Did you know that most people reach their peak bone mass in their mid 30’s? Every year thereafter, you begin to lose about 1% of your bone density. This can be from a variety of factors and causes, but there are some that are more common than others.
But osteoporosis sneaks up, usually without warning and there are many influencers that affect osteoporosis.
You can think of it the same way as you do retirement savings: Saving regular, small amounts of money – and bone, starting at a younger age is much easier and effective than trying in a panic to sock away big lump sums at a later age. Systematically padding your bone density account will ensure you have more ‘funds’ to draw on in later life.
Osteoporosis is not born in a vacuum but is a result of many factors. Some of the factors that influence it we are born into. But most of the conditions that set the stage for porous bones are from our surroundings. Our habits and lifestyle choices affect the state of our bones arguably more so than pre-determined reasons.
This is good news because it means we can decide to improve the strength and density of our bones for as long as possible by being aware of the health choices we make.
The following Top 42 Causes & Influencers That Impact Osteoporosis is a summary of all the factors, big and small, ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’, that will either increase or decrease the likelihood of you getting osteoporosis.
Top 42 Causes & Influencers That Impact Osteoporosis
1. Medications Including Prescription Bone Drugs
You may be surprised to learn that some of the most common medications contribute to bone loss or osteoporosis. These include but are not limited to contraceptives (such as the pill), aromatase inhibitors, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, thyroid medications and blood coagulants. (To find a full list, click here)
What’s even more surprising is that bisphosphonates, prescribed to combat osteoporosis, may actually increase fracture rate, according to several studies. The conclusion of one Spanish Study was, “bisphosphonate use was associated with an increased risk of subtrochanteric or diaphyseal fractures in elderly women in a low fracture risk population, with a higher risk among long-term bisphosphonate users.”
While bisphosphonates do increase bone mineral density (therefore not a true factor in causing osteoporosis), they are included here as it is believed that they promote bone that is best described as ‘brittle’ and ‘ceramic’.
2. Lack of Weight Bearing Exercise
Another cause of osteoporosis is a lack of exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise.
Nowadays most of us are sitting as we transit to work (by car or train), sitting at our desk jobs and then sitting again as we transit back home from work.
The result is our bones are simply under-utilized for the majority of the day.
That’s why it’s important to be doing regular weight-bearing exercise, resistance training and other forms of exercise that get your body moving!
The Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that a 1994 study of women as old as 70 avoided the expected loss of bone, and even increased their bone density slightly, by lifting weights twice a week for a year.
Free weights are one of the best things you can do to increase your bone strength because of the concentrated pressure they put on your bones. Your body allots resources to strengthening them due to the demand of weight bearing exercises. Any doubts about this fact are easily quashed if you consider astronauts in zero gravity conditions. Upon returning to earth they must be carried, as their bones (and muscle) have withered – at 12 times the rate of the rest of us here on earth! We all lose about 1% of bone every year after age 35. But an astronaut will lose at the rate of 12% and more per year, all due to their muscles being on a gravity-free holiday.
3. Lack of Sufficient Vitamin D
Adequate vitamin D is crucial for calcium to be absorbed and directed to where it’s most needed – the bones. With low D levels, the body can’t absorb calcium from the diet, so it pulls calcium from your bones instead.
Unfortunately, most of us spend much more time indoors than our ancestors did. And when we do go outside, we lather on the sunscreen.
Yes, sunscreen is important when you’re concerned about protecting your skin, but it is also one contributor to our chronic rates of osteoporosis.
It may come as a surprise, but there is scientific data saying the health risks of too much sun (melanoma) is outweighed by the health hazards of too little vitamin D – by 10 to 1!
4. Lack of Estrogen
Females experience a fast decline in bone density after menopause (as much as a 5-10% bone density loss each year), partly because ovaries stop producing estrogen. The decline is usually around age 45. And then once menopause is completed, estrogen levels are lower. This drop in estrogen over time increases the risk of osteoporosis and fracture.
Postmenopausal women have about one-tenth a number of estrogen levels present in premenopausal women.
