Due to rising life expectancy, osteoporosis is becoming increasingly important. In the United States
alone, over 43 million people have low bone mass and are at risk for developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a
disease that particularly affects women. In this article, Silvia Bürkle, from a scientific point of view, sheds light on the possible causes of osteoporosis and what can be done about it.
Excruciating back pain, curvature of the spine, bone fractures – osteoporosis is a serious, sometimes even life-threatening disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pathological bone loss is one of the ten most common diseases worldwide. A gradual loss of bone mass of about one percent per year from around 40 years of age corresponds to the natural aging process and is unavoidable. After menopause, however, bone loss can accelerate rapidly. The transition from normal age-related bone breakdown to osteoporosis is smooth.
In pathological bone loss, the bone mass falls below a certain level, which means that the stability of the bones suffers and the risk of fractures increases.
The bones consist of a basic tissue (matrix) that gives them their shape and minerals that are stored in this matrix and give the bones their hardness and strength. Bone tissue is composed of many cells that are constantly being built up, remodeled and broken down.
Bone formation and degradation are controlled by various hormones, among other things. Although female estrogens and male testosterone are not actually bone hormones, they influence their quantity and effectiveness and thus also the bone metabolism. For example, estrogens in women of childbearing age cause an additional deposit of calcium in the bone, which can then be mobilized during lactation when large amounts of calcium have to be supplied in breast milk. In men, the sex hormone testosterone contributes to muscle and bone building.
If the levels of sex hormones decrease, for example during menopause, bone breakdown predominates.
Vitamin D and the thyroid hormone calcitonin store calcium in the bones. The parathyroid hormone from the parathyroid gland, on the other hand, triggers it – in osteoporosis this regulatory mechanism is disturbed.
The bone material is degraded far beyond the normal extent. The matrix becomes perforated and calcium is not sufficiently stored. As a result, the bone becomes porous, loses its strength and can break more easily. Bone fractures as well as the destruction of the bone structure itself can be very painful.
Causes of osteoporosis
Women are particularly affected by osteoporosis. This is because bone loss after menopause can amount to two to three percent per year; in osteoporosis it is multiplied many times. However, the disease also occurs in men from around the age of 60. In younger men, a major cause is excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol promotes calcium excretion via the kidneys and inhibits bone formation. The decreasing production of sex hormones with age or disease or chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases as well as long-term cortisone medication also play a role. It is noteworthy that many of the men suffering from osteoporosis have elevated blood fat levels, elevated cholesterol levels and, as a result, often high-grade arteriosclerosis. In these cases, bone loss could also be a consequence of blood circulation disorders to the bone.
The key to preventing premature and excessive bone loss is a bone-friendly diet. It can be used to achieve the highest possible bone strength at a young age and later to counteract age-related bone loss. Exercise also plays an important role for stable bones at any age. However, the supply of calcium and vitamin D is as inadequate as physical activity in many areas.
Calcium and vitamin D3
On the one hand, calcium is responsible for bone strength in the body. On the other hand, it serves to maintain nerve and muscle excitability as well as cell regulation. All these functions are controlled by the blood calcium level. When the blood-calcium level drops, the body relies on the calcium in the bones. In order to prevent access to the calcium in the bones, it is important to have an adequate supply of calcium with food. However, it is not the only decisive factor whether enough calcium is taken in with food, but also whether there is plenty of vitamin D3 at the same time. This is because vitamin D3 can increase calcium absorption from the intestine.
In addition to milk and dairy products, other sources of calcium include broccoli, kale, parsley, soybeans, nuts and calcium-rich mineral water.
Since bones are subject to constant transformation processes, it is also understandable that a variety of nutrients are needed to maintain bone health. In addition to the nutrients already mentioned, this also includes the minerals magnesium and zinc as well as vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin K2. Whether the risk of fractures can be reduced by a targeted supply of these micronutrients, however, has not yet been sufficiently clarified. However, since the substances also perform other important functions in the body, they should always be supplied in sufficient quantities.
Protein for muscle and bone mass
Protein in larger amounts promotes calcium excretion via the kidneys. At the same time, however, a slightly increased amount of protein is recommended in old age. This is because many older people eat too little and thus absorb too little protein, among other things. This contributes to the increased loss of muscle and bone mass. The body then not only resorts to the fat deposits, but also to the protein stores – the muscles. The reduction of muscle mass significantly increases the risk of osteoporosis.
The best prevention against osteoporosis is a varied diet appropriate to age, little alcohol, avoid smoking and regular moderate exercise. In addition, body weight naturally plays a decisive role, i.e. reduction of overweight or weight gain in the case of underweight.
With the Metabolic Balance nutrition plan you can specifically address the respective needs and at the same time also the foods are selected according to the tolerability.