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Look After Your Bones and Joints

This year the Bone and Joint Action Week runs from October 12th-20th. Many people will suffer with bone and joint problems at some point in their lives. Poorer musculoskeletal (MSK)...

This year the Bone and Joint Action Week runs from October 12th-20th. Many people will suffer with bone and joint problems at some point in their lives. Poorer musculoskeletal (MSK) health affects more women than men. It also affects more people with lower income and those living in deprivation. It disproportionately affects some ethnic groups.

The Role of Bones

Bones provide stability and strength to the body, they support the muscles and protect the internal organs. Bones help with movement, and movement, in turn, strengthens the bones. Most people reach peak bone mass by about age 30. This is the maximum bone density, size and strength that your bones will achieve in your lifetime. Many factors contribute to bone mass including genetics, exercise, body weight, nutritional status, alcohol consumption and smoking.

The Importance of Joint Health

Most people, particularly those over 50 or anyone who engages in physical activity, are likely to experience joint pain at some point. This is often a sign of wear and tear, which may ultimately result in osteoarthritis if left untreated. Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints, with one of the most affected tissues being cartilage. Cartilage provides a protective padding to joints. It is made up of glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans, collagen and elastin. The cartilage covering bones may gradually thin and eventually wear away completely, resulting in bone rubbing against bone within the joint, leading to pain, inflammation and reduced range of motion.

The most common treatment for joint pain and osteoarthritis is with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen. However, long term use does not solve the problem and carries side effects. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that certain nutrients can reduce joint pain and osteoarthritic symptoms, with less likelihood of adverse side effects than NSAIDs.

Healthy Diet for Bone Health

Research into the effects of different dietary models on bone health concludes that a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is associated with a lower risk for hip fractures and maintaining bone health in postmenopausal women (1,2).

Foods to Reduce

Oxalic acid, or oxalates, found in spinach, chard and rhubarb can inhibit the absorption of the calcium from these foods. However, the oxalic acid in these foods does not affect the absorption of calcium from other foods eaten at the same time.

Wheat bran - contains phytates that inhibit calcium absorption.

Excess sodium - fast food and many packaged convenience products contain high amounts of sodium which can cause calcium loss.

Excess alcohol - can lead to bone loss.

Caffeine - can reduce calcium absorption from foods.

Some soft drinks 鈥 many of these, such as cola, have a high phosphorus content, which is detrimental to bone health when consumed in large amounts.

Excess animal protein - may lead to the leaching of calcium from bones in order to neutralise amino acids from animal products.

Lifestyle Strategies for Bone and Joint Health

Lifestyle factors that have a negative effect on bone and joint health include smoking, inactivity, being under or over weight and excessive alcohol intake.

Certain medications may also increase bone loss such as PPIs, anti-depressants, glucocorticoids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), some antidepressants and some diabetes medications.

Regular physical activity is just as important as diet for bone and joint health. Include:

Weight-bearing exercise - walking, running, weight-lifting, yoga, dancing, climbing stairs, and rebounding may all help.

Core exercises 鈥 having a strong core is good for balance, posture and overall strength. Exercises such as plank and sit ups are helpful.

Balancing exercises 鈥 these are important to prevent falls.

Start slowly if you already have bone or joint problems or if you have not exercised for a while.

Nutrients for Bone Health

Glucosamine and Vitamin C - Glucosamine is most abundant in connective tissue and cartilage. The production of glucosamine may decrease with age, thus limiting the body鈥檚 ability to make cartilage. Glucosamine has many roles in promoting joint health including stimulating cartilage synthesis (3), anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (3,4) and suppressing bone loss (5,6).

Tom Oliver Nutrition鈥檚 Glucosamine Hydrocloride is blended with vitamin C because vitamin C has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is associated with a decreased risk of cartilage loss and osteoarthritis.

Dosages of 1500鈥塵g/day of glucosamine are recommended (5).

MSM - Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) contains sulphur which is one of the major building blocks of glucosamine, as well as other compounds that are needed for the production of cartilage. The effects of MSM include reduced inflammation, reduced joint and muscle pain, reduced oxidative stress, and increased antioxidant capacity (7).

MSM is recognised as a safe supplement for most people at doses up to 4mg a day. People who are sensitive to sulphur may not tolerate it well.

Calcium - the most abundant mineral in the body and most of it is in our bones and teeth.

Magnesium - needed for the utilisation of calcium and bone formation (8).

Vitamin D3 - plays an important role in protecting bones as it is needed to absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be made in the body through the action of sunlight on bare skin. In the UK supplementation is recommended from September until March or all year round if you keep your skin covered up or don鈥檛 go outside much.

Vitamin K2 and D3 - supplementing with vitamin K2 and D3 has been shown to have positive effects on bone mineral density (9,10).

Vitamin B12 - Impaired vitamin B12 status negatively affects bone mineral density (11).

Zinc - zinc supplementation may improve bone mineral density (12).聽

Omega 3 Fats - fish oils help prevent age related bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures (13,14)

Whey Protein 鈥 has been found to prevent bone loss (15), as well as L-Carnitine, which has been shown to exert positive effects on bone health (16).

Probiotics - the microbiome may affect bone health by modulating bone resorption and bone formation. The gut microbiota also affect vitamin D3 levels and calcium absorption (17,18,19). Probiotic supplements are one way to improve the balance of gut organisms.

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