Tips for Better Bone Building, Part 1: Calcium and Vitamin D

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Tips for Better Bone Building, Part 1 Calcium and Vitamin D – never alone, always together

The bedrock of every bone is an excellent supply of calcium and vitamin D. It’s only logical – the hard substance of a bone is mostly calcium and vitamin D is needed in order for the gut to absorb calcium and for the bones to know what to do with it. Vitamin D regulates the body’s calcium metabolism (and does much more). The importance of vitamin D for health is no longer a theory. It’s a scientific fact. Its importance for bone health in conjunction with calcium is also well-established.

The results of three “gold standard” randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials all have shown that dietary supplementation with calcium promotes healthy bone structure. In one of these studies, elderly postmenopausal women without previous fractures responded to 4 years of daily dietary supplementation with 1000 mg of calcium with enhanced bone density and structure when compared to similar women being fed a placebo.2 Similarly, a second study showed that elderly postmenopausal women who had previously suffered a spontaneous bone fracture, and had a lifetime of poor calcium nutrition prior to the study, responded to 4 years of daily dietary supplementation with 1200 mg of calcium with 77% fewer new spinal fractures than occurred in women fed a placebo for the 4 years.3 In the third randomized placebo-controlled study, women who previously had suffered multiple fractures and then supplemented their diets with 1500 mg to 2500 mg of calcium daily also enjoyed fewer new fractures than were endured by similar women fed a placebo.4

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recognized the relationship between good calcium nutrition and bone health by stating that “Adequate calcium throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.” These government scientists continue to consider the significant scientific evidence that indicates that maintaining adequate calcium intake (that is, the amount that they recommend be consumed on a regular daily basis) can reduce the chances of suffering a spontaneous, “osteoporotic” fracture of the hip, spine or wrist.

A possible side-benefit of maintaining adequate calcium nutrition: On October 12, 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that although they found the scientific evidence inconsistent and not yet conclusive, they agreed that “Some scientific evidence suggests that calcium supplements may reduce the risk of hypertension.”

Another possible side-benefit of maintaining adequate calcium nutrition: On October 12, 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that although the supporting scientific evidence is sparse and not conclusive, “Some evidence suggests that calcium supplements may reduce the risk of colon/rectal cancer” and “Very limited and preliminary evidence suggests that calcium supplements may reduce the risk of colon/rectal polyps.”

But please do not think about calcium in isolation. The ability of calcium to benefit your bones (and cardiovascular system and digestive tract) depends on the cooperation of vitamin D. Unfortunately, even if you are making sure to get the recommended amount of vitamin D every single day, you still may not be getting enough vitamin D to optimally support your health.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Tips for Better Bone Building, Part 2: What is the “Real” Vitamin D Requirement?

References:
2. Reid IR, Ames RW, Evans MC, Gamble GD, Sharpe SJ. Long-term effects of calcium supplementation on bone loss and fractures in postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. Am J Med 1995;98:331-335.
3. Recker RR, Hinders S, Davies KM, Heaney RP, Stegman MR, Lappe JM, Kimmel DB. Correcting calcium nutritional deficiency prevents spine fractures in elderly women. J Bone Miner Res 996;11:1961- 1966.
4. Riggs BL, Seeman E, Hodgson SF, Taves DR, O’Fallon WM. Effect of the fluoride/calcium regimen on vertebral fracture occurrence in postmenopausal osteoporosis. Comparison with conventional therapy. N Engl J Med 1982;306:446-450.

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Vitamins, Minerals and Dental Health

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and Dental Health

Vitamin C
The need for vitamin C to allow the tough fibers of the gums to link together is the most famous example of the way an essential component of the diet is irreplaceable in the maintenance of human health. The recognition of this role founded the science of vitaminology. By promoting strong and healthy gums, vitamin C contributes to dental health.

Magnesium, Calcium and Vitamin D
Strong teeth require more than just strong gums – they also need strong underlying bone through which they attach to the gums and the jawbone. Of course, sound calcium and vitamin D nutrition will allow those stalwarts of bone health to foster dental longevity. In addition, it is becoming clear that there is another, underappreciated member of the dental health team – magnesium. As shown in one survey of adults, the greater the daily intake of magnesium, the better the health of the periodontal tissue.41

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and Healthy Aging Go Hand-In-Hand

References:
41. Meisel P, Schwahn C, Luedemann J, John U, Kroemer HK, Kocher T. Magnesium deficiency is associated with periodontal disease. J Dent Res 2005;84:937-941.

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Vitamins, Minerals and the Skeleton

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Skeleton

Calcium
Of course, calcium is the major structural component supporting skeletal health. Increasing calcium intake (through foods or dietary supplements) increases bone integrity and provides a structure that is much less likely to fail (that is, break). This biological truism has been confirmed over and over by the results of “gold standard” randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials. As discussed in a detailed review published recently in the Brazilian Archives of Endocrinology and Metabolism, dietary supplementation with calcium prevents bone fractures – even in adults who already had suffered osteoporotic fractures (and therefore had very weak bones) before adding sufficient calcium to their diets.17

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recognized the relationship between good calcium nutrition and bone health by stating that “Adequate calcium throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.”

