You may not know this, but bones are living, active tissues that are constantly being remodeled.
They support the body structurally, protect our vital organs, and allow us to move. Additionally, bones provide an environment for bone marrow, where blood cells are created, and they act as a storage area for minerals, particularly calcium. More than 99 percent of our body’s calcium is held in our bones and teeth; however, bones are mostly made of the protein collagen.
Bones are composed of two types of tissue, a hard outer layer that is dense, strong, and durable, called compact (cortical) bone and cancellous (or spongy) bone, and consists of a network of trabeculae or rod-like structures. It is lighter, less dense, and more flexible than compact bone.
- At birth, we have around 270 soft bones, and as we grow, some fuse together, leaving the adult human body with 206 bones, 26 of which are in each foot and 54 in each hand and wrist.
- Arms are the most broken, accounting for almost half of all adult’s broken bones. The collarbone is the most broken bone among children.
- During puberty, bones stop growing in length, and bone density and strength will change throughout life.
- Bones are made up of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, other minerals, and the protein collagen.
- The function of bones is the skeleton of the human body and protects organs from impact damage; they also produce red and white blood cells.
Fun Facts About Bones and Joints
Bones are continually being remodeled. Therefore they are not static structures. This process involves three main cell types:
Osteoblasts – These are responsible for making new bone and repairing older bone. Osteoblasts produce a protein mixture called osteoid, which is mineralized and becomes bone. They also manufacture hormones, including prostaglandins.
Osteocytes – These are inactive osteoblasts that have become trapped in the bone that they have created. They maintain connections to other osteocytes and osteoblasts. They are essential for communication within bone tissue.
Osteoclasts – These are large cells with more than one nucleus. Their job is to break down bones. They release enzymes and acids to dissolve minerals in bone and digest them. This process is called resorption. Osteoclasts help remodel injured bones and create pathways for nerves and blood vessels to travel through.
The process of bone remodeling is done in two phases—the first with resorption when osteoclasts break down bone. The second phase involves formation when new bone tissue is laid down. Remodeling allows the body to fix damaged sections, reshape the skeleton during growth, and regulate calcium levels.
Hormones such as parathyroid hormone, calcitonin, vitamin D, estrogen in women, and testosterone in men control bone remodeling. This may surprise you; approximately 10 percent of an adult’s skeleton is replaced each year!
Keeping Our Bones Healthy
Once you reach 30 years of age, you have achieved peak bone mass. Fortunately, many nutrition and lifestyle habits can help you build strong bones and maintain them as you age.
Vegetables are a great source of vitamin C, which stimulates the production of bone-forming cells. Some studies even suggest that vitamin C’s antioxidant effects may protect bone cells from damage Vitamin C in Bone
Protein is essential to bone health; however, getting too little or too much can cause adverse effects.
Approximately 50% of bone is made up of protein. Research has shown that low protein intake may affect rates of bone formation and breakdown. High protein diets may come with their own risks. Concerns have been raised that high-protein diets leach calcium from bones to counteract increased acidity in the blood. However, with adequate calcium intake, this may not be an issue.
Calcium is the most important mineral for bone health and should be consumed daily.
Dark leafy greens such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, collard greens, and turnip greens all provide excellent sources of calcium. In fact, just one cup of cooked turnip greens provides 20% of your daily requirement!
Other high calcium foods include:
Sardines and Canned Salmon
Beans and Lentils
Vitamin D and vitamin K are essential for building strong bones.
Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium, and low vitamin D levels are associated with low bone density. The sun can activate vitamin D formation; however, you can easily be lacking if you live far from the equator or use sunscreen. Look for foods fortified with vitamin D or try a supplement. Consuming fatty fish and liver
also provide good sources of this vitamin. Vitamin K helps protein and minerals bind to the bone. Small amounts of vitamin K can be found in liver, eggs, meat, and fermented foods like cheese, sauerkraut, and a natto soybean product.
Healthy Fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to help protect against bone loss during aging. In a typical diet, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats isn’t correctly balanced. Increase your omega-3 intake with chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Calcium is king when it comes to bone health minerals; several other minerals also play a role.
Magnesium plays a crucial role in converting vitamin D into an active form that promotes calcium absorption. These foods include avocados, nuts, legumes, seeds, tofu, and whole grains, so boost your intake.
Potassium neutralizes the acid in your body that can leach calcium out of your bones. Sweet potatoes are a great source of both magnesium and potassium.
Zinc is a trace mineral needed in minimal amounts. It helps make up the mineral portion of your bones. Good sources of zinc include beef, shrimp, spinach, flaxseeds, oysters, and pumpkin seeds. Superfoods for Your Bones
Strength training and weight-bearing exercises are essential for bone health. One of the best types of activity for bone health is weight-bearing or high-impact exercise, which promotes the formation of new bone. Studies in older men and women who performed weight-bearing exercises showed increases in bone mineral density, bone strength, bone size, and reductions in markers of bone turnover and inflammation. Weight-Bearing Exercises
Checklist on how to maintain bone health:
Eat your veggies
Perform weight-bearing exercise
Get the right balance of protein
Boost calcium intake
Eat foods rich in vitamin D and K, magnesium, potassium, and zinc
Avoid low-calorie diets
Ditch the tobacco
Talk to your doctor about hormones
Try a collagen supplement
Any questions, please call our office or schedule an appointment online.