A disease of the skeleton, osteoporosis is characterised by a decrease in bone mass and deterioration of the internal structure of bone tissue. As a result, it has a weakening effect on bones.
Long reported anecdotally, osteoporosis has become a public health problem as life expectancy has increased. In fact, it’s thought that almost 40% of women in their mid-60s suffer from osteoporosis, with that figure rising to 70% after the age of 80!
And this is a key characteristic of osteoporosis: it is 2 to 3 times more common in women than in men. This is because the hormonal disruption caused by the menopause impairs the process of bone remodelling, thus promoting the onset of osteoporosis (1).
In practice, bone remodelling balance is governed by various endogenous factors (2):
While osteoporosis is fundamentally an age-associated problem, we now know that some individuals may be genetically predisposed to this bone disease (3).
Furthermore, its development may be promoted by a number of epigenetic factors:
While there are drug treatments and natural remedies for combatting osteoporosis (discussed later in this article), prevention is always best when it comes to this bone disease (4).
And the first such preventive measure is exercise (5):
In addition, by supporting normal skeletal function, all the plants recognised as being good for the bones and joints (wild chicory, Bambusa arundinacea, common sage, yellow sweet clover, etc.), are likely to be effective at helping to prevent osteoporosis.
Given that deficiency in vitamin D is also one of the main epigenetic factors in promoting the onset of osteoporosis, and that 80% of seniors are indeed lacking in this vitamin, supplementation with vitamin D and calcium is strongly recommended all year round apart from in the summer (6).
As a reminder, those over 50 need 1200 mg of calcium a day.
Several drugs from the bisphosphonate family are currently used across the globe to treat osteoporosis, almost always in combination with a course of vitamin D, and sometimes with calcium.
These drugs are made from synthetic molecules that mimic the pyrophosphates found in bones. But unlike pyrophosphates, biphosphonates contain a nitrogen group which inhibits an enzyme essential to osteoclast function. As osteoclasts are responsible for resorbing old bone, inhibiting osteoclast function helps to slow down and even prevent the remodelling process that causes osteoporosis (7).
While a number of studies have shown promising results for several natural osteoporosis remedies, the benefits of all the substances and plants investigated have yet to be evaluated by the international scientific community.
However, as things stand, the most widely-studied and promising natural remedies are:
It goes without saying that whichever approach you take to treating osteoporosis, it is always best to discuss it first with your doctor so that he or she can confirm your chosen route.
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