Lower levels of estrogen mean the bones aren’t able to absorb adequate amounts of calcium to replenish bone mass to keep up with cells that regularly slough off and die. Lower postmenopausal levels of estrogen results in the body being less able to regulate a number of bone cells that are destroyed. Estrogen comes in several forms: the strongest form of estrogen is estradiol and other important but less powerful estrogens are estriol and estrone. The ovaries produce the majority of estrogen in the body, but it can also be made in other tissues, such as body fat, skin, muscle and the adrenal glands.
After menopause, some amounts of estrogen are still manufactured in peripheral body fat and the adrenals. Though adrenals and ovaries stop manufacturing estrogens directly, they remain a source of testosterone, which converts into estradiol.
5. Not Eating Enough Fresh, Natural Foods
50 years ago, vegetables were farmed as they had been for centuries, in mineral rich soil. The ground was purposely left fallow for long periods to allow minerals to replenish and fertilizers were not needed because the ground provided the nutrients to the plants.
That was the past.
Today, numerous tests have proven that vitamin and mineral levels in our most common veggies (broccoli and tomatoes, for example) are 50% less than they were in the 1950s! And similar numbers apply to the other food groups like meat and dairy because cows are also eating vitamin depleted foods.
The result of eating mineral deficient foods is that the bones are denied the usual building blocks. So when the body receives only half the amount of minerals that they are used to, they become thinner and more porous.
When possible, opting for organic foods is your best bet as they are more vitamin-rich than their conventional food counterparts – and your toxic load is reduced too.
6. Not Supplementing As You Get Older
Everyone starts losing about 1% of their bone density every year after they reach peak bone mass (about age 35). This means you have to do even more as you age.
Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, vitamin C and boron have all been proven to be crucial for bone building. So finding a supplement like AlgaeCal Plus that has all of these in significant amounts, plus over 70 other trace minerals for your overall health, is an easy way to make sure your bones are getting what they need.
The takeaway is that most of these top causes of osteoporosis can be somewhat controlled by you. Following a vitamin and mineral rich diet, soaking up some necessary vitamin D when possible, regular exercise and supplementing for the potential shortfall are all things you can control.
AlgaeCal Plus ensures you are making up for bone health mineral deficiencies that are so common – and is the only type of supplement clinically proven to actually increase bone density.
In the last 50 years, osteoporosis rates have risen in Western countries in similar amounts that nutrients in our foods have dropped. Some say this is just a correlation and it doesn’t ‘prove’ anything. But assuming it is just a coincidence could be a costly decision.
Much can be done to affect the rate at which we grow or lose bone. The factors we have control of are the majority of the 40 factors on this list and are generally referred to as ‘secondary risk factors’. Once we embark on a plan of action, be it with weight bearing exercise, supplements, abstinence from bone degrading habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption and more, the issue of how compliant we are to it is one of the greatest factors affecting osteoporosis.
The human tendency is to swing from many harmful habits to the far distant another side of unsustainable ‘perfect’ habits, relying often on complete abstinence. When inevitably we fall short of perfection, the tendency is to swing back to harmful habits. Visualizing and then pursuing a more moderate, long-term lifestyle approach, increases the likelihood of compliance, thus efficacy.
8. Coffee in Excess
Health experts usually sit on the fence regarding caffeine and osteoporosis saying in moderation it ‘likely’ or ‘probably’ is ok. But recent research (the largest of its kind to date) showed no evidence of a higher rate of any fracture or hip fracture with increased coffee consumption. But, there was a slight reduction in bone mineral density when 4 or more cups were consumed compared to less than 1 cup. While this did not translate into an increased risk of fracture – let’s be safe and just say it’s not necessary to have more than 4 cups of coffee per day. To watch an in-depth video of the latest coffee research in connection to bone health, go here.
9. Testosterone Deficiency
In men the most important hormone, produced in the testes, is testosterone. However, both testosterone and estrogen are important for bone strength in men. (Androgens are converted to estrogen in various parts of a man’s body, including bone). The up to date science shows that testosterone and estrogen levels have been declining in men, contributing to bone loss.
10. Loop Diuretics – Good for your Heart, Not Your Bones
They are commonly used in the treatment of heart failure. Loop diuretics are used when fluid accumulates in your body (tissues of the lungs for example), due to the heart failing to adequately pump blood around the body as it should.
