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Leave These All-Natural Ingredients Out Of Bone Supplements

“All natural” supplements are not inherently better or safer! There is a big difference between “all natural” when it appears on a food item, versus a supplement label. “All natural” is actually a term that should be avoided with bone health supplements, but few consumers are aware of the reasons why.

A bone health supplement only needs to compensate for dietary deficiencies of known bone-building nutrients.  These include building-blocks calcium, vitamin D and magnesium, in addition to breakthrough ingredients silicon, vitamin K, boron and a few select others.

Popular herbal supplements such as garlic, ginger, ginkgo biloba and Echinacea may actually have drug-like properties.  That’s because their plant extracts contain many chemicals - not just the ones that benefit health. Some plant parts contain unknown chemicals that may be toxic, cause allergic reaction or interact with drugs in unknown ways.  Refining the plant extract may increase the beneficial nutrients and remove potentially harmful chemicals. A supplement that does not use a refining process, or chooses to add fruit and plant extracts, may be increasing the risk of drug interactions.

Some of the leading bone health supplements include fruit and plant extracts despite the fact that there is weak scientific evidence to support that they improve bone health. These supplements are using the term “all natural” in earnest, because they know most consumers are not aware of the risks of fruit and plant extracts.  Here are the 4  biggest culprits:

1. Ingredient:  Amla fruit extract, also known as Indian gooseberry

Claim:  Amla has been used medicinally for thousands of years by Ayurvedic medicinal   practitioners who follow ancient Indian nutritional and healing protocols. It is a rich source of vitamin C, which is a foundation supplement that helps build collagen. Amla fruit extract is also a potent anti-inflammatory and is used as an all-around tonic for conditions including digestion and absorption of bone-healthy nutrients.

Reality:  The leaves contain medicinally active compounds, but most supplements today are derived from the fruit of the amla plant. Vitamin C has an important role in the early formation of bone collagen, but silicon is needed because it increases production of collagen and helps strengthen the final collagen protein.   The collagen boosting benefits of silicon extend to hair, skin and nails because they share a similar collagen framework to bones.  There is no definitive recommended dose for amla extract, and a lack of clinical evidence for its safety.

2. Ingredient: Cilantro leaf extract and Chlorella algae

Claim:  Together, these two botanicals can help you detoxify your body and protect you from the buildup of unwanted heavy metals like mercury.

Reality: Cilantro is high in vitamin K, which helps make bone tough and strong.  Vitamin K may also reduce fracture rates -even in people with already low bone density.  Improved bone density is reported with more than 109 mg of vitamin K daily. But more than half of the population in the U.S. consumes less than 80 mg.  Vitamin K2 is the specific type of Vitamin K that benefits bone, because it activates two important proteins - osteocalcin and osteopontin - and makes them stronger. Silical System provides nine bone health nutrients, including a superior form of vitamin K2 called K2VITAL™ - produced from pure and highly concentrated bioavailable K vitamins. The NIH and others are extremely interested in the use of K2 in future osteoporosis therapy. Cilantro is a less effective substitute for K2VITAL™.

Chlorella is a type of algae that grows in fresh water. The whole plant is used to make nutritional supplements. Be aware that chlorella products can vary significantly depending on the way “the     crop” used to make them was cultivated, harvested, and processed. Investigators have found that dried preparation of chlorella can contain from 7% to 88% protein, 6% to 38% carbohydrate, and 7% to 75% fat. Chlorella has many uses in medicine, but not directly for bone health.

3. Ingredient: Ashwagandha

Claim: Ashwaganda plant extract, brand name Sensoril®, may reduce cortisol levels, helping protect your bones from the damaging effects of the stress hormone cortisol.

Reality:  A high stress lifestyle has always been suspected as one of the contributing causes of osteoporosis and other major health problems. However, for those with low bone density - making lifestyle changes including diet, exercise and reducing stressful behaviors, along with adding a supplement, may be enough to combat bone loss and prevent osteoporosis.

Ashwaganda is sometimes credited as a pain reliever for arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. A recently discovered factor in osteoarthritis is the strength of the cartilage that covers the surface at the end of a bone. This surface cartilage keeps bones from rubbing directly against each other. Two nutrients - boron and silicon – have been shown to  improve collagen bonds of joint surface cartilage. So treating low bone density not only helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis and the risk of fracture, it also helps protect the joint surface from arthritis.

Large doses of ashgawandha are associated with side effects like vomiting, nausea and severe diarrhea. Diarrhea is, in part, an attempt by your body to flush out a perceived toxin. When you take too much ashwagandha, your body perceives it as a toxin. This is not a reaction you get from consuming bone-healthy vitamins and minerals that are found naturally in food.

4.  Ingredient: Marine Algae

Claim: Marine algae boosts bone density with a superior form of calcium plus other nutrients.

Reality:  The most common form of marine algae used in bone health supplements is a calcified algae known as Coralline algae. Coralline algae are typically red or green, but both forms produce calcium carbonate that has the effect of hardening the coral structure. Calcium from marine algae is the same type of calcium that’s in limestone. Refined limestone provides an absorbable form of calcium, but unrefined marine algae contains numerous minerals from the ocean, including lead and others that are toxic and unhealthy.

Before consuming a supplement made with marine algae, make sure it does not contain lead, arsenic or other harmful ingredients. If a bone health supplement label reads “natural” algae you should be extra cautious.

More than 20 vitamins and minerals have been established by leading health agencies as important to bone health.  This list does not include any fruit and plant extracts.

Silical® System* is a natural bone health supplement – not “all natural” - because it has been refined to exclude medicinal extracts.  The ingredients in Silical are all found naturally in foods that are beneficial for bone health, and compensate for dietary deficiencies. Foods that contain the key ingredients in Silical include: vitamin D fortified milk, salmon, prunes, vitamin D fortified orange juice, almonds, green beans and broccoli.  If your diet permits eating these foods, you are able to take Silical System. This healthy balance of nutrients is formulated in a way that the body is designed and accustomed to using, and in recommended daily amounts (RDA).

What are the fruits, plants and herbs that you’ve heard benefit bones? Leave a comment and the Institute for Better Bone Health doctors will respond.

*Adequate calcium and vitamin D, throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

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