Posts Tagged "bone health"

Use it or lose it – more on osteoporosis

Posted by on Jul 15, 2011 in bone health, osteoporosis | 0 comments


Bone health and osteoporosis. Yes, I know I keep writing about it. The reason is simple: you ARE at risk of losing your bone density and strength, especially if you are a woman over the age of 35. And if you are 50 or older? You have as much as a 40% risk of suffering a fracture due to osteoporosis during the rest of your lifetime. Moreover, during the first five years after menopause, women can experience as much as a 30% loss of bone density.

I can’t emphasize it enough. The risk is there. It is inevitable. However, you can reduce your risk a little bit by incorporating the following message into your life:

Use it. Or lose it.

In other words, you need to move.

The latest news out of the esteemed Cochrane Collaboration (an international organization that extensively reviews medical research) is that exercise specifically designed to promote bone growth and preserve existing bone mass, namely the type that places mechanical stress on the body, is necessary.  The newly-published review of 43, scientifically sound (i.e. randomized, controlled studies) is an update of a review that appeared in 2000. Of the 4,320 postmenopausal women included in the reviewed trials:

  • Those who engaged in any form of exercise had slightly less (0.85%) bone loss than women who did not.
  • Those who performed combinations of exercise types, i.e. walking, jogging, dancing, progressive resistance training, vibration platform had, on average, as much as 3.2% less bone loss than those who did not exercise.
  • Non-weight bearing exercise, such as progressive resistance strength training targeting the lower limbs, was shown to slightly preserve bone mineral density at the hip, while the combination of exercise, per above, was most beneficial for slightly preserving bone mineral density at the spine. (Did you know that spine and hip fractures are the most common among women with osteoporosis?)

The conclusions are pretty clear: long periods of inactivity lead to reduced bone mass.However, here is a simple way to mitigate some of this loss, albeit slightly, and even help reduce the costly effects of osteoporosis: Exercise.

The best exercises? Those that stress or mechanically load the bones, meaning the type that make the bones support body weight or resist movement, such as aerobic or strength training, walking, or Tai Chi.

Ultimately, your goal is prevent osteoporosis from occurring in the first place. While some amount of bone loss is part and parcel with aging, resistance training is critical.

Move it or lose it.

Read More

Your bone health: the role of diet

Posted by on Mar 11, 2011 in bone health | 1 comment

Osteoporosis. That scary condition that can result in bone fracture in up to 40% of US women after the age of 50. In the UK, it’s been estimated at least half of women over age fifty will have some sort of osteoporotic fracture. So it’s truly no laughing matter.

I’ve tried to cover osteoporosis extensively since starting Flashfree and you can find many of those posts here. However, I am especially intrigued by novel research that demonstrates that dietary pattern, that is, particular combinations of foods that we eat, may influence bone turnover, a term used to describe the balance between bone formation and bone loss (a process that goes on constantly through our lives) resulting in a net loss or gain in bone tissue. Moreover, dietary pattern may also specifically influence bone resorption, i.e., the process by which cells called osteoclasts break down bone so that minerals (like calcium) can be released into the bloodstream.

The researchers, who studied 3,236 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 59, say that to date, most research has focused on link between specific nutrients and bone health, nutrients such as vitamin D or calcium. However, they point out that most individuals eat a variety of foods the contain combinations of nutrients. Therefore, they believed that there might be value in actually examining how the whole diet and the presence or absence of certain nutrients, affects the skeleton.

Consequently, they took initial body mass index measures, bone mineral density measures, assessed dietary habits by consumption of 98 foods, how often they were consumed and by portion size, and then, based on evaluation of how often these foods were consumed by the participants, further characterized them as the following dietary patterns: “healthy,” “processed,” “bread/butter,” “fish and chips” (the study took place in Scotland!) and “snack food.”

