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Friday, May 2, 2014

Why Calcium Supplements Can Increase Your Osteoporosis Risk

There is no dairy in this picture
“I didn’t think this happened till decades down the road when I was in a retirement home and, like, eating soggy spinach and playing bingo every night,” my client said. Understandably, she felt devastated that literally days before her doctor diagnosed her with osteoporosis. She was 33 at the time.
I’ve talked with several doctors at conferences and, indeed, they all see a disturbing trend among osteoporosis or osteoporotic symptoms in patients as young as 30.
“The sooner we understand that young women can and do fracture bones and develop osteoporosis the better,” says Canada’s CEMCOR (The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research). “Also, the sooner we accept that the bone we build in our childhood and teen years provides a ‘bone bank’ from which we can borrow in older age the better.”  Very well put.
My client felt especially frustrated because
she did all the “right” things. She drank at least three glasses of fat-free skim milk, took calcium supplements, and attended spin classes three times every week. Shouldn’t that – maybe not exempt, but at least minimize her risk for osteoporosis?
Nope, and here’s why.
How Does Osteoporosis Develop?
Contrary to what you might think, bone isn’t a stagnant structure. Rather, breakdown and remodeling involves a complex interaction of replacing older bone with new, vibrant bone. Even as you sit here reading this, your bones are going through this repair process.
When you have osteoporosis, your body isn’t replacing that new bone. Not only that; you’re probably reabsorbing too much existing bone. Bone deterioration occurs over many years and even decades and paves the path for osteoporosis with its numerous complications including fractures, falls, and other injuries.
What Creates Osteoporosis?
Common culprits for osteoporosis include:
·       Smoking – you’re not doing that, right?
·       Over-drinking alcohol – you’re not doing this either, I hope.
·       A sedentary lifestyle – even if you’re working out, sitting most of your day “undoes” much of that effort.
·       Gender – yeah, osteoporosis targets mostly women, but guys, you’re not off the hook. Researchers estimate of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, about two million are men. 
·       Genetics – can’t do much here. Just remember genetics loads the gun but environment pulls the trigger.
Many people attribute age to increased bone loss. While that’s a factor, growing older doesn’t automatically entail frail, weakening bones. (Likewise, as my client discovered, being young doesn’t exclude you from developing osteoporosis.)
No matter your age, there’s tons within your control to prevent bone breakdown. As you’ll see, strategies to maintain healthy bones have nothing to do with milk or calcium supplements.
Got Milk? I Hope Not
If you believe those well-funded dairy ads, you’re going to keel over dead if you don’t drink at least three glasses of milk every day. They’ve even targeted my gym with their post-workout chocolate milk nonsense.
Trust me, I’ve known folks who’ve been dairy free for decades and have strong, healthy bones.
Yeah, milk’s got calcium, but it’s also got hormones, antibiotics, protein fractions that can create reactions in your body, and lactose (sugar). Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, you don’t need or want that excess sugar.
While many studies associate dairy consumption with strong bones, a little sleuthing reveals the dairy industry funds many of them. A multi-billion dollar industry, the dairy-for-strong-bones crowd conveniently overlooks studies that show otherwise.
One of these studies was hard to miss: The Nurses’ Health Study lasted 12 years and involved almost 78,000 middle-aged (34 – 59) women. 
Are you ready for this? Researchers found women who drank more milk had the highest risk of bone fractures.
Yep. They concluded “data do not support the hypothesis that higher consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium by adult women protects against hip or forearm fractures.”
My friend JJ Virgin discusses more damning dairy evidence in her book The Virgin Diet. Among her findings: The highest milk-consuming countries also have the highest levels of osteoporosis.
Listen, I love unsweetened Greek yogurt. I even occasionally eat ice cream. If you’re a raw-dairy enthusiast, keep it. What pisses me off is the erroneous assumption that dairy is the only source for calcium. Hardly.
What’s Up with Calcium?
Why is calcium such a big deal for bone health? Well, your body stores most calcium in your bones, which demand that mineral to maintain strength and structure.
But calcium isn’t a more-is-better nutrient. As with anything, balance becomes key and calcium plays an intricate, complex give-and-take role in bone formation and remodeling. Your bones aren’t going to store crazy amounts of calcium like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
In fact, gulping large amounts of cheap calcium supplements can become detrimental. One study found high calcium intake increases your risk for bone fractures as you get older.
In the correct amounts, calcium plays a key role in bone health. But so do numerous other nutrients, including vitamin D and boron. If you’re OD-ing on calcium from poor sources like cheap supplements and skim milk, you’re missing some serious pieces to a big, complex puzzle.
