Many people have the idea, based on pictures of skeletons, that their bones are hard and stiff and don’t do much besides provide a structural framework for the body. The truth is that within bones is a dynamic powerhouse of metabolic activity not only vital for bone health, but part of a network that regulates body weight, thyroid function, blood sugar metabolism, and circulatory system repair capacity - as well as giving birth to immune cells and red blood cells. In other words, bones are a key part of the entire metabolic system of the human body. Poor bone health has dramatic consequences on overall health far in excess of the risk for weak bones.
Exercise for Bone Health
You may have heard that weight-bearing exercise helps strengthen bones. This is generally true, as long as it is not overdone and there are adequate nutrients to fuel the repair process. Weight-bearing exercise places force vectors through bones, in turn inducing small microscopic cracks in the bone. Such exercise turns on gene signals that stimulate bones to repair themselves by using various nutrients to promote bone growth and optimal bone health.
Conversely, if the bones are not stimulated from use then nutrients are sent elsewhere and bone mass may even be broken down since it is not needed to keep up with current demands. It is metabolically expensive to keep any tissue in place that is not being used, including bones. In your body’s system of economy that means send nutrients elsewhere, even take down “extra” muscle and bone. This is definitely an example of the old phrase – use it or lose it – and explains why fitness is a major determinant of longevity.
Exercise can be overdone, which does not help bone health. Instead, too many micro-cracks in the bone result from too much force or repetitive shocks, leading to excessive bone inflammation and problems. This is why soldiers in basic training or runners may suffer shin splints - too much repetitive damage. Of course, as individuals grow older the rate of recovery from exercise is reduced. Older people should never push too hard when doing strength type exercises or weight training. The goal is to keep putting moderate force through all your bones by doing a variety of activities, thus stimulating the natural process by which bone is formed.
A physically active lifestyle, including bone-stimulating exercises, is essential to maintain bone health and turn on the gene switches that tell your body how to use nutrition to build bone. A diet void of junk food, adequate in calcium and protein, and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is also essential for promoting bone health. To this foundation various dietary supplements can be used to help bolster bones and protect against factors that induce bone wear and tear. There are no short cuts or quick fixes for bone, but there is a clear common-sense path to bone health based on time-tested principles of nutrition. There are also exciting new scientific discoveries that explain more clearly how nutrients can help you keep your bones in good shape.
Bones are in a Constant State of Regeneration
Bones are constantly remodeling themselves. This requires coordination between the demolition crew (osteoclasts) and the new construction crew (osteoblasts). Osteoclasts and osteoblasts are the carpenters of bone
In healthy function, osteoclasts survey the existing bone looking for small micro-cracks (as induced from exercise). Once they find a crack they clean it out by drilling a little hole through it, making room for new bone. Then osteoblasts come along and use raw materials (like calcium, hyaluronic acid, and protein) to fill in the hole with new bone, attaching new bone crystals into their proper place within the existing bone matrix.
During childhood the activity of osteoclasts and osteoblasts is set to a very high pace of both – governed by higher levels of growth hormone active in bones. Once you are finished growing then growth hormone activity declines, and osteoclasts and osteoblasts work together to maintain the current size and strength of your bones for the duration of your life. The normal activity of both osteoclasts and osteoblasts is vital to maintaining strong and healthy bones.
Bones Need Raw Materials
Bones require adequate raw materials or they simply cannot be made with proper strength. How can a carpenter build a house if there are not enough 2 x 4s and plywood (calcium, protein, hyaluronic acid)? The carpenter also needs nails and screws to put things together (vitamin D, vitamin K, Vitamin C, boron, manganese, zinc, silica, strontium). And the carpenters (osteoblasts) need energy to operate and do their work (B vitamins and especially magnesium).
Bone building is a dynamic process requiring many different types of nutrients for optimal function. It is not adequate to take poor quality calcium (calcium carbonate) or poor quality magnesium (magnesium oxide) along with a small amount of vitamin D and think this is going to magically turn into healthy bone. You are more likely to form alarming breast lumps and use up your antioxidants with such a cheap and near-useless approach.
Comprehensive high quality nutrients are the only logical way to properly support bone health. At Wellness Resources our core bone support combination is Daily Bone Xcel and Bone & Joint Helper. Daily Bone Xcel gives you the finest calcium available for building bone.* It also provides a variety of key nutrients needed for bone health (vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, boron, manganese, zinc, silica, strontium).* Bone & Joint Helper is a bone booster product adding more vitamin D, along with various high quality standardized extracts, like CalZBone and 5-Loxin® (boswellia), that have been clinically tested to support healthy bone formation, joint comfort, and improved range of motion.* Higher levels of vitamin D (up to 2000 IU per day), especially in the winter, are needed to support optimal bone function.*
A Startling Bone Breakthrough
It has long been known that bone exists as a matrix of protein mainly in the form of collagen to which minerals are attached. The protein matrix is responsible for the toughness and the minerals are responsible for the stiffness of bone. In order to have strong bones it is vital to have a healthy relationship between the protein matrix and the attached minerals.
Up until the end of 2007 it was taught in all bone biology classes that the minerals were directly attached to protein molecules. U.K. researchers from the University of Cambridge have quietly shocked the entire bone world and opened up a treasure-trove of natural options for individuals to strengthen bone.
