On March 8, 2010, ABC News reported that “Osteoporosis Drugs, Like Fosamax May Increase Risk of Broken Bones in Some Women” and that “Long-term Use of Popular Class of Osteoporosis Drugs May Have Opposite Effect for Some Women.” (click here to watch the ABC video)
Fosamax and Boniva are the two most popular drugs in this class of drugs called bisphosphonates. They are supposed to make bones stronger, but now there’s mounting evidence that, for some women, taking these medications for more than five years could cause spontaneous fractures.
“We are seeing people just walking, walking down the steps, patients who are doing low-energy exercise,” said Dr. Kenneth Egol, professor of orthopedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Very unusual, the femur is one of the strongest bones in the body.”
This entire class of drugs should be withdrawn from the market, says Dr. Hansen. On January 1, 2009, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report from the FDA, which says that the Osteoporosis drug Fosamax may now be linked to cancer. The FDA received 23 reports of esophageal cancer possibly linked to the drug between its October 1995 debut and May 2008. Of these patients, eight have died so far, according to the report. This is worrisome news for the tens of millions of American women that currently take Fosamax for Osteoporosis.
Good News! There are safe and effective Natural Alternatives to drugs like Fosama & Boniva
Osteoporosis affects approximately 25 million Americans. Women know they need to do something to prevent Osteoporosis, but they don’t know what. They are trusting their doctors and the drug companies to give them something to help. Most doctors know nothing about prevention through diet, nutrition and exercise. So by the time the average woman is diagnosed with Osteoporosis, 50 to 75% of her original bone mass has already been lost. Women need answers. Why is Osteoporosis so prevalent in the U.S., while it is almost unheard of in some cultures? What can a woman do to change her risk of getting this common disease without taking risky drugs?
Officials estimate that there are about 1.5 million fractures annually among osteoporosis patients and 300,000 of them die within six months of getting a fracture. Medical costs for osteoporosis treatment exceed $17 billion dollars annually in the U.S. and because of the increasing elderly population, the number is only expected to rise. The incidence of these bone fractures has doubled in the last 30 years, due mainly to nutritional and environmental factors.
Conventional medicine views osteoporosis as an irreversible process associated with aging and menopause rather than diet and lifestyle choices. The emphasis has been placed on slowing down the rate of bone loss by prescribing synthetic drugs that block bone loss, as well as high doses of calcium, increased amounts of dairy and regular exercise. While these therapies do slow the rate of bone loss in some, they do not stimulate bone rebuilding. The best they can do is to keep the already porous bones from losing any more bone density.
The good news is that Osteoporosis is preventable and reversible through diet, exercise, nutritional supplementation and natural bio-identical hormone replacement with plant based Estriol and Progesterone, and natural Growth Hormone precursors.
Dietary Treatment and Prevention of Osteoporosis
Observations of various populations worldwide show that the countries with the highest consumption of meat and dairy products have the highest incidence of Osteoporosis. Because of this observation, scientists posed this question: Is osteoporosis due to calcium deficiency or excess protein, or acid pH caused by too much protein and dairy?
A study published in the journal Nutrition in 1974, found that eating a low protein diet led to a positive calcium deposit of +31, while a high protein diet led to a calcium loss of -120. This means that at the end of the day, after taking 500 mg of calcium, the low protein diet group was shown to have increased its calcium level by +31. On the other hand, taking 500 mg of calcium while eating a high protein diet actually lowered the level of calcium in the bloodstream by -120.
Epidemiological studies from around the world have shown that in countries like Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, etc, where the people generally eat no dairy at all and less than 50 grams of protein daily and get about 400 mg of calcium per day in their diet, have no osteoporosis; it’s virtually unheard of in those countries. However, if you look on the other extreme, Eskimos who daily consume about 2200 mg of calcium, have the highest incidence of osteoporosis of any population in the world, even though they’re getting 2200 mg of calcium daily. The difference is that they also daily consume 250 to 400 grams of protein in fish, walrus, or whale meats. That high protein content and the acid pH that results are the principal causes of osteoporosis. It’s not simply a deficiency of calcium. It’s the excessive amount of protein that stimulates a hormonal change in the body that causes the body to excrete calcium through the kidneys in the urine.
The average American consumes as much as 100 grams of protein per day and that amount stimulates the parathyroid gland to release a hormone called parathormone that pulls calcium out of the bones to be excreted in the urine. The most important consideration in the prevention of Osteoporosis is not overdoing protein. This can be accomplished by following the Department of Agriculture’s new food pyramid guide. Start at the bottom: eat 6-11 servings of whole grains, 3-5 servings of fresh, steamed, or microwaved vegetables, and 2-3 servings of fresh fruits daily. Meats and dairy should be eaten sparingly in smaller portions than the former foods that are lower in the pyramid. For optimal health you only need a maximum of 40-50 grams of protein daily.
