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Preventing Degenerative Disease - Arthritis/Osteoporosis
Nutrients and how they aid in the fight against osteoporosis.

Prevention of Osteoporosis - Dr. Ray Strand

I promise you this: you do not want to get osteoporosis. I have treated several patients suffering from severe cases. It is a debilitating, painful disease. They seem to suffer continual fractures of the spine and are in extreme pain for long periods of time. As I've mapped out, osteoporosis is not simply a disease arising from a lack of calcium and estrogen. Our bodies need multiple nutrients for bone remodeling and the production of good healthy bone.

We also need to control our oxidative stress. Recent studies demonstrate that people with decreased bone density have increased oxidative stress. So you not only want to supplement with these important nutrients needed for bone production, but also take all of the antioxidants and supporting nutrients to build up your antioxidant defense system.

I encourage all my patients, both women and men, preferably before they reach forty years of age, to begin supplementation with a high-quality antioxidant and mineral tablets along with additional amounts of calcium, magnesium, boron, and silicon. It is critical for adults also to eat a healthy diet and develop a modest exercise program. Weight-bearing exercises need to be part of the program as they are a necessary component in stimulating the body to make more bone. Walking may help the lower legs but does very little for the back and hips; upper body weight resistance exercises such as lifting weights over your head are critical to anyone who is trying to protect herself or himself from this devastating disease.

Even when my menopausal patients find out they have evidence of early thinning of the bone, called osteoperlia, they usually find that they can improve their bone density with this same program. I postpone prescribing drugs like Fosomax, Actonel, Evista, or Calcitonin in this situation if my patients are willing to make some lifestyle changes: taking these high-quality supplements, along with eating an improved diet and using a weight-bearing exercise program.

I follow these patients closely by repeating their DEXA (bone density) scan in one year. If they are stable or improving, I keep them on their program and continue to follow them closely. If they experience more thinning of their bones, I will start them on one of these newer drugs.

The key to both preventing arthritis and osteoporosis is cellular nutrition. I have presented several individual nutrients here to give you a glimpse of what the medical literature is telling us about their importance.

As you've seen, preventing these potentially crippling conditions is not simply a matter of boosting a calcium or estrogen deficiency. This is just one more area in which nutritional supplements work with your body to maintain the health you have or regain that which you have lost.

Let's take a look at each nutrient and how it aids in the fight against osteoporosis.


There is no doubt that calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis. But studies show skeletal calcium depletion in only 25 percent of postmenopausal women. Indeed, calcium supplements in these women did seem to increase bone mass, but the supplements had no effect on the other 75 percent who were not calcium deficient. Recent studies of calcium and vitamin D supplementation present a slowing down of osteoporosis but in no way demonstrate that supplementation prevented it. These studies have also shown a reduction in fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist." In other words calcium is helpful, but it isn't the answer.

Calcium is an essential nutrient in the fight against osteoporosis. Both men and women should take supplements of 800-1,500 mg daily, depending on the amount of calcium they are getting in their diet. People more consistently absorb calcium citrate than calcium carbonate; but when taken with food and good levels of vitamin D, the absorption level is quite similar. Whatever form of calcium you take, you should consume it with food for optimal absorption.

Be advised that children also need this level of supplementation. In fact studies prove that children who take 800-1,200 mg of calcium daily prior to puberty will increase their bone density by 5-7 percent. This finding is significant because this increase in their bone density will carry over as they develop into young adults and throughout their lifetimes.13


Magnesium is important in several biochemical reactions that take place within the bone. Magnesium activates alkaline phosphatase, which is a required enzyme in the process of forming new bone crystals. And vitamin D needs magnesium to convert to its most active form. If there is a deficiency in magnesium, it can lead to a syndrome of vitamin D resistance.

Dietary surveys have shown 80 to 85 percent of Americans consume a magnesium-deficient diet.'4

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is typically produced in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. But as you know, with age people tend to spend less time in the sun, and vitamin D deficiencies become very common.

We also take in vitamin D orally via fort)fied foods and milk, but it must then be converted to its biologically active form, vitamin D3. Often the impaired conversion of vitamin D to vitamin D3 may be more of a problem than deficient intake. This is why I recommend supplementation of vitamin D by using the active form, D3.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported a study in which researchers looked at the level of vitamin D in 290 consecutive patients admitted to the medical ward of Massachusetts General Hospital. These were patients who had been normally active and were not admitted from a nursing home. Hospital staff checked their vitamin D levels and found that 93 percent were deficient. Surprisingly, those patients who were taking a multiple vitamin were also deficient in their vitamin D levels 93 percent of the time. This finding is critical when you realize that you don't absorb any calcium without vitamin D!

The study concluded by stating that everyone should be taking vitamin D supplements and at a level significantly higher than the recommended daily allowance. In fact the researchers concluded that supplementing with 500-800 IU of vitamin D daily is critical if we are going to have any effect on the epidemic of osteoporosis.'5 And remember-you will absorb calcium much better if you take it along with vitamin D and food.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is required to synthesize osteocalcin, a protein found in large quantities within the bone. It is therefore critical in bone formation, remodeling, and repair. In a clinical trial supplementing vitamin K in patients with osteoporosis reduced urinary calcium loss by 18 to 50 percent. This means vitamin K helps the body absorb and retain calcium rather than excrete it.'6


Manganese is necessary for the synthesis of connective tissue in cartilage and bone. Like magnesium, manganese is lost in the processing of whole grains into refined flour. A study of osteoporotic women showed their manganese levels were only 25 percent of those of the women in the control group.'7 This nutrient also needs to be present at optimal levels if you have any desire to prevent osteoporosis.

Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12

Does this combination sound familiar? It should. Homocysteine (see Chapter 6) is not only bad for your blood vessels, but it is also bad for your bones. Individuals with severe elevations of homocysteine have been found to have sign)ficant osteoporosis as well.

Interestingly, premenopausal women have greater efficiency in breaking down methionine and thus have little buildup of homocysteine. This changes dramatically after menopause. Postmenopausal women have much higher levels of homocysteine. Could this explain in part both the increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women?'8 The fact remains these women need higher amounts of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.


Boron is an interesting nutrient when it comes to bone metabolism. When study subjects took boron in supplementation, the urinary excretion of calcium decreased by approximately 40 percent. Boron also increases magnesium concentrations and decreases phosphorous levels.'19 Supplementation with 3 mg daily of boron is more than adequate.


Silicon is important because of its ability to strengthen the connective tissue matrix, which strengthens bone. Patients with osteoporosis, in whom the generation of new bone is desirable, need increased amounts of silicon.


This mineral is essential for the normal functioning of vitamin D. Low serum zinc levels were found in the serum and bones of patients with osteoporosis.20

"What Your Doctor Doesn't Know About Nutritional Medicine May Be Killing You."
Dr. Ray Strand