In a 2007 study they showed that it was actually sugar molecules that linked the minerals to the collagen-protein matrix. These sugar molecules form the structural blueprint and the adhesive connections that make bone strength possible. This is a dramatic new discovery.
Specifically, the sugar molecules identified by the researchers are called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which means many sugars strung together in repeating units – a type of complex carbohydrate. Using advanced imaging technology, the researchers proved, for the very first time, that these sugar molecules are responsible for the linking attachments between proteins and minerals that enable bone to form. In fact, they are directly responsible for the symmetrical formation of bone that enables bone strength. GAGs are directly responsible for modulating mineral size and crystalline structure.
The most important GAG is called Hyaluronic Acid (HA). It is a combination of two sugars (D-Glucoronic Acid and N-Acetyl-Glucosamine) that form one unit referred to as a disaccharide. One molecule of HA has as many as 10,000 disaccharide units, making it a very large and long molecule. For many years scientists thought this simple long molecule didn’t do much of anything except fill space and provide joint lubrication. Now scientists understand that HA acts as a template to assist in the formation of new body structure. In other words, HA is to the human body what soil is to a crop.
HA is the fundamental GAG, but it is used as a building block to form other types of GAGs that play unique and important roles in different body structures. These other GAGs have an HA spine, and then use sulfur to form more specific GAG structures such as chondroitin sulfate (cartilage), keratin sulfate (cartilage and bone), dermatin sulfate (skin and blood vessels), and heparin sulfate (cell membranes). GAGs are the fundamental alphabet that enables any kind of body tissue to form and have shape.
The new research is groundbreaking as it proves that GAG molecules are the essential glue that not only holds bone together but also guides the formation of a bone’s proper three dimensional integrity and crystalline shape. Without enough GAGs bone crystals form in an unregulated manner resulting in weaker bones.
In practical terms this means that adding Hyaluronic Acid to a basic bone support program of Daily Bone Xcel and Bone & Joint Helper will expand the nutrient support. It also means that other nutrients in the GAG family, including chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and MSM Sulfur, as found in our products like JointAll, Chondroitin Plus, Skin Rejuvenator, and Daily Builder are likely to lend a helping hand by boosting the body’s supply of GAGs.* Such expanded coverage is appropriate for athletes or individuals with wear and tear in joints or connective tissues – as their body’s need general support with nutrients that help promote overall tissue health including bones.*
Another Profound Discovery
One of the major problems in maintaining healthy bones over the course of a lifetime is keeping a proper balance between osteoclasts (the demo crew) and osteoblasts (the new construction crew). Both most act in harmony. In cases of bone-related stress and wear and tear it appears osteoclasts get carried away and osteoblasts take a nap.
An answer to this problem has emerged from the new field of osteoimmunology. And once again, the discovery is of immense importance to any individual concerned about maintaining healthy bones.
This new science shows that macrophages (immune cells) and osteoclasts (the demo crew) come from the same parent cell. Thus, as cells begin to take form from basic stem cells there are options as to what they might become. A key switch has been identified called NFkappaB. If the NFkappaB switch is too active, then too many osteoclasts are made. If the NFkappaB switch is in more normal operation, then osteoclasts are produced at a more optimal level, likely in better balance with its companion, osteoblasts. Once again, this is a revolutionary discovery in bone health.
The NF KappaB switch is actually part of the intelligence of a cell. When it is on too often it means the cell is overheating or inflamed. Stress is a major factor that causes excessive NFkappaB activation. Numerous nutrients interact with the NFkappaB switch, and some have been documented to interact specifically in bone to modulate healthy bone function.
One of the top nutrients in this regard is boswellia serrata. At Wellness Resources we use the finest concentrate of boswellia that is available, known as 5-Loxin®, a main part of our Bone & Joint Helper formula (special boron is also in this formula and may help this issue as well).* Other nutrients proven to lend support in this way are quercetin (a bioflavonoid) and curcumin, which are found in Repair Plus.* A January 2008 study shows that DHA is also in this family of bone support nutrients (as found in Leptinal or our plain DHA product).* Tocotrienols (special vitamin E) are a potent modulator of NFkappaB and have been shown to positively influence the balance of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, as well as being important to normal bone calcification (tocotrienols are in Leptinal and Daily Super E).*
I designed Bone & Joint Helper to specifically take advantage of this new science, knowing well that you could add Repair Plus and/or Leptinal for even more comprehensive coverage, if desired.
The rather simplistic idea that cheap calcium carbonate (gym chalk) and small amounts of vitamin D are all nutrition has to offer for bone health is a joke. Those recommending that level of support as the “natural option” know virtually nothing about nutrition or the emerging science relating to major bone discoveries that can be put to immediate use to support bone health for any person that is interested.
A comprehensive array of high quality nutrients offers the best natural support for bone health. I have designed our Daily Bone Xcel and Bone & Joint Helper to meet this need. Expanding from there you can add Hyaluronic Acid, Repair Plus, and/or Leptinal for a more comprehensive bone plan – keeping in mind that these additional nutrients help many aspects of health in addition to bones. The easiest and most comprehensive approach to bones is to take two Daily Super Packs and two Repair Packs per day.
Nutrients are a wonderful option for supporting bone health. Our bodies are made of nutrients and bones are no exception. Bones need and use nutrients to carry out their normal functions to support many aspects of health, including building and maintaining strong bones. Work with your body the way nature intended. Exercise, a good diet, and nutrient support are a recipe for bone building success.