Am I Too Young To Take a Bone Health Supplement?

The short answer is no, it’s never too early to take measures to protect and maintain good bone health - especially for women. During childhood your bones grow rapidly! Bone mass builds fastest during the ‘growth spurt’ stage of adolescence.  Girls specifically mature earlier, grow for a shorter time, and typically have narrower bones than their male peers- and are therefore more affected by bone loss as adults.

There are a number of childhood factors that can cause adult bone loss.  These include congenital disorders, early steroid use, and most commonly nutritional deficiencies that may or may not be reversible.

Early bone growth requires a well-balanced diet and a healthy living environment.  Vitamin D deficiency is one of the biggest factors that can limit bone growth.  Remember that vitamin D assists in calcium absorption and both are essential for bone health. But because it is almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from diet alone, most doctors recommend supplementation. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplementation as early as one month of age, through adulthood. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 IU for adults, yet the average intake from diet is only 200 IU.  Of late there is increasing scientific emphasis on vitamin D and decreasing emphasis on calcium for bone health. The Endocrine Society even recommends as much as 1500-2000 IU Vitamin D each day.

Most people know vitamin D and calcium are important, but few know that additional vitamins can improve their effectiveness. Silicon, for example, attracts calcium to bone.  Organic silicon is found in beer and whole grain, but is largely insufficient in most women’s diets. Vitamin K2, as well, activates proteins made by vitamin D. And boron improves the effects of vitamin D and helps the body conserve calcium and magnesium for bone formation.

Bone mass reaches its maximum by age 30, but by age 50 its starts reversing downhill for almost every woman, and can result in osteoporosis.  Osteoporosis strikes one in four American women over 60. Those most at risk are slim Caucasian women, those with limited physical activity, or those with low body fat content.  Unhealthy lifestyle factors -such as poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive smoking and drinking, etc.- can significantly impede bone mass that may result in osteoporosis.

However, increasing your bone mass during adolescence by just 10% postpones the onset of osteoporosis by an average of 13 years.  Supplementation of these nutrients – in addition to diet and exercise – maintains bone density that improves your chances of leading a long and active life. So, it’s best to start supplements for bone health as early as possible and continue throughout adult life.

There are lots of other reasons to use supplements to improve bone health. One is to decrease the risk of arthritis. Areas of the world with high boron content in foods have lower rates of arthritis. Athletes benefit from supplements to decrease the risk of stress fractures and other injuries. Low back pain is also more common in people with low bone density. So, there are a lot of reasons to begin a bone health program besides maintaining bone mass to slow the rate of bone loss after menopause.

Exercise, adequate nutrition, and supplementation are the trifecta of bone health. And it’s not too late (or early) to start!

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