New research shows how lack of nutrients affects bone

young blond woman eating fresh salad close up

There’s a wide range of nutrients that affect bone.  And now I’m happy to say there’s a wide range of research as well that tells us how important these nutrients are for bone strength.

Here are some highlights from the findings from the 9th International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis which I attended:

  • Multi-nutrient inadequacy and osteoporosis: A Brazilian study looking at individuals with and without osteoporosis found that those with osteoporosis had significantly lower intake of many nutrients including protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D. (Põlluste et al. 2015)
  • Vitamin A and beta-carotene: Higher blood levels of both vitamin A and beta-carotene were associated with higher bone mineral density amongst Chinese adults. (Zhang et al. 2015)
  • Magnesium in bone density: Among Brazilian women bone mineral density was found to be greater in women who with the highest magnesium intake, as compared to those with an official deemed “adequate’ intake. (Peters et al. 2015)
  • Vitamin E and bone density: A large Chinese study found that higher vitamin E intake was positively associated with higher bone mineral density and a lowered risk of osteoporosis among older women. (Chen et al. 2015)
  • Vitamins K, D and fracture risk: A very large Norwegian study found that participants with both low circulating vitamin K1 and vitamin D had a 50 percent increased risk of hip fracture as compared to those with higher levels of these nutrients. (Finnes et al. 2015)

For three decades, we’ve championed adequate intake of all key bone building nutrients. So you can imagine our delight to see medical researchers are studying how intake of key bone nutrients beyond just calcium and vitamin D benefit skeletal health.



Chen, Y. M., W. Q. Shi, J. Liu, Y. Cao, Y. Y. Zhu, and K. Guan. 2015.  Association of dietary and serum vitamin E with bone mineral density in middle-aged and elderly Chinese: A cross-sectional study. Presentation at 9th International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis. 17-20 June 2015, Montreal, Canada.

Finnes, T. E., C. M. Lofthus, A. J. Søgaard, G. S. Tell, E. M. Apalset, C. Gjesdal, G. Grimnes, B. Schei, R. Blomhoff, S. O. Samuelsen, K. Holvik, and H. E.

Meyer.2015. Increased risk of hip fracture in older Norwegians low in both circulating vitamin K1 and 25-hydroxyvitamin D: A NOREPOS study. Presentation at 9th International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis. 17-20 June 2015, Montreal, Canada.

Peters, B. S. E., M. B. R. Camargo, M. Lazaretti-Castro, N. A. G. de França, and L. A. Martini. 2015. Relationship between magnesium intake and bone mass density in Brazilian postmenopausal women. Presentation at 9th International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis. 17-20 June 2015, Montreal, Canada.

Põlluste, K., M. Kull, R. Müller, A. Aart, R. Kallikorm, and M. Lember. 2015. Nutritional deficiencies and bone mineral density in a cohort of patients referred to osteoporosis clinic. Presentation at 9th International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis. 17-20 June 2015, Montreal, Canada.

Zhang, C. X., G. D. Chen, Y. Cao, Y. Y. Zhu, and Y. M. Chen. 2015. Association of dietary consumption and serum levels of vitamin A and β-carotene with bone mineral density in Chinese adults. Presentation at 9th International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis. 17-20 June 2015, Montreal, Canada.

7 top nutrients for bone health

What’s the one nutrient you need for bone health? I’m asked that question quite often. Of course, while calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are high on the list, I can’t really choose just one because of the way the various key nutrients rely on each other to get the job done.

But if you do need to narrow the list down from more than 20 important nutrients, here’s my choice for the 7 top nutrients. You should aim to get these every day to build bone strength, reduce bone loss and help keep you from fracturing.


If you want to read more about these nutrients and more, you see my article here.  And, because so many of you have asked for a supplement with extra calcium and magnesium, I’ve reformulated my Better Bones Basics with more of each, plus optimal amounts of the other key nutrients.


Top References:

Heaney, R., & Weaver, C. 2003. Calcium and vitamin D. Endocrinol. Metab. Clin. N. Am., 32 (1), 181–194, vii–viii. URL (abstract): (accessed 05.20.2008).

Brown, S. 2008. Vitamin D and fracture reduction: An evaluation of the existing research. Alt. Med. Rev., 13 (1), 21–33. URL (PDF): (accessed 05.22.2008).

Holick, M. 2006. High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clin. Proc., 81 (3), 353–373. URL: (accessed 05.13.2008).

