Answer:

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of the bone are reduced, making it weak and brittle. A variety of supplements offer potential benefit, although in limited situations. (Use the links below for details.)

Adequate intakes of calcium (and vitamin D) during youth are important for building strong bone, and it's important to get adequate calcium throughout life to help maintain bone. However, in postmenopausal women, calcium supplements (with vitamin D) may only modestly protect against osteoporosis. Most adults currently get enough calcium for bone health, and some postmenopausal women who take supplements may be getting too much calcium, which can increase the risk of kidney stones and stroke.

Vitamin D may help to increase bone density, but only in people with low blood levels of vitamin D (below 20 ng/mL) and with adequate calcium intake. It may also help to reduce the risk of fractures and falls. However, getting too much vitamin D could be detrimental to bone health.

Magnesium deficiency can increase the risk of osteoporosis. In people with inadequate intake, supplementing with magnesium can increase bone mineral density.

At doses higher than nutritional needs, vitamin K supplements have been found to increase bone density in healthy postmenopausal women, and higher intakes of vitamin K from foods has been associated with reduced risk of fractures in elderly men and women. 

In postmenopausal women, soy isoflavones may increase bone density, although higher doses are required than those typically used to reduce hot flashes.  

A form of strontium (strontium ranelate), previously available by prescription in Europe and Australia but not in the U.S., showed promise in reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis as well as increasing bone density and reducing the occurrence fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. However, due to increased risk of heart-related adverse events, use of prescription strontium ranelate became restricted in 2014 to only people with severe osteoporosis for whom other treatments were not possible and who had no history or pre-existing heart or circulatory problems (Protelos Product Information 2014). Due to the decreased number of prescriptions for strontium ranelate following the implementation of these restrictions, strontium ranelate production ceased in August 2017. Strontium supplements in the U.S. typically contain strontium citrate and, while it is absorbed into bone (Moise, Bone 2014), there is no research showing it to be effective against osteoporosis. Also, be aware that too much strontium may weaken bones. In some studies, up to 680 mg of elemental strontium from either strontium ranelate or strontium citrate has been taken for between 3 to 4 years without serious adverse effects (Meunier, N Engl J Med 2004; Moise, Bone 2014); however, Health Canada has warned that an increased risk of cardiovascular events has been reported in some people who have a history of, or risk factors for cardiovascular disease who took a daily dose of 680 mg of strontium ranelate. The agency advises those with risk factors for cardiovascular disease should not take strontium supplements, and that those taking strontium for longer than 6 months consult their healthcare provider (See the Warning for more information). Extremely large doses (1.5 - 3% of dietary intake) have been reported to decrease bone calcium in animals (Brandi, Am J Med 1993). If you decide to take any form of strontium, make sure to tell your healthcare provider. Since strontium has a higher atomic weight than calcium, it can artificially inflate bone density measurements using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). In cases where 680 mg of strontium (from strontium citrate) was taken daily for more than one year, bone mineral density from DEXA scans was shown to be overestimated by 8% or more, and it can take months to years after discontinuation of strontium to substantially reverse this effect (Mirza, J Nutr Health Food Sci 2016).

Very preliminary research also suggests that boron might be beneficial for osteoporosis, although this has not been studied in clinical trials.

Research suggest that long-term use of melatonin may help increase bone density but, unfortunately, it may also make bone more susceptible to fracture.

Be aware that excessive vitamin A as retinol (but not beta-carotene) may increase the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures. 

See our Encyclopedia for more information about osteoporosis.

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7 Comments

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Diane8041
November 10, 2015

I also take a supplement called Ostinol. Do you have any research on Ostinol? As I mentioned previously, with my regimen, my regular DEXA scans show significant bone density increases. I am post-menopausal.

Rita17426
January 6, 2019

Has any one else tried Ostinol? I am interested in hearing any results of using it. I know it is a bit expense, so don't want to buy it if the results are not known.

Diane8027
November 1, 2015

I take a product called AlgaeCal along with their Strontium Boost. I have taken it for about 3-4 years after discovering that I had osteoporosis in my right hip. I have done about 3-4 Dexa Scans which show a 1-3.5.% increase in bone density in all areas that were scanned each time I did the DEXA. I would be happy to share the scans with you. My formerly osteoporotic hip is now almost in the normal range as is the rest of the areas that were scanned. I think everyone should know about this formulation. I think maybe Dr's Best has a similar formulation, but I am staying with AlgaeCal cause it works.

ConsumerLab.com
November 9, 2015

Hi Diane - Thank you for sharing your experience with AlgaeCal. You can find more information about this product in this CL Answer : https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/AlgaeCal/

Steven7978
September 27, 2015

Vitamin K2 should be specified

ConsumerLab.com
October 1, 2015

Hi Steven - Please follow the link to the Review of Vitamin K Supplements in the answer above for information about both vitamin K1 and K2 (MK-4 and MK-7) for increasing bone density.

Glenda7973
September 27, 2015

I began taking Strontium two years ago, after a bone density test showed some osteo-pina.The doctor wanted me to go on an aggressive form of meds to correct this. I refused, and continued doing all the forms of building bone that you mentioned. The only different thing I did was to add the Strontium. Two years later, much to the doctor surprise, my bone density was greater than the two years before! I followed the directions on the container. So, how much is "too much" Strontium? I am 75 years old. Thanks, G.R.

ConsumerLab.com
October 13, 2015

Hi Glenda - Thank you letting us know about your experience with strontium. We've added information about dosage to the answer above.

