Bone is living, growing tissue that is constantly remodeling. It is continuously breaking down and rebuilding, essentially replacing itself as most tissues in the body. In order to properly rebuild bone, certain nutrients are necessary. From a macro perspective, the composition of bone is made up of minerals (~70%) and protein (~30%). Without minerals, bone would bend and be malleable like a piece of clay. And without protein (or collagen) bone would shatter like a piece of glass hitting hard pavement. Now I’ll get more specific.
• Calcium – This is the most abundant mineral in the body. We all know calcium is a necessary component of bone, and about ninety-nine percent of the body’s calcium is found in bone. Some good forms of calcium include calcium citrate, calcium lactate, calcium citrate-malate, and calcium hydroxyapatite.
• Phosphorus – This is the second most abundant mineral in the body, and about eighty-five percent of the body’s phosphorus is in bone. Despite its essential nature, it is rarely something that needs to be supplemented, and excessive amounts of phosphorus may actually be detrimental to bone. However, it is generally accepted that a ratio of 10:4, calcium to phosphorus, should be maintained for healthy bone density.
• Magnesium – This mineral is not as abundant as calcium or phosphorus in bone. However it is still considered important due to its role in calcium and bone metabolism.
• Iron – Iron is important more as a co-factor in building collagen, the main protein makes up bone.
• Zinc – Like iron, zinc plays an important role as a co-factor (in several enzymes) necessary for bone formation. The first enzyme is alkaline phosphatase which is necessary for bone mineralization to take place. Zinc is also a co-factor in reactions involving the enzyme collagenase, essential for the protein-containing portion of bone. Another one of zinc’s crucial roles (for the entire body) is in allowing for the proper formation of DNA. This is because zinc is necessary for the enzyme DNA polymerase which is involved in the replication and repair of DNA (the cellular blueprint); thus cellular growth.
• Copper – This mineral acts as a co-factor in the enzyme lysyl oxidase. This enzyme works to ensure that amino acids involved in the production of collagen are properly (cross)-linked, which contributes to the mechanical strength of collagen.
• Vitamin D – As you may know, scores of people are deficient in this vitamin. The main reason it is helpful for healthy bone formation is because it allows for the absorption of calcium through the intestinal wall. Although it also increases the activity of the bone-building cells (osteoblasts).
• Vitamin F (essential fatty acids) – These fats (specifically omega 3’s and omega 6’s) are considered “essential” because we must obtain them from diet, as our body cannot synthesize them from other fats. They are important for bone strength because of their ability to drive calcium into the tissues (i.e.: bone) from the blood. Without essential fatty acids calcium would not be metabolized properly for its use in bone (and other tissues).
• Vitamin K – This fat-soluble vitamin is a co-factor for an enzyme that ultimately enhances calcium’s ability to be incorporated into bone. Additionally, it allows for the optimal form/function of osteocalcin (a “non-collagen” protein) which is incorporated in bone, during bone formation. The exact function of osteocalcin remains unclear. However, during periods of bone resorption (or breakdown), osteocalcin is released into circulation. A deficiency in vitamin K may result in an analogue of osteocalcin that has been found in the blood of osteoporotic patients.
• Vitamin C – Kept simply, vitamin C is necessary for collagen production, the major component of the protein portion of bone. Do remember that vitamin C cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from food. And ascorbic acid is technically only one portion of the vitamin C complex, so it’s best obtained from food sources or a “whole food” supplement.
• Vitamin A – Again, to keep it simple, vitamin A is necessary for both the bone-building cells (osteoblasts) and bone-breakdown cells (osteoblasts). Therefore, too much or too little little vitamin A can be a complication. However, it remains necessary.
• Protein – Protein can be likened to a chain, while amino acids can be considered the individual links in the chain. In general, protein is necessary to form the collagen portion (~30%) of bone. Specifically, the amino acids proline, lysine, and glycine are necessary to form collagen. Ingesting (and properly digesting) adequate amounts of protein through diet should take care of this requirement.
Lastly, hormone balance is extremely important for the maintenance of healthy bones. So taking all the bone-building nutrients possible may be futile if you don’t have proper hormone balance. That topic is beyond the scope of this article and will be addressed in the future. Also, don’t forget weight-bearing exercise for building strong bones.
I cannot say this list is 100% conclusive as other minerals such as boron, manganese, and strontium (and probably others by now) have also been found to be helpful for bones. Also, other nutrients that help hormones to function optimally should be considered; in addition to nutrients that allow for the optimal formation and function/strength of collagen.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology
source: Seminar material: Principles of Nutrition for bone and joint health – Dr. Micheal Dobbins