Hanley, D., & Davison, K. 2005. Vitamin D insufficiency in North America. Symposium: Vitamin D Insufficiency: A Significant Risk Factor in Chronic Diseases and Potential Disease-Specific Biomarkers of Vitamin D Sufficiency. J. Nutr., 135 (2), 332-337. URL: (accessed 05.13.2008).

Holick, M. 2005. The vitamin D epidemic and its health consequences. J. Nutr., 135 (11),2739S–2748S. URL: (accessed 05.13.2008).

Bischoff–Ferrari, H., et al. 2007. Calcium intake and hip fracture risk in men and women: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials. Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 86 (6), 1780–1790. URL (abstract): (accessed 06.17.2008).

Steingrimsdottir, L., et al. 2005. Relationship between serum parathyroid hormone levels, vitamin D sufficiency, and calcium intake. JAMA, 294 (18), 2336-2341. URL: (accessed 06.17.2008).

Dawson–Hughes, B., et al. 1997. Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on bone density in men and women 65 years of age or older. NEJM, 337 (10), 670-676. URL: (accessed 06.17.2008).

Dawson–Hughes, B., et al. 1990. A controlled trial of the effect of calcium supplementation on bone density in postmenopausal women. NEJM, 323 (13), 878–883. URL: (accessed 05.13.2008).

Brown, S. 2006. “Bone nutrition.” In Scientific Evidence for Musculoskeletal, Bariatric, and Sports Nutrition, ed. I. Kohlstadt, p. 458. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Knapen, M., et al. 2007. Vitamin K2 supplementation improves hip bone geometry and bone strength indices in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos. Int., 18 (78), 963–972. URL: (accessed 05.14.2008).

The benefits of protein for bone health

When many women start following an alkaline diet, their first change is to cut out acid-forming proteins completely. Such a severe restriction of protein is definitely too much of a good thing.

That’s because research suggests that a higher protein intake can reduce aging bone loss and actually decrease fracture risk when combined with a higher intake of key bone nutrients like calcium. Let’s take a closer at look at the benefits of protein for bone health.

How much protein should you be getting?

1. Dietary protein is acid forming, but only if consumed in excess of what the body needs. And even excess protein intake can be compensated for by increasing your intake of alkalizing foods and supplemental alkalizing mineral compounds.

2. The RDA for protein is 0.8 grams of protein/day per kilo of weight (a kilo is 2.2 pounds). For a 140 lb woman this would be 51 grams of protein, the bulk of which is easily obtained from a 4 ounce serving of meat or fish, or a cup serving of beans, grains and vegetarian protein sources. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is the official standard for an adequate intake, although as you’ll see below, we probably should get more.

3. New research suggests a more bone-optimizing protein intake would be higher, at 1.2 to 1.3 grams per kilo. For example, a woman weighing 140 pounds would get more bone-benefit from 76 grams of protein then from the current RDA of 51 grams protein/day. Here one might consume complete vegetarian protein combinations (grains and beans or beans and seeds) along with perhaps some eggs, dairy or meat. Details on this research by Christian Wright of Purdue University are in the video below.

4. We’ve seen a higher protein intake does help build bone mass at the Center for Better Bones. The one caveat, however, is that for long-term success we need to provide our body with enough alkalizing mineral compounds from diet and alkalizing supplements to buffer any excess metabolic acids produced.

Bone is nearly one-half protein by volume and body-wide protein is constantly needed to repair and build all tissues. While higher protein can benefit bone, it’s always important to monitor your pH balance to make sure you’re buffering any excess metabolic acids produced by the increased protein intake.

How much protein do you need for your bones? Interview with Dr. Wright.

Vitamin C reduces fracture risk

High amounts of vitamin C led to a nearly 44% reduction in risk of fracture, according to new research on the effects of vitamin C on bone health.  The study suggests that women and men with higher levels of vitamin C intake experience significantly less aging bone loss than those with lower vitamin C intakes along with the significant reduction in fracture incidence.  The 25% with the highest vitamin C intake had nearly a 44% reduction in risk of fracture.

What surprises me about this research is the “high” level of vitamin C intake was only 200 to 300 mg/day (and that is from diet and supplements together). At The Center for Better Bones we find that for complete health and detoxification, many people require much higher dose of this key vitamin — up to 1,000-3,000 mg a day. This makes sense because vitamin C plays several important roles within every cell — including dozens of important functions related to cell repair and division, energy production, toxin neutralization.

