It is important for me to keep up on the latest bone health research by studying the research findings that frequently come across my desk. I like to pass this information on to my patients and my readers so that they stay informed about what’s on the horizon for treating and preventing bone disease, as well as fractures, and helping bones grow stronger. Here’s some of the latest news I’ve found on bone health.
Bone Health: The Latest Research Fractures
One of the biggest issues I deal with as an orthopedist is fractures. Orthopedists have been trying to correctly set and heal fractures for decades. This means doing everything possible to ensure that fractured bones re-grow in the correct alignment so abnormalities and dysfunction does not occur. Now, the merging of modern materials with modern medical science has created a process where orthopedists may be able to heal fractures more efficiently.
Researchers out of the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh have found a way to merge bone stem cells with a biodegradable rigid plastic material. The material is constructed of a honeycomb-like scaffolding that is inserted into broken bone sites. It allows blood to flow around and through it. The patient’s own bone stem cells attach to the material which encourages real bone to re-grow around the fracture site completely re-fusing it. In time, the plastic material degrades and is replaced by new bone growth.
Researchers feel that this new implant procedure ‘offers significant therapeutic applications’ that will be helpful, not only in treating traumatic fractures in patients of all ages but, in osteoporotic fractures that occur in aging populations. Initial trials have been successful in the lab with animal testing, and are now on its way to trials in human clinical applications.
In Korea, researchers have made another significant find in the treatment of fractures – the discovery of a new protein that helps knit bones back together. The protein – DJ-1 – was discovered as the “mediator” between osteoclasts (bone cells) and endothelial cells. The protein screens molecules secreted from undifferentiated human skeletal stem cells and directs them, so to speak, into becoming bone cells by activating fibroblasts that create connective tissue growth. This discovery, researchers say, can help them find ways to further use DJ-1 to stimulate bone regeneration and heal bones faster.
Dairy Types and Bone Density
Previously, most doctors would likely tell you that any source of dairy was as good as the next as far as your bone health goes. Yet, new research out of Harvard Medical School’s IFAR (Institute for Aging Research) has revealed that certain types of dairy are better at generating more bone density in certain bones than others. And, some dairy sources may not do much for your bones at all.
In an article published in the Archives of Osteoporosis, February 1, 2013, the Harvard researchers noted that milk and yogurt dairy were associated with higher bone mineral density (BMD) in the hip but not the spine. Cream, it was cited, seems to be associated with lower BMD overall. The researchers explained saying that while dairy products contain nutrients essential to bone health (calcium, vitamin D, magnesium), some dairy products (like cream, ice cream) have very little of these nutrients yet have higher fat and sugar contents. Cheese is also being looked at for its role in boosting bone density.
Their study focused on about 3,000 middle-aged men and women, their preferences of dairy and their bone mineral density levels. More than 34 million Americans have low bone density putting them at higher risk for osteoporosis and fractures of the hip, wrist, spine. Nearly ¼ of people who suffer hip fractures die within 1 year of the fracture. The researchers study supports the idea that nutrition is key in combating osteoporosis and fractures in aging populations. They recommended choosing low-fat milk or yogurt over ice cream or coffee cream to increase protein intake, as well as calcium and vitamin D, while limiting intake of saturated fats.
Treating Brittle Bones with Greens
More and more we’re finding out about how important eating our vegetables are to all aspects of our health – specifically our leafy, green vegetables. New research out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has recently shown how these greens can play a key role in making bones stronger. It all has to do with Vitamin K, that leafy greens are abundant in, and its role in helping bones become stronger.
Osteocalcin is a protein that helps bones grow stronger. Without it, bones become brittle and much more prone to fracture. However, osteocalcin can’t do its job of bone building without Vitamin K. Osteocalcin needs vitamin K to transform itself into a “carboxylated” form of itself which allows it to get inside of bones to strengthen them. Without adequate Vitamin K in the diet – provided by leafy, dark green vegetables – osteocalcin cannot be used correctly by your bones. In their study, the researchers showed that leafy green vegetables like broccoli and spinach are the best sources of Vitamin K. To ensure good bone strength you should eat leafy greens regularly to ensure that osteocalcin can be used to its best bone-building advantage.
Well, there you have some of what’s new in bone health research. Check back here again for more bone-health breaking news research. Until then, do all you can to maintain good bone health and strength – eat a bone nutrient rich diet including foods rich in calcium, Vitamin D, magnesium, and Vitamin K; get 30 minutes of bone-building exercise 3-4 times a week; do some resistance training a few times a week, and limit those bone-leeching sodas.
Mark Bromson, M.D.
Natural Health News
Battling Brittle Bones with Broccoli and Spinach, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121211130210.htm
New Protein to treat damaged boens uncovered, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130109215312.htm
Implants Make Light Work of Fixing Broken Bones, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130208105857.htm
New Study Sheds Light on Link Between Dairy Intake and Bone Health, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130201132336.htm