Is Calcium Supplement Alone Sufficient For Stronger Bones?

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Jul 17, 2018 | Last Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Calcium Supplement Alone Sufficient For Stronger Bones

Bones are an important part of our skeletal system. They keep the structural framework of our body together and protect our vital organs. Bone nutrition plays a significant role in the prevention of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak and fragile and it occurs when the formation of a new bone fails to keep up with the erosion of the old bone tissue. Though this condition mainly affects the elderly, it actually starts when the individual is middle-aged. Hence, it is very important to take steps to lay a healthy foundation for stronger bones from the early age.

The food that you eat can affect your bone health to a great extent. It is generally believed that calcium is needed to build stronger bones and prevent osteoporosis. This fact is true but it is time to realize that calcium alone cannot help in bone nutrition.

The health of our bones not only depends on the calcium intake but also on its metabolism and utilization in the body. Important nutrients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin K, and several others are required to maintain proper bone health.

Bone Health in Women

Women are at a higher risk of nutritional deficit. The busy lifestyle, constant family demands, and fluctuations in their hormonal levels every month are the main culprits behind nutritional deficiency in women. This deficiency also has an impact on the health of a woman’s bones.

Women, especially after menopause, are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. They need to stop compromising their health and start taking care of their bones at an early age to prevent health risks later on. Here is the detailed guide to a woman’s nutritional needs for the prevention of osteoporosis.

What is the Role of Calcium in Bone’s Health?

According to a study[1] conducted by Cashman in 2002, nearly 99 percent of the calcium in the human body is restricted to the teeth and bones. Intake of calcium in the diet is important for bone health and metabolism. Deficiency of calcium due to poor dietary intake or poor absorption can lead to reduced bone density, thus paving way for osteoporosis.

Our body gets calcium directly from calcium-containing foods such as dairy products, dark and leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds.

Calcium in Bone Health

When a person does not take enough calcium in the diet, the blood levels of calcium become too low, the body then starts extracting calcium from the bones, leading to poor bone health. But before you go for calcium supplements or a glass of milk, you must know that replacement of calcium in your bones involves a complicated process of intake, metabolism, and utilization of calcium.

A study[2] conducted by Price in 2012 signifies the importance of other minerals and vitamins such as magnesium, Vitamin K, and phosphorous in maintaining bone health. We must realize now that although calcium is really important for bone health, many other nutrients also play an important role in maintaining the overall health of the bones.

Importance of Other Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is very important for the bones to absorb calcium. If you do not get the right amount of vitamin D, your bones will not absorb calcium properly. It is also required to maintain a proper balance of calcium and phosphorous in the body. Without vitamin D, bones can become thin and brittle.

Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” as our body needs enough sunlight (UV rays) to produce it. According to the National Institutes of Health[3] (NIH), the recommended dietary intake of vitamin D per day for an adult is 600 international units (IU) per day. Important sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, beef, tuna fish, milk, yogurt, egg, and cheese.

Vitamin K: Vitamin K is necessary for the utilization and metabolism of calcium. It is required to help proteins bind to calcium and transport them to the areas where they are needed in the bones. Vitamin K is also necessary for bones for the production of osteocalcin, a protein that helps calcium bind to the bone.

Deficiency of vitamin K in the body leads to more bone loss and increased risk of fractures. The recommended daily intake of vitamin K for an adult above 19 years of age is 120 micrograms (mcg). Some of the important sources of vitamin K include spinach, soyabean oil, chicken, mixed nuts, salmon, ham, and natto (a Japanese food made from fermented soybeans)
Vitamin K

Magnesium: Magnesium is an important contributor to bone health. Magnesium is required for the absorption of calcium and the formation of bones. Magnesium is also required by liver enzymes for converting vitamin D to its active form known as calcitriol.

Another enzyme called alkaline phosphatase is dependent on magnesium for its activity. The recommended dietary intake of magnesium for optimum bone health is between 320 and 420 milligrams (mg). Some of the important sources of vitamin K include bran cereal, almonds, cashews, kidney beans, brown rice, and lentils.

Phosphorous: This mineral is needed for the development and growth of bones in children. Previous research has shown that both calcium and phosphorous are needed to support an increase in bone mass. Phosphates can be obtained from cereals, meat, cheese and whole grains.

The Role of Exercising in Bone Health

Exercising in Bone Health

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons[4], exercise is very important for building and maintaining stronger bones. Exercise has similar effects on bones as it has on our muscles. When we exercise daily, our bone starts adapting to it by building more cells and becoming denser.

Physical activity also improves our balance and coordination. This is particularly important as we get older as it helps prevent falls and broken bones. Some of the exercises for healthy bones include:

  • Weight-bearing exercises: When your feet and legs are made to carry your body weight, more stress is placed on the bones, making them work harder. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include brisk walking and hiking, jogging or running, dancing, skipping rope, tennis, stair climbing, and team sports such as basketball and soccer.
  • Strength-training exercises: Strength-training involves the addition of resistance to movement to make the muscles work harder. In addition to increasing muscle mass, these exercises also put stress on bones and increase bone building. Some of the examples of such exercises include working with free weights and push-ups.
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