Vitamin D
Although other nutrients are vital components of a strong skeletal structure, it is increasingly clear that vitamin D is the manager that orchestrates skeletal health. A deluge of new information emphasizes the importance of vitamin D – a degree of importance even greater than has been thought before. In fact, the results of the Women’s Health Initiative published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine proved that the need for vitamin D is much greater than previously believed.18 Fortunately, daily supplementation with enough vitamin D can be quite effective in promoting a strong long-lived skeleton.19 The question arises as to how much is enough? The independent Vitamin D Council suggests that otherwise healthy adults who get some sunshine every day should consume 1000 IU of vitamin D daily – if moderate sun exposure is not possible, 2000 IU would be preferable. These levels are very safe, despite the fact that they are much higher than was believed to be adequate just a few years ago. However, these levels may not be high enough for everyone. Individuals should check with their doctors about being tested for blood levels of vitamin D (a relatively easy test to conduct). If levels are low, an appropriate regimen should be instituted to raise vitamin D levels.

Magnesium
The third member of the major bone-building trio is magnesium. While calcium deficiency predisposes both men and women to thin bones and spontaneous fractures, this mineral is just as important as it promotes healthy mineral retention by bone tissue. Much more importantly, as shown in research results published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism the density and strength of every bone in the human body is proportional to the intake of magnesium.20,21

Vitamin C
While most emphasis is placed on the mineral components of bone tissue, without vitamin C to band together the collagen fibers that actually form bones, there would be no guide to the placement of minerals and bone tissue would be fragmented and without mechanical strength. As vitamin C is required for collagen synthesis, bone strength is dependent on vitamin C supply.22

Strong bones require healthy joints in order for the skeleton to do more than simply support your weight against the pull of gravity. Modern research has shown that adequate consumption of vitamin C helps sustain healthy joints and promote their continued function.23,24

Vitamin E
The connection between maintaining oxidant/antioxidant balance and continuing skeletal health is only now being appreciated. This connection is underscored by the recent discovery that antioxidant capacity, especially vitamin E status, can be severely compromised in adults with joint issues.25 Enhancing antioxidant defense systems may indeed be a key factor in sustaining healthy joint and skeletal function as antioxidants can prevent damage to join tissue from free radicals.

Boron
Although the trace mineral boron is found within bone, its function there is not yet entirely clear. However, it is known that rats fed a boron-free diet develop weak bones. In fact, boron supplementation in rats and chicks has been found to increase bone strength. Furthermore, boron influences the metabolism of several metabolic enzymes in various ways as well as the metabolism of steroid hormones and nutrients including vitamin D, calcium and magnesium.26

Vitamin K
Vitamin K is required for the production of the non-collagen proteins in bone. This means that, because vitamin K helps determine the amount of non-mineral bone tissue that is available to be mineralized, human bone mineral density is proportional to vitamin K intake. The findings of an extensive analysis of published research have determined that poor vitamin K status dramatically increases the chances of bone fractures.27 A new concept in human nutrition is that because humans rely on gut bacteria to produce vitamin K from dietary fiber, the typical low-vegetable, low-fiber diet may be causing a form of undiagnosed vitamin K deficiency, manifested as impaired bone health. Of course, vitamin K is essential for other systems as well, an important one being the cardiovascular system. The preferred form of vitamin K seems to be vitamin K2, menaquinone, which is free of toxicity and has been shown to have the best bone-supportive and cardiovascular benefits. The optimal form of vitamin K2 is known as MK-7 and is derived from a fermented Asian soy food known as natto.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Prostate Gland

