Osteoporosis is occurring in people who say "I used to be taller." The same is true for those who are now more "hunched over" than they used to be. For most people, osteoporosis is due to our Western way of eating chicken/meat, as "pre-technological" cultures, who eat less chicken/meat, and also do not smoke, who are positive, do more exercise, and drink cleaner water don't seem to have much, if any, osteoporosis. That is, where there is limited or no electricity or automobiles, which translates as less chicken/meat/protein intake and more exercise, etc., those populations do not have osteoporosis.
There is no great mystery; the safe diet is "whole grains-fresh vegetables-beans-fruit" at the 90% level with "anything once in a while." But that "anything" is not even weekly meat/chicken, French fries or pizza or ice cream or regular white flour breads and bagels. Fish twice a week is fine. When we see pictures of these cultures on National Geographic Explorer or the Discovery Channel, they are quite muscular and pretty much "skin-muscle-bone." People of color (darker skin) seem to be more protected from osteoporosis whether they are "Western" or not. Osteoporosis does, however, occur in African-Americans, but Whites or Caucasians and Orientals have a higher frequency of osteoporosis.
What our culture does so differently from these pre-tech cultures is:
- Eat much animal protein. Animal protein has a higher content of sulfur-containing amino acids (protein building blocks). These sulfur-containing amino acids are metabolized in the human body towards sulfuric acid. The body will not tolerate sulfuric acid in the blood vessels and so phosphorus, our body's major "buffer or neutralizer", comes out from the bone to neutralize this acid. Bone is calcium with phosphorous (calcium phosphate). The calcium that was attached to the bone phosphorous and that phosphorous is now neutralizing the sulfuric acid is no longer attached and so it leaves the bone and is excreted as a waste product in the urine. So, people who eat animal protein tend to have a higher incidence of kidney stones because of the excess calcium going through their kidneys and also a higher incidence of osteoporosis, both because of the calcium loss through the urine.
- Not exercise enough, particularly "resistance" training such as moving stones, plowing fields, pulling carts which translates in our modern culture as the need for us to lift weights.
- Tobacco smoke may or may not cause osteoporosis, and it probably does, but tobacco smoke definitely slows the healing of bones. Using that logic, it is probable that not only does it slow healing but it also causes bone loss.
- Coffee intake is associated with bone loss. I don't know about regular caffeine tea.
- Salt intake. High salt intake also acidifies the body and causes bone loss.
- Finally, simply "over eating" appears to acidify the body and this, too, can pre-dispose to osteoporosis.
My own belief about how to prevent and reverse osteoporosis is ideally to be of trim weight, do lots of exercise, particularly weight lifting. Start with 5 and 10 pound bevelled and not round 1 hand hexagonal shaped weights. Don't smoke, keep a positive attitude, eat whole grains-vegetables-beans-fruit, avoid chicken/turkey/beef/lamb/pork or ham, limit salt and sodium and don't overeat. If you feel like you should be on calcium, you can get what you need from collards, kale, bok choy, broccoli, Nori sheets, which is what is wrapped around sushi, and tofu.
I recommend calcium citrate if you wish to use a supplement. Boron is also thought to possibly be a help. Extra magnesium is helpful in retaining the calcium for the bones. Try to use chelated magnesium for better absorption. You may wish to use the combination Bone Density Factors, a Biochem Country Life product, or Bone by MegaFoods. If you use hormones, use a natural estrogen (estriol with estradiol as "Biest") and/or (micronized) progesterone, Fosamax 70mg once a week, or Actonel 35mg once a week, or Evista (raloxifene). Evista is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), which prevents osteoporosis by increasing bone mineral density as well as improving blood cholesterol values with no adverse effect on the uterus or breast and reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Read also the American Journal Epidemiol Feb 1,1997;145:117-123 which reviews and supports these ideas. Also Natural Hormone Balance by U. Reiss, M.D. (OB-GYN).
H. Robert Silverstein, MD