Loop diuretics such as furosemide, piretanide, bumetanide and torsemide work by forcing the kidneys to pass out more fluid. They do this by altering the transport of salt and water across certain cells in the kidneys. These cells are in a structure called the loop of Henle (named partly after the discoverer) – hence loop diuretic. There are thousands of these loops in each kidney.
As greater amounts of fluid are discharged by the kidneys, less fluid remains in the bloodstream. So extra accumulated fluid in the tissues of the lungs or body is pulled back into the bloodstream. This eases symptoms such as oedema and breathlessness caused by the congestion of fluid. While effective in cases of heart failure, loop diuretics are negatively associated with osteoporosis.
11. Crohn’s Disease
This disease leads to bone loss and osteoporosis for several reasons as people with it are often vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most irrefutable links to osteoporosis due to its major influence in calcium absorption.
This connection with Crohn’s, vitamin D, calcium, and osteoporosis amplifies especially in worst cases when the small intestine can experience extensive disease or be partly removed through surgery.
As well, people with Crohn’s disease have been found to have higher levels of proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are thought to promote the removal of old bone and limit the creation of new bone.
12. Too Much Exercise?
Women who exercise excessively can slow down the normal production of estrogen.
This can occur because regular intense exercise changes the body’s hormonal balance (excessive exercise, for example, can lead to estrogen dominance or declines in progesterone) precipitating irregular periods.
13. Celiac Disease
This is a condition where the body cannot tolerate gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, farina, and bulgur). Sufferers of Celiac, who knowingly or not consume foods containing gluten, find their immune systems respond by attacking and damaging the lining of the small intestine. When the lining is damaged, bones (and all parts of the body) are deprived of nourishment (calcium, magnesium and more), as the small intestine is responsible for absorbing these nutrients from food into the bloodstream for the body to use.
It’s estimated that at least 1 percent of all Americans have Celiac disease.
A study conducted with mice discovered that leukemia alters the balance and cycles of osteoblast and osteoclast activity which results in several measurable changes to the skeleton. Recent information has begun to explain what takes place between leukemia cells and osteoblasts and osteoclasts (the bone cells responsible for growth and breakdown). However, the new mouse model research demonstrated that leukemia cells affect the cycle of osteoblast-osteoclast activity. This alteration caused quantifiable changes to the human skeleton. It was found that rather than encouraging osteoclasts and bone breakdown, leukemia cells negatively affect bone density due to suppression of production of osteoblasts.
15. Proton Pump Inhibitors
Used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (“heartburn”) peptic ulcers, and other conditions, PPIs increase the risk of bone loss and fractures when they are used for seven or more years a large Canadian study has found. (2)
These drugs include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and esomeprazole (Nexium). They are thought to inhibit the production and secretion of hydrochloric acid, which is an important facilitator of calcium absorption in the small intestine.
Some more recent studies suggest that PPIs used for greater than one year is associated with hip fracture.
16. Bariatric Surgery
A type of weight loss surgery that is done by removing a portion of the stomach; limiting the size of the stomach with a gastric band or by re-routing the small intestines to a small stomach pouch.
However, increased risk of bone fracture has been linked to bariatric surgery. Because the largest concentration of calcium transporters is in the duodenum. And as ingested food will not pass through the duodenum after bariatric surgery, calcium levels in the blood decrease, causing increases in bone turnover, and a decrease in bone mass.
A trace element found in fruits, nuts, and vegetables, boron has been found to increase serum levels of 17-beta estradiol (the most biologically active estrogen) and reduce urinary calcium loss. These both are known to help with bone health. 2 mg per day, which is the minimum daily dose of boron needed, can generally be met with a diet rich in high boron containing fruits, nuts, and vegetables such as almonds, peanuts, apricots, beans, walnuts, raisins and more. The upper tolerable limit for boron is 12 mg per day. (1)
Boron is thought to affect bone by “cross-linking the inorganic and organic bone/joint matrix and/or through different biochemical mechanisms that modulate activity of bone cells such as chondriocytes, osteoclasts, and osteoblasts” (read more here)
18. Anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) Drugs
Epilepsy affects 65 million people worldwide.
