal women. Finally, in one recent study, participants who increased their
vitamin K1 and K2 dietary intakes over the nearly five-year follow-up period had
a 43% and 45% reduced risk of overall mortality respectively compared to those whose
intakes were unchanged or reduced. Those with increased vitamin K2 intakes during
follow-up had a 59% lower risk of death from cancer.
Zinc helps produce the matrix of collagen protein threads upon which the all-important
bone-forming calcium–phosphorus compound is deposited. It’s also necessary for the
production of enzymes that degrade and recycle worn-out bits of bone protein. Zinc
deficiency is problematic because it prevents full absorption of calcium. Low levels
have been closely linked with the development of osteoporosis.
Manganese is often overlooked as an important ingredient in good bone health, and
there’s not even an RDA for manganese. However, research shows clearly that manganese
is a co-factor in the formation of bone cartilage and bone collagen, as well as
in bone mineralization.
Manganese deficiency can have serious consequences — it appears to increase bone
breakdown while decreasing new bone mineralization — and that can lead to osteoporosis.
For example in one study, blood levels of manganese in severely osteoporotic women
were found to be just 1/4 those of non-osteoporotic women their same age. Chillingly,
it was the only significantly different variable out of 25 studied.
The benefits of boron for bone health have only recently been discovered. Your body
requires boron for proper metabolism and utilization of various bone-building factors,
including calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, estrogen, and perhaps testosterone. Overall
studies show boron has a mineral-conserving and estrogen-enhancing effect, especially
among women with low magnesium intake.
Getting enough nutrients
Ideally, we would get the optimal supply of supplemental nutrients from the food
we eat. But for most of us, that’s just not possible — even when we’re doing our
very best to eat well. Plus, most people don’t realize how critical specific nutrients
are for the absorption of other nutrients. Without this synergistic effect, your
body can’t absorb certain nutrients and won’t get the benefits.
To get the right amounts of the
top nutrients every day, you may want to use a nutritional supplement in
addition to enjoying a healthy diet. When choosing your supplements, go with a medical-grade
multivitamin/mineral formulated specifically for bone health, and make sure it contains
balanced, therapeutic levels of these nutrients in their most bioavailable forms.
Better Bones Basics is formulated with ideal amounts of vitamin D, calcium
and magnesium and also includes other essential bone-building minerals at therapeutic
levels, along with nutrients to optimize absorption and bone-building support.
Start reducing your risk
of bone loss and fracture
Moshfegh, A., et al. 2005. What we eat in America, NHANES 2001–2002: Usual nutrient
intakes from food compared to Dietary Reference Intakes. USDA, Agricultural Research
Service. URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12355000/pdf/usualintaketables2001-02.pdf
Heaney, R., & Weaver, C. 2003. Calcium and vitamin D. Endocrinol. Metab. Clin. N.
Am., 32 (1), 181–194, vii–viii. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12699298
Brown, S. 2008. Vitamin D and fracture reduction: An evaluation of the existing
research. Alt. Med. Rev., 13 (1), 21–33. URL (PDF): http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/13/1/21.pdf
Holick, M. 2006. High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health.
Mayo Clin. Proc., 81 (3), 353–373. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16529140
Hanley, D., & Davison, K. 2005. Vitamin D insufficiency in North America. Symposium:
Vitamin D Insufficiency: A Significant Risk Factor in Chronic Diseases and Potential
Disease-Specific Biomarkers of Vitamin D Sufficiency. J. Nutr., 135 (2), 332-337.
URL: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/135/2/332 (accessed 05.13.2008).
Holick, M. 2005. The vitamin D epidemic and its health consequences. J. Nutr., 135
(11),2739S–2748S. URL: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/135/11/2739S (accessed
Bischoff–Ferrari, H., et al. 2007. Calcium intake and hip fracture risk in men and
women: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials.
Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 86 (6), 1780–1790. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18065599
Steingrimsdottir, L., et al. 2005. Relationship between serum parathyroid hormone
levels, vitamin D sufficiency, and calcium intake. JAMA, 294 (18), 2336-2341. URL:
http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/294/18/2336 (accessed 06.17.2008).
Dawson–Hughes, B., et al. 1997. Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation
on bone density in men and women 65 years of age or older. NEJM, 337 (10), 670-676.
URL: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/337/10/670 (accessed 06.17.2008).
Dawson–Hughes, B., et al. 1990. A controlled trial of the effect of calcium supplementation
on bone density in postmenopausal women. NEJM, 323 (13), 878–883. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2203964
Brown, S. 2006. “Bone nutrition.” In Scientific Evidence for Musculoskeletal, Bariatric,
and Sports Nutrition, ed. I. Kohlstadt, p. 458. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Knapen, M., et al. 2007. Vitamin K2 supplementation improves hip bone geometry and
bone strength indices in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos. Int., 18 (78), 963–972.
For a complete list of references see:
20 key nutrients for bone health.