References:
17. Heaney RP. Calcium intake and disease prevention. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol 2006;50:685-693.
18. Jackson RD, LaCroix AZ, Gass M, Wallace RB, Robbins J, Lewis CE, Bassford T, Beresford SA, Black HR, Blanchette P, Bonds DE, Brunner RL, Brzyski RG, Caan B, Cauley JA, Chlebowski RT, Cummings SR, Granek I, Hays J, Heiss G, Hendrix SL, Howard BV, Hsia J, Hubbell FA, Johnson KC, Judd H, Kotchen JM, Kuller LH, Langer RD, Lasser NL, Limacher MC, Ludlam S, Manson JE, Margolis KL, McGowan J, Ockene JK, O’Sullivan MJ, Phillips L, Prentice RL, Sarto GE, Stefanick ML, Van Horn L, Wactawski-Wende J, Whitlock E, Anderson GL, Assaf AR, Barad D; Women’s Health Initiative Investigators. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the risk of fractures. N Engl J Med 2006;354:669-683.
19. Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Willett WC, Wong JB, Giovannucci E, Dietrich T, Dawson-Hughes B. Fracture prevention with vitamin D supplementation: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. JAMA 2005;293:2257-2264.
20. Ryder KM, Shorr RI, Bush AJ, Kritchevsky SB, Harris T, Stone K, Cauley J, Tylavsky FA. Magnesium intake from food and supplements is associated with bone mineral density in healthy older white subjects. J Am Geriatr Soc 2005;53:1875-1880.
21. Carpenter TO, DeLucia MC, Zhang JH, Bejnerowicz G, Tartamella L, Dziura J, Petersen KF, Befroy D, Cohen D. A randomized controlled study of effects of dietary magnesium oxide supplementation on bone mineral content in healthy girls. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2006;91:4866-4872.
22. Macdonald HM, New SA, Golden MH, Campbell MK, Reid DM. Nutritional associations with bone loss during the menopausal transition: Evidence of a beneficial effect of calcium, alcohol, and fruit and vegetable nutrients and of a detrimental effect of fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:155-165.
23. Cerhan JR, Saag KG, Merlino LA, Mikuls TR, Criswell LA. Antioxidant micronutrients and risk of rheumatoid arthritis in a cohort of older women. Am J Epidemiol 2003;157:345-354.
24. McAlindon TE, Jacques P, Zhang Y, Hannan MT, Aliabadi P, Weissman B, Rush D, Levy D, Felson DT. Do antioxidant micronutrients protect against the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis? Arthritis Rheum 1996;39:648-656.
25. Surapaneni KM, Venkataramana G. Status of lipid peroxidation, glutathione, ascorbic acid, vitamin E and antioxidant enzymes in patients with osteoarthritis. Indian J Med Sci 2007;61:9-14.
26. Devirian TA, Volpe SL. The physiological effects of dietary boron. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2003;43(2):219-31.
27. Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, Shearer MJ, Gilbody S, Torgerson DJ. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med 2006;166:1256-1261.

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Vitamins, Minerals and the Cardiovascular System

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Cardiovascular System

Vitamin C; Vitamin E
Vitamin C and vitamin E protect lipids from oxidation in the blood and stimulate the immune system to remove from the circulation any cholesterol-containing particles that have become oxidized. These actions both protect the health of the cardiovascular system and promote the health of blood vessels in the body.

Calcium
Maintaining the proper degree of sensitivity to stimuli that allows blood vessels to swell or constrict according to the body’s needs is an unappreciated function of the calcium that is circulating in your bloodstream. If there is not enough calcium available, blood vessels become stiff and tend to lose their ability to relax – a situation that causes the blood pressure to remain elevated even when the body does not need the extra pressure to distribute blood where it’s needed. In recognition of the importance of calcium supply to a healthy cardiovascular system, on October 12, 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that “Some scientific evidence suggests that calcium supplements may reduce the risk of hypertension.” Furthermore, as a key contributor to the modulatory function of blood vessel relaxation, calcium supplementation may support the body’s ability to maintain blood pressure in individuals whose pressures are already in the normal range.

Magnesium
The heart muscle is exquisitely sensitive to all aspects of its environment, including the amount of magnesium available to it. Adequate magnesium can translate into increased heart health, with longevity benefits. As shown in research published recently in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, magnesium reduces the toxicity of the oxidative substances that are produced during normal cardiac contractions.13 Magnesium also acts to stabilize the electrical excitability of the heart muscle, promotes normal cardiac rhythms and increases the efficiency of energy use by the myocardium. Research also suggests that daily magnesium intakes of 300 mg also relax skeletal muscles and foster restful sleep in individuals prone to leg cramps at night.

In addition to actions within the heart itself, magnesium also helps maintain the patency of blood vessels, with positive effects on the maintenance of blood pressure levels that are already normal. And because magnesium facilitates the regulation of cholesterol synthesis and metabolism, adequate magnesium levels may promote serum LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol concentrations that are already in the normal range, as shown most recently in several published research studies.14,15

The beneficial longevity-enhancing effects of magnesium on the heart and cardiovascular system are well documented. This has been demonstrated clearly in the results of a 10-year study of over 14,000 adult men published recently in Environmental Health Perspectives.16 The investigators found that as daily magnesium intake increased, the health of the heart also increased, confirming a large body of existing evidence. In fact, several studies suggest that a daily intake of at least 400 mg of magnesium powerfully supports healthy cardiovascular function with age.

The evidence is in – and provides ample justification (and motivation) for adding magnesium to the list of nutrients that promote heart health and longevity.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Skeleton

References:
13. Manju L, Nair RR. Magnesium deficiency augments myocardial response to reactive oxygen species. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 2006;84:617-624.
14. Song Y, Ridker PM, Manson JE, Cook NR, Buring JE, Liu S. Magnesium intake, C-reactive protein, and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in middle-aged and older U.S. women. Diabetes Care 2005;28:1438-1444.
15. He K, Liu K, Daviglus ML, Morris SJ, Loria CM, Van Horn L, Jacobs DR Jr, Savage PJ. Magnesium intake and incidence of metabolic syndrome among young adults. Circulation 2006;113:1675-1682. 16. Kousa A, Havulinna AS, Moltchanova E, Taskinen O, Nikkarinen M, Eriksson J, Karvonen M. Calcium:magnesium ratio in local groundwater and incidence of acute myocardial infarction among males in rural Finland. Environ Health Perspect 2006;114:730-734.

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