It occurs mostly among the very young and the very old, although it can strike at any age. 570,000 American adults over the age of 65 have epilepsy. It is the fourth most common neurological disorder, after stroke, migraine, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Most are prescribed medications to minimize chances of seizures. The medications regularly used – antiepileptic drugs (AED)- to treat it have unreliable success rates, as low as 50%. On top of that, the evidence is emerging that the medications increase fracture risk.
A Canadian study from January 2011 looked at 15 792 people who had between 1996 and 2004 suffered fractures of the wrist, hip, and vertebra and had evidence of prior AED use. The results from this large group were “a significant increase in fracture risk was found for most of the AEDs being investigated”.
19. SSRIs- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
SSRIs are a type of antidepressant medication. They include Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil and work by inhibiting the protein that transports serotonin, the neurotransmitter involved in sleep and depression. Observational data suggesting a correlation with SSRIs and bone density have been strongly supported by two recent studies that found the same protein in bone as well.
Other studies point towards SSRIs interfering with the function of osteoclasts and osteoblasts, cells that break down and rebuild bone in the body. About 62 percent of antidepressant prescriptions in the U.S. are SSRIs.
20. Lack of Exercise
The danger of osteoporosis is not thin bones, as you can live for years with them and not even know. The real problem is how easily you can fracture a bone if they are weak and porous. In fact, 95% of dreaded hip fractures are due to common, every day falls. This begins a prison-like sentence of months in bed. The inactivity allows a host of problems (pneumonia, deep vein thrombosis and more) to set in. The end result? A six month 13% mortality rate due to osteoporosis caused hip fractures.
But thankfully, studies show that those who exercise regularly and do balance training like yoga are less likely to fall. And if they do fall, they are less likely to break a bone than sedentary people.
21. Modern Indoor Work
The shift from hunting and gathering to farming allowed humans to congregate in cities and essentially work a bit less. The industrial revolution was another massive shift that resulted in our work moving indoors. Reduced physicality and less vitamin D from the sun are two outcomes of this that have negatively affected osteoporosis rates to massive degrees. If the bones are not physically stressed regularly, they do not grow…and without ample vitamin D-calcium is not properly absorbed into the bones.
22. pH Balance
There is a large amount of evidence suggesting the highly acidic diet typical of western affluent nations increases the chance of osteoporosis. Fast foods, sugar rich, mineral poor processed foods all increase the acidity of your blood. The problem is that the body has no choice but to pull calcium from the bones to sponge up (or buffer) the excess acidity to bring it back to a more alkaline zone, as that is deemed a greater concern than bone health. The result can be, despite eating a calcium-rich diet, still a net calcium deficiency in the bone.
Broccoli, cabbage, spinach (cooked), kale, watercress, chard, carrots are a partial list of examples of highly alkaline foods that will help your pH balance and promote good bone health.
23. Eating Disorders, as Factors in Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is an obvious outcome of long-term eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia due to a systematic starving of the bones of the needed minerals. On top of that and less obvious however is affected individuals experience hormonal problems that negatively impact bone density. The body stops producing estrogen in females with low body weight, which results in absent menstrual periods, known as amenorrhea. Low estrogen levels contribute to significant losses in bone density.
Also, anorexia results in excessive amounts adrenal hormone cortisol, which is known to trigger bone loss. In addition, decreases in production of growth hormone, low body weight (apart from the estrogen loss it causes), calcium shortage, and other needed minerals like magnesium and silica contribute to bone loss in girls and women with anorexia.
Males with eating disorders also suffer from low bone density due to weight loss, testosterone deficiency, and food restriction.
24. Thyroid Problems? What to Watch For
The thyroid gland is the major regulator of metabolism in your body. By releasing hormones the thyroid gland activates a large range of chemical reactions throughout the body. From protein synthesis to thermal control, to cell growth and tissue formation, the thyroid gland plays a crucial role in all points of body metabolism. This includes the regulation of bone remodeling activity; how fast our bone cells produce. Excess thyroid hormone stimulates bone-destroying osteoclasts cells.
Excess of thyroid hormone (called hyperthyroidism) results in an acceleration of bone resorption (bone breakdown). When bone resorption (bone breakdown) happens at a quicker rate than the bone can grow back, the result is inevitably osteoporosis.
