“Which bone health supplements are effective” is one the most common questions I get! Whether you’re going up against your biological clock or recovering for your next workout session or demanding event, the supplements you choose can make or break your goals, so don’t get left in the dust!
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In our last article we explored the surprising research around using Nitric Oxide for Bone Health (hint: this is what scientists have been looking into for decades but most people still don’t know about). To follow up, I want to go a bit deeper to uncover what other supplements actually work for bone health.
With a third of U.S. adults having arthritis, osteoporosis being a major challenge faced by anybody in older age, and healing broken bones being major concerns, we’ve got you covered when it comes to the most effective supplements for bone health.
In putting together a fully referenced, 40+ recipe guide to eating for total health from your skin to your bones, the Resync team has pored over the research on what it takes for optimal connective tissue health. You do not want to miss this book of easy, practical tips on how to be on your way, and not in the way, so subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out when it goes live!
Bone health is a lot more than just getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
The first thing that many people don’t know is that the hard part of your bone is 90% collagen. One of the essential proteins in your body that’s hard to get from your typical western diet. Unless you eat chicken feet, or similar collagenous foods, or consume a variety of bone broths.
I’d be curious, how much collagen do you get in your diet?
That collagen is then reinforced and strengthened by the minerals in bone like calcium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium and others. Other vitamins like iodine and vitamin D work along with hormones that increase bone mineral density.
Other nutraceuticals can also play a role too. For example, there’s no recommended amount of silica, boron, epigallocatechin gallate, or polyphenol antioxidants that you should be eating daily, but each of these can play a role in the health of your connective tissues and musculoskeletal system.
Let’s be clear - if you can get all nutrients below in high enough amounts through foods, you should definitely do that. But you really have to optimize your diet to get enough of all these nutrients, and there’s been a gradual decrease in mineral content of soils throughout the world going on for some time, so it might not even be possible to get all these nutrients without some sort of supplement!
Besides optimizing for nutrients, you’ve also got to make sure that what you’re eating is actually promoting healing and health of your bones, not inflammation (hint: sugar and processed foods might as well be doses of pure inflammation for your connective tissues.
Here’s the complete list of bone health supplements. Most, if not all, have been studied in people with arthritis, many have been linked to better bone mineral density for osteoporosis, and some have even been conclusively shown to promote healing of injured and broken bones.
Vitamin D And Calcium Are The Go-to Bone Supplements. Are You Taking The Right Kind?
Whether you need to supplement with vitamin D and calcium depends on how much vitamin D and calcium you get in your diet. If you are recovering from an injury, have arthritis or osteoporosis, your body probably needs more than the average person, and supplementation may be a good idea.
The best vitamin D supplements are vitamin D3. Even though vitamin D2 supplements might work well enough, your body will function best with the ready-to-use form of the vitamin. Vitamin D is hard to find from foods and we hardly spend enough time out in the sun to generate enough ourselves, so get your levels checked to see if it’s holding you back!
When it comes to calcium, you get the most bang for your buck with animal-based supplements. Plants that are high in calcium are also high in anti-nutrients that bind to calcium, making it unavailable for your body to use.
Calcium from animal sources on the other hand is highly bioavailable, meaning your body can digest, absorb, and utilize it as fast as possible. Bone meal is the best source of natural calcium, and it contains just the right level of phosphorus your body needs to generate stronger bones.
Collagen Peptides & Vitamin C For Bone Health
Collagen provides the building blocks for bone growth, particularly the amino acids glycine (which you could alternately supplement with) and proline, as well as unique peptides hydroxyproline, hydroxylysine, and others.
To break it down (since there are so many unfounded criticisms of collagen supplements out there on the internet):
Vitamin C serves two functions:
You can get the vitamin C from food sources (green veggies, citrus) or supplemental (Emergen-C, etc.); What’s also important is that you need to get enough of Vitamin C. And for that check out our blog All About Vitamin C to see if you’re getting enough of this essential vitamin. Conveniently, Resync Collagen already comes with the right dose of vitamin C for your health!
If you want to know which hydrolyzed collagen powder to buy, check out our buyers guide to the best collagen supplements on the market.
But if you’d rather do the work for yourself and look at every product label in the supplement aisle, here’s our guide on how to choose the best collagen supplement.
One thing that stands out in the research, but doesn’t seem to get much press, is the link between healthy nitric oxide levels and bone health. It makes sense: nitric oxide relaxes your blood vessels to oxygenate your muscles and other tissues, so why wouldn’t it do the same for your bones, where your red blood cells come from?
You can explore the surprising research around using Nitric Oxide for Bone Health in our previous blog. Don’t expect to find these findings outside of primary research articles - when it comes to nutrition for broken bones, arthritis, and low bone mineral density, not many people seem to appreciate the role of healthy nitric oxide levels (Wimalawansa 2020)!
A healthy person can make about 20-40 mg of nitrite per day for baseline function, but if you want the health benefits you need to get 300-400 mg of nitrates in a day!
To make things worse, natural nitrates levels, especially from red beets ( btw beets do not have the highest levels of natural nitrates), never are the same as that depends on the growing conditions and harvesting. Therefore getting the same levels of nitrates batch to batch from beet powder supplements may be inconsistent too (Gonzalez 2015; Gallardo & Coggan 2018).
