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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 12, 2017

Need to Know Factors for Bone Health

By Mark Sisson
51 Comments

Inline_Bone_Health_07.12.17At the heart of every building is its framework. That latticework of timber, concrete or steel is what holds the entire structure up. Without it, there’d be no building at all. I think of that phrase some people use when they look at a house and declare, “It’s got good bones.”

Considering how essential bones are to our existence, it’s surprising how most people take them for granted. A lifetime of neglect can suddenly reveal to us just how sensitive and integral this living framework is. Yet, there’s so much more to this truth than we commonly assume. 

Sure, the skeletal system provides the stable foundation upon which our muscles, organs and fascia are constructed. But that’s just the half of it. Bones also secrete hormones, interact directly with the brain (ever heard of the bone-brain axis?) as well as other organs and fat cells, and even play a key role in immunity. I’ve covered many of the basics of bone health before, and I’d definitely recommend checking those out to augment these suggestions. For today, however, let’s look at some of these lesser known and appreciated functions—as well as some additional tips for supporting bone health throughout the life cycle.

Bones Play a Hormonal Role

While their primary purpose is structural support, in many ways, bones actually behave similarly to glands.

An interesting article posted a few months back in Nature demonstrated just how in tune our bones are with the rest of the body. Researchers showed that, contrary to the view of bones as inert organs, they’re actually in continual communication with the brain, kidneys, pancreas, fat cells, and more via a group of hormonal messengers, including osteocalcin, sclerostin, fibroblast growth factor 23 and lipocalin 2.

Experiments showed that after mice eat their bones release liopcalin 2, which then travels to the brain. Here it sticks to appetite-regulating cells, signaling to the brain to stop chowing down. This means that our bones act as appetite-mediators, sending messengers that cross the blood-brain barrier to let the brain know that sufficient nutrients have been absorbed to keep the bone-building process going. Previous thought assumed fat cells were largely in charge of this task, but it appears bones actually produce 10 times more of this appetite-curbing hormone.

Osteocalcin, a hormone produced by bone-building osteoblasts, further helps to regulate blood sugar by telling the insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas to get cracking. Osteocalcin also communicates directly with fat cells to release a hormone that improves insulin sensitivity.

Beyond these critical functions, the osteocalcin produced by bones plays a key role in testosterone production and male fertility, helps regulate mood and memory, and even interacts with the brains of developing fetuses. An interesting side note…osteocalcin may also help improve endurance, with studies in mice showing that older mice were able to run almost twice as far after being injected with osteocalcin.

Capping things off nicely, continuing studies in mice indicate that the osteoblast-regulating hormone sclerostin plays a role in energy metabolism. When secreted from bones, sclerostin has been shown to increase energy expenditure by helping the body switch to ketogenesis.

What Probiotics Do for Bone Density

Studies in mice show that probiotic-treated mice retained their bone density even after ovary removal, compared to the control group that lost a whopping half of their bone density. Researchers just used your stock-standard Lactobacillus strains, commonly found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir.

A recent Chinese study confirmed that these findings may also apply to humans, with the bone mineral density of diabetic patients being higher the more Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that showed up in fecal samples. Clearly, eating and supplementing for a healthy biome is about far more than just the gut. 

A Word about Exercise and Inflammation

Over the course of nine months, researchers monitored changes in the bone health and structure of female rowers training for the 2016 Olympic Games. The rowers were chosen due to their vigorous training regime (average of 18 hours per week). During the nine months, proponents noticed that protein precursors to bone loss increased significantly, along with the bone formation-inhibiting hormone sclerostin. This was exacerbated by increased inflammation in the bodies of the over-worked rowers, which contributed to higher counts of sclerostin.

The verdict? “Very intense training without adequate recovery period may lead to increased inflammation and subsequent bone resorption (loss).” The result is higher risk of bone stress injuries and early osteoporosis. Enough said.

Overtraining aside, exercise remains one of the leading ways to ensure optimum bone health into later decades. 

