Why collagen may be more important for bones than calcium
Bones are made up of dynamic living tissue that requires a wide range of nutrients—not just minerals such as calcium—to maintain optimum health.
While minerals tend to get all of the attention when it comes to bones, decreased collagen content is also an important factor in osteoporosis and low bone density.
Collagen is to our bones what two-by-fours are to the frame of a house. It’s the compound that provides the framework upon which mineralization occurs. As our collagen levels decline with age, this becomes a problem. Because if you don’t have enough collagen, it doesn’t matter how much calcium you take, the mineral won’t be bound within the bone.
With that in mind, it’s clear that we need to include strategies for improving the collagen matrix along with traditional mineral supplementation in any bone health regimen.
The Downside of Drugs
One problem with bisphosphonate drugs used to treat and prevent osteoporosis (e.g., Boniva, Fosamax, and Actonel) is that they don’t improve bone quality. Sure, they can increase bone density. But because they don’t address issues with the organic collagen matrix, they can actually make bones brittle.
High-quality bone is strong and resilient, much like bamboo. In contrast, bone that’s pumped up on bisphosphonates is more like chalk—dense, but very brittle. People who are on bisphosphonates need to focus on improving their collagen matrixes to help fix the problems that these drugs produce. Increasing the collagen content of the bone leads to greater strength and flexibility, thereby increasing resistance to fractures.
- Silica: A highly bioavailable from of silica (ch-OSA or Choline Stabilized Orthosilicic Acid, the ingredient in BioSil) has shown impressive clinical results in improving bone health and bone mineral density. In a double-blind study of post-menopausal women with low bone density, BioSil was able to increase both the collagen content of bone (by 22 percent) and bone density (by 2 percent) within the first year of use. The recommended dosage is 6—10 mg per day.
- Vitamins K1 and K2 impact osteocalcin, a protein that anchors calcium molecules within the bone. Vitamin K is required to convert inactive osteocalcin to its active form, so a lack of it in the diet is a major risk factor for osteoporosis, even among those with a high calcium intake. The best food sources of vitamin K include spinach, swiss chard, kale, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans. A typical supplement dosage for vitamin K is 100 mcg daily.
- Vitamins B6 and B12, and folic acid help convert the amino acid methionine to cysteine. Any deficiency in these vitamins can lead to an increase in homocysteine levels, which has been implicated in various conditions, including osteoporosis. When shopping for B vitamins, look for a formula that contains the methylcobalamin form of vitamin B12 for optimal absorption.
- Vitamin D3 supplementation is associated with increased bone density, and studies that combine vitamin D with calcium have produced considerably better results than either nutrient alone. Most experts recommend daily doses of at least 2,000 IU of D3.
- Magnesium. Research has shown that women with osteoporosis have lower bone magnesium content and other indicators of magnesium deficiency than those without osteoporosis. A dosage
of 250—500 mg daily is generally recommended.
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A recent study showed that women who consume fish oil during pregnancy may decrease the number of colds that their babies contract early in life. Cold symptoms occurred 24 percent less often among babies whose mothers took docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Symptoms also resolved faster for the supplement group.#text>
A Cellular Approach#text>
How can omega-3s improve immune function? Through their effects on cell membranes, including white blood cells. Every cell in the body needs homeostasis—a constant internal environment. And a healthy cell membrane, the wall between the internal cell and the outside, is key. Without this membrane, cells lose their ability to hold water and vital nutrients, as well as the ability to communicate.#text>
Cell membranes are composed chiefly of fatty acids derived from the diet. As a result, the composition of cell membranes—and the resulting structure, function, and integrity—can be influenced by dietary changes. A diet composed mostly of saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans-fatty acids produces cell membranes that are much less fluid in nature than the membranes of people who eat optimum levels of monounsaturated fat and EPA and DHA from fish oils.#text>
Fish Oils and White Blood Cells#text>
- In addition to their critical role in cell membrane health, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to impact immune function by:
- Regulating gene expression of white blood cells, which helps regulate proper immune function.
- Reducing the production of inflammatory compounds that can damage the immune system.
- Improving the manner in which immune cells communicate with each other, leading to improved immune system function.
Natural ways to keep blood vessels clear#text>
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If a piece of the clot breaks off, it will eventually circulate into a vessel that’s too small to allow it to pass. As a result, blood flow to that part of the body stops, and nearby organs or tissue can die. The bigger the clot, the bigger—and more important—the vessel it can block. If it blocks a blood vessel in the heart, it leads to a heart attack (also called a myocardial infarction). If it happens in the brain, it can cause a stroke. And if it happens in the lungs, it causes a pulmonary embolism. Any one of these events can result in death.#text>
The Importance of Good Fats
Excessive platelet aggregation is part of the process of atherosclerosis, and is an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke all its own. Once platelets aggregate, they release potent compounds that promote the formation of plaque—or they can form a clot.
The “stickiness” of your platelets is largely determined by the types of fats in your diet and the amount of antioxidants you consume. While saturated fats and cholesterol increase platelet aggregation, omega-3s and monounsaturated fats have the opposite effect. Particularly useful for decreasing platelet aggregation are the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, found in fish oil. In fact, the beneficial effects of fish oils on platelet aggregation is one of the key reasons why higher levels of EPA and DHA in the diet are associated with a 50 percent reduced risk of stroke and heart attack.#text>
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This unheralded protein plays a key role in keeping us together—literally
The most abundant protein in the human body, collagen is also the main component of connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, and blood vessels.
As we age, the collagen-rich support structure of the skin (known as the dermis) changes. The activity of fibroblasts—cells responsible for making collagen—slows down, which leads to changes that make skin look old.
The collagen production in our joints also slows with age, which may lead to osteoarthritis. And decreased collagen in bone is a key factor in osteoporosis. The amount of collagen determines the number of “bone mineral binding sites.” If the collagen content is low, bone becomes more brittle and fracture risk increases dramatically.
To fight the problem of declining collagen levels, we need to increase the activity of collagen-producing cells. One of the best ways to do this is the use of a special from of silica—choline stabilized orthosilicic acid (ChOSA). In one study, women with signs of aging skin who received 10 mg of ChOSA daily saw a 30 percent improvement in fine lines, 55 percent increased skin elasticity, and a reduction in brittle nails and hair.
ChOSA has also shown benefits in promoting bone health. In a detailed double-blind study of postmenopausal women with low bone density, ChOSA was able to increase the collagen content of the bone by 22 percent and increase bone density by 2 percent. The typical dosage is 6–10 mg per day.
Flavonoids are Critical
Flavonoids are plant pigments that support healthy collagen levels. Especially beneficial are the blue or purple pigments—anthocyanidins and PCOs (short for proanthocyanidin oligomers)—found in grapes, blueberries, and pine bark and grape seed extracts. Among their benefits:
- They have the ability to crosslink collagen fibers, reinforcing the natural crosslinking that forms the collagen matrix of connective tissue.
- They inhibit destruction of collagen structures by enzymes secreted by white blood cells during inflammation.
To take advantage of these flavonoids, increase your intake of richly colored berries and other fruits. And supplement with a PCO-rich extract such as grape seed or pine bark (50– 150 mg per day) for general support.