So what can you do to make sure you get results? Two things:
Considering that many, if not most, Americans are at risk of having low nitric oxide levels, getting nitric oxide from a supplement or whole foods is an evidence-based way to increase bone density. Getting enough of the top vegetables gives you the peace of mind to come out of this pandemic not just surviving, but thriving.
Fish liver oil is high in omega-3’s as well as vitamins, minerals, and vitamin D. Alternately, use a flax oil supplement labeled “high lignan” or an omega-3 algae supplement.
Fish oil (EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids) decreases production of IL-1β with patients with rheumatoid arthritis (Cleland et al.). People on anticoagulant drugs, taking aspirin, or facing a surgery soon should talk with their doctor due to fish oil’s potential antiplatelet activities. Fish liver oil is also an excellent natural source of vitamin D.Benefits of Sulfur for Bones
Methyl-Sulfonylmethane (MSM) is a sulfur supplement that may improve glutathione function. Studies show that it may decrease oxidative stress, inflammation, and joint pain caused by osteoarthritis (Clark; Lubis et al.). Cysteine and methionine are great amino acid sulfur sources, as is glucosinolate in vegetables of the cabbage family (mostly dark green leafy veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, chard, brussels sprouts, and others).Glycosaminoglycans (Chondroitin & Hyaluronan) and Glucosamine
These are naturally produced in a healthy body as important lubricating components of your cartilage, joints, and interstitial fluid (the “in-between” space in your body). They tend to be diminished among people with inflammatory joint conditions like arthritis or repetitive use injuries. Supplementing with each of these has been shown to help some people with joint issues (Tashiro et al.; Simental-Mendía et al.; Clark)Vitamin K: Do You Know Which Vitamin K Is Best For Bones?
Not many people even know about vitamin K, let alone where to get the right types that you need for optimal bone health. I’ll make it simple: MK4 and MK7 are the types of Vitamin K2 that are most bioaccessible and useful for your body - get these and your body will take care of the rest. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking blood thinners or anti-coagulants.Phytonutrients in Boswellia, Turmeric, Soy, Flax, and Green Tea
Boswellia serrata (Ameye et al 2006) and its extract (Sengupta 2008) have been clinically studied for its promising, substantial effect on arthritic pain. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries but it’s a major new addition to our Resync Collagen Blend, so try it out for a multi-pronged approach to reaching your connective tissue goals!
Older women should especially consider getting more soy and flax in their diet. I do not recommend a supplement form of soy, since the research shows that some supplemental doses are just too high for your body to handle. Just getting whole food sources on a regular basis will do (eg. soy beans, tofu, tempeh, miso, etc.) for your genistein and phytoestrogen intake.
If you choose a flax supplement, use a “high lignan” flax oil, use ground flax in a smoothie or granola, or cook it into crackers and baked goods.
Epigallocatechin gallate and turmeric are both ultra-antioxidants that have been researched to decreames, and they even function as antioxidants in themselves. Make sure you’re ese arthritic pain. They signal your genes to ramp up anti-inflammatory power, they suppress inflammatory enzymes, and they function as powerful front-line antioxidants in themselves. Make sure you’re consuming them in the right way though, otherwise you’re paying a pretty penny for brightly-colored placebo!
Other nutrients for bone function you might want to consider include:
Bone health goes beyond the individual nutrients you take in. Getting enough, but not too much, moderate- to high-impact exercise on a regular basis can help you keep bone strength into old age. Supporting that recovery process with a full spectrum of essential amino acids is key for a strong musculoskeletal system. And the amino acids in whey protein do not have the entire spectrum, that's why supplementing with collagen is important.
Minimizing inflammation from your entire diet is important too. This could be a “Mediterranean diet”, a “fatigue reduction diet”, or just a generally healthy diet that emphasizes lots of colorful vegetables, grass-fed meats, fish and seafood, and whole grains, and avoids processed foods, fried foods, and sugars.
Lastly, research is mixed on whether NSAIDs like tylenol and ibuprofen help or hurt the bone healing process. Other research shows that NSAIDs delay healing and hurt your ability to maintain strong connective tissue into older age. Talk with your trusted healthcare provider before taking NSAIDs regularly if you’re concerned about bone strength.
Conveniently, Resync Collagen has some of the highest quality sources of these nutrients with hydrolyzed type I, II and II collagen peptides plus vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and even the nutraceuticals boswellia serrata and elderberry extract!
We add these bone and joint-supporting supplements on top of a validated, standardized, proprietary nitric oxide blend including red spinach extract, beetroot, and aronia berry, to support the functions of healthy nitric oxide levels in your body. Our formula was scientifically designed for connective tissue recovery, so it makes sense that it may be one of the best supplements for bone health! In fact the ingredients in our new superblend are a science backed way to up your performance, energy, and overall connective tissue health all in one!
Our new formulation is going to be released in late September 2020, so pre-order now for a competitive advantage on your bone health!
Follow us on social media to be the first to know when our new products are released, I don’t think you’re going to want to miss it!
If you liked this blog you might also enjoy some of our other articles:
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Wishing you the best in your health,
The Resync Team
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Written by registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated 09/21/2020.
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