Complete bone turnover usually happens in approximately 200 days, but excess thyroid hormone will lessen that number. It is estimated that one in 20 people will experience some form of thyroid dysfunction in their lifetime.
Presently there is no cure for hyperthyroidism but medications allow the condition to be managed. As the thyroid gland relies on iodine to manufacture thyroid hormones, antithyroid drugs work by altering the gland’s ability to use iodine.
25. Prescribed Steroids and their Effects
Steroids, usually taken by mouth or inhaler, are prescribed most commonly for chronic inflammatory or autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), inflammatory bowel disease, polymyalgia rheumatica or multiple sclerosis. While they reduce symptoms of these diseases, steroids can reduce bone mass – even in as short as 3 months
Steroids have been negatively associated with osteoporosis as they:
- Directly inhibit osteoblast (the cells responsible for bone growth) function
- Directly enhance bone resorption
- Inhibit gastrointestinal calcium absorption
- Increase the amount of calcium loss through urine
- Inhibit gonadal hormones
The evidence says that inhaled steroids are less likely to cause bone loss than steroids taken orally. However, regardless of the method of ingestion, it is advised to test for bone loss with a DXA or ultrasound test if using steroids regularly, in order to take necessary steps to counter further loss.
26. Phosphorus Intake
This mineral, like calcium, also acts as an important pH buffer in the body, helping to balance the acid load. And it’s one of the body’s essential building blocks for bone, but due to high amounts in sodas and snack foods, many are getting just too much of it. According to the Linus Pauling Institute “high phosphate levels in the blood reduce the formation of the active form of vitamin D (calcitriol) in the kidneys, reduce blood calcium and lead to increased PTH release by the parathyroid glands.…”
What this means is calcium metabolism suffers when you get more phosphorus than calcium as both calcium and phosphorus need vitamin D for proper metabolism. If your body has too much phosphorus, less vitamin D is available for the processing of calcium, so calcium absorption is reduced.
27. Sunscreen: To Block or Not?
Since the 1970s we’ve been very strongly encouraged to wear sunscreen whenever outdoors. This was done to protect against the fear of melanoma that a believed diminishing ozone layer would lead to. Most believed the risk of skin cancer to be very high, so too became compliance towards sunscreen.
But we’ve relied on the sun for thousands of years to provide the UV rays that our body can convert to vitamin D. And only somewhat recently has it become known that sunscreen blocks anywhere from 50-90% of UV rays. The result? Most Americans are now deficient in vitamin D. The American Society for Clinical Nutrition now says that due to fear of the sun Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized around the world as a ‘pandemic.’ They say ‘the major cause of vitamin D deficiency is the lack of appreciation that sun exposure in moderation is the major source of vitamin D for most humans’.
But hasn’t it kept us from skin cancer, a much more serious problem? The jury is still out whether it has reduced skin cancer, with even The National Institute of Cancer claiming the evidence is still ‘inadequate’. But the jury is definitely in on the fact that medical complications due to vitamin D deficiency (osteoporosis being one of many) outstrip medical complications due to melanoma – by roughly ten to one!
28. How Important is Age?
A wise sage once said if we live long enough, we all will get osteoporosis. This is because generally speaking, every year after age 40 you lose more bone than you make. So after 40 we all are dipping into our stored up account of bone mineral and withdrawing more than we’re depositing.
With a bank account, if you withdraw more than you deposit then you will hit zero. It’s just a matter of when. Think of your bone density in the same way. We grow more (deposit) than we lose (withdraw) up until 40. After 40 we all lose about 1% more bone than we make…So logically the older someone gets, the closer they get to falling below -2.5 (where osteoporosis begins) on the DXA scale.
29. Race and Ethnic Origin
Your risk of osteoporosis is somewhat affected by your race:
179 470 white, 7784 black, 1912 Asian, 6973 Hispanic, and 1708 Native American women were studied in regards to bone density. The data was taken from the National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment observational study of postmenopausal women. The heel, forearm, or finger was measured for bone mineral density (BMD).
The results showed that osteoporosis was found in “11.9% of Native Americans, 10% of Asians, 9.8% of Hispanics, 7.2% of whites, and 4.2% of blacks.”
Interestingly, regardless of age, BMD was highest in black women and lowest in Asian women.
