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Optimum Bone Health

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Optimum Bone Health

Healthy kids rarely sit still! They are continuously on the move--and for good reason: they have bone to build. Bone is living tissue that continually renews and regenerates itself throughout the entire lifespan..

Healthy kids rarely sit still! They are continuously on the move–and for good reason: they have bone to build.

Bone is living tissue that continually renews and regenerates itself throughout the entire lifespan. Most bone-building, however, takes place in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. Bone is composed of a strong protein matrix and mineral salts which are deposited into the matrix to make it hard and unbending. The major mineral salts in bone are calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Silicon and several other minerals, as well as water and fat, are also present.

The special cells that build bone are called osteoblasts; those that dissolve bone are osteoclasts. In childhood and adolescence, osteoblastic activity naturally predominates. However, diet and lifestyle are two important factors. By far the major promoter of osteoblastic activity is exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, in which strain or weight is applied to the bone. The greater the activity, the stronger the bone becomes. A predominantly sedentary lifestyle results in bone loss because the osteoblasts are not being stimulated into action.

Children’s natural urge to exercise should be encouraged as much as possible. They need to run, jump, play ball and climb trees, and the more of it they do outdoors, the better. Natural sunlight, in moderation, encourages the production of vitamin D in the subcutaneous fatty tissues of the skin. Vitamin D is crucial for healthy calcium metabolism, an important aspect in bone health.

Food And Bone Metabolism

From a nutritional perspective, it’s important to emphasize calcium-rich foods in the diet. Dark-green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, chard, turnip greens and romaine lettuce are excellent sources of calcium. Calcium from green foods is highly bioavailable because greens also provide vitamin K and magnesium, necessary for calcium synthesis in the body. Sesame seeds, legumes and nuts, especially almonds, are other good sources. If you eat dairy, choose cultured whole milk products such as kefir, yogurt and buttermilk for better calcium absorption.

A diet rich in plant foods promotes bone health in more than one way. Earlier this year, a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "intakes of nutrients found in abundance in fruits and vegetables–namely, potassium, beta-carotene, vitamin C and magnesium–were positively associated with bone health."

Fruits and vegetables also help to maintain a healthy pH balance in body fluids. They promote alkalinity, whereas meat, dairy and grains are predominantly acid-forming. Whenever the body becomes overly acidic, the parathyroid gland, which regulates calcium metabolism, releases a hormone which activates the osteoclastic bone cells to dissolve calcium salts from bone for release into the extra-cellular fluids. As an alkaline-forming mineral, calcium is needed to bring pH levels back to normal.

If the diet is predominantly acid-forming for extended periods of time, the parathyroid is continuously called upon to stimulate osteoclastic activity, resulting in a gradual erosion of bone tissue. For optimal health and bone strength, the diet should be based on 70-80 per cent alkaline-forming foods from the vegetables and fruits category. The remaining portion should come from whole grains, legumes, free-range eggs, fish and organic meat and dairy. How many families today eat such a diet? Not many. Yet, along with exercise, this is the surest way to build and maintain healthy bones-for life.

If the diet is less than optimal, a well-chosen supplement can also help fill in the gaps. Calcium alone is not enough. Magnesium and vitamin D should also be present. Certain forms of calcium, such as hydroxyapatite, citrate and lactate, are better absorbed than others. Other nutrients important for bone health include vitamins A, C, B6 and B12 and folic acid. Your health food store carries several supplements formulated for children’s special needs, in liquid or chewable form. Choose good nutrition today for healthy bones tomorrow!

The Calcium Difference

If your little ones have trouble absorbing calcium, feed them coral. Calcium absorption is affected by many factors and the body may have trouble with certain forms of calcium. Choosing a source can make a significant difference--now and later in life when the negative effects of calcium deficiency tend to show up.

One good source is stony coral, which contains a natural balance of 70 minerals. These minerals are ionic: they’re electrically charged and 1,000 times smaller than chelates or colloids, making them readily bioavailable. Chelated minerals increase absorption through a bond with an amino acid molecule that is recognizable by the body; a colloidal mineral is suspended in a liquid molecule (usually water) that the body recognizes and absorbs, but ionized minerals-including the notoriously difficult-to-absorb calcium–pass readily through cellular membranes and are nearly 100 per cent bioavailable.

Stony coral is also an organic mineral. Although all minerals originally stem from an inorganic rock source, organic minerals have been absorbed into roots and leaves of plants and transformed into a form humans use more easily.

Soda Pop And Stress: Bone Robbers

Soda pop and cola drinks contain considerable amounts of phosphorus, an acid-forming mineral in the body. Research has shown that phosphorus can interfere with the skeleton’s ability to absorb calcium. A recent study reported in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests that teenage girls who drink lots of soda may increase their risk of developing bone fractures and osteoporosis. These drinks also contain large amounts of refined sugar or equally dangerous sugar substitutes, which further encourage bone loss. During the teenage years, when 40 to 60 per cent of peak bone mass is built, a natural whole foods diet, free of bone-robbing soft drinks, is most important.

Prescription drugs, such as corticosteroids (for rheumatoid arthritis or asthma) and anti-convulsants (for epilepsy), can also contribute to loss of bone mass. So can prolonged stress and worry, which stimulate the excretion of calcium mineral salts. Recent research indicates that many children and adolescents today feel stressed and that childhood psychiatric emergencies are on the rise. Natural ways to reduce stress, including physical exercise, massage and relaxation methods, can help kids (and adults) cope better with today’s hectic lifestyles.

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