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Supplements for Osteoporosis

Question:
Do any supplements help prevent or treat osteoporosis?

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.

Although uncommon, 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 the 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) available by prescription in Europe, but not in the U.S., has shown promise in reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis as well as increasing bone density and reducing the occurrence fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. 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 affects (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 ralenate. 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 use strontium, take it at least 2 hours before or after taking calcium or magnesium, as these may reduce absorption of strontium (and other minerals) (Protelos Product Information 2014).

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

Although preliminary, research has begun to suggest that melatonin may have a positive effect on bone. One study found that 1 to 3 mg of melatonin taken with calcium and vitamin D increased bone density compared to calcium and vitamin D alone.

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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Learn more about supplements and bone health:



I'm considering taking vitamin K for my bones, but I take blood thinner (anti-coagulant) medication. Is there a problem taking both? >>

Are plant-based calcium supplements, like AlgaeCal, better than regular calcium supplements? >>

I've heard that melatonin may increase the risk of broken bones. I take melatonin regularly. Should I be concerned? >>

Is it possible to get too much vitamin D? >>

How much calcium from supplements is too much? >>

Which vitamins and minerals should be taken together or separately? >>



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Comments
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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.

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.

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.

This CL Answer initially posted on 9/26/2015. Last updated 7/21/2018.

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