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Healthy, Strong Bones at Any Age: Part One

With Halloween coming up, let’s talk about bones. Let’s talk about your bones, in particular, and what it takes to keep those bones healthy and strong at any age!

Contrary to popular belief, building strong bones isn’t just about the calcium. Antithetical to celebrity advertisements promoting dairy milk for strong bones, the keys to lifelong bone health do not come from a cow udder or from chemical calcium supplements. Calcium can be obtained by many plant-based sources. Building strong bones comes down to three basic things.

  • Exercises that build bone density
  • Having the correct intake of healthy nutrients that build strong bones
  • Eating an alkaline vegan diet to prevent the depletion of calcium and critical minerals in your body.

If consumption rates of milk and dairy products are so high, then why do the statistics reflect that bone health today is the complete opposite? If you’ve ever had a family member or friend with bone-health issues, it may have a direct correlation to their dietary choices. Millions of people are now experiencing serious bone fractures and symptoms of osteoporosis, especially later in their lives:

  • Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide
  • Nearly 75 percent of hip, spine, and forearm fractures occur among people 65 years old or older
  • By 2050, the worldwide incidence of hip fractures in men is projected to increase by 310 percent, and in women, 240 percent

So, wipe off your milk mustache, and let’s get ready to rumble!

No Bones about It—You Need to Start Young

The unfortunate reality is that most people don’t start thinking about the health of their bones until midlife or later, by which time it can be too late to do very much to protect against serious bone loss and resulting fractures. Researchers who study bone health state that we should start thinking about long-term bone health starting in childhood and continuing through adolescence when the body builds most of the bone that must sustain it for the remaining years of life.

Once peak bone mass has been reached, any further gains are relatively minimal, so our younger years are the best time to pay attention to our bone development. By age 20, girls have gained between 90 and 96 percent of their peak bone mass. For boys, peak mass occurs a few years later, in their mid-20s.

About 26 percent of total adult bone mass is accrued in the two years that bone mass increases the most: age 12.5 in girls and 14.1 in boys. The amount of bone added during those 2 years is about the same as what is typically lost in the 30 years between ages 50 and 80. The best available evidence strongly indicates that increasing peak bone mass in childhood by just 10 percent could delay the onset of osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women, by about 13 years.

Although nothing can be done about the three factors with the greatest influence on bone mass—gender, age, and genetics—two other factors under our control can make the difference between crippling fractures in midlife and escaping the effects of osteoporosis. Those factors are how much bone-building nutrients we consume and how often we engage in supportive, weight-bearing exercise.

Calcium: Hero or Culprit?

We’re all familiar with the mantra “calcium builds strong bones.” Indeed, calcium does play an important role in bone health. But this blockbuster bone-builder requires some key supporting players. There are other vitally important nutrients that you need to consume regularly if you want to keep your bones unbreakable like Bruce Willis. Okay, maybe not unbreakable, but pretty darn strong.

Believe it or not, calcium supplements can do more harm than good, depending on the source they are derived from. Almost half the population of the U.S. (almost 70 percent of adult women) uses dietary supplements containing calcium. In general, we absorb less than half of the calcium we ingest. Some researchers warn that calcium supplements from inappropriate sources are responsible for an increase in calcification. In this process, calcium causes constipation and builds up in the body in soft tissues where it can harden, or calcify. Sites of calcification include artery walls, kidneys, gallbladder, muscles, and breast tissue. For instance, a low-quality form of coral calcium can potentially calcify your body and become highly detrimental in the long run. You want to focus on high-quality, assimilable calcium from food sources (which you can get from supplements if those supplements are sourcing their calcium from whole food sources) and increase your intake of vitamin D and magnesium.

Magnesium: the Master Mineral

Why is magnesium referred to as “master mineral” for our health? It’s because research demonstrates that vitamin D is a major player, and magnesium is absolutely necessary to convert that vitamin D into its active form so that it can turn on the calcium absorption in your body. Magnesium stimulates the hormone calcitonin, which helps to preserve bone structure by drawing calcium out of the blood and soft tissues and back into the bones. This action helps lower the likelihood of osteoporosis, some forms of arthritis, heart attack, and kidney stones. So, if you’re taking lots of calcium and not much vitamin D or magnesium, you are highly susceptible to these conditions.

Healthy amounts of magnesium have been shown to help prevent heart disease and strokes, ward off diabetes, improve elimination of toxins, act as a natural laxative, increase muscle flexibility, and increase blood alkalinity. The highest alkaline, plant-based food sources of natural magnesium are chlorella; spirulina; AFA algae; pumpkin seeds and oil; dark, leafy green vegetables like kale and collard greens; and bitter greens like dandelion. The number-one source, however, is raw cacao. Kapow!

In addition to its magical ability to draw calcium back into your bones, magnesium is a fantastic nutrient for sound sleep, relaxation, and maintaining a balanced mood.

Check us out tomorrow where we continue our talk on bones!

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