I’m always uplifted when physicians take into account the nutrient factors that benefit bone. I encourage you to take a few minutes and watch my recent conversation with Dr. Sahni, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, about her research on vitamin C and broadening the scope of research about the many roles of nutrients.  I congratulate Dr. Sahni on her study!

Learn more with my interview with Dr. Sahni



Author; S. Sahni. Vitamin C and Bone Health, Presentation at 9th International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis, Montreal Canada, June 17-20, 2015.

Is a hidden food allergy harming your bones?

chocolate-chip-cookie-food-allergyDo you suffer from food allergies?  Knowing the answer is simple enough if you notice that you become congested or have headaches every time you eat dairy products.  The solution is simple too — avoiding the foods that cause immediate reactions to find symptom relief.

But did you know that 80% of all food reactions are delayed — making it difficult to know when you’re allergic or sensitive to what you eat? Hours — or even days — after enjoying a particular food, you might experience a reaction, which can be associated with a wide range of symptoms, including:

•    Fatigue
•    Arthritis and  joint pain
•    Asthma
•    Sinus issues
•    Irritable bowel
•    Autoimmune disease and poor nutrient absorption to fibromyalgia and systemic inflammation. These powerful, yet hidden, reactions turn our white blood cells into virtual Pac-Men looking for something to attack and spreading inflammatory chemicals throughout the body.

Inflammation and its effects on bone

Hidden allergies not only contribute to an array of health problems and increase systemic inflammation, but they also waste the immune system and end up producing serious “repair deficit.” Within bone the combo of tear-down inflammation from an over-active immune system and the ensuing long-term bone repair deficit contributes to skeletal fragility and sets the stage for needless fracture.

5 ways food allergies can damage bone:

•    Cause inflammation capable of tearing down bone
•    Increase bone-damaging cortisol and metabolic acidity
•    Weaken immune-system-directed bone repair
•    Reduce digestion and assimilation of nutrients
•    Signal a nervous system that is jittery and worried

A self-help test for delayed allergies/hypersensitivities can be done by eliminating any and all foods you are suspicious of for four days, watching to see if symptoms change, and then reintroducing these foods. Often this simple elimination/challenge test yields symptom improvement. Even better, a simple at-home test for 95 possible delayed food allergies, The Food Safe™ Allergy Test, is now available. This test requires no blood draw at a lab and each food allergy report will include a rotation diet.

Big news on benefits of vitamin K2 as MK-7

I like to keep my eye on vitamin K2 as MK-7 (menaquinone-7). I haven’t quite figured out why it doesn’t get as much attention as calcium, magnesium or vitamin D.

Especially when you realize the power of vitamin K2 as MK-7 for building bone strength, helping to prevent osteoporosis, protecting the heart and even reducing overall mortality.

Here are the latest reasons why you should get optimal amounts of vitamin K2 as MK-7:

  • Vitamin K as MK-7 improves cardiovascular health in healthy postmenopausal women. Noted vitamin K expert Dr. Cees Vermeer recently led a study that showed long-term use of vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7 has a positive impact on heart health. Vitamin K helped reduce the amount stiffening of the artery walls related to aging, as well as improved vascular elasticity. The study monitored 244 healthy post-menopausal women for three years.
  • As dietary intake of vitamin K goes up, mortality risk goes down.  In a recent diet analysis of 7,216 participants, dietary intake of vitamin K was inversely associated with mortality risk. Those who increased their vitamin K1 and K2 dietary intakes over the nearly five year follow-up period had a 43% and 45% reduced risk of overall mortality compared to those whose intakes were unchanged or reduced. Those with increased vitamin K2 intakes during follow-up had a 59% lower risk of death from cancer.
  • K2 plays a role in preventing fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.  An analysis of the results of 19 different studies focused on postmenopausal women with osteoporosis showed that vitamin K2 plays a role in improvement of the vertebral bone mineral density and the prevention of fractures.

So you see why it’s important not to overlook vitamin K2 as MK-7 in your diet!

How much vitamin K2 as MK-7 should you get every day?

Would you believe that there is no actual recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin K2?  For most people, I recommend a therapeutic dose of 90-200 mcg of vitamin K as MK-7 on a daily basis.  Important note: The only exception is for those on the blood thinner Coumadin because supplementing with vitamin K will reduce the effectiveness of Coumadin.

