I have some news for you that goes against almost everything you hear on CBS News, or read on WebMD… osteoporosis isn’t caused by a lack of calcium.
Mainstream medicine still has its head in the sand on this. In fact, I read a study from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association claiming – again – that you aren’t getting enough calcium, and that calcium is what prevents osteoporosis.
Don’t get me wrong, calcium is critical for making bone. But you’re getting enough calcium. It’s in almost everything you can think of – like bread, milk, orange juice, pasta, yogurt, toothpaste, chewing gum, snack crackers and granola bars… it’s even in your water, depending on where you live. That’s a lot of calcium.
Higher calcium intake doesn’t prevent fractures due to bone loss,1 and can damage your heart. Here a just a few studies that back up what I’ve known for years.
A brand-new study looked at over 195,000 women and found that drinking milk fortified with calcium had zero effect on the risk for hip fractures.2
Another recent study in the journal Osteoporosis International found that taking calcium supplements meant a 27-31% increase in risk of heart attack and up to a 20% increased risk of stroke. The authors even suggest you use “other osteoporosis treatments that are available without calcium.”3
A third study looked at 61,443 women, who were followed for almost 20 years. It found that increasing your daily calcium has no effect on fractures later in life. The women who took in the most calcium did not reduce the risk of fractures of any type, or of osteoporosis.4
If things keep going the way they’re going today, you have a one-in-four chance of an osteoporosis-related bone break after you turn 50.
It’s worse if you’re a woman. You have a one-in-two chance of fracture. You’re at greater risk because women lose bone mass a little faster than men until they’re 65. After that, everyone loses bone at about the same rate.
Osteoclasts remove old bone tissue. Osteoblasts rebuild them.
And a broken bone has a huge effect on your life. You could be in constant pain, lose mobility, have a long-term disability, or completely lose your independence.
Instead of taking in more calcium, let me show you how you can build bones that will last a lifetime.
But first I want to tell you a little bit about how your body makes bone…
Your bones have cells called osteoclasts. Their job is to remove old bone tissue. This makes room for your bones to grow strong because other cells called osteoblasts then rebuild them.
With osteoporosis and other bone diseases, there is an imbalance … either your osteoblasts aren’t making new cells fast enough, or osteoclasts are removing too much bone tissue.
Some very common medications can also make your bones weaker and more likely to break. For example:
- The newest drugs meant to improve bone density actually cause bone breaks. Bisphosphonates like Fosomax, Boniva, Reclast and Actonel are supposed to help stop you from getting bone fractures as you get older.
Researchers studied women taking these medications who experienced some sort of fracture. Over 65 percent had the same rare fracture in the same area of their thigh bones. And these were the women who had been on the drugs for the longest time.5
- If you use cortisone for your asthma or arthritis for longer than only three months, it increases risk of fracture regardless of bone density.6
- Acid reflux medications like Nexium and Prevacid increase risk of hip fracture. A review so new it hasn’t even been published yet looked at over 230,000 fracture cases. These medications, called proton pump inhibitors, upped the odds of suffering a hip fracture by 25%. The odds of getting a spinal fracture increased by 50%!7
- Antidepressants like Paxil and Prozac (called SSRIs) contribute to bone loss and a higher risk for fractures. That’s because antidepressants increase serotonin levels, and too much serotonin restrains osteoblasts from making new bone.
The journal Bone published a study on almost 80,000 people and found SSRI users had almost twice the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures as those who didn’t use those medications. Even people who used non-SSRI antidepressants had around a 40% higher risk for a break.8
- Long-term therapy with antiepileptic drugs (phenobarbital) can cause the metabolic bone disease osteomalacia. This causes “soft bones” and increases fractures. In one study, antiepileptic drugs reduced both neck and hip bone density, and caused significant bone loss.9
- Another study from Bone done earlier this year found that the odds of getting a fracture were 56% higher for people who use acetaminophen (Tylenol, Excedrin) compared with people who don’t. Adjusting for age, bone mineral density, weight, smoking, calcium and other factors didn’t change the results.10
It’s another example of how modern medicine doesn’t learn from its mistakes. They refuse to take a whole-body approach to healing. Instead they opt to treat individual symptoms with drugs designed only for those symptoms, regardless of how they affect the rest of your body.