Minerals and Vitamin Cofactors
Calcium is the major mineral in bones. However, you can get too much of a good thing. If you’re eating a high protein diet, even 2200 mg of calcium a day won’t help you. Too much calcium inhibits magnesium, which is essential to the production of the hormone calcitonin. This hormone helps tone down the calcium excretion and keeps calcium in the bones. Magnesium is also essential for the conversion of the active form of vitamin D, which is required for calcium absorption and its deposit into bone. Taking too much calcium actually blocks magnesium and therefore blocks the production of vitamin D in its active form, which prevents calcium from getting into the bone. Calcium should not be taken in excessive amounts.
There are several other nutrients that are very important in prevention and cure of osteoporosis. Three B-vitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, and vitamin B12 are essential. These three vitamins are important in the conversion of the amino acid methionine into cysteine. If they are deficient, homocysteine increases. As homocysteine increases in the body it interferes with collagen cross-linking, leading to defective bone matrix. That means, if you don’t have these vitamins, then the bones can’t hold calcium in place in their normal meshwork. Therefore, even though you may be consuming enough calcium, it won’t be held in the bone.
Another vitamin that is often overlooked in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis is vitamin K. This hormone-like vitamin is necessary for the production of the active form of osteocalcin which is the major noncollagen protein in the bone. Without sufficient vitamin K and its production of active osteocalcin, calcium will not be held within the bone in its place. Vitamin K is found in deep green leafy vegetables and is one of the most commonly deficient vitamins missing from our diet.
The trace mineral Boron also appears to be an essential factor in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. A study of postmenopausal women given 3 mg of boron daily was shown to reduce their urinary calcium loss by 44%. Apparently, boron is required to activate certain hormones including estrogen and vitamin D. Fruits and vegetables are the main sources of boron and diets that are deficient in these foods may also be deficient in boron.
Certain bioflavonoids found in fruits have been shown to be very important in the prevention of osteoporosis. Certain polyphenol bioflavonoids, especially those extracted from grape seeds, have been shown to stabilize collagen structures. Since collagen is the major protein constituent in bone, stabilization of the integrity of the bone structure or the collagen will help to prevent calcium loss and osteoporosis. For optimal insurance against osteoporosis, I recommend taking a supplement that contains Leucoslect® Grape Seed Extract.
In July 2002, researchers at the National Institutes of Health abruptly halted the nation’s largest study on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), because the study found that the long-term use of synthetic estrogen and synthetic progesterone drugs increase a women’s risk of breast cancer by 26%, her risk of a heart attack by 29%, her risk of stroke by 41% and her risk of blood clots by 113%. (Source: JAMA. 2002;288:321-333).
Several other drugs are now being recommended for Osteoporosis, including the Biphosphanate drugs that include Fosamax, Boniva and Actonel. Tens of millions of women are currently taking Fosamax for Osteoporosis and millions of additional women take Boniva and Actonel, all of which share the same concern.
Evista, a Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM) is also being recommended to prevent and treat Osteoporosis. Evista is approved for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, but works by a different mechanism than the Biphosphanates. Evista stimulates the Estrogen Receptors and appears to prevent bone loss in a manner similar to other synthetic estrogens, like Premarin. Side effects include hot flashes, leg cramps and blood clots.
Natural Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement
The ovaries produce three different Estrogens: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) and Estriol (E3). The two most concentrated and most potent estrogens are Estrone (E1) and Estradiol (E2). These two are both now classified as carcinogens. You should test your estrogen levels to make certain these two are not too high. Even “Bio-Identical” Hormone Replacement Therapy that uses Estradiol or Estrone can and does cause cancer if it gets to high.
Dr. Hansen’s Natural Hormone Rx: Estriol, Progesterone and Growth Hormone
Estriol (E3) has been shown to be protective against cancer. It prevents bone loss, stops hot flashes, thinning of the skin and dryness of the vaginal membranes. It is 1000 times less stimulating to the breast tissue than Estradiol and does not cause harmful build-up of the uterine lining. Estriol inhibits osteoclasts in bone from breaking down and causing bone loss.
Unlike the estrogens, which only help prevent bone loss, taking natural Progesterone helps to increases bone mineral density by as much as 10-15% within 6 months and 20-25% in 3 years (Clinical Nutrition Review, 1990, 10:384-391). Progesterone stimulates osteoblasts in the bone to directly increase bone density.
Growth Hormone (GH) is necessary throughout life to keep your bone density high. GH has direct effects on bone cells known as chondrocytes. A deficiency of GH severely limits bone growth and hence the accumulation of bone mass. You can stimulate you own GH activity by exercising and by getting plenty of sleep. Additionally,
Dr. Hansen prescribes a plant based source of Estriol and Progesterone for the prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis. He also prescribes a nutritional and herbal supplement known as Secretropin to boost GH production by the body. These natural products are safe and effective alternatives to synthetic drugs, providing all of the benefits and more, without the negative side-effects.
DEXA Scan X-Ray
The top standard for measuring bone density is the DEXA Scan, which is an X-Ray of the spine and the hip bone. The measurements taken can be compared to the average for the total population and by age group. The main concern with this test is the fact that it exposes you to gamma radiation that is known to be cancer inducing. For this reason I prefer to recommend an NTX Urine Test for bone density.
