Qn of the Month: Besides Calcium, Are There Other Nutrients Important for Bones?

A: Absolutely!! Calcium and (to a lesser extent) vitamin D, have both long been in the media spotlight in years past for their role in bone health. However, your body needs MUCH more than just calcium and vitamin D to make and maintain healthy bones. Bone modeling and mineralization is a complex metabolically active process – one that extends throughout your life, and requires a good adequate supply of key nutrients.

Besides calcium and vitamin D, other key nutrients include protein, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients (plant nutrients). Research is also now uncovering other nutrients potentially important in bones such boron, phosphorous, copper, manganese, zinc, flavonoids and soy isoflavones. Except vitamin B-12 (now found in quite a few fortified foods such as fortified plant based milks, fortified breakfast cereals and certain brands of nutritional yeast), most naturally occurring plant foods provide many of these bone nutrients, many of which can be found all within the same plant food!  Not surprisingly, there is now the view that instead of individual nutrients or supplements, a whole foods or ‘whole diet’ approach is needed to combat preventable diseases such as osteoporosis.

This in a sense is why a plant-based diet is so beneficial to the body, because the array of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and other whole foods eaten daily provide a rich substrate for bone by giving key nutrients to the body. It is possible that there are still many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in plant foods (which are not discovered scientifically yet) that work synergistically to improve or maintain bone health. Recent research also suggests that when planned well, a vegan/plant-based diet can provide adequate nutrients for good bone health. So eat an array of plant based foods regularly everyday! However, don’t forget physical activity! For to make and keep strong bones, regular weight bearing physical activity is important!

[Sources:
1. Higgs J, Derbyshire E, Styles K. Nutrition and osteoporosis prevention for the orthopaedic surgeon: A wholefoods approach. EFORT Open Rev. 2017 Jun 23;2(6):300-308. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5508855/pdf/eor-2-300.pdf. Accessed November 30, 2017.

2. Knurick JR, Johnston CS, Wherry SJ, Aguayo I. Comparison of correlates of bone mineral density in individuals adhering to lacto-ovo, vegan, or omnivore diets: a cross-sectional investigation. Nutrients. 2015 May 11;7(5):3416-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4446759/. Accessed November 30, 2017.

3. Mangels AR. Bone nutrients for vegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100 Suppl 1:469S-75S. Epub 2014 Jun 4. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/469S.long. Accessed November 30, 2017.

4. Tucker, KL. Vegetarian diets and bone status. Am J Clin Nutr 2014; 100 (suppl): 329S – 35S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/329S.full.pdf+html. Accessed November 27, 2017.

5. Anderson JJ. Plant-based diets and bone health: nutritional implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):539S-542S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/539s.long. Accessed November 30, 2017.]

 

 

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