Finally, there’s the role that exercise can play in reversing unfavorable genetics. According to research, 50-80% of bone density is predicated on genetics, with conditions such as brittle bone disease being passed on from mother to baby in the womb. Studies on mice indicate that higher myostatin is directly proportional to higher risk of bone disease. Exercise, in particular weightlifting or short high-intensity workouts, decrease levels of myostatin in the body and increase bone mass.

Nutritional Considerations for Bone Health

On the subject of myostatin, increasing healthy fat consumption, particularly fats with MCTs, along with cutting out inflammatory foods like sugar and grains, also contributes to lowered myostatin levels. In addition, the catechins found in green tea have been shown to lower myostatin production and support healthy bone metabolism.

As for the dairy with bone health? One study examined the association of milk, yogurt, cheese, cream and vitamin D with bone mineral density in adults around the age of 75. Researchers found that milk, yogurt and cheese were protective against both hip and spinal bone loss…but only when participants also supplemented with vitamin D. Those who consumed the same amount and type of dairy, but didn’t get their daily dose of vitamin D, showed no positive correlation at all.

Another study, this time with a huge cohort of 5000+ old folks in Ireland, demonstrated that “each unit increase in yogurt intake in women was associated with a 31% lower risk of osteopenia and a 39% lower risk of osteoporosis. In men, a 52% lower risk of osteoporosis was found.” Given the findings regarding probiotics in the earlier noted study, there are likely a few factors in play here.

Also, one salient note: the researchers at the end of their study noted that vitamin D supplements were also associated with significantly reduced risk of bone complications in both men and women. But that’s not a surprise to anyone, is it?

Thanks for reading today, and offer up any questions or feedback below. Take care.

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51 Comments on "Need to Know Factors for Bone Health"

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Hashem Abdelhadi
15 days 13 hours ago

what about the role of vitamin K2,Magnesium,Potassium and vitamin A which is critical for bone health but wasn’t even mentioned in the article?

Martha B
Martha B
15 days 12 hours ago

Is ketogenesis the same as being in ketosis? Given that sclerotin helps the body go into ketogenesis, and also inhibits the formation of bone, is there any reason to think that ketosis itself can lead to bone loss?

Jimmy Smith
15 days 12 hours ago

I enjoyed the read. I think it’s hysterical that mainstream medicine still views bone health as something basic. Hit your 60’s and you hear that you need “more calcium”. Truth is, bone health is a major cause of degenerative conditions that plague us today. How many people fall and break a hip then end up sick with an infection from the hospital or get another new condition? Good read, especially the probiotic part.

Liver King
15 days 11 hours ago
I bet a well prepared homemade bone broth would provide excellent nourishment for systemic bone health… When bones are properly prepared, you get “whole bone extract” which contains: – Bone Matrix, Bone Marrow And Cartilage – Nutrients Exclusively Found And Expressed In Whole Bone Extract… – High Concentrations Of Stem Cells And Base Cells – Collagen, Growth Factors, Fat Soluble Activators (A, D, K)… There you go Hashem!! – Glycosaminoglycans Naturally Present in Bone Matrix There are two types of bone marrow: red marrow (also known as myeloid tissue) and yellow marrow. Red blood cells, platelets and most white blood… Read more »
His Dudeness
His Dudeness
15 days 5 hours ago

Is it weird that your post made me hungry?

HealthyHombre
HealthyHombre
15 days 2 hours ago

Excellent information LK, thanks!

zenrose
15 days 2 hours ago
I love the Instapot! And would be excited to find out how to get the most nutrients out of the bones. I have not seen any really good recipes anywhere for Instapot bone broth. It seems they are just short 60 minute or so stints and have little density or flavor and I also wonder what would be the most useful setting… soup or stew or just High Pressure for ??? minutes. Does anyone know just how long it takes to get full usage from those thick grass-fed beef bones. The bones are piling up in the freezer waiting for… Read more »
Liver King
14 days 14 hours ago
Zenrose, I am sure that the Instant Pot high pressure settings have their place… In our house, their place isn’t for bone broth. Then again, maybe we’re doing something wrong, in which case, I’ll point the finger. After experimenting with many, many batches of broth, wife now uses two of the largest size Instant Pots and two huge ceramic pots (on the stove top) to slow cook our bones — the old fashioned way, the way that our early ancestors did (less the actual fire). Wife’s way slow cooks for a good two to three full days. Bones go a’… Read more »
Lupa
Lupa
10 days 10 hours ago

