Traditional risk factors for osteoporosis
As most readers know, osteoporosis is a serious condition, which afflicts approximately seven percent of women aged fifty and older, another forty percent have reduced bone density.
There are several traditional risk factors for osteoporosis. Listed on the right are the modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. (See Table 1)
Traditional modifiable risk factors for osteoporosis:1
Traditional non-modifiable risk factors for osteoporosis:1
• Cigarette smoking
• White race
• Low body weight (<127 lb)
• Advanced age
• Estrogen or androgen deficiency
• Female sex
• Excessive alcohol intake
• Inadequate physical activity
• Poor health/frailty
• Medications (e.g., steroids, anti-seizure meds, hormone suppressants, vitamin A)
• Personal history of fracture as adult
• Chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, thyroid, liver, or renal disease)
• History of fracture of first-degree
An overlooked risk factor—the average American diet
Research suggests that about 72% of calories of the average American’s diet come from foods that were not consumed by our recent hunter-gatherer ancestors. Consider that 23.9% come from grains (20.4% from refined grains), 18.6% from refined sugars, 17.6% from refined omega-6 seed oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, cottonseed, safflower, peanut, etc.), 10.6% from dairy, and about 1.4% come from alcohol.2
The remaining 28% come from a marginal intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, and a substantial intake of domestic, feedlot, grain-fed meat. We know that wild game is about 2-4% fat by weight, while modern feed-lot meat is 20-24% fat by weight. Essentially, this means that we are eating unhealthy, obese animals.3
In short, our diet in America today consists of grains, sugars, omega-6 fatty acids, trans fats, sugar, and obese meat, and is substantially deficient in fruits and vegetables. The outcome of this pattern of eating is a population that is prone to osteoporosis and other chronic diseases.
Omega-6 fatty acids and bone loss
Research suggests that the prostaglandin E2, which is formed from arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) leads to the stimulation of bone degrading osteoclasts and the inhibition of bone building osteoblasts.4,5,6
All grains and the seed oils mentioned earlier contain the omega-6 linoleic acid, which our bodies then convert into arachidonic acid. We also get arachidonic acid preformed in the obese meat we eat.
Foods that contain low levels of omega-6 fatty acids and appropriate levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids include green vegetables and grass fed animal products, as well as wild game.2,3,7 Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil is also recommended.
Tissue acidity and bone loss
The pro-inflammatory American diet is also rich in foods that lower body pH into the acidic range, which leads to the resorption of alkaline bone minerals to increase pH back to an acceptable level.2 Consider how prominent researchers in the field of diet and pH balance describe this problem: “Increasing evidence suggests that such persisting, albeit low-grade, acidosis, and the relentless operation of responding homeostatic mechanisms result in numerous injurious effects on the body, including dissolution of bone, muscle wasting, kidney stone formation, and damage to the kidney.”8
Which foods promote tissue acidity? First on the list is animal products (meat, fish, fowl, and eggs), which often leads people to condemn animal products—a grave mistake. Humans and other mammals have consumed animal products for thousands of years and maintained normal bone density. And this is because, other than animal products, humans ate only vegetation (fruits and vegetables), which is highly alkaline and served to counterbalance the acidity from meat.
Instead of eating an abundance of alkaline fruits and vegetables, we now consume acid producing grains, cheese, and soda with our meat. So, instead of buffering acidic meat with vegetables and fruit, we now increase the acid load, which leads to both bone and muscle loss as we age. And we have known for many years that, like omega-6 fatty acids, an acidic environment leads to the stimulation of bone degrading osteoclasts and the inhibition of bone building osteoblasts.9
In summary, foods that promote an acidic pH include meat, grains, cheese, and soda. Low fat cheese is thought to be the most acidic food of all. Foods that promote an alkaline pH include fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and nuts. Milk, cream, and legumes are essentially neutral, when it comes to their contribution to our acid/alkaline balance. The chloride in table salt, i.e., sodium chloride, is also acidic, which means that salt intake should be limited considerably.2
Supplementation for osteoporosis
The environment for optimal bone deposition can only be created by the appropriate diet, as described above. Supplementation without dietary changes is not likely to exert an appreciable effect on bone health.
The goal, then, for supplementation is to support the anti-inflammatory state created by diet. Accordingly, in addition to eating an anti-inflammatory diet, the following supplements are appropriate: multivitamin/mineral, magnesium, fish oil, vitamin D, and calcium hydroxyapatite.
Dr. Seaman is the Clinical Chiropractic Consultant for Anabolic Laboratories, one of the first supplement manufacturers to service the chiropractic profession. He is on the postgraduate faculties of several chiropractic colleges, providing nutrition seminars that focus on the needs of the chiropractic patient. He is also a faculty member at Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida, where he teaches nutrition and subluxation theories. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].