NEWSLETTER 15 : Bones, Calcium and Beyond
(edited Augustus 2001, updated: May 2008)
Bones need more than only calcium. Bones need chondroitine, glucosamine, essential fatty acids, at least five vitamins, and
beyond calcium, a large variety of other mineral
The Binding Substance of Organs
The Binding Substance of Bones
Two Function of Bones
Bone Health Maintenance
The building blocks of bones are chondroitine, glucosamine, essential fatty acids, at least five vitamins,
and beyond calcium, a large variety of other minerals.
Chondroitin and Glucosamine
Chondroitin is a proteoglycan containing the amino acid L-serine and the sugars glucuronic acid, galactose,
xylose, glucosamine, galactosamine. (An amino acid is a part of a protein)
Glucosamine and galactosamine are a combination of sugars (glucose and galactose) with the amino acid
Although older publications about glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate address solely their use in
arthritis , there is more to say about glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Recent scientific evidence
indicates their essential role in the treatment of osteoporosis.
Essential Fatty acids
Fatty acids are part of fat molecules .
Each fat molecule is made of three fatty acids
attached to a three carbon carbohydrate (the triose glycerol). The large variety of fat comes from the
diversity of fatty acids they contain. Our biochemistry makes fatty acids (and fat) from the sugars
(saccharides) of our food. Our biochemistry can make and modify a large variety of fatty acids, except two.
The two fatty acids our biochemistry can not synthesize although it can modify them are termed
Acids (EFAs). They are Linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-Linolenic
acid (ALA). We have to find LA and ALA in our food or in food supplements.
The role of EFAs in bone health is that they help maintain the calcium supply by :
- increasing the calcium absorption from the gut
- reducing urinary excretion of calcium
- increasing calcium deposition in bone
- improving bone strength by enhancement of the synthesis of the bone
The vitamins with a documented effect on bone health are the vitamin B1, C, D, K, and Folic acid
Hemocystein (Hcy) is a molecule occurring naturally in our body. Hcy is what remains from the utilization of
methionine (an essential amino acid) found in food. Hcy is further used or discarded. Abnormal accumulation of
Hcy has a detrimental effect. The detrimental effects of Hcy are attributed to its spontaneous chemical
reaction with many biologically important molecules, primarily proteins. The formation of these Hcy-adducts
is dependent on time and on the Hcy concentration.
The formation of these Hcy-adducts leads to loss or diminution of function of the derivative molecules.
Irreversible homocysteinylation of long-lived proteins should lead to cumulative damage and progressive
clinical manifestations. The bone matrix components are specially susceptible to Hcy degradation
The control of Hcy levels for prevention of bone matrix degradation can be accomplished through vitamin B1
Vitamin C is considered an essential cofactor of bone matrix formation and large
studies report a positive association between vitamin C intake and bone density.
Vitamin D (vit D) is a rather curious vitamin. It should not be classified as a
vitamin. It should be called a hormone. Indeed we make vit D as well as we make all our hormones, while we
can not make vitamins. We make vit D from cholesterol, as we make sex hormones and adrenal hormones from
cholesterol. We make vit D from cholesterol in our skin with the participation of ultra violet sun rays.
Sunlight-deprived people may become vitamin D-deficient (Another curious aspect of vit D is that its
production closely parallels the photosynthesis occurring in plants, where sunlight also is used to
Vitamin D added to a calcium supplementation has been shown to be particularly efficient in elderly
patients, mainly to prevent non-vertebral fractures.
The RDA for vit D was recently upgraded to 400 IU per day for an adult and 600 IU for elderly people. It appears however that those recommendations are insufficient to cover the needs.
Vitamin K (vit K) is recognized as essential for blood coagulation. What is less known is that calcium
supplementation combined with vit K (and with vit D) increases the bone mineral density of the lumbar
spine better that calcium alone.
Folic acid contributes with vitamin B1 to lower the homocysteine level. (See vitamin B above)
About sixty minerals occur in bone. Although the function of all of them
is not yet well documented, their presence suggests that they may have a (to be defined) role in bone matrix
maintenance and bone health.
The minerals with a well-documented effect on bone health are: Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Boron,
Zinc, Strontium, Iron and Sulfur.
Calcium in bone is found under the complex form of calcium hydroxyapatite (CHA).
Calcium supplementation under the form of calcium CHA is more efficient to reduce bone loss in women with osteoporosis than calcium under the form of carbonate, because the absorption of calcium from calcium
hydroxyapatite is significantly higher than the absorption of calcium from calcium carbonate.
The calcium hydroxyapatite crystals of bone also contain phosphorus. Calcium supplementation is recommended
for bone maintenance, the same can not be said for phosphorus.
Although phosphorus is an essential nutrient, there is concern that excessive amounts may be detrimental to
bone . The reason is that phosphorus intake depletes blood calcium, which triggers parathyroid hormone
release that takes calcium from bone to replenish blood calcium.
forgotten Phosphorus and Sugar Story)
Magnesium has an ambivalent role in bone health. Some magnesium is essential for calcium deposit. However,
since magnesium stimulates the function of the osteoclasts, too much of magnesium is detrimental to bones.
(Osteoclasts are the cell specialized in calcium removal from bone. Their role is important for the
maintenance of the calcium level in blood. Excessive osteoclast activity contributes to osteoporosis)
The addition of magnesium in amounts equal to the calcium content in a package to fortify bone is not
Many enzymes contribute to a healthy bone matrix turnover. A great variety of minerals are essential to the
enzymatic systems involved in bone matrix maintenance . Manganese is one of them, and bone abnormalities are
associated with manganese deficiency.
Boron favors calcium deposit in bone.
Fluoride incorporation in bone increases the size of the calcium hydroxyapatite crystals, which decreases
Calcitonin is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Calcitonin is
essential for calcium deposit in bones . Zinc regulates the secretion of calcitonin from the thyroid
Osteoblasts are specialized bone cells that add calcium to the bone structure, Strontium activates the
function of the osteoblasts and decreases the number of osteoclasts, thus reducing bone resorption and
enhancing bone formation.
Strontium has shown positive effects on bone mass in various animal models of osteoporosis.
Like manganese, iron is a cofactor for enzymes involved in collagen synthesis.
The strength of the proteoglycans (see above) forming the matrix of bones relies entirely on the numerous
sulfur bonds found in proteoglycans.
Since the health of our bones is closely associated with a constant supply of building blocks and that we
have to find the building blocks in our food, it is obvious that any degree of intestinal malabsorption will
compromise bone density.
[ Top ]