Calcium and Other Important Nutrients to Prevent Osteoporosis

Calcium and Related Nutrients for Bone Health 

Many individuals make the mistake of thinking that calcium is all that’s needed for bone health. However, bones are made of more than calcium. Bones also contain several minerals as well as protein. The protein serves as a matrix to which the minerals necessary for bone formation attach.

While many perceive osteoporosis to be “not enough calcium in the bones,” osteoporosis is more complicated than that. Insufficient calcium in the bones is called rickets, which is caused by inadequate vitamin D. Osteoporosis involves both low levels of minerals as well insufficient protein in the bones.

So, simply taking calcium by itself will not help bone health. Other minerals, vitamins, and protein are also needed. The intestinal tract also needs to be healthy and fully functional as the site where dietary calcium is absorbed into the bloodstream. Several studies have shown that both prebiotics and probiotics such as these, improve the absorption of calcium by improving intestinal health. Because hormones also play a significant role in bone health, the risk of osteoporosis increases with age, especially in females. Treating hormone deficiencies with the appropriate bioidentical hormones is important for older adults. Lastly, weight-bearing exercises cause the bones to signal the body’s need to increase bone density.

When considering a calcium supplement, it is important to be aware of the supporting nutrients necessary for calcium absorption. Vitamin D is one of these nutrients. The body manufactures its own vitamin D under the right conditions. The first ingredient required is natural oils on the skin. Your body forms vitamin D in these oils. If you take frequent, warm or hot showers with soap, these oils may not be present on your skin in sufficient amounts. Secondly, you must have sufficient exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet light. During winter, in northern latitudes, in areas with smog from air pollution, and when our skin is protected by sunscreen, we cannot form adequate vitamin D from sunlight. Also, be aware that if you shower too soon after sun exposure you may not have the opportunity to absorb the vitamin D from the skin into your bloodstream. Most of us need some extra vitamin D from supplements.

There are still other supporting nutrients required. Vitamin K is a nutrient supported by new research as necessary for modifying osteocalcin, a bone protein, so it can properly bind minerals and hold them in the bone matrix. Magnesium is another important nutrient, which we need to take in proper balance with calcium. To be incorporated into bone, calcium needs the help of certain enzymes, which require magnesium to work properly. We tend to be more deficient in magnesium than calcium. The proper calcium to magnesium ratio is approximately 2:1. Phosphorus is also required for calcium absorption. The American diet tends to be overly abundant in phosphorus, in contrast to calcium and magnesium. Yet another necessary, but little known nutrient, is boron. Boron has been shown in recent studies to aid bone metabolism when taken in the proper amount. Lastly, manganese, copper, and zinc are co-factors that activate enzymes to help build bone mass. Here is an excellent example of a balanced calcium supplement.   Calcium supplements should always be taken with food that includes some fat, because dietary fat increases calcium absorption.  You can also use a complete protein supplement to provide the extra protein necessary to form the bone matrix.

It is also important to know, that while 99% of the body’s calcium in contained in the bones and teeth, the remaining one percent has other very important functions in the body. One of these crucial functions is the conduction on nerve impulses. Undersupply of calcium also can cause irritability of the muscles, resulting in cramps and even spasms.

Pregnant mothers should be aware of the importance of an adequate calcium intake, along with its supporting nutrients. A unmet high demand for calcium during pregnancy or lactation can result in future bone loss for the mother.  During both my pregnancies, I found that a good quality calcium supplement with magnesium, such as one of these provided relief for my leg cramps that I sometimes experienced at night. This also greatly reduced my extreme tooth sensitivity to hot and cold.