Overall, the women in the study actually consumed a large proportion of fruits and vegetables and on average, at least three cups of tea daily. Bread and potatoes tended to comprise the greatest source (at least percentage-wise) of “energy” to the diet. To a lesser extent, yogurt, cream, fats, oils, biscuits and milk also contributed a substantial amount of energy to the diet. However:

  • Of the five types of dietary patterns, a healthy diet was most associated with better bone health, and specifically, a reduction in bone resorption. Specific foods included fruits and vegetables, white meat, white and oily fish and dairy, all nutrients that have been previously associated with beneficial bone health.This combination of foods also provided adequate protein.
  • Conversely, eating mainly a ‘processed foods’ (i.e. cereal, processed meats, cake, desserts, dried fruits, soup, bread, and fats and oils) diet, and a “snack foods” diet (i.e. candy/cookies, potato chips, sauces) were both associated with reductions in bone mineral density.
  • The results didn’t change when factors, such as whether or not women were taking drugs to fight osteoporosis, were taken into account.

The bottom line is that when it comes to bone health, it’s important to eat healthy, pack your diet with fruits and vegetables, and stay away from junk and processed foods. Focus on foods that are risk in calcium and balanced levels of good protein. Although this may seem intuitive, the findings emphasize that  a poor diet may ultimately result in poor bone health and increase fracture risk as you age.

Time to restock the fridge? No bones about it!

Read More

Dem bones! Isoflavones, S-equol and aging

Posted by on Feb 7, 2011 in bone health | 1 comment

I love it when readers of this blog point me to research that I might have missed or just not stumbled across. That happened a few weeks ago after I wrote a post on soy and safety. By following the links, reader Carol Land directed me to a newly published study on S-equol and bone health.

S-equol is a metabolite of a major soy isoflavone called daidzein. It has a particular affinity for estrogen receptors and possesses some estrogen-type activity of its own. S-equol  is produced in the gastrointestinal tract however the ability to actually manufacture it depends on the presence of certain microflora. Consequently, only 30% to 60% of individuals are actually able to produce S-equol on their own (although this figure is believed to be higher among Asians and vegetarians).

The surge in interest in S-equol is related to its potential for augmenting the benefits of isoflavones; in fact, it is possible that women who are naturally producers of S-equol actually experience greater effects from soy products, and this is especially true when it comes to bone health.

I cannot stress enough the importance of bone health as we age. Declining levels of estrogen are a primary cause of bone loss and resulting osteoporosis in women; indeed, one in five American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis and about half will experience a fracture in the hip, wrist or spine as a result. What’s more, because osteoporosis is silent in its early stages, causing no symptoms, it’s critical that bone loss is halted or at least slowed either before or during the most critical phases strike. There is no time like the present to take preventive measures, even if you are in your 30s and 40s.

Where does S-equol fit in?

For the first time, researchers have shown the daily S-equol supplements taken by women who are not naturally producers of S-equol, may improve bone metabolism and attenuate bone loss!

In this 1 year study of 356 healthy, postmenopausal Japanese women between the ages of 41 and 62, daily intake of 10 mg S-equol via supplement markedly reduced markers of bone resorption in blood and urine compared to women taking placebo pills or 2 mg or 6 mg of S-equol daily. In fact, in women taking the 10 mg dose for a year, declines in a  urinary marker of bone resorption (i.e. DPD) were roughly 21% greater compared to placebo. Measures of whole body bone mineral density also showed that S-equol supplementation protected against bone loss, although not to the extent as bone resorption. These results remained even after changes in height, weight, body mass index, lean and fat mass were accounted for. No participant experienced serious side effects from taking S-equol and hormone levels were not adversely affected.

Does this mean that you should rush out and purchase S-equol supplements?

One of the primary limitations of this study is that the process of bone recycling can take as long as 18 months and the time required to complete a cycle may actually increase with age. Thus, the duration of time that the women were studied might be too short to draw any definitive conclusions. Hence,  you may want to wait before you start taking S-equol. However, the evidence that’s building continues to put the weight on the benefits versus risks side. Only time will tell. Meanwhile – here’s to your bone health. Keep on doing all you can do to keep dem bones.

Read More

Soy. Is it safe?