30. Sedentary Behavior- Stand Up and Take Notice
Astronauts are the purest example of the effects of sedentary living on bone health. Zero gravity in space means there is literally no physical pressure exerted on the bones. The outcome? Astronauts lose bone twelve times faster than the average earthling. More evidence shows other astronauts losing at a rate 60 times faster than on earth!
Simply put, regarding your bones, if you don’t use ’em, you lose ’em.
The good news is there are many studies proving that regular weight bearing exercises (like weights and walking) increase bone strength and density and one study showed older women reduced the chance of hip fracture by over 40% by working out with weight resistance exercises just four hours week.
31. Acidic Foods vs. Alkaline Foods
So much of what we Westerners love to eat (the Standard American Diet or SAD diet) is more acidic than alkaline. Pastries, pasta, pork and much more are all tip your blood more towards an acidic zone on the pH scale (7 and lower). The trouble with that is your body must fight that imbalance, and does so with calcium as only it is capable of sponging up or buffering acid. Where does your body pull the calcium from to do the mop up? Your bones. And so you are left with a net calcium deficit. This is one of the main theories behind ‘the calcium paradox’ which describes how nations that get most calcium also have the highest rates of osteoporosis.
32. Alcohol: Everything in Moderation?
Human and animal studies clearly show that heavy consistent alcohol consumption negatively affects bone health and increases osteoporosis risk. Regular and heavy alcohol use diminishes bone density and weakens bones’ mechanical properties. These effects are particularly noticeable in young people and animals, but regular and heavy alcohol use in adulthood also harms bone health.
How moderate alcohol consumption affects bone health is unclear. Some research in humans has indicated that moderate drinking may boost bone mass, whereas animal studies have proven the opposite. The most up to date science reveal that alcohol greatly slows the proliferation of cartilage cells, important precursors to bone development, and arrested longitudinal bone growth. Unfortunately, the effects of heavy alcohol use on the bone cannot be undone, even if alcohol consumption is terminated.
33. How Your Family History Affects Your Future
Your ancestors are somewhat predictive of your future regarding health issues. The more relatives you have who had or have osteoporosis increases your likelihood of same. It is likely due to a combination of factors that family members share, such as body type, and lifestyle habits such as diet and tendency towards either abstaining or partaking in alcohol, smoking, exercise etc.
34. Gender’s Role in Bone Health
Women, because they generally have smaller thinner bones than men, are much more likely to develop osteoporosis. How much more likely? The National Osteoporosis Foundation say that “of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, about eight million or 80% are women.”
But on top of that, due to menopause, estrogen decreases sharply, which accelerates bone loss.
For example, in the five to seven years following menopause, a woman can lose up to 20% of her bone density.
35. Another Reason to Avoid Smoking
“Hip fracture risk among smokers is greater at all ages but rises from 17% greater at age 60 to 71% at age 80 and 108% at age 90”.
Most studies on smoking show that it increases the risk of fracture. For example:
- Your risk of fracture in old age increases the longer you smoke, and the more cigarettes you consume.
- Smokers who fracture experience more complications during the healing process and take longer to heal than nonsmokers
- Older women and men who smoke experience greater bone loss than non-smokers
- Exposure to secondhand smoke during youth and early adulthood increases the risk of developing low bone mass.
- Women who smoke often produce less estrogen (a sex hormone) and experience menopause earlier, which leads to increased bone loss, when compared to nonsmokers
- It may take several years to lower a former smoker’s risk, but quitting smoking appears to reduce the risk of low bone mass and fractures.
36. What Difference Does Body Type Make?
Women and men who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk for osteoporosis because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
You can imagine your bones as a bank account. Those who have big bones (the highest bone density) have the largest amount of deposits to withdraw from in later years.
It’s the same as budgeting for retirement: if you begin retirement with a large nest egg, you can survive off of that longer than if you start with a smaller amount.
It is said if that if you live long enough, you will get osteoporosis. That’s because, after middle age, we all lose more bone than we make, by about 1% per year. So if you have small bones naturally, it makes sense to build up your ‘account’ as much as possible when you can, to prepare for the later years when you’re living off your savings, so to speak.
