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April 27, 2016
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors, Registered Nurses, Certified trainers and other
members of our Editorial Board.]

Don’t look now but we are in the middle of an epidemic of
brittle bones. Between 40% and 50% of all women over 65
will suffer a bone fracture, according to the Centers for
Disease Control.  More alarmingly, a battalion of medications
thrown at the problem over the past 3 decades --- Fosomax,
Actonel, Boniva and the rest --- appears to have done little
to halt the decline in bone health, a new study has found.

This 2015 study was led by Dr. Teppo LN Järvinen of the
University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central Hospital
in Finland and Dr. Karl Michaëlsson of Uppsala University in  
Sweden  took on the Herculean task of analysing 33 other
studies on the effects of existing drugs on osteoporosis, the
disease of thinning bones.

What the doctors found practically set the hair of the drug
industry on fire --- currently prescribed drugs had little to
zero effect on the rates of bones fractures caused by

This was true, despite these drugs having sold billions of
dollars since their introduction in the 1980’s.  It was, the
doctors concluded, a classic case of over-marketing of drugs.
Specifically, they charge that the definition of the disease has
been manipulated to sweep in more people, and thus make
them eligible candidates for drug therapies. Before 1994,
osteoporosis was determined to exist only after a bone
fracture. After 1994, a new definition was introduced
allowing doctors to diagnose the existence of osteoporosis
when a patient had “low bone mineral density”. As a result
of this definition change, 75% of all white women in the US
were then included as potential new candidates for drug

The industry is being accused in this landmark study of
having artificially expanded the market for new clients for
the drugs they manufacture.

Given the lack of compelling evidence --indeed any evidence
--that the drugs made any difference to women with brittle
or thinning bones, what are we to do?  Fortunately, there
are natural remedies, used for centuries before the advent of
bone drug therapy, which are indeed helpful in reducing dry
or brittle bones.

But first, let's take a look at why bones become brittle in the
first place.

Time Tries to Turn Us Into a Sack of Dry Bones

You begin to lose bone mass early. The career of your bone
growth starts at birth. Between the time you are born and
the time you begin puberty, your bones get heavier and
heavier, stronger and stronger, adding more and more
density.  You reach a peak bone density around the end of

Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there. From that point
on, we are hanging on to what we have rather than
increasing bone density.

Your bone mineral density is determined by a combination of
genetics, calcium intake, physical activities, and your Vitamin
D status, according to many studies, including a 2001 study
from Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn New York.  This
study found shockingly low levels of bone mineral density
among Orthodox Jewish teenage boys, even lower than girls
of comparable age. The study speculates that the tradition in
this faith practice of not drinking milk for 6 hours after
eating meat significantly impaired the ability of the boys to
get enough calcium. The study also observed that the
tradition of "modest dress" covering much of the body,
reduced the amount of skin exposed to the sun, with blocked
the production of Vitamin D.

Similar findings were reached in a study of 321 young
health, Saudi women living in Saudi Arabia, , who were
compared to women who live in the United States. This
study, in 1999, from King Faisal Specialist Hospital Centre.
The study found that young Saudi women have significantly
lower bone mineral densities than similarly aged women in
the United States.

Your Vitamin D Status Is Key to Avoiding Brittle Bones

Most of us in the US and Canada have low Vitamin D levels,m
according to a 2009 study from McGill University Health
Center, McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

In fact, 59% of 16 to 22 year old women in California ---
sunny California, no less --- have insufficient levels of
Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D), the scientists found.

Of course, most of us don't live in sunny California or Florida
and thus, our Vitamin D levels may be even worse than those
of the young women in this study.

Without further delay, here are the Top 7 natural remedies
to help you avoid dry, brittle bones:

Bones Need Water - Drink Much More

Much is made of the types of foods we should eat to
strengthen our bones. But left out of the discussion is one of
the key components of bone---water.

Your bones are made up of 31% water, according to the US
Geological Survey Water Science School.

Dehydration significant weakens your bones, according to a
2006 study led by Dr. Jeffry Nyman of the University of
Texas at San Antonio. Dr. Nyman and colleagues discovered
that dehydrated bones have less strength and "plasticity".  
Dehydration leads to stiffer bones also, the scientists found.
Fully hydrated bones are "tougher", and thus more able to
resist fracture, according to this study.

