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    Archive for the ‘bone health’ Category

    Beyond Milk: There’s Much More To Bone Health than Calcium and Vitamin D

    Those of you who follow me on Twitter (or read my tidbits on Facebook regularly) know my stance on milk — yes, it is a good source of calcium and vitamin D (though, remember, milk in the US contains vitamin D because it is mandated by law; in many other countries, milk is devoid of the sunshine vitamin), but not the best source; it also lacks many nutrients that are crucial for healthy bones.

    Too often, conversations and debates on the nutritional “worth” of milk turn into a “cows” versus “soybeans” face-off or, if it’s slightly more advanced, “cows” versus all the available milk alternatives (soy, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and hazelnut).

    As far as calcium is concerned, fortified foods and beverages contain calcium that is just as absorbable as — and in some cases, more absorbable than — the calcium in milk.  In other words — the added calcium in soy or almond milk is just as good for your bones as the one in cow’s milk (or any other animal’s milk, for that matter).

    Unlike the vast majority of nutrients, which only work effectively within their respective food matrices (i.e.: vitamin E, which needs to work with other antioxidants that are present in the foods it is in to do its job properly), calcium’s health benefits are equally derived from food or supplementation.

    Vitamin D is fortified in dairy and non-dairy milks.  Besides, in order to consume the high amounts we now know are needed for overall health (not just bone health), supplementation is a must.

    In order to truly tackle the topic of bone health, though, we need to go beyond the calcium and vitamin D content of milk and its vegan analogues and instead identify all the nutrients that play important roles in bone health.  In doing so, we find that milk is far from the king of the bone health hill.

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    In The News: Beer for Bones?

    2111The hot topic of the moment buzzed about by nutritionists and late-night comedians alike comes courtesy of a study conducted by the Department of Food Science & Technology at the University of California, Davis published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

    The study’s conclusion? “Beer is a significant source of dietary silicon, a key ingredient for increasing bone mineral density.”

    As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I have no strong feelings about the research.

    For the record — my lack of interest in alcoholic beverages is solely a matter of disliking alcohol’s flavor.  For whatever reason, when some people hear me say I don’t drink alcohol, they almost expect me to go on a 30-minute monologue about why everyone should avoid it if they are about their health or why my moral compass disagrees with such a substance.

    Back to the study.  The mainstream media — of course — had more fun with this than a housecat in a room full of mice.  Awkward puns graced headlines, practically anointing beer as a recommended beverage (“by scientists!”, no less) against osteoporosis.

    It is true that adequate intakes of silicon are necessary for bone growth and maintenance.  And, yes, beer is indeed a good source of silicon.

    However, everyone who eats a varied diet — especially one high in whole, unprocessed foods — is getting more than sufficient amounts of silicon.  Remember, too, that bone health involves many nutrients — mainly calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus.

    It is precisely those four nutrients that many people do not get enough of!  Having an extra beer every day isn’t going to do much good for your bones if your vitamin D and magnesium intake doesn’t meet the recommended amounts.

    The study is certainly interesting — and accurate — but “beer is good for osteoporosis” claims blindly jump from point A to point Z — and fall flat on their face halfway through.

    Remember: no one food is “good for” a condition.  It is general dietary patterns that provide you with a good amounts of various nutrients that are helpful.  I know, that line of thinking is not going to sell millions of books, but at least I’m being completely truthful.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Depression & Vitamin D

    I just got my blood labs done to test for vitamin D deficiency.

    My doctor said that my recent depression symptoms and joint pain could be resulting from that.

    I knew about rickets and vitamin D deficiency in children, but what is this chronic pain/fatigue/depression stuff in adults?

    How does vitamin D deficiency play a role in that?

    – Christine (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Thanks to more funding — which means more research — we are finally getting a glimpse at all of Vitamin D’s important functions.

    Many people don’t realize that the term “vitamin” isn’t even 100 years old (that anniversary will occur in 2012).

    Vitamin D, meanwhile, wasn’t discovered until 1922.

    In any case, recent research on vitamin D status, depression, and joint pain appears promising (more studies are needed before any of this can be established as fact, though).

    As far as depression is concerned, this is the reasoning:

    * Blood samples of individuals experiencing clinical depression show lower levels of
    25-hydroxyvitamin D (the active form of vitamin D measured in blood).

    * The brain contains vitamin D receptors, which vitamin D uses in the synthesis of vital peptides and compounds.

    * Recent studies on individuals suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) concluded that those who supplemented 600 International Units of vitamin D reported feeling better more quickly than those who did not supplement. It is worth noting that neither group used special UV lamps for the study.

    This is not to say that vitamin D “cures” depression. The current line of thinking is that low vitamin D status can exacerbate some types of depression, and that correcting this inadequacy may be one factor than can help speed up recovery.