Kinda sounds like an aspic when eaten like that…

zenrose
zenrose
6 days 9 hours ago
Thank you for the reply, there are several helpful tips there. I see I need to be more specific about the bones in that I am using beef soup bones, knuckles, leftover shank & oxtail bones. I am wanting to get all the good minerals etc. out of them in the Instapot and wondering how long it takes under pressure to accomplish that…such as how many hours to get them finished off and thrown out. I have a small home in the hot desert and cannot cook the bones for days! So the Instapot is very helpful and especially keeping… Read more »
Time Traveler
Time Traveler
14 days 13 hours ago

For super rich and gelatinous soup, add to to your mix of bone marrow, 2 or 3 pieces of sliced calf’s Feet. It’s will turn your soup so thick once chilled, that you can actually cut a square (I store mine in a deep rectangular dish but any shape would do) and eat with a fork & knife. Delicious!

Elenor
Elenor
13 days 14 hours ago
Amazing timing! Just a half hour ago I poured out my semi-homemade chicken broth from my InstantPot. (I used to make it in the Crockpot.) I take the carcass of the rotisserie chicken(s) from Costco and break it up; add green, red, orange, and yellow peppers (organic, which I puree in season, then freeze in a silicon peanut butter cup candy ‘tray’ so I always have “fresh pepper cubes” in-house), fresh basil from my deck, and whatever spices, etc. Pour Costco organic chicken broth to cover. Slow cook on “medium” for 3-4 hours, just to get it well-heated; then put… Read more »
Tee Dee
Tee Dee
14 days 15 hours ago

I’m 60 and LCHF and love making and drinking my bone broth, but one thing confuses a bit. It seems like some believe we can actually build bone through dietary means, but dentists and dental hygienist adamantly say ‘no you can’t to anything to help with bone loss’ I’d just like to know if we’re only able to ‘maintain’ the bone we have today or if it is in fact possible to replace some lost bone in our teeth.

Liver King
14 days 15 hours ago
Our early ancestors didn’t brush… didn’t floss… didn’t get cavities. This is my “go to” line because it seems that the more we brush and floss and use fluoride, the more cavities we get. Obviously, brushing and flossing aren’t the answer, but don’t tell this to the multi-billion dollar dental industry (nor to the allopathic dentist). We all have the ability to remineralize our teeth… to withstand acidic insults… to arrest and resist decay. Nutrition giants Weston A. Price & May Mellanby did the work and published the data proving the vital importance that the fat soluble vitamins A, D… Read more »
Tee Dee
Tee Dee
14 days 8 hours ago
Thanks for your input. I’ve had a very healthy diet in the last several years, including organ meats and sunshine and/or D3. I’m glad you agree that teeth/bones can be mineralized because it’s always bothered me that my dentists have always been so adamant that it can’t ever happen. They think that my bone loss occurred because I used to smoke (I finally quit for good in 2010 after a few attempts and periods of no-smoking). At any rate, my blood work is very good and I use food as my medicine now. I don’t like the idea of taking… Read more »
Tee Dee
Tee Dee
14 days 8 hours ago

*remineralized*

Liver King
14 days 7 hours ago

Those vitamins aren’t in a toothpaste… those vitamins (vitamins A, D, K, magnesium, phosphorus (and others)) are from good old fashioned foods… food that our early ancestors would have regularly consumed from their nose-to-tail diet and sensible sun exposure.

Tee Dee
Tee Dee
12 days 15 hours ago

Guess I got that idea from what you wrote here:. In fact, we developed a product together called “Tooth Restore” that is rich in vitamins A, D, K, magnesium, phosphorus (and others)…

Liver King
12 days 15 hours ago

I totally get it!! The current paradigm is to treat our teeth from the outside in when in fact we should be thinking about it from the inside out. Our product, “Tooth Restore,” was a dietary supplement that included grass fed liver, grass fed bone marrow and whole bone extract.