Unfortunately, the average U.S. intake is only 9-12 mcg, if any at all!  For more information on vitamin K2 as MK-7, read my in-depth article about the many benefits of vitamin K.



Huang ZB, Wan SL, Lu YJ, Ning L, Liu C, Fan SW. Does vitamin K2 play a role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis for postmenopausal women: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporos Int. 2014 Dec 17. (accessed 04-29-2015)

Knapen MH, Braam LA, Drummen NE, Bekers O, Hoeks AP, Vermeer C. Menaquinone-7 supplementation improves arterial stiffness in healthy postmenopausal women: double-blind randomised clinical trial. Thromb Haemost. 2015, Feb. 19 (Epub ahead of print) (accessed 4-29-2015)

Martí Juanola-Falgarona et al. Dietary Intake of Vitamin K Is Inversely Associated with Mortality Risk. J Nutr
2014;144(5):743-750. (accessed 04-29-2015)

10 steps to better digestion

Nutrition & bone health

When it comes to getting the most from your digestion, it’s more than “you are what you eat” — it’s “you are what you absorb.”

That’s because even if you eat the highest quality foods, you need to digest and absorb their nutrients to get the benefits. Digestive problems keep you from doing this, plus lead to distressing symptoms like gas, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, weight gain and more.

You can take simple and practical changes to improve digestion and get the nutrients you need. Here are my top 10 steps for better digestion:

meal1. Drink hot water and hot herbal teas.

Both help detoxify the body and build digestive strength. Simmering a few slices of ginger root in boiling water makes a ginger root tea that stimulates digestion. Ginger in food has the same effect, as does candied ginger root eaten after meals. Other herbs that promote good digestion and make excellent herbal teas are chamomile, peppermint, and cinnamon.

2. Eat freshly cooked foods.

Freshly cooked foods are the most nourishing and are free of molds or staleness. It’s better to eat a simple, freshly cooked meal than a complicated one made of leftovers.

3. Chew your food well and eat at a moderate pace.

Ideally, you should chew each mouthful some 30 times, breaking the food into small particles and allowing the salivary enzymes to begin their work digesting the food. Try putting the fork down between each mouthful and swallowing one bite before taking another as a way to slow down if you’re accustomed to “bolting” your food.

4. Eat simply.

Mixing many different types of foods taxes the digestive system. Experiment with simple meals of just two or three different foods.

You can reduce your risk of bone loss today
Try our bone-building products ǀ Consult with Dr. Brown, PhD

teacup5. Eat cooked foods instead of cold or raw foods.

As traditional Eastern medicine explains, food must be “burned” in the “fire” of digestion. Cold and raw foods must be “heated up” more than cooked foods and as such they dampen and weaken the fire of digestion. People with weak digestion would do well to eat no or little raw or cold food or drinks. This means favoring cooked vegetables and fruits over raw produce, and using hot soups, casseroles, or grain and bean dishes in place of sandwiches or snack-type meals. Avoid cooling the “fire” with cold drinks or ice water during meals.

6. Eat in a peaceful and relaxed environment.

If you do a little comparative test, you will note that you feel better and your digestion is smoother when you eat in a quiet, peaceful environment. Avoid watching television, reading, working, or arguing with others when you eat. You will see the difference.

Read more: Gut microbiome as a new organ

Research on our gut focuses on trillions of gut bacteria, their 10 million genes and the complex role they play in helping to prevent obesity, diabetes, intestinal issues, and so much more.

Read Dr. Brown’s blog to see what research says we can do today.

7. Eat fruit between meals, not with meals, and choose cooked fruit.

Raw fruit dampens the digestive fire, especially during the winter when we are already cold. As such, those with weak digestion might find that eating raw fruit with meals causes intestinal gas and bloating. Cooked fruit is a fine dessert, and you can still use raw fruit for snacks — but know that even as an occasional snack, fruit might be a problem if your digestive fire is smoldering rather than blazing.

8. Avoid overeating.

Excessive intake of food greatly burdens the entire digestive system. Ancient Ayurvedic medicine recommends consuming the amount of food that will fit into two cupped hands at any meal. Practice moving away from the table while you are still a bit hungry.

9. Sit still and relax a few minutes after eating.

Digestion is an amazing process — it turns tofu enchiladas into blood and tissue cells. Resting a few minutes after eating gets this very complicated process off to a good start by allowing your body’s resources to focus fully on the digestive engine.