37. The Unhealthy Rise of Soda
There is more than one reason that soda has become the main allie for osteoporosis. One is again a case of nutritional ‘opportunity cost’. Many people now consume sodas instead of more nutritional beverages like milk and fortified juices. Teens, for instance, have doubled, and tripled their soda consumption, and drink 40% less milk compared to only 20 years ago. That means their daily calcium consumption has plummeted greatly. On top of that, soda is one of the main culprits for the huge increase in sugar consumption over the last generation which as noted above, acidifies the blood. Calcium is leached from the bones to compensate for acidic blood, resulting in a net loss of calcium in the bones.
38. A Low Calcium-Intake Diet
There are several reasons why people are ingesting less calcium than previous generations. One of them is the rise in soda consumption. Sugar rich sodas are problem not just for what they contain, but what they push out of the diet. For example in 1977–78, boys and girls consumed 50 percent more milk than soft drinks. By 1994–96, it reversed! Both boys and girls consumed twice as much soda pop as milk. As a result, much less calcium is ingested.
As well, the amount of calcium in every common vegetable has fallen by as much as 50% in the last 50 years due to mass industrialized farming practices. People are not eating 50% more vegetables to compensate for this, so the result is less overall calcium ingested.
39. Mass Agriculture’s Role
Many people believe they get enough vitamins and minerals necessary for bone growth directly from the foods they eat. But the reality is that due to mass production, the minerals in many common vegetables are 30-50% below where they were only 50 years ago. Mineral depleted soil from overuse, combined with soil runoff and acid rain, along with fertilizers that only replace 3-4 of the dozens of nutrients that are needed, all play a role in this problem. Modern technology has allowed huge increases in the amounts of food produced. But since no one consumes double portions of broccoli to make up for the corporate farmed nutrient shortfall, many people suffer from osteoporosis as a result of this modern mineral deficiency.
40. Frequency of DXA Testing
The habits that set the stage for osteoporosis (mainly diet and exercise) begin at a very young age. Unfortunately, most people only get a DXA test (Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry) after age 40, if at all, to learn what the state of their bones is. Typically, that is when people have a rude health awakening and begin to take the steps to try to reclaim their bone health. But the earlier you take the test, the greater chance you have to turn the situation around. Just as it’s not wise to start to save for retirement at retirement age, it is not in your best interest to wait until the last moment to take a DXA test. This procedure is usually done after a fracture. If undertaken early to see if osteoporosis is on the distant horizon, preventative measures can be implemented to avoid this painful disease.
41. Refined Foods
One example of a common refined food is whole wheat that is routinely refined to white flour in our modern age. Aside from the residual bleach, you consume (that’s partly what makes the flour white) there are other reasons we pay a cost- in lower nutrients. White flour has less of every good thing in it: 72% less vitamin B6, 67% less folic acid, 60% less calcium, 85% less magnesium, 86% less manganese, 68% less copper, and 78% less zinc.
Grains make up about 30% of the average diet. This means eating refined foods, which has become commonplace, is an example of nutritional ‘opportunity cost’ to the tune of 30% fewer minerals for the average person. As almost 50% of the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) is refined grains and nutrient-depleted sugars, it stands to reason that we are consuming much fewer micronutrients than previous generations.
“Excess sugar inhibits calcium absorption and depletes phosphorus, another mineral important in facilitating the absorption of calcium,” explains Shawn Smith, RD, LDN, nutrition program director at Old Colony Elder Services in Massachusetts.The result is instead calcium washes through the body in urine, leading to a deficit in the bones.
Refined sugar absorbs quickly and quickly increases glucose levels in the cells. These levels increase faster than the cell’s oxygen level, which forms acids due to incomplete oxidation of the glucose. The acids acidify the blood, requiring buffering (‘sponging up’) with calcium. This can only be accomplished by the body leaching calcium from your bones to do the task of mopping up excess acidity in your blood.
- Nielsen, F.H., 1990. Studies on the Relationship Between Boron and Magnesium Which Possibly Affects the Formation and Maintenance of Bones, Magnesium Trace Elements, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 61–91; Reginster, J.U., et al., 1989. Preliminary Report of Decreased Serum Magnesium in Post-Menopausal Osteoporosis, Magnesium, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 106–9.
- CMAJ 2008;179:319-26, doi: 10.1503/cmaj.071330