Water chemically interacts with the collagen and the minerals
in your bones. There are in fact two types of water found in
your bones, so-called "structural water" and "loosely bound

You get water into your bones by drinking water and by
eating vegetables and fruits which are themselves heavy in

You lose water from your bones by not drinking and eating
enough water, and by getting too hot.  Just as you lose
water through sweat when you over-heat, overheating also
dries out your bones, the scientists found.

Using bones from cadavers, the scientists learned that bone
plasticity is reduced almost to zero after drying at room
temperature for just 30 minutes.  

This may help explain why your bones we feel so stiff after
just sitting in a warm room fro a short period of time.

Take care to drink extra water when you are in a room with
indoor heat or when you are outside in warm weather.

During the winter, do not over heat your bedroom, as this
can make you often wake up extremely dehydrated.

Treat Your Depression to Save Your Bones

People who are depressed have a much higher risk for
having brittle bones. There is a strong connection between
being depressed and having weak bones.

Your hormones are the reason, according to a Dr. Philip
Gold, the chief of the Clinical Neuroendocrinology branch at
the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Gold, who is leading a ground-breaking study of the
connection between depression and bone density, states
that "If you are a pre-menopausal woman and you've had
major depression you have a 25 to 30 percent chance of
having lost significant amounts of bone and are at much
higher risk of fracture" .

By "major depression", Gold seems to mean a depression
that lasts a few months at least. During this prolonged state
of depression, the body is in a constant state of stress.

The hormones released or which are not released because of
your depression affect the density of your bones, Dr. Gold

Although the study has not been finalized, there is
considerable stress that establishes the type of hormones
which are released or suppressed during depression. Chief
among them is the hormone cortiosol, the "stress hormone".

Clinical depression is a medical emergency that requires
medical intervention. However, studies have found that, in
addition to medical intervention, your diet strongly
influences the depth of your depression and even whether
your depression will recur.  Eating
foods such as oily fish
rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with lowering the
rates of depression.

Get Your Vitamin D to Stave Off Brittle Bones

There simply is no better way to supply your body with the
Vitamin D it needs than to get enough sun.

Exposing your skin to direct sunlight can produce from
10,000 to 25,000 International units of Vitamin D in the half
the amount of time it takes to turn your skin pink, if you are
fair-skinned -- about 15 minutes when the sun is at high
noon, according to the Vitamin D Council in the US.

The Vitamin D your body makes is "banked" in your liver,
which means that the sun rays you soak up during the
summer keep supplying you with Vitamin D during the gray
months of the year.

The daily minimum amount of Vitamin D recommended by
the Mayo Clinic is 600 IUs for those up to 70 years old and
800 IUs for those over 70.

Vitamin D regulates the way that bone metabolizes minerals
and nutrients, and helps to prevent immune disorders,
diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis, according to a Dr.
Richard Kremer of McGill University Health Center, McGill
University in Montréal, Québec.

Many studies have found that Vitamin D increases bone
density and lowers your risk for fractures in the elderly,
including a 2004 study from the Robert B. Brigham Arthritis
and Musculoskeletal Diseases Center in Boston.

The amount of Vitamin D your body produces in response to
sunlight depends on how much time you spend in the sun,
how dark your skin is, and how direct the sunlight is. Thus, if
you live in the Northeast or upper Midwest or north of
California, you are unlikely to get enough sun to meet your
Vitamin D requirements, especially in winter. For this reason,
and because Vitamin D is so vital to staying healthy in
general and to your bones in particular, you should
supplement your diet with Vitamin D.

These foods are especially rich in Vitamin D -- salmon,
sardines, tuna, cod liver oil and egg yolks. According to
Harvard Men's Health Watch, you can get 400 IUs of Vitamin
D from 5 ounces of salmon, 7 ounces of halibut, 30 ounces
of cod, or  two 8-ounce cans of tuna.  

Swordfish is also a rich source of Vitamin D (556 IUs in 3
ounces, cooked), according to the National Institutes of

But cod liver oil is the king of Vitamin D foods. A single
tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 1340 IUs of Vitamin D.

Make Your Body Support Weight to Strengthen Your

You know the saying that "what doesn't break you makes
you stronger"?  Well, that saying applies when to bone
strength.  Weight-bearing activities increase bone density.

Weight-bearing activities can include strength-training either
at the gym or at home. But you do not have to go to a gym
to engage in weight-bearing activities.

Walking is a weight-bearing activity which will trigger
increases in bone density.  When you stand, your body is
forced to support the weight of your upper body on the
bones of your pelvis, back and legs.