10. If all else fails, seek professional help to determine the source of the problem.

If these simple self-help steps do not resolve your digestive problems, you should consider consulting both a physician and a nutritionist. A nutritionist can help you figure out if probiotics and other nutritional digestive aids would be useful. Your physician can investigate the possibility that a medical problem is affecting your digestion.

The nutrition detective: Part 2

appleWhen I’m not tracking down the latest on bone research, I’m often focusing on my work as a certified nutritionist and the clues our body gives us to tell us something isn’t right.  From excessive earwax to twitches of the eyelids, here are some common symptoms that can be resolved with the right nutrition:

Clue: Excessive earwax
A little earwax is normal, but a significant buildup likely means a lack of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 fats in the forms of DHA and EPA.  In the Better Bones Program we recommend anywhere from 600 to 3000 mg of the omega-3 fats a day. Another sign of essential fatty acid deficiency is pimply skin on the back of your upper arms.

Clue: Bleeding gums when you floss
You should be able to floss and brush healthy gums without any bleeding.  When bleeding occurs, it’s a sign that the collagen needs more support and that you may need to be getting more vitamin C. This great antioxidant immune booster is essential for collagen production. (Since I also like history, you may be interested to know that scurvy, which killed so many sailors and pirates of the 1700s, is a serious collagen disorder caused by severe vitamin C deficiency.)  For a home test of your vitamin C level, see our VitaCheck-C test strips.

Clue: Twitches of the eyelids
If you have facial or eyelid twitches that just don’t go away, it’s likely your body is asking for more magnesium. Magnesium relaxes the muscles and when you’re low in this nutrient there can be all sorts of spasms and twitches. What’s more, back muscle spasms are often relieved with supplemental magnesium.

Clue: Muscle cramps in your toes legs even arches of feet
I find that these cramps respond to of a few hundred milligrams of calcium supplementation taken at bedtime.  If the calcium doesn’t do the trick, add a few hundred milligrams of magnesium and potassium citrate.

Clue: A stool that sinks in the toilet bowl
This might sound strange to you, but a sinking stool really indicates something very important — a lack of dietary fiber. The current recommendation for fiber is between 25 and 38 grams a day, but the average person consumes less than half that amount.

If you’re curious about more clues to your health, see my complete Nutrition Detective Questionnaire by visiting my Consultations page, go to Intake Forms in the left-hand navigation and click on the Nutrition Detective Questionnaire link. You may be surprised at the mysteries you solve!

Essential nutrients for building better bones

Nutrition & bone health

susanWe’ve all seen those ads in magazines where celebrities (often athletes) with painted-on milk moustaches promote milk’s value for bone health — a terrific marketing tactic, but sadly lacking when explaining how proper nutrition and proper bone health go hand in hand. What those ads don’t say — and what many people just don’t realize — is that healthy bones are an impossible dream without a balanced intake of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fatty acids, and other important nutrients. Obtaining that intake requires a great deal more than just milk! Particularly since, despite America’s wealth as a nation, most of us do not consume food that contains adequate amounts of many essential nutrients. Hard to believe? In a 1981 USDA survey that studied the three-day food intake of 21,500 people, not a single person surveyed consumed 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of all 10 essential nutrients studied. Substantial numbers of people consumed less than 70% of the RDA for several nutrients — and that was before fast food restaurants became ubiquitous!

The average American diet is not only nutritionally inadequate, it is also imbalanced. On any given day, 50% of us eat no fruit, and 25% of us eat no vegetables. At the same time, Americans consume approximately 20% of their calories from refined sugars and sweeteners, 30% from refined grains, and often, 40% as fat. Additionally, many people consume 10% of calories from alcohol. What this all boils down to is frightening. Our bodies are depending on a small percentage of our caloric intake to provide us with all the essential nutrients we need to build and maintain strong and healthy bones. Our country’s standard diet of fast food, fatty food, and food that is very acidifying is literally robbing our bones of the nutrients they need to remain strong and healthy.

This constant imbalance of nutrient deficiency and excess can present significant problems for maintaining bone health. The chemistry of the human body operates best in an alkaline state, with a pH of about 7.4. The body’s pH level is so critical, it has many checks and balances to make sure it stays in line. If a diet is too high in acid-forming foods, the body reacts by drawing alkalinizing mineral compounds from bones to buffer this acidity and alkalize the body. While our bones do not suffer from an occasional withdrawal of their alkalizing mineral reserves, excessive and prolonged acidity can drain bone of alkali mineral reserves and lead to bone thinning.