This is why in my practice, I seldom use these drugs. I’ve helped thousands of patients – both men and women – increase their bone mass and strength naturally. Here’s what I tell them:
1) Use This Hormonal Secret to Build Bones of Steel: Hormones control the amount of calcium that sticks to your bones. You can take all the calcium you want, but if your estrogen and testosterone levels fall, calcium will drop away from your bones.
In women, estrogens are the main regulators of bone breakdown. And the hormone progesterone controls the rate of new bone deposits. The higher the progesterone level the more bone formation. But the most powerful bone builder in both men and women is testosterone. Testosterone is central for achieving maximal bone mass and strength.
Maintaining healthy levels of hormones in your body will keep your bones strong.
There is an easy and inexpensive hormone precursor that has been shown to improve the levels of other sex hormones. It’s called DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone). It is involved in the manufacturing of most major sex hormones in the body, like estrogen and testosterone. DHEA treatments are becoming more common.
You can purchase it over the counter, but I don’t advise that anyone take DHEA without having their blood levels checked. You will have to ask your doctor to measure it. You just can’t count on maintaining good bone health without good hormonal health.
In addition to healthy hormone levels, here are some other ways to help you keep your bone strength, and your independence:
2) Drive Down Cortisol to Form More Bone: There is a membrane that lines the outer surface of your bones called the periosteum. Its cells turn into osteoblast cells that make new bone. The “stress” hormone cortisol reduces bone density by stopping those cells from becoming osteoblasts. That’s why the higher your cortisol levels, the lower your bone density and the faster you lose bone. Cortisol also reduces calcium absorption.
Both mental and physical stress increase cortisol, and those stressors are constant in the modern world. Also, most hormones decline with age, but cortisol increases.
To lower cortisol naturally so you can keep your bones strong, the easiest thing to do is counter cortisol with physical exertion.
My PACE program is designed specifically to return your body and metabolism to their natural states. With PACE, you incrementally challenge your body and restore your native metabolism and hormone levels.
The other benefit you get from PACE is that weight-bearing exercise is one of the most effective ways to increase your bone strength and help prevent fractures. These include walking, bicycling, sprints, swimming or weight training. Focus on increasing intensity, not duration, in all of these exercises.
If you want specific workouts, resources and information about creating your own PACE variations, just click here.
3) Soak Up the Sun And Build Better Bone: Vitamin D is a vitamin and a hormone. It directs how much calcium you store in your bones so you can use it when you need it. Too little vitamin D can lead to thin, brittle bones and osteoporosis.
By preventing bone loss, vitamin D:
- Reduces risk of breaking a bone in any part of the body by 33%
- Reduces risk of a breaking a hip by 69%
- Reduces risk of having constant bone pain – a condition called osteomalacia
Your best source of vitamin D is sunshine. You don’t need more than 20 minutes out in the sun to get all your vitamin D for the day. But since we spend most of our time inside in the modern world, you might have to get your vitamin D from other sources. Food sources of vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, tuna fish, sardines, eggs, beef and cheese.
Of course, you can also get vitamin D from supplements. Cod liver oil is by far the best source. Take up to one tablespoon a day.
4) Make “Superior” Bones With Vitamin K: I’ve helped hundreds of patients regulate their calcium and stabilize their bones using vitamin K. A study completed in April found that high vitamin K intake means higher bone mineral density, and less bone loss with aging.11 The authors wrote that vitamin K gave people “superior bone properties.”
Foods with vitamin K include dark leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and collard greens. Parsley and green olives also have vitamin K, as do the spices basil and thyme. I recommend at least 90 mcg a day.
5) Protect Your Bones With Selenium: Just 55 micrograms a day can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis by up to 15 percent.
A study gave two groups of animals a drug that causes osteoporosis. They treated one group with selenium. When researchers looked at the leg bones, those from the selenium group were protected, and looked almost like normal bone.12
The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts, which contain a whopping 544 micrograms in just one ounce. You can also get selenium from red meat, tuna, eggs and walnuts.
