Today we are living longer and we want to enjoy our independence and live an active life much longer than past generations, too. To do this you need strong bones and you need them to stay healthy and strong your entire life, not just for pleasure, but also for protection. When you are older, the consequences of weak bones can strip away your independence in the blink of an eye. They can even be deadly.
Strong bones protect your heart, lungs, and brain from injury. And your bones become a warehouse for important minerals that you need throughout your life. Your bones also house and protect your bone marrow where white blood cells develop. So taking good care of your bones, starting from an early age, involves three major steps:
- Awareness of the ” Silent Thief” – How can so many people be at risk without them realising it?
- Physical activity and the proper exercises – For increasing or maintaining bone and muscle mass, balance, and co-ordination.
- Dietary changes to improve your bone health, including clearing up some of the myths surrounding supplements and nutrients.
How the “Silent Thief” Can Escape Detection – Even for Years
Bone is a living substance that contains blood vessels, nerves, and cells. There are two types of cells which control your bone structure:
- Osteoblasts – cells that build your bones
- Osteoclasts – cells that break down old or damaged bone to make room for new bone
Osteoblasts produce a protein called osteocalcin that strengthens your skeleton. Very simply, as long as the bone-forming activity, called absorption, is greater than bone breakdown, called resorption, essentially you are more or less assured of maintaining healthy bones.
Ideally, you want to start giving your bones the care they need as early in life as possible. The foundation for strong bones starts at a very young age. Your ‚”bone growth” stage stretches from birth until about age 30. Then you enter the normal age-related bone mineral loss period that continues for the rest of your life.
If not given the right kind of care, bones can begin to weaken early in life. It is a quiet, symptom-less process that steals away your bones. You can not feel it happening, at least not in the early stages; hence the name “silent thief”
Then, for women, your normal bone loss accelerates during and after menopause for about five to seven years before returning to the slightly slower rate that men experience. You can lose as much as 35 % of your bone density during those few, short years.
Are These Silent Thief “Helpers” Working Behind Your Back?
Many people have weak bones and don’t even know it. Here are some of the most common bone health antagonists that you may not be aware of:
- Statin Drugs: Many people take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Statins interfere with vitamin K2’s bone-building functions in your body and increase your risk of deficiency.
- Antidepressants: Many antidepressant drugs act by altering your serotonin levels and can therefore lower your bone density, according to a recent review of current evidence.
- Osteoporosis Drugs: Contrary to what you may have been told, most osteoporosis drugs actually weaken your bones. Bisphosphonate bone drugs impact your normal bone repair process by killing off your osteoclasts, and do make your bones denser, but because the osteoclasts are killed the bone is actually weaker as it is not re-modelled properly.
- Undiagnosed Gluten Intolerance: Could the grains you are eating be contributing to less-than-optimal bone health? If you have undiagnosed gluten intolerance, you may not be absorbing the nutrients you need for bone health. When study subjects followed a gluten-free diet for one year, their bone density improved.
- Smoking and Drinking: Smoking increases your rate of bone loss and consuming more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium, slowing new bone formation.
- Soft Drinks – Animal studies show that phosphorus in soft drinks weakens your bones by promoting the loss of calcium, with diet versions, possibly even be worse. Researchers found that human parathyroid hormone concentrations rose strongly following diet soda consumption, leading to a greater release of calcium from bone.
That said, you are never too young, or too old to support your bone health. As you will see coming up, there‚ is much you can do to help keep your bones strong or help strengthen them if they are not as strong as you would like them to be.
Exercise: An Essential Key to Healthy, Strong Bones
Healthy bones are porous and soft, and as you age, they can easily become less dense and more brittle. Especially if you don’t get the right kinds of exercise. Because bone is living tissue, it requires regular physical activity to renew and rebuild itself. Whenever you jump, run, or lift a weight, the stress of your muscles on your bones signals to your body to add new cells to strengthen your bones.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report – Physical Activity and Health: A Surgeon General’s Report – healthy individuals should do:
- A minimum of 30 minutes of weight bearing physical activity of moderate intensity on most days of the week (if not daily)
- Strength training at least two times a week.
Weight bearing exercises i.e. activities that force you to work against gravity strengthen bone by stimulating the bone-building cells, osteoblasts. A good exercise to include in your routine is a walking lunge. This helps build bone density in your hips, even without additional weights.
Lifting weights, using resistance bands, and yoga all help build bone density and strength. Other weight-bearing activities include brisk walking, tennis, kickboxing, jogging, climbing stairs, hiking, and dancing. Even if you are not able to do these exercises, walking regularly is highly beneficial.
The stronger your muscles, the better your balance and coordination. That is vitally important, especially as you age. Of course, always consider your current physical condition and obtain your doctor’s consent before starting any new type of exercise program.
The Intricate Dance Between Bone-Building Nutrients
In addition to the right kinds of physical activity, healthy bones and bone building require balancing four major nutrients: Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, and Magnesium.
The functions of these four nutrients are entwined and depend on each other for strength – much like a twisting grapevine.
