Once considered an unpleasant and unavoidable part of getting older, low bone mass and osteoporosis are now regarded as a major health threat for Americans, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Despite celebrity “Got Milk” campaigns and the proliferation of calcium supplements on the market, the foundation estimates that 55% of women and men in the U.S. aged 50 and older (almost 44 million) are at risk of osteoporosis. By 2020, as many as 61 million could be at risk.
“As the population ages and the percentage of adults, men and women, older than 80 increases, bone fractures from falls have become a major health concern to the medical community,” says Cecilia McCollum, executive vice president of ingredients firm Blue California (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA). “Obviously, prevention is key, and a healthier bone density will prevent fractures that can significantly reduce the quality of life of the patient and may very likely reduce the lifespan of the patient as well.”
Though calcium remains the poster child in this area, new research shows that many nutrients are worthy of supporting—if not starring—roles in the fight against bone density loss. “For established ingredients like vitamin D, the research is driven by curiosity and a desire to have a better understanding of the relationship between nutrition, health, and disease,” explains Duffy MacKay, ND, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC). “For novel and new ingredients, research is necessary to establish the benefit with scientific evidence, which is required for compliance with regulations.”
Vitamins and Minerals
Calcium is a bone-health mainstay with ongoing research. In a new seven-year study, female subjects who took a plant-based calcium supplement (as the brand AlgaeCal) also enriched with magnesium, strontium, boron, and vitamins D3, K2, and C experienced an uptick in bone mineral density, to the tune of about 1% per year, amounting to a 7.3% bone mineral density increase over the course of the seven-year study1. For comparison, the researchers pointed out that normal age-related annual bone loss is about 1% per year after midlife.
And though bone loss is primarily seen as an issue affecting older individuals, prevention can start much earlier, according to a new study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research2. In this study, researchers demonstrated a beneficial effect of vitamin D supplementation that, in adolescent girls, lasted well beyond the duration of the one-year treatment. Researchers assigned 167 adolescent girls and boys to take either vitamin D supplementation or placebo for 12 months, measuring bone mineral content and density at baseline, at 12 months when the study completed, and again at 24 months, fully one year after the study’s completion. Girls who took vitamin D during the trial had a significantly larger bone mineral content increase at 24 months over baseline when compared to those assigned placebo, meaning the beneficial effects of D supplementation lasted one year after the trial completed. There was, however, no significant difference in bone mass changes between the groups of boys.
- Kaats GR et al., “A 7-year longitudinal trial of the safety and efficacy of a vitamin/mineral enhanced plant-sourced calcium supplement,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 35, no. 2 (2016): 91-99
- Ghazal N et al., “Persistent effect of vitamin D supplementation on musculoskeletal parameters in adolescents one year after trial completion,” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, vol. 31, no. 7
- (July 2016): 1473-1480
- Katsuyama H et al., “Effect of vitamin K2 on the development of stress-induced osteopenia in a growing senescence-accelerated mouse prone 6 strain,” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, vol.10, no. 3 (September 2015): 843-850
- Knapen MHJ et al., “Steady-state vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7) plasma concentrations after intake of dairy products and soft gel capsules,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 70, no. 7
- (July 2016): 831-836
- Shi W et al., “Association of dietary and serum vitamin E with bone mineral density in middle-aged and elderly Chinese adults: a cross-sectional study,” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 15, no. 1
- (January 2016): 113-120
- Elam ML et al., “A calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in post-menopausal women with osteopenia: a randomized controlled trial,” Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 13, no. 3 (March 2015): 324-331
- Zhang ZQ et al., “Greater serum carotenoid concentration associated with higher bone mineral density in Chinese adults,” Osteoporosis International, vol. 27, no. 4 (April 2016): 1593-1601
- Pawlowski JW et al., “Impact of equol-producing capacity and soy isoflavone profiles of supplements on bone calcium retention in postmenopausal women: a randomized crossover trial,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 102, no. 3 (September 2015): 695-703