Walking up stairs increases the amount of weight that your
lower body must carry against gravity as you move up the
stairs. If you weigh 150 pounds, walking up two steps is  
the equivalent of lifting 300 pounds (150 pounds times 2)
with your legs.

Finally, common household and family activities can
strengthen your bones --- carrying bags of groceries,
picking up children from the floor, lifting laundry, gardening
and so one. All of these activities make your legs and arms
work against gravity, which only makes you stronger.

Add Yogurt and Other Dairy to Boost Calcium

Your body can't work without calcium. Your body needs
calcium for essential function sch as making your heart
contract, your arteries expand (dilate), your nerves function
properly and your muscles function.

One interesting thing about calcium is that amount of calcium
in your blood stream doesn't really vary with the amount
you eat.  Why is this?  The reason is that calcium is so critical
to your body that it very closely regulates the amount of
calcium in your blood stream.  Whenever calcium levels are
too low, the "dispatch" order is given and calcium is released
from your bones and teeth to supply the body with what it

In this sense, your bones act as the Calcium Bank, and your
body simply goes to the Calcium Bank and draws down what
it needs.

You need to make sure you eat calcium mainly to restore the
calcium lost from your bones when your body makes calcium
draw downs.

Women between the ages of 29 and 50 years old need 1000
mg of calcium daily. Women over 50 need 1200 mgs of
calcium each day.

Men between 19 and 70 years old need 1000 mg and their
daily calcium needs go up to 1200 at age 70.

Dairy products can provide much of the calcium you need
but, with whole dairy, you also will obtain perhaps unhealthy
levels of saturated fat. Low-fat dairy is often recommended
as a good compromise.

Yogurt has 50% more calcium than milk, with 415 mg for 8
ounce servings versus 293 for the same size serving of 2%
or skim milk.

Get Enough Zinc to Help Build Bone Structure

Most of us know that calcium is needed for strong bone
health. But few know that other trace minerals are also
essential to build up the matrix of structure -- the scaffolding
of bone.

In fact, if you perform a chemical analysis of bone, you will
find that the most abundant mineral in bone is not calcium at
all. It is a little known mineral called "crystalline
hydroxyapatite", also known as "bone mineral".  This mineral
makes up between 50% and 70% of bone. Nowadays,
doctors use this bone mineral as a coating material in dental
implants and hip replacements.

Your body produces bone mineral using several other trace

One such trace mineral is zinc.  The exact role zinc plays in
interacting with hydroxyapatite is not yet clear but scientists
have some pretty good clues.

Studies on hip replacement parts which have been coated
with hydroxyapatite decrease show that hip replacements
sometimes fail when particles of hydroxyapatite are released,
triggering inflammation and ultimate rejection of the artificial

However, when patients treated with the right dose of zinc,
no inflammation occurs.

Perhaps zinc plays a similar role even in cases where there
has been no hip replacement. Zinc may be acting an an anti-
inflammatory, helping your body to better tolerate occasional
releases of bone mineral into your blood stream.

You only need a bit of zinc to maintain the scaffolding of
your bones but, incredibly, many people don't even get this
trace amount needed.

To ensure that you get the tiny amount of zinc you need,
you should consider taking a multivitamin that includes zinc.
Or, you can add oysters or other foods rich in zinc to your

Get Enough Protein to Maintain Bone Health

We all know that we need protein to maintain muscle. Less
well-known is the role that protein plays in maintaining bone

About 30% of your bone mass is made up of  protein,
according to a 2008 study by Dr. Robert Heany from
Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska and Dr. Donal
Layman from the Department of Food Science and Human
Nutrition at the University of Illinois.

However, the amount of protein that is ideal for maintaining
or strengthening bone health is a subject of debate in
scientific circles. Some studies have observed that excess
protein causes the body to lose more calcium, with the net
effect being a weakening of your bone structure.

Other studies, on elderly who have suffered neck fractures,
have found that those patients with added protein healed
better.  The 2008 study led by Drs. Heany and Creighton
looked at all other then-existing studies to try to make sense
of the results.

They concluded that "Despite a widely held belief that high-
protein diets (especially diets high in animal protein) result in
bone resorption and increased urinary calcium, higher
protein diets are actually associated with greater bone mass
and fewer fractures when calcium intake is adequate."

In other words, yes, you should eat protein to maintain bone
health  --- about 108 grams per day equivalent to about 4
ounces --- but at the same time, you have to also make sure
you are getting your 1000mg to 1200 mg of calcium daily.

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Yogurt has 50% more calcium
than milk.