Osteoporosis is a common condition that affects millions of Americans every year. The condition causes bones to become weak and more susceptible to fractures. While osteoporosis can affect people of all ages, it is more commonly seen in older adults.
Many risk factors for developing osteoporosis include family history, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Osteoporosis can also be related to nutritional deficiencies—your bones need certain vitamins and minerals to stay strong and healthy.
Getting these nutrients from your diet is generally better, but sometimes that is not possible or sufficient. In these cases, supplements can be helpful. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting any new supplement, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking other medications.
Here are seven supplements that may be helpful for people living with or at risk for developing osteoporosis:
Calcium is probably the main thing that comes to mind regarding bone health. Around 99% of all the calcium in your body is stored in your skeleton.
However, most clinical research on calcium supplements has found that they have little to no effect on bone density or the risk of fracture. This may be because calcium in the form of supplements tends to be poorly absorbed by the body.
When you get calcium from whole foods, you also get other nutrients that help facilitate absorption and utilization.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium better and plays a vital role in bone health.
You can get vitamin D from foods like fatty fish and fortified dairy products, but the primary source of vitamin D for most people is exposure to sunlight. Sunlight triggers a chemical reaction in the skin that converts a type of cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D.
Approximately half the world’s population is estimated to have inadequate levels of vitamin D. For these people. Supplements may help restore vitamin D to healthy levels.
Vitamin K helps direct calcium to the bones so that it doesn’t accumulate in other tissues, like the arteries.
Vitamin K is found in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and other dark, leafy greens. Supplements may be an option for people who cannot get enough vitamin K from their diet.
However, vitamin K supplements can interfere with some medications, such as warfarin and other blood thinners. So, if you are taking any medications, speak with your doctor before starting a vitamin K supplement.
Magnesium plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including those that help maintain bone structure.
It’s estimated that around 40% of people with osteoporosis have low magnesium levels.
This mineral is found in various foods, including dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. It is better to get your magnesium from foods like these, as it’s not entirely clear how well the body absorbs magnesium supplements.
Boron is a trace mineral that works with calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium to support bone growth and strength.
Boron is not typically present in most multivitamin supplements, and it’s not entirely clear what the optimal dosages are for different groups of people.
However, recent research has indicated that eating 5 or 6 prunes (relatively high in boron) per day can potentially stop the progression of bone degeneration and osteoporosis.
Zinc is another trace mineral that plays an important role in bone formation and growth.
Low levels of zinc are associated with a relatively higher risk of osteoporosis. Still, it’s not entirely clear if zinc supplements are a safe and effective way to prevent or treat this condition.
There appears to be a narrow range of zinc levels in the blood that is optimal for bone health. Too much zinc or too little can both be problematic.
Copper is another mineral in which too little or too much can be detrimental to bone health.
If you don’t get enough copper, you may be at risk for reduced bone mass density (a marker for osteoporosis).
On the other hand, getting too much copper can lead to an increased risk of bone fractures.
However, there isn’t much conclusive research to support the use of copper supplements to treat or prevent osteoporosis. More research is needed in this area before any firm recommendations can be made.