The American Diet Forgot About Bone Health

In 2012 I published a paper in The Open Orthopaedics Journal along with Institute for Better Bone Health co-founders Joshua R. Langford MD and Frank A. Liporace MD, called Essential Nutrients for Bone Health and a Review of their Availability in the Average North American Diet.  The goal of the paper was to evaluate the nutritional deficiencies of the "typical American diet" for bone health, and more specifically to bring attention to deficiencies of magnesium, silicon, Vitamin K, and boron - important nutrients for bone health.

The majority of the public is confused as to whether or not recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals factor in supplements. In other words, how much of each nutrient for bone health should come from food, and how much should come from a supplement?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)  is the amount recommended for total consumption from foods and supplements. The Recommended Dietary Allowance – also called Recommended Daily Amount - for every ingredient, are established by the NIH and other government surveys and are widely trusted.  As reliable as they are though, they are still estimates. Some vitamins and minerals for bone health like calcium and vitamin D have been widely studied,  so the RDA is well established and promoted in supplements. The RDA for more newly discovered bone-healthy vitamins and minerals, such as organic silicon, is not as widely known.  What IS established is that more than half of Americans are deficient in bone building nutrients from just diet. 

Food sources are the best way to get nutrients because of the flavonoids, polyphenols and other micronutrients they contain. If you’ve ever heard the term ‘super food’ it refers to these properties that enhance biological processes.  With regards to foods that benefit bones, we do not eat enough foods that contain Vitamin K and boron. And silicon is found in only a handful of foods - so availability is an issue.  The honest truth - and this is specific to bone health - is that most Americans don't get the nutrients they need for optimal bone health from foods alone in a "typical American diet".

Mayo Clinic recommends 7 daily servings of fruits/vegetables and 4 daily servings of whole grains. That's a tall order unless you are totally dedicated to eating healthy. In addition to those foods, you would need 3 servings of dairy to achieve the recommended daily amount of calcium.  Dairy products can be be high in fat and calories, even when low-fat milk is used, which is why daily calcium intake should be balanced with a 500 mg supplement (but no higher because of other risks) instead of loading up on milk products.

The nutrients that are beneficial for bones that Americans do not get enough of from diet are:  Vitamin D, magnesium, silicon, Vitamin K, and boron.  Also, special formulas of these nutrients effect calcium metabolism, and the right formula can actually improve absorption.

What about some of the other minerals that you may have heard are good for bones, namely  zinc, manganese, and copper?  Yes - they do support bones, but the amount we find in the typical American diet are enough - that's why they do not need to be included in a supplement that promotes bone health or osteoporosis prevention.  Regardless, some supplements contain these minerals unnecessarily and in high amounts they  disrupt absorption and have  adverse effects.

Supplements that prioritize the vitamins and minerals that we are deficient in are lumped together with supplements that pile in every nutrient under the sun.

2 thoughts on “The American Diet Forgot About Bone Health”

  • Valerie

    My doctor said that one of the secrets to having a better bone health is by getting enough vitamin d3. This is the reason why I'm taking my daily dose of vitamin d. If I can't get it from the sun, I am taking a supplement.

    • Institute for Better Bone Health

      Absolutely - vitamin D is important for bone health - but remember vitamin D by itself is not enough. That's why Silical® System contains organic silicon and other nutrients that increase the effectiveness of calcium and vitamin D for improved bone strength and density.

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