Bones

Bone health is often a neglected piece of the overall health and longevity puzzle. Mainly because it is difficult to measure and... Bone health is often a neglected piece of the overall health and longevity puzzle. Mainly because it is difficult to measure and manage. With that said, there are certain nutrients that should be highlighted and prioritised to ensure good bone health over the lifespan.

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What are bones made of?

Bone components are best explained through illustration. See the figure below for the different cells that regulate bone health.

(Source: Oregon State University)

As shown in the image above, you can see that we have different bone cells. Some can breakdown old and damaged bone, and others create new bone depending on the availability of key nutrients and health status - 

  1. Osteogenic = relates to a cell that helps build bone, or a stimulus to build bone (exercise)
  2. Osteoblast = relates to a cell that builds bone
  3. Osteocyte = a former osteoblast that has been embedded in bone, and aims to maintain bone health (calcium & phosphate content)
  4. Osteoclast = relates to a bone cell which breaks down bone

Can you improve bone health?

Diet, exercise and lifestyle are your bread and butter here. For now, we will focus on exercise and lifestyle.

Exercise

Bone building and breakdown is more pronounced when it is challenged or put to work. Meaning, if we went outside for a run our bones are put to work and this can create a favourable environment for building stronger bones. On the flipside, cycling on a bike does not provide the bone with the same challenge. Cycling carries some of our body weight and there is no impact from our foot hitting a hard surface (the stimulus for bone breakdown and building). 

Therefore, exercise such as jumping, running, tennis or any activity that causes an impact between a hard surface and our body seems most beneficial. However, both are needed, for example, jumping on a trampoline does not have a hard surface but carries our bodyweight. Here, there would be less of a stimulus for both breakdown and bone building. (Source: NCBI)

Practical application:

I will leave you with a quote form a great 2014 review paper:

"The American College of Sports Medicine recommends weight-bearing endurance activities, including those that involve jumping (such as tennis) and jogging, three to five times per week and resistance exercise two to three times per week to preserve bone health during adulthood"

Other Lifestyle Factors

    • Smoking: Can increase bone breakdown
    • Alcohol: Can increase bone breakdown 
    • Sleep: Can increase bone breakdown 
    • Poor diet: Can increase bone breakdown 

Source: NCBI

Any diet which restricts or completely excludes food groups will increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies and therefore impaired bone health. (Source: NCBI)

Below details the crucial nutrients that may need additional planning/preparation to ensure sufficient amounts are provided.

Vegans & vegetarians may need to pay more attention to protein, creatine, vitamin D, iron, calcium and omega-3, as their diet may have suboptimal amounts. (Source: Jeukendrup & Gleeson)

Important nutrients


Protein

Main function

Is needed as raw material to create the framework in which calcium and phosphate are embedded. Support structures for bones.

Concern

Most will ingest enough protein to avoid deficiency or disease. However, there is a big difference between preventing deficiency and optimal. This depends on your goal. Most would benefit from increasing their protein intake.


Omega-3

Main function

Regulates the inflammatory process, and omega-3 fats are crucial components of most cells in the body. Thereby, influencing their function, including bone cells.

Concern

Vegetarians/vegans need to supplement with an algae oil. Plant-based sources will not provide enough omega-3 fats in most cases. Omnivores who do not consume oily fish 2-3 times a week should also consider a supplement. 


Calcium

Main function

Growth, maintenance and repair of bones.

Concern

If dairy is included in the diet there is a lower risk of suboptimal calcium intake. However, if dairy is removed (vegan/vegetarian) supplementation should be considered.


Vitamin D

Main function

Calcium absorption and regulating bone health.

Concern

Everyone, irrespective of diet, should ensure adequate sun exposure and/or supplement during the winter months. Especially, in countries most north.


Magnesium

Main function

Serves as a cofactor for many important enzymes in vitamin D metabolism. 

Concern

Processed grains are a poor source of magnesium, and many do not consume nuts and leafy grains in sufficient amounts. 

Source: (Jeukendrup & Gleeson) & (NCBI) & (NCBI)


Additional Considerations

While consumption of these nutrients through natural or fortified foods is preferred, these nutrients may occasionally need supplementation (Source: NCBI). Vitamin D supplementation, in particular, may be required when sunlight exposure is limited. Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels is likely beneficial for immune function and resistance to infections. Supplementing with ~ 1000-2000 IU/day vitamin D3 is the recommendation for those who have zero sun exposure. (Source: NCBI, MDPI)

General supplementation should be considered for restrictive or low energy-density diets.

Want to learn more?

Here at Plent, we are different than most other supplement retailers out there. We are committed to consumer education and empowerment, brand transparency and quality assurance of all our own supplements. For this reason, we want all our customers to have a full and rounded understanding of the world of supplementation. If you would like to read more about bone health from the experts, check out the links below:

  1. Video
    1. Serve Up Bone Strength - preventing osteoporosis through nutrition
    2. GSSI Pre-con Satellite: Bone Health and Athlete Nutrition
  2. Written
    1. Bone Health for Life: Health Information Basics for You and Your Family
    2. Nutrients for bone health
  3. Audio
    1. We Do Science: #132 - Nutrition and Athlete Bone Health.
    2. #314: Q&A – Hemochromatosis, Sodium, Bone Health, & More!