Healthy…To the Bone


Maintaining healthy bones is a life-long process. When it comes to healthy bones, few realize that they are the result of proper nutrition in our early years. Unlike other major organs in our bodies, our skeletal system basically goes through several phases.

The most significant impact we have on making our bones healthy comes during our childhood and adolescent years, since about 90 percent of our bones are formed by age 17. It is important that as we grow, we improve our peak bone mass by supplying it with proper nutrition. Doing so can potentially decrease hip fracture rate later in life by more than 50 percent! Remember that taking good care of your bones early in life is the key to healthy bone structure later in life.

A woman will typically reach peak bone mass during her late 20s. As she enters her 30s, the most important thing to keep in mind is maintaining bone mass. To keep bone structure strong, the body is constantly remodeling, meaning that it breaks down old bone and rebuilds new bone. In order for this process to occur, a constant supply of bone-building material is required (proteins, vitamins and minerals).

Most conditions such as osteoporosis and osteopenia occur later in life around the age of 50 and older. There are many contributing factors to this condition, yet much attention is given just to calcium replacement. This is because research shows that as we age, the need for calcium increases while our ability to absorb it decreases. Be aware though that calcium alone will not suffice as the only supplement when trying to maintain healthy bone structure. Other nutrients are required to maintain healthy bones. The bone matrix is formed from protein, collagen fibers and mineral salts, which are deposited into the matrix in order to harden the bone. Other than calcium, nutrients involved in bone formation are vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, essential fatty acids and amino acids (protein). Furthermore, healthy hormone levels are important since progesterone and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) stimulate new bone growth, testosterone promotes bone strength and toughness, and estrogen slows down bone loss.

Exercise, especially weight training and weight bearing, is also very important because the bones grow and remodel largely due to mechanical stress. Exercising will cause the muscles and tendons to exert tension by pulling on the bone, forcing it to strengthen.

Although bones will weaken with age, there is a lot you can do to reduce the rate of bone loss over time. Simply support your bones with healthy nutrition now so they can support you later in life. Exercise regularly for the many benefits physical activity offers and address any hormonal imbalances you suspect you may have.