Osteoporosis, or softening of the bones, is a major health problem among middle-aged and elderly populations in developed countries. The underlying cause of this degenerative disease is still somewhat uncertain and the common preventive advice given by health professionals and nutritionists is to eat plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products. Although hormonal changes in old age are known to have an effect on bone softening (as is the case in the absence of antigravity exercises such as walking, jogging, or lifting weights), these factors alone cannot explain the increased incidence of this serious disease. .
Bone is a living, active tissue that is constantly being formed, remodeled and molded in response to the physical and physiological influences of the body. The bone matrix is composed mainly of calcium, magnesium and phosphate, which are the substances that make up the dense parts of bone and the structure of the bone marrow. Many people still believe that if you eat foods rich in these minerals and an adequate amount of vitamin D, you will avoid developing osteoporosis. Epidemiological data indicate that this is not the case.
When it comes to bone health and disease, the integrated processes that control bone formation and absorption are just as important as the availability of vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate.
As mentioned above, bone is a dynamic tissue that is controlled by a matrix of two main types of cells: osteoblasts are osteocytes responsible for forming bone matrix, while osteoclasts are modified white blood cells responsible for remodeling bone tissue.
These two types of cells are controlled by a complex set of hormones and signaling proteins that respond in accordance with the ever-changing physiological and pathological demands of bone tissue. If there are too many osteoclasts, or if these cells become overactive, they will absorb more tissue than the osteoblasts can produce. The predominance of osteoclast activity causes the bones to become less dense, the main feature of the clinical condition known as osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by the breakdown of minerals in the bone matrix and can be associated with many specific diseases (such as hyperparathyroidism) and long-term use of medications such as corticosteroids. However, most people who develop osteoporosis do
not suffer from either of these diseases and generally have adequate amounts of calcium and vitamins and have normal hormonal profiles.
Phytonutrient deficiency is the cause of osteoporosis
There is increasing evidence that the leading cause of age-related osteoporosis is actually a deficiency in non-vitamin phytonutrients. Epidemiological studies have shown that rural Chinese farmers who eat very little meat and dairy products have a very low incidence of osteoporosis. Additionally, their diets are rich in a variety of plant foods that provide high levels of polyphenols and other bioactive plant compounds, as well as adequate amounts of calcium, magnesium, and phosphates.
Recent research by scientists from the Oklahoma State University Department of Nutritional Sciences shows that polyphenols in plums have a strong influence on the signaling mechanisms that control bone formation. Polyphenols are a group of compounds that give plants their rich coloration and are therefore especially prevalent in deeply colored foods such as plums, berries, and some spices. Although scientists have previously discovered that polyphenols help prevent a number of other degenerative diseases, this is the first time that they have been found to be beneficial for osteoporosis.
Researchers at Oklahoma State University found that even in the presence of oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, polyphenols act directly on the signaling mechanisms that control bone metabolism. Its effect on these vital systems inhibits bone-softening osteoclasts while enhancing the production and activity of bone-forming osteoblasts.
This new research is further confirmation of the importance of plant-based phytonutrients for human health. These non-vitamin micronutrients have been shown to help with many other conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases. Many pathological processes, such as oxidative stress and low-grade systemic inflammation, are common to these diseases and accelerate aging. Also, the development of osteoporosis is exacerbated by oxidative stress and inflammation.
Since plant antioxidants and other bioactive compounds have been shown to help our most prevalent degenerative conditions, I’d love to know that a solution to preventing another one of these debilitating conditions is to simply eat more fruits (like prunes) and other foods ( as spices). They contain large amounts of bone-strengthening polyphenols and phytonutrients associated with fighting disease.
1. Dried plum polyphenols attenuate the adverse effects of TNF-alpha on osteoblast function along with increased regulation of Runx2, Osterix, and IGF-I.
J Nutr Biochem. Jan 20, 2009 (1): 35-44. Epub 2008 May 20. Bu SY, Hunt TS, Smith BJ
2. Dried peach polyphenols inhibit osteoblastogenesis by reducing the regulation of NFATc1 and inflammatory mediators. Tissue Calcif Int. 2008 June; 82 (6): 475-88. Bu SY, Lerner M, Stoecker BJ, Boldrin E, Brackett DJ, Lucas EA and Smith BJ.
3. The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid inhibits osteoclast differentiation by reducing kappaB DNA binding and inhibits in vivo bone resorption induced by kappaB receptor nucleic factor and tumor necrosis factor alpha.
Free Radic Biol Med. 2006 May 1; 40 (9): 1483–93. Epub 2005 Dec 9. Kim HJ, Chang EJ, Kim HM, Lee SB, Kim HD, Su Kim G, Kim HH.
4. (Book) The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Done and the Incredible Effects of Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health by T. Colin Campbell Thomas M. M Campbell II Howard Lyman
Keith Scott is a physician with a special interest in nutritional medicine. He has written several books on health related topics, including medicinal spices, the healing power of spices, and homemade natural pharmacy. For more information on sterility, antioxidants and condiments, and to download a free PDF version of Medicinal Spices, visit: [http://medspice.com/]