The High-Protein Myth
Too much protein makes your bones more acidic, leeching calcium and other precious nutrients, right? I still hear that occasionally from protein-phobic folks.
Chalk up another myth.
The famous Framingham Osteoporosis Study looked at protein consumption in older folks. Again, this wasn’t a “little” study. It took place over four years and studied 615 men and women who ate anywhere from 14 – 175 grams of protein a day.
Who do you bet had less bone loss here? It had to be the higher-protein people, right? Since large amounts of protein leech… Well, you know.
Researchers found those who ate more protein had less bone loss, whereas those who ate less protein had more bone loss. One reason: You absorb calcium better when you eat more protein.
7 Strategies for Healthy Bones No Matter What Your Age
If I’ve lost you here, I’ll reiterate: Cheap calcium supplements and dairy are not the answer for strong, healthy bones and osteoporosis prevention, and oftentimes create more harm than good.
So how do you build and maintain strong, supple bones whether you’re 30 or 70? Glad you asked. These seven strategies create a solid defense against brittle, weak bones and osteoporosis development no matter what your age.
1.      Intense exercise. Is there anything burst training and weight resistance, my favorite two forms of exercise, can’t benefit? Among those benefits include increasing human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1), two hormones that improve bone health. A recent New York Times blog discussed how sprinting and other high-impact exercise could benefit your bones and reduce osteoporosis risk. One good point Gretchen Reynolds noted in her blog: Older folks might not handle high-impact exercise well. I’m a big fan of the X-iser, a low-impact compact machine that lets you fit burst training in just four minutes. You might also consider a stairwell or even your park hill for burst training. Combine that with some weight resistance and you’ve got the perfect long-term bone-health strategy. Find a trainer who can design a plan that addresses your goals and any limitations.
2.     Control your AGEs. Last week I talked about how advanced glycation end products, more appropriately called AGEs, make your proteins sticky and ineffective at doing their jobs. Well, AGEs can adversely impact your bones. You see, collagen is a protein that helps maintain bone structure. Except when those proteins get “gummed” up with sugar, stiff, brittle bones often result. Especially if you workout, you can occasionally indulge in something sweet, but excessive high-sugar foods are like dumping gasoline on an osteoporotic fire.
3.     Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Rather than calcium deficiencies, Keith McCormick, author of The Whole-Body Approach to Osteoporosis, believes chronic inflammation significantly contributes to bone loss. Inflammation just all-around sucks, especially for athletes prone to achiness, soreness, and other post-workout miseries. Make sure you eat plenty of anti-inflammatory omega-3 rich foods like wild-caught fish and flaxseeds. Sprinkle turmeric onto your veggies. Fish oil and curcumin should be among your anti-inflammatory supplement arsenal.
4.     Maintain acid-alkaline balance. All foods upon digestion ultimately must report to the kidneys as either acid or base,” says says Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet for Athletes. “When the diet yields a net acid load… the acid must be buffered by the alkaline stores of base in the body. Calcium salts in the bones represent the largest store of alkaline base in the body and are depleted and eliminated in the urine when the diet produces a net acid load.” Easy solution here: Alkalinize your grass-fed steak or wild-caught salmon with tons of leafy and cruciferous veggies, berries, almonds, and other nutrient-dense plant foods.
5.     Balance your calcium.  I recommend about half your calcium from food and half from a professional-quality supplement. Sardines, nuts and seeds, and leafy and cruciferous veggies provide plenty of calcium without touching a glass of skim milk (yuck!). Supplement those foods with high-quality bone-support nutrients. I use Oscap Plus™ from Thorne Research, which synergistically combines calcium with magnesium, vitamin D, boron, and other nutrients in their correct ratios to support supple, healthy bones.
6.     Chill the hell out. Constantly stressing out does a lot of crappy things, including deteriorating your bones. One study found stress contributes to osteoporosis and a vicious cycle ensues. Meditate, breathe deeply, or take a yoga class… Seriously, find out what works to chill you out and do it. Your bones and your sanity are at risk here.
7.     Get deep sleep. One study looked at the connection between sleep, cognitive function, and osteoporotic fractures in older women. You guessed it: Crappy quality sleep decreased cognitive function and put these women at higher risk for fractures. Stop it with the Lindsay Lohan late-night partying. You’re not 23 and it’s not cute anymore. Prioritize eight hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.
How big of a priority is bone health and preventing osteoporosis for you? Share your thoughts and strategies below or on my Facebook fan page.
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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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