Posted by on Jan 3, 2011 in diet, herbal medicine, osteoporosis | 0 comments

For years, researchers have been exploring the potential of soy isoflavones — naturally-occurring plant estrogens — for alleviating menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, atrophy and bone loss. Thus far, certain components of soy, including genestein and S-equol have shown the most promise. However, are they safe?  And, as the adoption of soy as a viable alternative to risk-ridden hormone replacement therapy continues to grow, and women turn to supplements rather than food-based soy, is there anything that they need to worry about in terms of side effects?

Researchers recently evaluated this question in a study of 403 postmenopausal women who took  either 80 mg soy tablets, 120 mg soy tablets or placebo tablet daily for  two years. The particular type of soy isoflavones used were hypocotyl isoflavones, which are a byproduct of soy protein and (very rich in daidzein – the second most plentiful isoflavone in soy. The effects of the supplements were measured at the study’s start, at one year and at the end via blood tests and a well-woman examination (i.e. mammogram, pap smear, x-rays to measure bone density). A smaller group of women also had ultrasounds done to determine any possible effects on the lining of the uterus or development of fibroids.

Although the primary goal of the study was to determine the effects of this type of soy supplement on osteoporosis and bone loss, the researchers discovered that taking soy supplements during this time period did not present any major risk to health and did not affect thyroid function. Although one participant developed breast cancer during the study and one, endometrial cancer, 1) utrasounds in the subgroup of women who received them did not show any uterine thickening and 2) the rate of cancer development in this study, only two women over a two year time period, was considerably lower than statistically likely in a general population of women. Both of these factors support the contention that soy isoflavones are not likely to promote either cancers.

So, is soy safe over the long-term? It appears that it is. HOWEVER, bear in mind that the type of soy used in this study is are very different that the type that is commonly sold over the counter, which commonly contain higher percentages of genistein, the most plentiful isoflavone component in soy.

And what about osteoporosis? This particular paper did not address those specific results, although others have. Thus far, the results have been mixed. However, this particular study, better known as OPUS (Osteoporosis Prevention Using Soy)is one of the largest and most comprehensive to date and those findings are likely to come to light soon.

In the interim, if you are going to be taking soy in supplement form, be mindful that your exposure is likely to be as one to four times that a typical Asian diet and as much as 100 times that of a typical Western diet. While these level do not appear to be harmful, herbal and plant medicines are not without risk so as always, the rule of thumb is be vigilant and speak to a health practitioner first.

Read More

The B’s have it – bursting the belly and bones myth

Posted by on Dec 3, 2010 in bone health | 2 comments

When it comes to aging and women, bone health is a big deal. As I’ve written time and again on Flashfree, women are at a particularly high risk for bone loss as they age because of declining estrogen levels, and in turn, a reduced ability to prevent an increase in net bone resorption (i.e. bone loss due to the activity of bone cells). And while we’ve been told that excess body fat actually protects against bone loss, novel research is putting that myth to rest. This news may affect the millions of women who are considered obese based on their body mass index (BMI > 30), who, although at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and joint disease, were at least believed to have a weapon against osteoporosis.

In a small study that was presented at this week’s Radiological Society of North America meeting, an assessment of the abdominal and total fat and bone mineral density of 50 premenopausal women of varying BMI showed surprising results. According to the lead researcher, Dr. Miriam Bredella, “the general consensus has been that increased body fat protects against bone loss and obese women are at decreased risk for developing osteoporosis. However, we found that visceral fat — the deep belly fat — makes bone weaker.” In fact, the researchers found that women with more belly fat had significant declines in their bone mineral density and increases in the degree of fat within their bone marrow, but that total body fat or fat existing right below the skin had little impact on bones.

An important challenge for women is not only that metabolism slows and the risk for obesity increases as we age, but also, a natural increased risk for redistribution of fat to the abdominal area. And unfortunately, it’s one of the most challenging areas to address, requiring significant increases in physical activity and decreases in caloric intake. Some data suggest that isoflavones might help reduce waist circumference as well, although they are hardly definitive at this point. Still, a word to the wise: that belly fat is not going to protect your bones. Time to start moving and eating correctly; your bones will thank you.

Read More