“Which vitamins should I take for osteoporosis?” It’s a question I get asked all the time.
Unfortunately, there is no secret combination of vitamins that will magically make that condition go away. But there is a lot you can do to improve your bone health if you think about it in a holistic fashion. Remember you only have one spine, so it’s worth taking care of it!
Firstly it’s important to understand how bone is formed. It’s basically a case of “use it or lose it”. That’s why astronauts on the ISS come back with weak bones; no gravity means less need for bones, and their bodies quickly weaken. This is also known as Wolff’s law – “Bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading”.
So you can be popping all the vitamins on the planet into yourself and if you aren’t creating pressure on the bones in your body you are not going to have that result in the benefits that you need.
Compounding the issue is that as we age, it is quite difficult to generate the sorts of pressure that will cause new bone to form. Think about kids running, jumping and bouncing around everywhere and ask yourself when was the last time you did that? One of the more innovative solutions is osteogenic loading, a process conducted by firms like Osteostrong. Their 15 minutes a week program has been shown in clinical studies to be more effective than bisphosphonates – with none of the nasty side effects. The other focus of the Osteostrong program is balance – many broken bones result from falls, so ensuring that you’re less likely to fall over in the first place makes a lot of sense!
A 2020 study of 45 participants showed that the heel drop exercise – where you raise your heels and allow yourself to drop back down generating an impact throughout the body – had significant impact on muscle strength and thickness compared to the control group. But another study in 1995, showed that there was little difference in actual bone structure after a 12 month exercise regimen including 50 heel drops daily.
Other methods like vibration platforms and rebounding or trampolines should only be considered in a supervised environment after consulting with your GP. Walking is widely endorsed as a good way to boost bone across hips and spine.
Vitamins then should form an important secondary layer to that strategy, with a sensible dose of vitamin D, K, calcium and magnesium where your doctor has established that there are deficiencies. Many people are deficient in magnesium and D, but there is also the possibility of taking too much which will create a whole different set of problems.
One of the foods that has been clinically proven to help fight against bone loss is the humble prune. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why they work, but randomised trials have shown that around 50-100g of prunes a day, combined with 500mg of calcium and 400IU of D have reduced bone resorption. And if you’re wondering whether those astronauts are pruning up? They are. If it’s good enough for NASA, then it is probably worth a go!
So which vitamins should you take if you want to fight against osteoporosis? Sunshine, walking and weight-bearing exercise…topped up with some K, D and calcium where your doctor deems appropriate. And get some prunes into your fridge!