Eating for better bones

When it comes to bone health, there’s a single goal: to maximize the intake of nutrient-dense, bone-building whole foods and minimize the intake of substances that make the body more acid. Sound simple? Maybe, but in today’s fast-paced society, following this “simple” recipe is difficult at best, and it was likely much easier for our ancestors than it is for us. Living off the land and sea provided our ancestors with a variety of nutrient-rich, whole foods that could be harvested directly and dried, steamed, or preserved in other ways for use in winter. Even more recent generations of our ancestors — our grandparents — could not have located, much less purchased and consumed, much of the unwholesome foods that line today’s supermarket shelves. Of the 25,000 products typically available in an American supermarket, only a fraction of them are actually nutritious, whole foods. Many of the offerings are not only highly processed, but also largely synthetic. So for us, the challenge is to dodge all the clever marketing strategies designed to attract us to packages and find the good foods hidden among the junk.

If bone health is your goal, here’s a simple way to start: change what you put on your plate at mealtimes. First, eat meals composed largely of fresh fruits and vegetables, organically grown whenever possible, that have undergone very little processing before they come to your plate. It’s okay if you include some processed foods, but try to make your diet mostly fresh, whole foods. Second, make sure you are choosing foods that promote your body’s acid/alkaline balance — which is easy if you follow the first suggestion, as most of the alkalizing foods you can obtain are fresh fruits and vegetables! Third, when you shop in a grocery store, stick to the outer aisles — the produce section and the areas where fresh meats and fish are sold. The highly processed foods you want to avoid are in the center aisles, so skip those. And finally, take a high-quality multivitamin that provides all of the nutrients you need as “insurance,” especially if you find yourself unable to always eat healthy foods.

You can find many more suggestions for improving your bone health using nutrition and diet in the articles listed below:

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20 key bone-building nutrients — an overview

Nutrition & bone health

susanDepending on how we count them, there are at least 20 bone-building nutrients which are essential for optimal bone health — “essential” in that our bodies cannot manufacture them, so we must get them from our food and drink. Let’s take a quick look at them, one by one, so you can get a better idea of their roles in bone health and how much of each you should be getting.

Remember, none of these nutrients does its work in isolation — you need some of each and every one, so they can all work together to keep your bones standing strong all your life long. Taking a top-grade multivitamin–mineral complex and essential fatty acids will ensure that your cells have adequate levels of these nutrients ready at hand from minute to minute, day after day, to prevent bone loss leading to osteoporosis, other degenerative diseases, and accelerated aging.

(Click on individual nutrients to learn more…)

