The Better Bones Blog

by Dr. Susan Brown, PhD.

A chat with National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) folks

At the 2009 annual meeting of the American Society for Bone Mineral Research, I had the opportunity to chat with an NOF health educator and was pleased to hear that this powerful organization is coming the recognize the importance of acid-alkaline balance for bone health. As you know, our research suggests that pH balance and chronic, low-grade metabolic acidosis is a major cause of bone loss. Even though the NOF does not officially endorse the idea of metabolic acidosis as a preventable cause of bone loss, they strongly recommend increased intake of alkalizing vegetables and fruits and reduced use of acid-forming caffeine and alcohol. Also, if you are interested in simple, safe exercise suggestions for frail individuals, you might look into the NOF publication Boning Up on Osteoporosis. The booklet offers simple, safe exercises that are helpful for the frail in clear risk of fracture. You can purchase it for $6.50 from the NOF website’s store.


Forteo follow-up: Three reports of osteosarcoma using this drug

If you saw my earlier blog on the osteoporosis drug Forteo™, you will recall that the drug was found to cause a rare, serious bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in rodents, but drug proponents suggested such cancers would not occur in humans. But this week I found that there have already been three reported cases of this rare bone cancer developing in people on Forteo.

The most recent case was detailed in an abstract (# SU0345) presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Bone Mineral Research in Denver, from which I just returned. This is the third case in the recent literature. The first case of osteosarcoma associated with Forteo use was published in the Journal of Bone Mineral Research in 2007 (JBMR vol. 22, p. 334), and a second case was published on-line in Osteoporosis International on the 14th of July, 2009.

These unfortunate findings really drew my attention, as I had been wondering just how long it would take to find that this drug could indeed cause bone cancer in humans, just as it did in animals. Hopefully the rate of such a serious adverse events will be smaller than it was in rodents. It just makes me want to reiterate my slogan “Better Bones, Better Body” — if at all possible, everything we do for bone should be good for our entire body. There is a better way to bone health than through using drugs with such dreadful potential side effects, and I am committed to helping you develop an effective and life-supporting approach to bone health.


Parathyroid hormone and magnesium: when “normal” is not always a good thing

This week, I’m at the 2009 national meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research in Denver, Colorado, learning about the most recent findings in bone research. I wanted to pass along an intriguing bit of information about magnesium deficiency and bone health.

If you’ve been following our work at the Center for Better Bones, you know that I often suggest clients be tested for both vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. This is because low vitamin D levels can lead to high PTH, a condition that depletes bone.

Here’s how it works: when vitamin D is deficient, we cannot absorb enough calcium from our food to keep our blood calcium levels high enough to support our health. To achieve the necessary blood calcium level, the parathyroid gland releases PTH, which breaks down bone to release stored calcium for transfer into the blood. If this bone breakdown action continues over time, excessive bone loss can occur. In these cases, appropriate supplementation with vitamin D increases calcium absorption from food, which reduces the production of PTH. Normal PTH levels prevent excessive bone loss.

So when can a normal PTH level be a bad thing? When it’s caused by magnesium deficiency! People who are deficient in magnesium do not produce parathyroid normally even if their vitamin D levels are very low. I have seen such cases at the Center for Better Bones, where a person comes to me with low vitamin D status and yet has normal PTH.

In these cases, supplementing with vitamin D will help, but the magnesium deficiency needs to be addressed, too. Magnesium supports bone health on many levels, including stimulating the production of the bone-preserving hormone calcitonin and properly forming calcium crystals in bone. The best way to regulate production of PTH is by providing the body with the nutrients it needs to function well — especially vitamin D and magnesium. With ample nutrition, your body will naturally maintain healthy blood calcium levels while building strong bone — and your PTH will stay at a normal level for the right reasons!

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