DXAs (Bone Mineral Density Exams) and the Importance of Collagen for Bone Health
Who should get a DXA (bone density) exam? EVERYONE!
If I had my say in the matter, I would recommend that everyone get a DXA (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) exam in their early 40's. Why? Because 40 to 50 percent of women and 16 to 20 percent of men will suffer from osteoporosis and a very high percent of them will sustain an osteoporotic-related fracture in their lifetime. That is an alarming statistic. So why not find out as soon as possible who is at risk? Early intervention is key to maintaining strong bones. When left to progress, accelerated bone loss as we age leads to a greater risk for spine an hip fractures.
Most bone is accrued early in life and by age 35 we actually begin to lose bone. Bone loss is slow at first but increases to about 1 to 2% per year. Then, with a loss of estrogen at menopause, women often begin to lose bone at an alarming rate, in fact, 3 to 4% per year is not unusual. The losses can be staggering and fracture risk increases significantly. After 5 or 6 years, this accelerated bone loss typically slows back to the 1 or 2% per year. But often, the stage has been set, and the combination of low bone density and poor bone quality from the rapid loss during those five years after menopause places women at greater risk for fractures unless proper therapy is initiated.
This is why I recommend DXA exams as early as possible. By identifying those at greatest risk, we can slow or prevent bone loss with the proper intervention. For men, the loss is less dramatic as they age, but it can still be 1 to 2 percent per year; certainly enough to put some men at great risk for fracture.
We see peak bone accrual in our mid-thirties, with loss after that. So why not determine who is at risk early on so that conservative therapy with improved diet and lifestyle measures can be set in place long before critically low bone density levels are reached? If we end up scrambling to preserve what bone is left, we often face years of considerable physical and emotional trauma. It certainly is better if health changes are implemented as early as possible.
So, what should people do who are age 50, or 60, or 70+...is it too late to reduce fracture risk? Thank goodness no! Years and years of intense research into skeletal health over the past 30 years has given us great insights not only into the causes of accelerated bone loss but also the best therapies for improving bone health and limiting fracture risk.
One of the best recent additions to our supplemental armature against osteoporosis is bone collagen. Our skeleton is made of protein infused with minerals (predominantly calcium and phosphorus) to make it hard and strong. Protein is a macronutrient that we need to ingest every day...and lots of it. You should aim for 60 to 80 grams of dietary protein intake every day (depending on body weight).
Dietary protein is digested and broken down into polypeptides and amino acids, small organic compounds that we obtain from protein-rich foods. There are over 500 hundred amino acids found in nature but only 20 are used by the body to form connective tissues such as bone. The majority of the protein in our bones is in the form of collagen.
We have known for years that collagen in our diet is beneficial to skin, but it has been only recently that we have really begun to appreciate just how important it is for bone health.
When we ingest high-protein foods, we are providing our body with the amino acid building blocks to make our skin smoother, joints more functional, blood pressure lower (blood vessels have collagen in them), and bones stronger. By supplementing your diet with bone collagen protein, you are providing your body with amino acids specific for improved bone production.
But there is a second benefit to bone health that can be derived from supplementing with bone collagen, and that is its functional action. When a nutritional supplement has a functional action it means that the food is known to have additional health benefits beyond that of just providing basic nutrients. Collagen is a functional food. It provides amino acids but it also acts functionally by stimulating bone cells to "turn on" and use the amino acid building blocks to form new bone.
The functional aspect of supplemental collagen is optimized when the hydrolyzation process used during processing preserves key polypeptide chains (those rich in proline-hydroxyproline-glycine repeats). Through my research of the literature, the product I have found that best preserves these rare single helical peptide chains is Fortibone® from Germany. Not only is over 98% of this collagen powder bioavailable, but up to 10% is absorbed through the gut wall intact making it available to directly stimulate bone cells and actively build bone. The other 90% is reduced to amino acids providing the bone cells with substrate by which to build bone.
It was not a difficult choice for me when it came to choosing the collagen source I wanted to use when designing our new OsteoNaturals product. OsteoCollagen-Pep is a perfect addition to the supplemental regimen of anyone looking to improve bone health. In fact, in a study with 131 postmenopausal women, just 5 grams of this collagen demonstrated a 4% and 7% increase in spine and femoral neck bone mineral density in just one year.(1)
1. Konig, D., et al. Specific collagen peptides improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women-A randomized controlled study. Nutrients. 2018.
(These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.)