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'I Feel it in My Bones'

Dancing Bones

As April showers begin across the country, many seniors will swear by their bones for weather predictions. The way creaky skeletons feel can indicate rain is on the way, or that the showers are likely to cease. This bone-deep intuition can feel either good or bad news is on the way; but no matter what, the soothsayer doesnt want to feel pain in his bones. Bone pain is known to accompany thunderstorms in the elderly; unfortunately, its not just the wisest members of our society that face bone-health issues. Even if its not pain per se, bone issues should be addressed at every stage of life. That may help keep those cloudy-day bone pains at bay come the later years. Health professionals might want to begin thinking about osteoporosis not so much as a disease of the elderly, but instead as a pediatric disease with later onset, said Chad Stahl, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Animal Science at North Carolina State University, at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting.

Health professionals and consumers alike may not focus on child bone health as much because traditionally, bone density is at its peak during the early ages of life. Bone, as living tissue, is continuously remodeling itself and repairing small fractures by reforming and resorbing. Cells known as osteoclasts break down bone tissue during resorption, and osteoblasts build bones during reformation. The entire human skeleton is replaced about every seven years; but, with age, the balance shifts from formation to resorption, which means more bone is broken down than built. Peak bone mass, when bone density is at its maximum, is usually reached between the ages of 18 and 25; after that, bone loss occurs. For women at about age 30 and men a bit later in life, bone resorption will begin to outpace bone formation. When women hit menopause, bone resorption significantly exceeds formation, due to shifts in hormones.

The weakening of bones can lead to osteoporosis, which can develop without symptoms until a fracture occurs. After the first fracture, the risk for subsequent breaks is much higher, and all osteoporotic fractures increase morbidity.1 Osteoporosis usually occurs in people aged 50 and older, when loss of muscle strength and mass can also reduce bone strength and density. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) estimates it affects 44 million Americans, or 55 percent of people 50 years of age and older, and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. It is expected the number of osteoporotic fractures will double during the next 50 years, due in part to the aging population.

The elderly, the youth, women and athletes who play high-impact sports can all benefit from natural bone health ingredients in supplements. And increasingly, they are interested in fortified foods and beverages aimed at bone health.

However, its important to note fortified foods and supplements should be coupled with a healthy diet and exercise to create optimal bone health. Being overweight increases the chance of having lower bone mineral content.2 Resistance training increases bone turnover with a balance favoring bone formation,3 and University of California, Davis, research found at least 30 minutes a dayor even four hours a weekof weight-bearing leisure-time activity such as walking, jogging or minor weightlifting helped maintain cortical bone density (the thickness of bones hard outer layer) and functional geometry (such as the inner and outer diameter of the bone).4


1. Holroyd C, Cooper C, Dennison E. Epidemiology of osteoporosis. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Oct;22(5):671-85.

2. Pollock NK, et al. Lower bone mass in prepubertal overweight children with prediabetes. J Bone Miner Res. 2010 Dec;25(12):2484-93. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.184.

3. Karabulut M, et al. Effects of high-intensity resistance training and low-intensity resistance training with vascular restriction on bone markers in older men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Jan 5.

4. Shedd KM, et al. Quantifying leisure physical activity and its relation to bone density and strength. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Dec;39(12):2189-98.

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