Just as you cannot untangle a grapevine without wrecking its strength, you cannot separate out one nutrient without affecting the actions of the others. For example:
Vitamin D maintains skeletal calcium balance by promoting calcium absorption in your intestines.
Calcium and phosphate depend upon Vitamin D for bone formation.
Vitamin K2 helps to cement the calcium you absorb into the bone matrix rather than depositing it on the inside of your blood vessels leading to atherosclerosis.
Magnesium is an important mineral that your body needs to build a strong bone matrix.
Imagine the effects on your bones if one of these nutrients is missing, or not present in the right amount! And that’s the thing, this can be happening in your bones for years without you even knowing it is going on.
Calcium: Your Bone’s Best Friend (Most of the Time)
Healthy bones require plenty of bone-building nutrients, and ideally your bones get many of these nutrients from the foods you eat. Our diets have changed over the years to ones that are heavy in meat and grains, which are naturally low in calcium. And they can have an acidic effect on your body if eaten in excess.
Your body will always do what it must to maintain a balanced pH. When your body becomes too acidic, it releases minerals, including calcium from your bones and teeth. However, eating too little protein can be just as bad. Protein deficiency interferes with calcium absorption in your intestines. On the other hand, dark, green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium and they have an alkalising effect on your body; two important reasons to eat plenty of fresh leafy green vegetables! Remember, the balance of bone-building nutrients is key.
Dr Mercola recommends you get your calcium from healthy food sources such as sesame seeds, sardines, spinach, almonds, bro coli and collard greens. Some high-calcium foods also contain naturally high amounts of vitamin K2, such as fermented cheeses and butter from pastured cows. When choosing dairy, look for products made from raw, hormone-free, unpasteurised milk.
Vitamins D3 and K2? Not Quite so Easy!
When it comes to vitamins D3 and K2, it is more challenging to find good food sources. The best source of vitamin D, of course, is exposure to sunlight. Most people may need as little as 15 to 20 minutes of noontime exposure each day on enough exposed skin to maintain serum vitamin D levels in the ideal range.
However, many, if not most people in the UK are vitamin D deficient because they don’t receive enough healthy sun exposure. And if you are 50 or older, your skin may not produce as much vitamin D in response to sunlight. In these situations, it is recommended taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement. Check your serum vitamin D levels regularly to make sure they remain in the optimal range of 50 to 70 ng/ml.
Vitamin K is available as either K1 or K2. While vitamin K1, found in green vegetables is important for your health, it does not build your bones significantly. Only vitamin K2 does that.
Here is the challenge; if you don’t regularly eat large amounts of grass-fed organic animal products like egg yolks, butter, and fermented dairy, fermented vegetables, or natto, you need to be confident that you are not vitamin K2 deficient.
Sadly, unlike vitamin D, there is no blood test you can get to test for vitamin K2 yet. So, the only practical way to know if you need vitamin K2 is to look at the sources in your diet, add them up and make sure you are getting at least 180 mcg of vitamin K2 every day.
The Problem With Most Bone Health Supplements
The average person considers calcium the “darling” of bone health, but is it really? Whilst calcium is certainly important for your bone health, relying on it too much, or the wrong types, may be risky for your health.
Many experts believe most bone health issues today aren’t due to insufficient calcium. Rather, it is a lack of the other nutrients, vitamins K2 and D, and magnesium, that may be putting people’s bone health at risk.
The balance of bone-building nutrients is what truly matters. Too much calcium, or calcium without its other co-nutrients can be hazardous to your health, especially for your heart and arterial health.
Calcium can end up in the wrong places in your body especially if taken without vitamin K2.
The type of calcium you take also makes a difference. Do ground up rocks sound appetising to you? You may not realise it, but the calcium used in most supplements comes from mined limestone or oyster shells. On product labels, if the source isn’t specified, the ingredients are most likely different forms of inexpensive-to-mine rock calcium! Calcium already can be a tough mineral to absorb, with estimates for some ranging as low as 20%.
We were never intended to eat rocks, or oyster shells; so why would you want to get your calcium from them? It is much better to get them from whole food sources.
In addition to knowing how well your body can use calcium, there is something else you need to watch out for with calcium supplements.
Is Your Calcium Supplement Causing You to Overdose on Lead and Aluminum?
Over a decade ago, a university research team performed an analysis on over-the-counter calcium supplements after reports of excessive lead contamination surfaced. Their findings?
- Four of the 7 so-called ‚”natural calcium” formulations from oyster shell and other natural sources had measurable or excessive lead content
- Four of the 14 refined calcium formulations had similar lead content, including some brand name products from major pharmaceutical companies
Fast-forward ten years, instead of the situation of calcium contamination improving due to public awareness, it is actually got worse. A different group of independent researchers recently tested 27 commonly used calcium supplements for lead content. Now, lead is almost always found associated with calcium, and indeed, lead is naturally found with calcium. But it is excessive levels of lead that is the big concern.