If you want fresh breath, brush your teeth. If you want oral health, nourish your body!

Elenor
Elenor
13 days 14 hours ago

Bit o’ trivia: the best predictor of success in quitting smoking? Having quit before! It’s NOT a one-and-done for most people. (For the “lucky” ones? Maybe. Most folks struggle!) But, having tried it once, twice three times a lad… er… having quit before means you will likely finally succeed! So any smokers here, keep trying!

Grant @ Life Prep Couple
15 days 11 hours ago

Very good read. I’m a bit surprised at the rowing study. I would have thought the body could recover from 18 hours of weekly training. Ironman participates spend a lot more time than that per week training. Perhaps they are all causing massive bone damage too.

David Marino
David Marino
15 days 10 hours ago

Yes they are. You can tell by looking at them over a long period. Organ damage as well.

Lupa
Lupa
10 days 10 hours ago

The study doesn’t make any mention of calorie intake – possibly they were straying into “female athlete triad” territory.

Julie Lobdell
Julie Lobdell
15 days 10 hours ago

I appreciate your including information on men’s bone health here as well, as it’s often seen as just a women’s issue in the mainstream.

Thanks for the not-so-common knowledge and linking to your previous with on the subject.

LizinOregon
LizinOregon
15 days 10 hours ago

I am curious why ovary removal in the mice affected their bone health and whether this is true in humans.

His Dudeness
His Dudeness
15 days 5 hours ago

Instant menopause.

Shasha
Shasha
15 days 5 hours ago

Estriol may stop bones from breaking down. Progesterone may help Osteoblasts build bone.

JTB
JTB
15 days 4 hours ago
As “His Dudeness” said, the ovary removal puts them in a state that mimics menopause (when women lose a lot of their bone density). On that note, several studies on animals and humans have shown that approximately 100 grams of dried plums (aka prunes) halts, and can even reverse, menopause-induced bone loss. 100 grams is roughly 8 to 12 prunes. Prunes are fairly carb heavy, but they’re very high in antioxidants. Among other things, they have a decent amount of vitamin K2, which is known to have a positive impact on bone health. Mark, if you do a follow up… Read more »
LizinOregon
LizinOregon
14 days 13 hours ago

Thanks all!

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
15 days 10 hours ago
One of the problems with bone disease, is the fact that it’s silent until something goes wrong and even then, diagnosis could get delayed, if it’s masked by other issues. I know that too well, as I broke my wrist while mountain biking in 2014 and suffered a cracked rib (doing a flagpole) at the end of 2016 and a multi stress fractures about a week later while barefoot running. I haven’t healed yet and I’m about to have an MRI. All accidents were attributed to the activity and why shouldn’t they (even thought I hit 60 and wrist fractures… Read more »
HealthyHombre
HealthyHombre
15 days 2 hours ago
TT I would say yes you are being too hard on yourself, I’ve had to forgive myself for my lack of connecting the dots when my mom passed away (she complained of fatigue, shortness of breath but said it was just natural aging, I should have had her go to a cardiologist right away). I hope you can use your knowledge of traditional and natural healing to improve your situation. I know you want to do as much weight bearing as you can for you bones, but if you have access to a pool for cardio that may be useful.
Time Traveler
Time Traveler
15 days 8 minutes ago

TT, thanks for your words of support; no pool but I live near the sea and I can harness that. Sorry for your loss. I know what it feel like to lose a mom, no matter the circumstances, as mine passed away last year.

K D
K D
14 days 15 hours ago

You should look at getting into rebounding (jumping on a trampoline). Studies have shown it has a positive effect on bone density

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
15 days 9 hours ago
One of the problems with bone disease, is the fact that it’s silent until something goes wrong and even then, diagnosis could get delayed, if it’s masked by other issues. The beauty of the bone, is that it is an enclosed structure that is shielded from the outside and where it’s cavity serves as a to factory for many crucial elements (blood production for one). To Marta below… being that the issue is dear to me (I also practice keto), I went over several studies regarding the effect of ketosis on bone density and non of them found a link… Read more »
Carrie
Carrie
15 days 8 hours ago

Is it possible that a significant factor(s) in the rowers overtraining and resulting decrease in bone density is due to a.) rowing is not weight bearing(!) and b.) stress is stress is stress in terms of adrenalin, cortisol, other stress hormones and that is also a factor in decreased bone mineralization.

