Today not only marks the first day of winter (not like there is a single sign of it in Santa Cruz), but also the first day of my 12 days off from work! It’s 11AM and I am still sipping my coffee, chowing down on farm fresh eggs, writing about my favorite topics, and catching up on really bad tv. Next, I’ll be heading out to lunch to catch up with one of my favorite gals. Seriously loving this!
At the beginning of the semester, as we were studying bone tissue in my physiology class, I came across the below table in our text book. I am definitely not a scientist and don’t intend to uncover the specific causes of osteoporosis in this blog post, I would just like to throw out some interesting observations that I made. I found it disconcerting that an entry level physiology class covered osteoporosis and the depletion of bone mass fairly comprehensively, yet conventional thinking still has us believing that calcium supplementation is the holy grail. I can see how this thinking has come into play, as 99% of calcium is stored in our bones and teeth. However, an interesting fact that often gets glanced over is that Vitamin D is necessary for the body to utilize calcium, as well as vitamin A & K. There has recently been much media attention to the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the US. All 3 of these vitamins are fat-soluble, they cannot be absorbed in adequate quantities unless they are ingested with other lipids (fats).
I find this all so fascinating, since countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis also have the highest rates of calcium intake, particularly from milk. In the US in particular we advocate consuming low fat or fat-free dairy products and low fat diets in general. The lack of healthy fat intake can be one factor in the high rates of osteoporosis. There are limited sources of dietary vitamin D, but maybe many of us aren’t even absorbing the vitamin D that we do consume? On the same topic of vitamin D, we also have a fear of the sun. Although their are real risks of skin cancer, the official recommendations make it almost impossible to absorb any vitamin D from the sun. It is recommended to wear sunscreen all year round, to apply it every 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to any sun exposure.
Vitamin K also plays a role in preventing the loss of bone mass. Although, vitamin K can be found in food, it is also created by the bacteria that line the gut. Vitamin K deficiency can result after treatment with antibiotics, which I believe are over-prescribed in the US.
Another observation that I would like to point out from the below table is that there are other minerals that are required for bone metabolism besides calcium. For instance, 61% of Americans follow a diet that is deficient in the recommended amounts of magnesium.
I also found it interesting to see vitamin B12 on the list. The text book did not cover the role of B12 in osteoporosis in detail. However, it hit home for me because I suffered from a vitamin B12 deficiency for many years, although I had been consuming meat products and following a paleo diet. It took me a long time to heal from this and I had to put much effort into improving my digestion. Interestingly enough, my husband recently had his B12 tested, he has been an omnivore his entire life and surprisingly his test results showed that he also suffered from below normal levels of B12. This got me wondering if B12 deficiency is actually fairly common due to many people’s poor functioning digestive systems.
Factors That Influence Bone Metabolism
Source: Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, Tortora & Derrickson, 2009 (p.192)
Here are some precautions that I take to avoid developing osteoporosis:
- I follow a diet void of grains – to help improve my digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals from my diet.
- I include lots of healthy fats in my diet, such as coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocado, olive oil and raw milk.
- I include magnesium rich foods in my diet, such as leafy greens.
- I include lots of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, torshi (persian pickled vegetables) to improve my gut bacteria.
- I regularly have my vitamin D & B12 levels checked and supplement when necessary.
- I lift heavy weights to build bone strength and muscle mass.
Merry Christmas + Happy Holidays!!!