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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fosamax, the Bone Builder, Causing Brittle Bones

Recently, Fosamax made news headlines around the country. KSTP reported that the prescription given to young menopausal women is actually causing bones to become brittle after long term use (five or more years). Fosamax is used to build bone strength, but abnormally alters the bones metabolism. Some experts believe that it can actually even worsen bone health.

While Merk (the drug company that distributes Fosamax) and the doctors who actually care for patients struggle to work out the details, let’s take a look at how to prevent osteoporosis and generally strengthen bones.

Osteoporosis, generally speaking, is a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences. That means the choices we make in our youth effect the way our body feels in our old age. Lack of calcium and vitamin D used to be very obvious. People would develop legs that bowed like crazy. We don’t see Rickets too often these days, but that was an obvious sign of malnutrition. But malnutrition is sneaking its way back in. In many families, children and young adults over consume foods that are not vitamin dense, but are still calorie packed leading to undernourished, frequently overweight, kids. The same children who snack on soda, Doritos and Ding Dongs while sitting in front of a screen are also lacking the weight bearing exercise and sunshine that strengthens bones.

To avoid becoming undernourished and developing bone issues, we need to eat a variety of nutrient dense foods, through out a lifetime. Nutrient dense foods pack a power house of a punch, with a wallop of vitamins and minerals that overshadow their calorie counterpart. Foods that are dark in color and heavy for their size usually house the most nutrients. Think whole grain breads, dark leafy greens like spinach and bok choy, broccoli, rhubarb, fresh eggs and many others.

Calcium is one of the specific minerals that work to strengthen bones. If fortified milk, yogurt and cheese aren’t part of your daily diet, make sure to include foods like salmon and tofu, sardines, dark leafy greens, almonds, kidney beans, peas and okra. They are naturally rich in calcium. There are also many fortified cereals and juices available, but if all else fails, you may need a supplement. Supplements should be high in quality, and if you live in a northern climate or sleep during daylight hours, you should probably include Vitamin D. Humans can actually make Vitamin D just by exposing ourselves to the sun (about 15 minutes of unprotected exposure is enough to make what you need for an entire day). Vitamin D is the key that unlocks calcium’s potential. One just won’t work without the other. Not sure if there is enough Vitamin D in your life? Infants, children, adolescents and adults up to age 50 need about 200 International Units (IU) of Vitamin D. Those between the ages of 51-70 need 400 IUs and those over 71 need 600. Check with your doctor for a simple blood test to determine if you are low and need a supplement.

Up Next! Weight Bearing Exercise: How does it effect bone health?
Tune in Friday for more information!

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