How the study of bone health around the world led to a surprising new path to bone health


When I first started studying bone health years ago, I began to question the accuracy of the most firmly held beliefs about osteoporosis. Could the blame for poor bone health truly be traced back to a lack of calcium in our diets? Is low estrogen really responsible for the widespread osteoporosis that plagues American women? As an anthropologist, I had learned that everyone’s bones naturally thin as we age, but I was puzzled by the fact that older people in other countries have much lower rates for osteoporosis, even though they consume far less calcium than we do. I was also struck by the finding that osteoporosis is rare in certain places, like Japan, where people generally have thinner, lighter bones.

That’s how it became clear to me that dietary calcium deficits, estrogen levels, and low bone density are not the main reasons for declining bone health. These conclusions set me on a course of study which has ignited my own personal passion and prompted the quest to find the true explanation for the epidemic of osteoporosis in this country.

The natural state of bones

Most people think that osteoporosis is the breakdown, or resorption, of bone but that is only one half of the story. Though we may not be aware of it, our bones are constantly being renewed with fresh tissue which is generated to replace what has been lost through wear and damage. It’s a natural formula for give and take that is intended to maintain healthy bones indefinitely. However, when the natural balance between regeneration and breakdown is upset or disrupted, bone health deteriorates and weaknesses begin to appear in the bone structure. Unfortunately, this imbalance has become the norm among American women, and its effects extend beyond bone health to threaten our total physical condition.

Happily, the other side of the coin is that when you take steps to improve bone health, you will also create better wellness for your entire body. The philosophy behind the development of my life-supporting approach to bone health blends critical findings from years of medical, nutritional, and anthropological research. This new direction honors the infinite wisdom contained within our bodies and folds in new revelations about how our environment and the food we eat affect our bones and overall health.

Magical bodies, magical bones

When we think about our physical selves, we often consider them as a jumble of single parts: eyes, mouth, arms, legs and so on. But the truth is, we are composed of trillionsof parts, all of which must perform together seamlessly to keep us in working order. This “interconnectedness” is the key to understanding how poor health in one part of your body can quickly undermine the integrity and wellness of other areas. And so it is with the bones.

Bones may seem to be “dead” and inert, but in fact, they are living tissue, charged with many important jobs that the rest of the body relies on, including mineral storage for use in chemical processes throughout the organ systems. Our bones are transforming all the time, breaking down and then building back up. Our bodies are in tune with this type of natural process, which occurs even on a cellular level. Without this constant coordination between our internal systems, we simply couldn’t function and our physical condition would almost immediately become dire.

From the time we are born, our bones are growing and acquiring strength and density, until about the age of 30, when we generally achieve “peak bone mass.” You might assume that it’s all downhill from there, and that systematic loss of bone mass is inevitable. While it is true that the bones tend to thin and become less substantial as we get older, it is possible — and natural — to retain enough bone mass and strength to withstand the stresses and strains of daily life. This information alone confirms that, with just a little help, our bones have the capability of lasting us a lifetime.

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