Last week I found out that I have osteopenia. Having osteopenia means there is a greater risk that, with the passing of time, one may develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, is the loss of bone mineral density and thinning of bone tissue that causes bones to become more porous and prone to fracture. It is very common with one in five women over the age of fifty being diagnosed with osteoporosis and many more are expected to have it, but have yet to be diagnosed. Most people simply don’t check their bone density until they have reached a ripe age as there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. It is also becoming increasingly common among men, but there is very little awareness of this.
Osteoporosis related fractures, especially of the hip and spine, are a leading cause of disability amongst seniors.
What is going on here? How could I have osteopenia? I have not reached the menopause yet, I have been weight training for many years (I’m much stronger than I was in my 20s!), I have been eating a clean diet and I have religiously been supplementing with Vitamins D3 and K2 (more on which below). I thought that I had nailed it.
We often picture our bones as solid and unchanging, but in actual fact our bones are just as dynamic as any other part of our body. The amount of skeletal bone mass increases until approximately thirty years of age. Typically women often experience a rapid loss of bone tissue in the first few years after menopause due to a decrease in oestrogen (oestrogen has a bone protective effect). Osteoporosis occurs when there is an imbalance between new bone formation and old bone resorption. Either the body is not producing enough new bone or too much old bone may be resorbed or both.
Osteoporosis is ultimately a product of how much peak bone mass you can accumulate by age 20 and how much of it you can keep later in life, particularly after menopause for females.
Osteoporosis is sometimes referred to a disease of the young manifested in the old. It takes time for someone to lose bone density, and if optimal bone density isn’t acquired at an early age, then the chance of developing bone fragility in later years is high.
This is where I believe things went wrong for me. I spent many of my childhood years fighting infections on multiple courses of antibiotics as a result of mould exposure. My peak bone density in my twenties was likely not optimal.
So, what causes osteoporosis?
We’ve long been lead to believe that the key to strong bones lies in adequate intake of calcium. In actual fact our diet is likely to be providing us with more than adequate amounts of calcium, it’s just not going to the right place - your bones. Worse still, it might be ending up in your arteries resulting in heart disease. In order to bring calcium to the right place, our bones, we need Vitamins D3 and K2.
Insufficient amounts of Vitamins D3 and K2 play an important role.
We are spending the majority of our days indoors and we have for decades been told to avoid the harmful UV rays of the sun. If we do spend time in the sun, we slap on sunscreen. This translates to chronically low levels of Vitamin D3 even during the summer months. Vitamin D3 plays a very important role in so many bodily functions, one of which being bone health.
Vitamin D3 cannot improve bone health on its own. It needs Vitamin K2, another vitamin that we are typically not getting enough of. Why? Once upon a time it was abundant in our diets. The answer lies in the modernisation of our food production. Vitamin K2 comes in two forms - MK4 (MK stands for menaquinone) and MK7.
MK4 can be found in meat, eggs and dairy products with the caveat that the animals the produce comes from must be pastured (grass fed) as the amount of chlorophyl the animal consumes dictates the amount of MK4 found in the produce (the chlorophyl contains Vitamin K1 which when consumed by the animal is converted into Vitamin K2). The c