Niamh
Niamh
15 days 7 hours ago

“Exercise, in particular weightlifting or short high-intensity workouts…. increase muscle mass.” …. Do you mean bone density rather than muscle mass?

Shasha
Shasha
15 days 5 hours ago

Gravity helps bones. Sitting too much hurts.

Shasha
Shasha
15 days 5 hours ago

No gluten may heal intestines so more minerals absorb. Vit D3/Vit K2/Vit C/Si/progesterone/Vit B12 methylcobalamin with intrinsic factor/Mg/sea salt/Zn/Amour thyroid and more may help bones.

Tracy
Tracy
15 days 4 hours ago

My dr. Informed me I have bone loss in my foot. I had a bone scan and I am normal, is my bone loss possibly from not enough recovery? I have stopped running but need help w/ the right exercises.

Richard S Stone
Richard S Stone
15 days 3 hours ago
Tracy, first, consider what is meant by “normal.” One could be “normal” and suffering from the “normal” bone loss. Do we (or you) want to be normal? I would suggest we do not want to be normal. Second, I do not know if bone loss can be reversed, or how exactly the change might be described, but from what I have read one function of Vitamin D is calcium utilization, which would apply to feet too, but… without vitamin K2 the D and calcium is not properly used, and you end up with calcium deposits where you do not want… Read more »
Brenda
Brenda
14 days 6 hours ago
I used to fast from my evening meal until lunch the following day , I had done this for a year when I had a bad fall and fractured a vertebra and had a diagnosis of severe osteoporosis with a -4.8 T score , after that I worried that I was depriving my body of nutrients and started to eat a small breakfast. It is a very frightening condition and I am at a loss to know what to do to help myself , I just take the supplements I see recommended and exercise. I have always tried to eat… Read more »
Jeanne
Jeanne
15 days 1 hour ago

I wonder about collagen. How much is this also associated with a healthy bone system?

Janice Martin
Janice Martin
14 days 9 hours ago

I’m on the Vit D Protocol from Dr Cicero Coimbra, www. VitaminDprotocol.com which is a very low calcium diet. I’m feeling tremendously better in just one month of taking 70,000 iu daily, reduced pain (7 autoimmune illnesses) better thyroid function and great sleep.
There are several YouTube videos of Dr Coimbra being interviewed.
What do you think of this Protocol?

Elenor
Elenor
13 days 14 hours ago

LOW calcium? Where is your body supposed to get the needed calcium for its daily operations? Or do you mean you’re taking 70k IU daily OF calcium? I’ll go look at this Docs stuff but …??

el marquiso
el marquiso
14 days 6 hours ago

that’s interesting thank you Mark

Hashem Abdelhadi
14 days 5 hours ago

How is the work coordinated between the hormone lipocalin2 released by the bones to inform the brain about bone nutrients sufficiency and the Leptin hormone released by the fat cells to inform the brain about satiety?

Catherine
Catherine
13 days 21 hours ago

Mice eating their bones – that’s self-sufficiency!

Zoltan
Zoltan
13 days 17 hours ago
You wrote, “A recent Chinese study confirmed that these findings also apply to humans, with the bone mineral density of diabetic patients increasing the more Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium they were given.” Nope, the patients were not given any probiotics. The researchers simply analyzed their fecal samples to determine how much Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli they had residing in their guts, and then performed an analysis to see if this had any correlation with bone mineral density. And it did. Diabetics with osteoporosis had less of these bacteria, while diabetics with a higher BMD had more. So there is a positive correlation… Read more »
Jeff Z
Jeff Z
8 days 16 hours ago

Paleo-humans were known for their flawless use of commas: Not “Experiments showed that after mice eat their bones release liopcalin 2,” but “Experiments showed that after mice eat, their bones release liopcalin 2.” Aside from that, I love your bog.

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