Bone loss often begins in our late 30’s. This is long before a woman looses most of her estrogen at menopause or a man begins to decline in testosterone levels at andropause. So what gives? Both estrogen and testosterone ARE important for bone health but there must be something else going on if bone loss begins before these hormones begin to decline. And you are right, there is. It is called oxidative stress (OS).
The term OS is used to define the unhealthy state in the body where it is unable to neutralize free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS). In other words, when it is being overrun by free radicals. Without adequate antioxidant mechanisms to neutralize ROS, progressive cellular damage results and the body is placed at a much greater risk for disease.
Normally, the body can adequately neutralize ROS. But pollution, heavy metal toxicity, chronic physiological stress, and gastrointestinal dysfunction can, and often does, place the body into overwhelming oxidative stress.
For bone, this can lead to insufficient production of bone-forming osteoblasts and the hyper-stimulation of bone-degrading osteoclasts. Oxidative stress, therefore, is a critical contributor to accelerated aging of bone and muscle.
In 2007 Grassi, et al., reported that there is a rise in ROS in bone marrow when estrogen levels are low. This excess ROS increases white blood cell and T cell activity fivefold. The T cells then begin releasing copious amounts of RANKL, the potent signaling molecule that stimulates the formation and activation of osteoclasts. This is why we see a dramatic rise in bone loss for at least 5 years past menopause.
So how can women and men reduce their risk of osteoporosis during these critical years? One way is by neutralizing excess ROS production by eating a healthy vegetable-rich low-inflammatory diet. Another is to supplement with antioxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). (Our OsteoStim contains 300 mg ALA.) ALA protects against oxidative damage and since it is both water and fat soluble it is capable of going EVERYWHERE in the body. This is important because it can get into the fat-infiltrated bone marrow we often see in osteoporotic individuals. ALA can also help decrease excess blood glucose levels (a risk factor for increased fracture risk) and it is an essential cofactor for mitochondrial activity and energy production.