(NaturalNews) It is the prediction of the United States Surgeon General's Office that more than half of all Americans over the age of 50 will be at risk for low bone density, or osteoporosis, by the year 2020. It is unfortunate that along with such a dire prediction comes less than adequate advice, often summarized in two words, "drink milk". Not only is this belief far from the truth, as well as woefully inaccurate, but it also misses the greater picture of just exactly what is involved in the maintenance of the skeletal system.
Not only do bones give the body structure, but they also facilitate movement and produce blood cells. A study performed by Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2007 revealed bone influences energy production and regulation, as well as the storage of fat. We now know that the skeletal system is an important endocrine modulator, affecting a wide range of endocrine functions, such as insulin sensitivity, appetite and fertility.
A simplistic view of bone health is that it is primarily static in nature. However, the skeletal system is a dynamic and ever changing part of one's health. At any given time there are between 1 million and 10 million sites where small segments of old bones are being broken down by osteoclast cells or where new bone is being laid down by osteoblast cells.
Drinking milk does not build stronger bones
It is hard to imagine that the many gallons of cow's milk consumed by both children and adults are not only a useless initiative, but counterproductive. Scientific studies have demonstrated that not only does the body have difficulty absorbing the calcium in cow's milk, but its consumption also actually causes calcium to be leached from the bones. Milk, as an animal protein, acidifies the body's pH, and this acidity effectively triggers a biological correction. Calcium is one of the best acid neutralizers; therefore, the body uses what is already stored in the bones to in turn balance the acidity of the consumed milk.
Calcium is worthless without Vitamins D and K
Vitamin D's responsibility is to absorb calcium. You can consume calcium in fantastic quantities, yet if you are deficient in Vitamin D, your body will not be able to utilize it properly. Of course, that is the reason it is added to milk, but like calcium it is not readily absorbed by the body, especially in this synthetic form. Your best source of Vitamin D is sunshine.
Vitamin K's role with regards to bone health is that of transporter of calcium. For calcium to be absorbed, osteocalcin must be "activated" during a process called gamma-carboxylation. Vitamin K facilitates osteocalcin production, anchoring calcium molecules and holding calcium in place within the bone. Vitamin K is able to then convert osteocalcin into its active, bone-building form.
Building better bones through weight bearing exercise
An important component of bone health is the fact that bones are living tissues, and as living tissues, they respond well to exercise. The very best type of exercise for building stronger bones is weight training, as muscle pulling on bone builds bone. By the age of 30, nearly all bone density has been determined; however, weight bearing exercise in later years helps to stave off any loss of density.
The broader picture of bone health acknowledges a greater role via the endocrine system, influencing fertility, insulin sensitivity and appetite. Adding weight bearing exercise to your daily routine, eating more green, leafy vegetables for calcium and Vitamin K-1, and getting appropriate amounts of sun light for Vitamin D could help you reap the many benefits of bone health.
Paula Rothstein is a freelance writer and certified holistic health coach active in the area of natural health and health freedom advocacy. As a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she has gained insight into the political nature of food, the failings of a drug-dependent healthcare system, and the uniqueness of individual health. For more information, please visit: http://www.medicinefreeliving.com.