Surprisingly, only 10 % of the supplements met the U.S. acceptable daily lead limit. Nine out of 10 calcium supplements tested did not meet the “safe” limits for lead. They contained excessive lead. And the highest amounts of lead were found in chelated calcium supplements, a popular choice among health-conscious shoppers.
Lead contamination isn’t your only concern. Aluminum has also been found in calcium carbonate supplements labelled “oyster shell” or ‚”natural source” and some imported calcium supplements tested positive for lead, aluminum, cadmium, and mercury!
So, when it comes to buying calcium supplements, know where it came from, its source, its bio-availability, and who made it. That bargain bottle of calcium may not provide what your body needs or the safe product you expect!
An Extra Boost to Help Bring the “Silent Thief” to Its Knees
Not to worry because we have come up with what is believed is the ideal combination for supporting your bone health, no matter if you are 35 or 65.
Mercola’s Calcium with Vitamins D3 and K2 is a daily supplement that provides balanced ratios of calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin K2. In fact, we have increased the levels of vitamin D3 and K2 to match the most recent recommendations.
Magnesium is important for bone health, so why did we leave it out? Adding magnesium to this supplement would have made the capsules too large for some people to comfortably swallow. Therefore it is recommended that you take Mercola’s Calcium supplement in conjunction with Dr Mercola’s Magnesium supplement for optimal benefits.
Absorption Matters, Especially If You are 50 or Over
As you age, your need for bone health support increases. Age-related factors increasingly work against your body’s ability to utilise nutrients and protect important organ functions:
- Your skin produces less vitamin D in response to sunlight
- The pH in your jejunum, or the middle portion of your small intestine, starts to drop, hindering absorption of calcium
- Your ability to activate vitamin K2-activated proteins that regulate calcium decreases
- Your absorption of magnesium decreases with age
- The increased use of certain medications can result in magnesium deficiency
Mercola’s Calcium with Vitamins D3 and K2 provides its nutrients in advanced forms for maximum absorption and superior bioavailability, far exceeding what you will find in many other bone health formulas.
And no matter your age, absorption and bioavailability matter.
One of Nature’s Purest and Most Absorbable Forms of Calcium
Remember, where your calcium comes from is vitally important for purity and your body‚’s usability. Eggshell calcium was chosen, from Certified Organic eggshell, for the Calcium with Vitamins D3 and K2 for a number of reasons:
- Eggshells are a 100% natural and sustainable whole food source
- Contains naturally occurring transport proteins for maximum absorption and bioavailability
- Includes other important essential trace minerals naturally found in eggshell for bone building support
- High elemental calcium allows for a smaller dose, which may be healthier for your heart
- Far lower lead content than other natural calcium sources
- Multiple human clinical trials have shown the effectiveness of eggshell calcium in supporting bone mineral density
- Non-chemical, eco-friendly manufacturing process in an FDA regulated GMP facility
- Ultra-refined eggshell calcium promotes digestive comfort, unlike some other calcium formulas
A calcium supplement should support your health, not put it at additional risk because of potentially dangerous additives or levels of toxic metals.
Calcium Alone cannot get the job done – you also need K2
Calcium from the right source and in the right amounts are essential for bone health, but you must have vitamin K2 to help take the calcium out of the lining of your arteries and guide it back into your bones where it belongs.
There are several different forms of vitamin K2: MK4, MK7, MK8, and MK9 and each has its own unique ability to reach certain tissues in your body.
Dietary supplements mostly use synthetic vitamin K2 as menaquinone-4 (MK-4), or natural vitamin K2 as menaquinone-7 (MK-7).
MK-7, the form you find in natto (typically fermented soy beans) is especially valuable in that it:
- Is natural, not synthetic, and completely absorbed because of its high bioavailability
- Has a long half-life allowing once a day dosing
Dr Mercola has chosen to go the extra mile and avoid the synthetic MK-4 form of vitamin K2 that needs to be taken three times a day. Instead the advanced form of MK-7, MenaQ7 has been chosen, which is sourced from natto made with fermented chickpea not soy, as is most commonly available in the market.
MenaQ7 is a patented and clinically supported vitamin K2 which helps to:
- Maintain or increase bone density and strength
- Support optimum calcium absorption and utilisation
- Promote normal blood clotting
- Support the development of healthy, flexible arteries for cardiovascular health
With MenaQ7, you also get the convenience of only once a day dosing, unlike with other forms.
5 Good Reasons to Take Control of Your Bone Health
- You want to live a long, active life and enjoy the activities you love into old age
- You want to maintain your independence as long as you can, and that is largely dependent on having strong, dense bones
- You need strong, dense bones to protect against falls and other bodily and organ injury
- Healthy, strong bones are like nutrient insurance. Strong, dense bones are a life-long storehouse for important minerals
- Taking care of your bones may help you maintain a sharp, clear mind. In a study of 987 men and women, those with the lowest bone mass measurements were more than twice as likely to develop cognitive impairment than those with stronger bones.
You may not know if the “silent thief” is busy at work inside your body right now. Tragically, the only way many people discover their bone mineral density isn’t what they want it to be is when a bone breaks. So don’t wait for this to happen.