Strong, Beautiful Bones: What a Treat

Just in time for Halloween, a post about beautiful bones! It's not the spooky decorations that have me thinking about my skeletal system, it's something a lot less fun: a bone density scan. Rainbow Light, a supplement company, conducted free bone density scans this week at my local Whole Foods, and I made sure to get one.

My results were so-so, but (ever the over-achiever) I'm out to make them better.

At 30, I should be at peak or near-peak bone density (one Rainbow Light employee kindly reminded me that my bone density is now starting to decline thanks to my age). The bone density chart used by Rainbow Light measure bone density from +2 to -4, with the -4 to -2.5 range being high-risk for fractures, -2.5 to -1 being medium risk, and -1 to 2 being low risk. I came in at -1.1, just one tenth of a point into the 'medium' risk category. For someone that exercises regularly and is obsessed with nutrition, I hoped for more. One Rainbow Light employee, 2 years younger, confided that she received the same score. So maybe we all need to be thinking more about building bones?

If you're wondering about risk factors for low bone density, here they are:

  • high caffeine intake
  • use of steroids
  • family history of osteoporosis
  • a petite body frame
  • a calcium-deficient diet

I'd add two more to this list: taking birth control pills and eating gluten (eek! a controversial one). A study done by the Women's Health Initiative showed that there was a small but measurable increase in fracture risk among post-menopausal women who were former birth control users. And in those members of the population who are sensitive to gluten (although you may not have outward symptoms), the intolerance can impair absorption of nutrients like vitamin D and calcium and create an inflammatory state that actually signals the release of bone-demineralizing cytokines in the body (Wheat Belly, p 128).  How's that for a Halloween fright?

Nutrition (specifically, calcium, vitamin D and magnesium), exercise and estrogen levels factor strongly into building bones. But bolstering your bones doesn't just mean chugging milk every day (please don't!). That you must get your calcium from dairy is a HUGE myth. (Don't believe me? Take it from Harvard). In fact, better sources would be leafy greens like collards, kale and bok choy, which contain calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K (also good for bones, which dairy doesn't have). And greens don't contain any of the hormones, saturated fats, and high-level vitamin A of dairy that can actually deplete bones. Other great non-dairy sources of calcium include sardines, sesame seeds, broccoli, spinach and tofu. Resistance exercises also strengthen bones, so keep working out!

What are your thoughts on beautiful bones? Have you ever had a bone density scan? And what bone-building foods do you incorporate into your diet?

Image courtesy The Daily Mail