Lani8025
October 30, 2015

Hi Glenda,

I am a bone densitometrist. Strontium falsely increases bone density. We do not know how much exactly in any given person. The other issue is that someone your age will typically increase bone density in the spine due to arthritic changes. Osteopenia is not considered a diagnosis necessarily. If you have had fractures that were low-trauma that is another matter. The main question is will strontium citrate reduce fracture risk? Many things can increase bone density yet increase fracture. A good example of this is high doses of flouride - increases bone density, but the bone quality is poor.
Sincerely,
Lani Simpson, DC, CCD
Author: Dr. Lani's No-Nonsense Bone Health Guide

Robin14033
May 14, 2017

Just saw this post today. Thanks so much for this important information!! I wish CL would highlight it. Not all primary docs are aware of this issue.

Anita16208
November 16, 2017

Actually, although strontium does give a false reading on DXA scans, these are crude forms of imagery. Different imaging, and in fact biopsies, show that bone structure actually improves with strontium treatment. There are many studies in rodents but here are biopsy results of a human patient.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0023638

I myself take strontium citrate and other supplements, following the Canadian micronutrient protocol created by Dr. Stephen Genuis. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/354151/

I rebuilt my bone mass, though it is only measured by DXA.

Before I began this protocol, I asked my (now) late father-in-law, who was the longtime pharmacology department chair at a large eastern medical school, whether it would be stupid to take strontium citrate, and he told me that a colleague who suffered from a rare early-onset osteoporosis was treated with strontium salts at the Mayo Clinic in the 1960s. His fractures ceased and he took strontium the rest of his life, another thirty or so years.

ellen17828
May 8, 2019

Hi Anita,
I have just come across your post. I’m considering adding strontium to my regime. Are you still taking it? Can you share the brand you use?
Thanks so much!

Jeanne17914
June 5, 2019

I know this is an old post, but felt it important to mention that biophosphonates, like Fosomax etc have also been criticized for increasing bone density, but creating poor quality bone.

ellen18150
July 21, 2019

Yes, I’ve read & heard about this.

Anita18463
September 25, 2019

Hi Ellen, I'm sorry, I just saw your question. Actually my life has gotten complicated the last couple of years and I have been struggling even to consume enough calcium every day, and you don't want to take strontium unless you have sufficient calcium--the idea is that you take strontium to promote bone regrowth, not to replace calcium in the bone matrix. So, when I was taking strontium I took Doctor's Best but that is no longer being made. I have since bought strontium from VitaCost, but I was thinking next time I purchased strontium I might get it from Algaecal. (Per Consumerlab's request, I state that I have no financial in these or similar products.)

Here are links to columns by the late Sara DeHart, a professor of nursing, that you might find useful:

http://www.intrepidreport.com/archives/2608
http://www.intrepidreport.com/archives/2612
http://www.intrepidreport.com/archives/1246

There are caveats to taking strontium, the primary one being that if you have had or have a cancer that metastasizes to bone, you do NOT want to promote bone growth. Also, the drug form of strontium, strontium ranelate, has been associated with a slightly increased risk of blood clots, so if you have had phlebitis you might not want to take strontium either. I do not take it when I fly or drive long distances for this reason. There are other issues associated with strontium ranelate that have not been reported with strontium citrate, but as strontium citrate cannot be patented, we are unlikely to ever see any studies undertaken.

Jani20094
June 1, 2020

I have read tht one must be extremely careful taking Strontium if their kdneys are not healthy. Check your Glumeral Function.

Bev17836
May 10, 2019

What about increasing intake of Whole Milk? I prefer food over supplements and have read that the body absorbs better. Buying from a small dairy, brief high heat pasteurization. Not homogenized. A2 protein. Wonderful stuff. Consuming 3 cups daily. Active lifestyle. Mom had severe osteoporosis at age 97. I have not yet had bone density.

ConsumerLab.com
May 10, 2019

Hi Bev - Thank you for sharing this. Milk and dairy products such as yogurt are certainly a good sources of calcium, as are white beans, soybeans, and tofu, as noted in our Calcium Review: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Bone_Supplements-Calcium_with_%20Vitamin_D_K_magnesium/calcium/#food. You may also be interested in our CL Answer about calcium-fortified milks: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/too-much-calcium-from-fortified-lactose-free-milk/calcium-fortified-milk/.

Terri17160
September 11, 2018

I am 61 and was diagnosed with Osteoporosis Last January. I have been incorporating a regimen - albeit slowly - based on a book 'The Healthy Bones Nutrituion Plan and Cookbook' by Dr. Laura Kelly and Helen Bryman Kelly. Everything, including supplements, are made from scratch. With my lifestyle, it is very difficult to be consistent and I have been concerned I am not getting enough nutrients, like MK7, D and the other nutrients I need to build bone. Today I ordered AlgaeCal Plus (without the Strontium) for a trial period. My question for you is, I take 40 mg. per day of Pantoprazole for GERD. I have been told that this blocks the absorptions of crucial nutrients and can actually contribute to osteoporosis. Do you have any information on this? I am quite stressed about all of this. Thank you for any help.

ConsumerLab.com
September 13, 2018

Hi Terri - Please see the CL Answer about proton pump inhibitors (such as pantoprazole) and potential interactions with vitamins, minerals and other supplements: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/which-drugs-should-be-avoided-when-taking-proton-pump-inhibitors-ppis/omeprazole_minerals_vitamins/

Coleen16865
May 24, 2018

I am post-menopausal and was taking calcium supplements until my eye doctor told me I have calcium deposits around my retina, and he recommended that I stop taking calcium supplements. Women are often encouraged to take calcium supplements by their doctor, but rarely do doctors mention situations where one should consider not taking them.

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