    As for the second half of your question — since Vitamin D is tightly linked with calcium and phosphorus in bone metabolism, it only makes sense that inadequate levels could have an effect on joints.

    The latest studies theorize that deficiencies of vitamin D make it more difficult for the body to repair cartilage and joint damage from arthritis.

    I completely side with scientists and researchers who recommend daily supplementation of 2,000 International Units of vitamin D for the following groups of people:

    * Dark-skinned individuals
    * Adults over the age of 65
    * Anyone living north of Atlanta (from October to April)
    * Anyone with limited sun exposure

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    Numbers Game: Critical Point

    ____ percent of peak bone mass (the period by which all bone formation occurs) is achieved by age 20.

    a) 73 – 79
    b) 92 – 98

    c) 81 – 87

    d) 100

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer (and to find out how this ties into osteoporosis and fracture risk).

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    Another Dark Side of Lighting Up

    Many discussions on the health effects of cigarette smoking leave out a very important fact — it can speed up the development of osteoporosis.

    Several studies — here is one example — have found a link between cigarette consumption and decreased bone density.

    Although one could argue that it may be behaviors and lifestyle choices common in smokers (i.e.: lack of physical activity) and not cigarettes themselves that may be the actual cause, there is no denying that smoking in and itself has a detrimental effect on bone health.

    Nicotine, for example, inhibits calcitonin, a hormone that inhibits the dissolution of bone tissue.

    Additionally, the massive amounts of free radicals created by smoking decrease levels of estrogen, consequently accelerating bone loss in women.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin K

    What does Vitamin K do? What foods is it in?

    – Name Withheld
    Brooklyn, NY

    You kind of have to feel sorry for Vitamin K. It appears to be the least popular vitamin, and many people don’t even appear interested in getting to know it better.

    If Vitamin D is the life of the party, Vitamin K is standing by the punchbowl, futilely attempting to make small talk with other guests.

    I would definitely suggest being familiar with it, though, since this nutrient plays a very important role in blood clotting and bone density.

    You may wonder why its blood clotting properties are perceived as beneficial, particularly when one of the outed benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids is their blood thinning properties.

    We come back to the ever-present ideal of balance.

    Over-thinning of the blood is problematic, as it increases the risk of internal bleeding.

    Additionally, without blood clotting factors, something a small cut could result in excessive blood loss.

    Vitamin K helps with bone density by regulating calcitonin, a protein that locks calcium in the bone matrix, thereby making it more difficult for cells known as osteoclasts from breaking it down.

    If osteoclasts are more active than osteoblasts (which help create new bone tissue), your risk of osteoporisis increases significantly.

    What’s interesting about this nutrient is that we get it two different ways.

    K2, the more biologically active form, is synthesized by beneficial bacteria in our intestinal tract.

    Since babies start off with bacteria-free intestines, they are given a Vitamin K shot within hours of being born.

    The plant form — K1 — is found abundantly in leafy green vegetables. Although our intestinal bacteria produce some Vitamin K, we still need to get some from our diet.

    A mere half cup of steamed kale, spinach, and collard greens each pack in six times the Daily Value!

    A single cup of raw romaine lettuce provides three quarters of a day’s worth.

    Anyone who has ever been on blood-thinning medication (i.e.: warfarin, more commonly known as Coumadin) has been told to be mindful of their Vitamin K intake so as to prevent unwanted drug-nutrient interactions.

    Here’s why.

    Warfarin, an anticoagulant, decreases clotting (this is why it is mostly prescribed to heart disease patients.)

    A lot of people inaccurately think that the best thing to do when put on warfarin is completely eliminate Vitamin K from the diet.

    Not so! The key is to keep vitamin K intake consistent.

    Suddenly increasing Vitamin K consumption renders Coumadin ineffective, whereas decreasing it too much in a short amount of time will overly thin the blood.

    Remember, too, that antibiotics kill all flora in the gut — the negative AND positive bacteria (this includes the one that produces Vitamin K.)

    Therefore, when on antibiotics, do not drastically alter your Vitamin K intake.

    A clinical dietitian I know at New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital recently told a most interesting anecdote about a patient who was put on coumadin.

    A dietary recall revealed that her diet was very high in Vitamin K. Not a problem, but definitely important in the scheme of things.

    Soon thereafter, she fell very ill, to the point where she stopped eating. Mind you, she was still on Coumadin.

    In other words, her vitamin K drastically decreased (from about 1200% of the Daily Value a day to absolutely nothing).

    To counteract the illness, she was given antibiotics (remember, she is still on Coumadin).

    The antiobiotics wiped out gut flora.

    So, she now had a high Coumadin dose (based on her standard Vitamin K intake) but no Vitamin K from her diet OR her intestinal tract.

    Not surprisingly, she bled internally and had to be rushed into surgery.

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