Table of 20 essential bone-building nutrients

NutrientAdult RDA orAI*Common therapeutic range for bone health (daily intake)Dietary considerations concerning adequacy of average daily intakeYour intake
Key minerals
1000–1200 mg800–1200 mgTypical diet is inadequate, averaging 500–850 mg.
1250 mg 9–18 yrs
700 mg adults
800–1200 mgInadequate intake is rare except in elderly and malnourished. Excess intake common with use of processed foods and soft drinks — ~1500 mg/day in men and ~1025 mg/day in women.
420 mg adult males
320 mg adult females
400–800 mgIntake generally inadequate among all ages, sexes, and classes except children under the age of 5; 40% of total population and 50% of adolescents consume 66% of RDA; and 56% of all Americans have intakes below Estimated Average Requirement (EAR).
30–35 mcg, adult males
20–25 mcg, adult females
200–1000 mcgCommon intake in the US is 50 mcg or lower.
(Silicon — Si)
No values set to date5-20 mgIntake significantly higher in men (30–33 mg/day) than in women (~25 mg/day), yet generally suboptimal. Silica is the first element to go in food processing.
11 mg adult males
8 mg adult females
12–30 mgAverage intake is 46–63% of RDA. Marginal zinc deficiency is common, especially among children.
2.3 mg (AI) adult males
1.8 mg (AI) adult females
2–10 mgIntake generally inadequate, at 1.76 mg adolescent girls; 2.05 mg adult females; and 2.5 mg adult men.
900 mcg adults
(0.90 mg)
1–3 mg75% of diets fail to contain RDA. Average daily intake is below the RDA.
No RDA established3–5 mgCommon daily intake is only 0.25 mg, to possible optimum of 3.0 mg.
4700 mg adults4000–6000 mgAdult intake averages 2300 mg for women and 3100 mg for men.
StrontiumNo RDA established3–30 mg (supplements)
up to 680 mg (in medications)
Daily dietary intake thought to vary from 1 mg to more than 10 mg.
Key vitamins
Vitamin D600 IU 1-70 yr
800 IU >70 yr
800–2000 IU and up, as neededNumerous experts say that a billion people worldwide are deficient today. Deficiency is especially common among people who are elderly, dark skinned, and those with little UV sunlight exposure. A simple, inexpensive blood test for 25(OH)D is the best way to determine vitamin D status and need.
Vitamin C90 mg adult males
75 mg adult females
Oral 500–3000 mg (and upward to bowel tolerance), as needed.Average daily intake is about 95 mg for women and 107 mg for men. Based on US survey of nearly 9000 people, intake for 31% of population is below Estimated Average Requirement (EAR).
Vitamin A2997 IU adult males
2331 IU adult females
5000 IU or less44% of US population has intake below EAR.
Vitamin B61.3–1.7 mg adult males
1.3–1.5 mg adult females
25–50 mgStudies indicate widespread inadequate vitamin B6 consumption among all sectors of the population; >50% of population consume 70% RDA.
Folic acid/folate
(vitamin B9)
400 mcg adults
(0.4 mg)
400–1000 mcg
(0.4–1 mg)
Inadequate intake common among all age groups; although improving with food fortification, 49% of participants in NHANES survey had intakes below Estimated Average Requirement (EAR).
Vitamin B122.4 mcg adults150–1000 mcgUp to 40% of US population have marginal B12 status. Older people and vegans are especially at risk.
Vitamins K1 and K2K1:
120 mcg adult males
90 mcg adult females
No recommended intake
250–1000 mcg
45–180 mcgMK-7(menaquinone-7)
Averages 45–150 mcg, which is well below the recommended AI.
Average US intake 9–12 mcg (if any).
Other nutrients
FatsShould comprise minimum of 7% total calories. General recommendation is not to exceed 30% of caloric intake.20–30% of total calories is perhaps more idealAverage American consumes ~33% of his/her calories in fat. Consumption of essential fatty acids (EFA’s), however, is frequently inadequate.
Protein0.8 g/kg per day adult males and females
125-lb person = 45 g
175-lb person = 63 g
56 g adult males
46 g adult females
1.0–1.5 g/kgDaily intake commonly exceeds 100 g, but the elderly and some women often have very deficient intake. Higher protein intake should be balanced with higher RDA level potassium intake from food sources.

About… Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI),
Adolescent Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA),
Adult Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA),
Adequate Intakes (AI), and
Estimated Average Requirements (EAR)

    • The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is a system of nutritional guidelines developed by the Institute of Medicine (IoM) of the US National Academy of Sciences. It was first introduced in 1997 to broaden the set of existing Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which is the system currently still in use in food nutrition labeling. The DRI includes two sets of values that serve as goals for nutrient intake (from the National Academy of Sciences). These are the RDA andAdequate Intake (AI).
    • Table of RDAs for Adolescents and Teenagers.

    • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) represents the daily dietary intake of a nutrient regarded to be sufficient for meeting the requirements of nearly all (97–98%) healthy individuals in each age and gender group. The RDA reflects the average daily amount of a nutrient considered adequate to meet the needs of most healthy people. If there is insufficient evidence to determine an RDA, an AI is set.Adult RDA figures come from: National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, and the Food and Nutrition Board, through the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Information Center website. Dietary Reference Intakes for individuals.

    • Adequate Intake (AI) values are more tentative than RDA, but both may be used as goals for nutrient intake.

  • In addition to the values that serve as goals for nutrient intakes, the DRI includes a set of values called Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL). The UL represent the maximum amount of a nutrient that appears safe for most healthy people to consume on a regular basis.
  • The Estimated Average Requirement (ERA) calculations are the average daily nutrient intake level estimated to meet the requirement of half of the healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group. They are established by the Institute of Medicine (IoM).

Keep in mind that these are values that are meant to cover adequacy for most folks, not for optimizing health! The common therapeutic dose for bone health may be significantly higher in “special need” cases.