The Better Bones Blog

by Dr. Susan Brown, PhD.

Welcome to the Osteo Blast (now the Better Bones Blog!)

Greetings to all,

Some of you might be wondering why you have not heard from me for several months—no newsletters, few e-mail notices. Well, over the past year I have been very busy writing numerous new articles for our redesigned web site, betterbones.com. My goal was, and is, to produce the world’s most informative and useful website on natural bone health. I am very pleased with the new site and hope you like it too. I would love to hear your comments.

In these new articles, I’ve tried to share the many exciting developments in the field of bone health and to capture some of the things we know about bone health that are in contrast to the conventional wisdom about osteoporosis. One article that I’d like to share with you now is a summary of 10 major common myths about osteoporosis. In this article, “It’s More Than Just Thin Bone—The Top 10 Myths about Osteoporosis,” and on my entire web site, I work to sort fact from fiction, helping you to better understand the true nature, causes, and best prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteopenia.

It is great to be back in touch with you. I will be writing this blog every two weeks, highlighting the new science of bone health. Let me know what you think of the “The Top 10 Myths about Osteoporosis” and my new betterbones.com website.

 

Declining nutrient content of US foods

When we eat a carrot or apple today are we getting all the nutrients we have been told the food contains?  The answer is no.  According to the data collected by the USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture), today we would need to eat five apples to get all the same nutrients that one apple contained in 1965. The same USDA data reported significant loss of minerals in both vegetables and fruits between 1940 and 1991. Some of the mineral reductions in vegetables and fruits were reported as below.

(Mineral Reductions from 1940 to 1991)

Vegetables

  • Potassium: -16%
  • Magnesium; -24%
  • Calcium; -46%
  • Zinc: -59%
  • Copper -76%
  • Iron: -27%
  • Sodium: -49

Fruits

  • Potassium: -19%
  • Magnesium; -16%
  • Calcium; -16%
  • Zinc: -27%
  • Copper -20%
  • Iron: -20%
  • Sodium: -29

Many factors contribute to this loss of nutrient content. These factors include modern farm methods, soil depletion, the use of pesticides and herbicides, and imbalanced fertilizers.

 

How many women experience an osteoporotic fracture?

A few months ago one of our readers asked me to estimate just how many people in the U.S. actually experience an osteoporotic fracture. Sometimes it is difficult to tell fact from fiction and to sort out a pharmaceutical-induced “osteoporosis scare” perception from real fracture data.

Taking this reader’s question to heart, I asked myself , “How do we really know how many people actually have an osteoporotic fracture?”  It became quickly obvious that this is not an easy question to answer, largely because many people suffer “silent”spinal fractures that are never reported to physicians. In fact, it is estimated that two-thirds of all spinal fractures are undiagnosed; thus, they never enter into the official statistics. For example, my father at age 85 was in a car accident and it was incidentally discovered on x-ray that he had had two previous spinal fractures in his upper back. He had never noticed any pain, nor had any reason to think there might be a spinal deformity. Even now at age 98 he has no back pain, but has lost several inches of height.

Equally, many rib fractures are never reported. What we do know about, however, are most of the hip fractures that occur. The total number of hip fractures in the US is held to be somewhat over 300,000 a year. Some hip fractures, however, do slip by the statistics, such as the one experienced by my grandmother. At the age of 101, she fell in the bathtub and fractured her hip. She refused to go to the doctor and said that she “had taken care” of her two sons for a hundred years and they should now take care of her. She went to bed and remained there for one year to the day, at which point she died in her sleep.

So groups like the National Osteoporosis Foundation have made it their business to estimate how many osteoporotic fractures do occur. Their statistic is that one half of women age 50 and older will experience one or another osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime. Here’s a link to that statistic on their website:www.nof.org/diseasefacts.htm. They also report that one in four men over the age of 50 will also have an osteoporotic fracture in their remaining lifetime.

Granted it is in the best interest of the National Osteoporosis Foundation to seek out the highest possible fracture statistic estimates, and they likely include a great many inconsequential spinal vertebral fractures that were never noticed by the people experiencing them.

In my estimation of fracture incidence, I tend to include only fractures of significance and do not pay much attention to the undiagnosed spinal vertebral fractures. In this sense it is probably fair to say that 30% of US Caucasian women will experience one or another meaningful osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime. For example, looking at spinal fractures alone, I would mention a recent 15-year study looking at 2,700 US Caucasian women. At the onset of the study the average age was 69. Over the next 15 years, 18% of these women suffered a spinal fracture. Finally, the longer you live, the more likely you are to fracture. By the age of 90 about 32% of all females and 17% of all males in the US have experienced a hip fracture (See Susan Ott’s website:http://courses.washington.edu/bonephys/).
References:

Cooper, C. and Melton, L.J. 1992. Vertebral fracture: How large the silent epidemic? BMJ, 304, 793-794.
Cauley, J. et al. 2007. Long-term risk of incident vertebral fractures. JAMA, 298(23), 2761-2767.


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