Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” It is characterized by a decrease of bone density and an increase in the risk of fractures.
Osteoporosis is on an epidemic scale. Ten million Americans suffer from it, thirty four million more have a low bone mass, which is a serious risk factor in developing osteoporosis. A staggering seventy-five million people in the U.S., Asia and Europe are affected by osteoporosis. About one fifth of these are men. Postmenopausal women have the greatest risk, because they can lose up to 20% of their bone mass within seven years following menopause . More than half of Americans, fifty years old and older, may be affected by it at some time in their lives.
The other risk factors are:
A lifetime of low calcium intake
Not meeting the required daily intake of vitamin D and calcium
Too much salt in diet
Increased age (people over 50)
A family history of fractures
A consistently inadequate diet e.g. crash diets, yo-yo diets or eating a large proportion of junk food
Living in the northern hemisphere, with less hours of sunshine
A sedentary lifestyle with little exercise, especially weight bearing exercise
Medications that affect mineral absorption
A low body weight (small frame)
Excessive alcohol drinking
Too much caffeine
Remarkably, osteoporosis is largely preventable and this is due to the progress of scientific understanding of the causes, more efficient diagnosis, and better nutritional treatment. Bones are constantly demineralizing and regenerating themselves. Each year a part of the skeleton is remodeled. This is why it is so important to support the process with a good diet and a good quality calcium supplement. Choosing the right nutrients to build and maintain bone structure is a process that everyone should do throughout their lifetime to ensure that they do not become victims of the growing statistics.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. It is mainly found in bones and teeth, but about 1% is found in soft tissue and the bloodstream, where it plays a crucial role in many enzyme activities, the production of nerve signals and in muscle functioning. The body must maintain its blood level of calcium, and if not enough is absorbed into the bloodstream from food or supplements, calcium is moved from the skeleton to compensate.
Calcium can be quite difficult to absorb. How well it is absorbed into the bloodstream depends on several factors. If natural co-factors such as vitamin D, magnesium and phosphorus are missing, absorption is impaired. Vitamin D’s action in the body allows the gut to become more permeable so that calcium can be absorbed into the bloodstream more easily. Magnesium and phosphorus interact with calcium to an extent where they need to be taken together to enhance calcium function; not least because so many things can actually block calcium uptake. If the diet is mainly acidic with high protein and high sugar intakes, calcium is needed to alkalize the body, and calcium can also be excreted relatively quickly. However, if there is an adequate calcium intake as well, this may counteract the bad effects of a high protein diet. Stress is another negative factor that can deplete magnesium, which is needed to interact with calcium to control nerve and muscle reactions. High alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking have a detrimental effect on calcium levels too.
In the past, calcium supplements just supplied calcium, but it was debatable how much was actually being absorbed. Now, science has found the answer to this problem. Long-chain, indigestible sugars, such as fructose, help to increase the viability of calcium, while not affecting the blood sugar. A fructose bonding system is invaluable to calcium availability. It can give minerals a head start in their difficult journey through the digestive tract to the bloodstream and the skeletal system. The best thing is it helps calcium compete with antagonists such as excess salt, tea, coffee and red wine, which can all individually block its absorption. Carbonated drinks may affect the body’s ability to utilize calcium, but sodas are still a favorite for the majority of children and adults in the industrialized world. It is vitally important that all children are given a good diet and sufficient calcium, because osteoporosis is not just about mineral loss from the bones. When children and teenagers do not have the supply of available minerals to enable them to reach their optimal bone mass by the time they reach adolescence, they are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis later in life.
So far, it is clear that most of the staples of a modern, westernized lifestyle can either deplete calcium or stop it from reaching the bloodstream altogether. And, to add to all this, as the body ages it loses its ability to absorb nutrients from food. Is it any wonder that so many people are falling victim to osteoporosis? To make matters worse, if too much calcium is taken in one dose, the harder it is for the body to absorb it, which means that it needs to be taken in at least two doses throughout the day. A time-release supplement is ideal because it allows calcium to be absorbed over a measured period, this makes it more likely to be used by the body, instead of just being eliminated through the urinary system.
Calcium is an important mineral for other useful functions such as assisting muscle action, keeping the heart healthy, and maintaining an efficient nervous system1. It also plays a role in maintaining the body’s acid/alkaline balance, as well as in blood clotting and other biochemical processes. Apart from bone loss, calcium deficiency can also cause symptoms such as muscle pain, premenstrual cramps, anxiety, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, nervous headaches and indigestion. Researchers have found that a good quality calcium supplement can reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) by as much as 60%. The other good news is that calcium is a fat burner, which means that people with a good intake of calcium are less likely to be carrying excess weight.