N-Telopeptide (NTX) Bone Loss Testing
Approximately 90% of the meshwork or your bones consists of type I collagen that is cross-linked at the N-terminal, hence the name N-Telopeptide. This highly cross-linked collagen structure provides for the basic fabric and tensile strength of bone tissue. The collagen infrastructure of bone undergoes a continuous process of remodeling that involves osteoclast mediated bone breakdown and osteoblast mediated bone formation. Bone breakdown by osteoclasts results in the release of cross-linked N-telopeptides (NTX)of type I collagen. NTX is specific to bone and is found in urine as a stable end product of bone loss.
Levels of NTX correlate with the rate of bone loss. Bone loss rates exceeding bone formation results in a net loss of bone and ultimately osteopenia or osteoporosis. This test is the best way to detct active bone loss or bone building. It is relatively inexpensive compared to the DEXA Scan and free of radiation.
All three Estrogens can be measured in Saliva, which gives an accurate assessment of the active forms of the estrogens. Progesterone is also tested in the Saliva. The Estrogen to Progesterone ratio gives a good picture of the relative balance of these two synergistic hormones. Too much Estradiol and Estrone or too little Estriol can cause an increased risk of cancer. Too little Progesterone will inhibit the production of new bone.
Growth Hormone is tested by blood. Because GH is released in short pulsatile bursts in the bloodstream and has a very short lifespan in the blood it is not a good marker for GH activity. Instead, we use IGF-1 to assess the correct level of GH. Ideally, IGF-1 level should be 200-250.
Vitamin D3 (25-Hydroxycalciferol) should be tested in the blood serum. Many experts recommend that the optimal Vitamin D3 level for prevention of osteoporosis and protection against cancers is 50-65 ng/ml.
- Calcium Citrate: Calcium is the major mineral in bones. Calcium Citrate is 2.5 times better absorbed than Calcium Carbonate, even in individuals with low stomach acid. The U.S. RDA for calcium is based on 1968 data using Calcium Carbonate as the standard. According to more recent research published in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in November 1999, by Howard J. Heller, MD and his colleagues found that Calcium Citrate is 2.5 times more bioavailable (easier for your body to use) than Calcium Carbonate as demonstrated by measuring the blood level of calcium after a single oral dose (500 mg) of calcium carbonate taken with a meal.
The RDA used to be 800mg of Calcium Carbonate daily for women, which would be equivalent to only mg 320mg of Calcium Citrate. Adequate intake (AI) recommendations published in August 1997 were set at 1000 milligrams for men and women aged 19 – 50 and 1200 milligrams for individuals older than age 50. To get the equivalent benefit from Calcium Citrate you only need to consume 400 to 480mg of Calcium Citrate respectively.
- Magnesium Aspartate: Magnesium is the determining factor of bone strength. 80-85% American women consume less than the RDA. Necessary for the formation of new calcium crystals and the active form of Vitamin D. Magnesium Aspartate is the most useable form.
- Boron: Necessary for the production of natural estrogen and testosterone. Significantly reduces loss of calcium and magnesium.
- Vitamin K: Required for the attraction of calcium to bones. Individuals with Osteoporosis have been found to have 35% less Vitamin K than age matched controls. Overuse of antibiotics kills healthful intestinal flora that produce Vitamin K. Supplementation reduces calcium loss by as much as 18-50%.
- Vitamin D increases calcium absorption, slows bone loss and boosts bone formation. One study on Vitamin D showed that participants who took vitamin D supplements had a 7 percent lower risk of death compared to those that did not. It is now known that virtually every cell in our body has receptors for vitamin D and that vitamin D is not just a vitamin. It also has very powerful hormonal activities and has protective effects noted against certain cancers (particularly breast and prostate), autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, and heart disease. I recommend taking 5000 I.U.s once or twice daily. This is a quantity sufficient to raise your blood level of Vitamin D3 to between 60-100 ng/dl.
- Folic Acid: Decreases homocysteine levels which can cause osteoporosis. Alcohol and Birth Control Pills cause a deficiency. Pregnancy creates a higher demand.
- Silica: Found in high concentrations at calcification sites in growing bones.
- Betaine HCl: Source of hydrochloric acid that is essential for the absorption and assimilation of minerals.
- DigeZyme: Plant enzymes that digests phytates, found in grains that commonly bind to minerals and significantly reduce their availability for absorption.
- GSE Ultra 110: Leucoselect® Grape Seed Extract to stabilize collagen.
Osteoporosis is preventable and it is reversible. You can take charge of your own health. For optimal results you need to eat more vegetables and grains and less meat and dairy products. The greatest threat to your bones is the high protein diet consumed in the United States. The average American consumes 90 grams of protein daily. You need to cut that amount in half. Additionally, you need a good multi-vitamin and mineral formula, like Peak Advantage that provides the right amount of minerals, vitamins and plant cofactors to prevent or reverse osteoporosis. Finally, you need to test your Estradiol, Estrone, Estriol, Progesterone and IGF-1 levels. With this information you can then correct the hormone imbalances and prevent or reverse Osteoporosis for good.