6) Harden Your Bones With Boron: It’s crucial to bone strength, with increasing benefits as people age. Boron keeps bones from losing calcium and magnesium. The best way to get it from food is by eating nuts, plums, prunes, red grapes, raisins, apples, pears, and avocados. One thing I sometimes tell patients is to make all-natural trail mix from their snack food of choice. All those raisins and nuts are a great source of boron. Get between 3-6 mg per day.
7) Ramp Up Energy to Make New Bone: It takes a lot of energy for your body to produce bone. Osteoblasts use a hormone called osteocalcin to tell your body to make that energy so the osteoblasts can do their job.
There’s only one problem… leptin. This hormone, that increases when you gain weight, interferes with osteocalcin and inhibits new bone formation.
Fortunately, there’s a solution for leptin. The herb irvingia gabonensis, from the forests of West Africa, helps leptin work normally.
One study measured the effect of irvingia on fat cells. They injected the cells with irvingia and found that the herb significantly reduced leptin production, and leptin levels. Those given the most irvingia cut their leptin levels by over 60 percent in just 12 to 24 hours.13
Another irvingia study found that people taking the seed extract were able to drop their leptin levels by 49%.14
I recommend 150 mg of irvingia seed extract twice a day before meals.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1 Freskanich, D., et al, “Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study,” American Journal of Public Health June 1997; 87(6): 992-997
2 Bischoff-Ferrari, HA, et al, "Milk intake and risk of hip fracture in men and women: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies," J. Bone Miner Res. Apr. 2011;26(4):833-9
3 Reid, I.R., Bolland, M.J., Avenell, A., Grey, A., "Cardiovascular effects of calcium supplementation," Osteoporos Int. March 16, 2011
4 Warensjo, E., Byberg, L., Melhus, H., et al, "Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study," BMJ May 2011; 342
5 Lenart, B., Lorich, D., Lane, J., et al, “Atypical Fractures of the Femoral Diaphysis in Postmenopausal Women Taking Alendronate,” New England Journal of Medicine 2008
6 Aubry-Rozier, B., Lamy, O., Dudler, J., "Prevention of cortisone-induced osteoporosis: who, when and what?" Rev. Med. Suisse Feb. 10, 2010;6(235):307-13
7 Ngamruengphong, S., Leontiadis, G.I., Radhi, S., et al, "Proton Pump Inhibitors and Risk of Fracture: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies," Am. J. Gastroenterol. April 12, 2011
8 Verdel, B.M., Souverein, P.C., Egberts, T.C., et al, "Use of antidepressant drugs and risk of osteoporotic and non-osteoporotic fractures," Bone Sept. 2010;47(3):604-9
9 Andress, D.L., Ozuna, J., Tirschwell, D., et al, "Antiepileptic drug-induced bone loss in young male patients who have seizures," Arch. Neurol. May 2002;59(5):781-6
10 Williams, L.J., Pasco, J.A., Henry, M.J., et al, "Paracetamol (acetaminophen) use, fracture and bone mineral density," Bone March 17, 2011
11 Bulló, M., Estruch, R., Salas-Salvadó, J., "Dietary vitamin K intake is associated with bone quantitative ultrasound measurements but not with bone peripheral biochemical markers in elderly men and women," Bone April 5, 2011
12 Turan, B., Can, B., Delilbasi, E., "Selenium combined with vitamin E and vitamin C restores structural alterations of bones in heparin-induced osteoporosis," Clin. Rheumatol. Dec. 2003;22(6):432-6
13 Oben, Julius E., Ngondi, Judith L., Blum, Kenneth, "Inhibition of Irvingia gabonensis seed extract (OB131) on adipogenesis as mediated via down regulation of the PPARgamma and Leptin genes and up-regulation of the adiponectin gene," Lipids Health Dis. 2008;7:44
14 Ngondi, et al, “IGOB131, a novel seed extract of the West African plant Irvingia gabonensis, significantly reduces body weight…” Lipids in Health and in Disease, March 2, 2009