New findings show that much of the mineral from which bone is made consists of ‘goo’ trapped between tiny crystals, allowing movement between them. It is this flexibility that stops bones from shattering.
Latest research shows that the chemical citrate – a by-product of natural cell metabolism – is mixed with water to create a viscous fluid that is trapped between the nano-scale crystals that form our bones.
This fluid allows enough movement, or ‘slip’, between these crystals so that bones are flexible, and don’t shatter under pressure. It is the inbuilt shock absorber in bone that, until now, was unknown.
If citrate leaks out, the crystals – made of calcium phosphate – fuse together into bigger and bigger clumps that become inflexible, increasingly brittle and more likely to shatter. This could be the root cause of osteoporosis.
The team from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry used a combination of NMR spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, imaging and high-level molecular modelling to reveal the citrate layers in bone.
They say that this is the start of what needs to be an entire shift in focus for studying the cause of brittle bone diseases like osteoporosis, and bone pathologies in general. The study is published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Bone mineral was thought to be closely related to this substance called hydroxyapatite. But what we’ve shown is that a large part of bone mineral – possibly as much as half of it in fact – is made up of this goo, where citrate is binding like a gel between mineral crystals,” said Dr Melinda Duer, who led the study.
“This nano-scopic layering of citrate fluid and mineral crystals in bone means that the crystals stay in flat, plate-like shapes that have the facility to slide with respect to each other. Without citrate, all crystals in bone mineral would collapse together, become one big crystal and shatter.
“It’s this layered structure that’s been missing from our knowledge, and we can now see that without it you’re stuffed.”
Duer compares it to two panes of glass with water in the middle, which stick together but are able to slide: “it’s the same thing in these flat bone crystals. But you’ve got to have something that keeps the water there, stops it from drying out and stops the plates from either flying apart or sticking fast together. We now know that thing is citrate.”
Citrate is a ‘spidery’ molecule with four arms, all of which can bond easily to calcium – which bone is packed with, explains Duer. This means that citrate can hold the mineral crystals together at the same time as preventing them from fusing, while trapping the water that allows for the slippery movement which provides bone flexibility. “Without citrate, water would just flow straight through these gaps,” she said.
The body actually delivers bone calcium wrapped in citrate, to prevent it fusing with phosphate and forming large solid – and brittle – mineral crystals in the wrong places. Bone tissue has a protein mesh with holes where the calcium is deposited. In healthy tissue, the holes are very small, so that when the calcium is deposited, the citrate that comes with it can’t escape and is trapped between crystals – creating the flexible layers of fluid and bone plates.
As people age or suffer repeated bone trauma, the protein mesh isn’t repaired so well by the cells that try to replace damaged tissue, but often end up chewing away tissue faster than it can be re-deposited. This causes progressively larger holes in the protein mesh, citrate fluid escapes and crystals fuse together.
What happens then is pure chemistry, says Duer, with little biological control.
The body instigates a form of biological control through the tiny holes in the protein mesh that trap the citrate fluid, along with other molecules that normally control the deposit of mineral. These small spaces force the molecules to be involved with the forming mineral, controlling the process. But if you haven’t got the confined space the chemical reactions spiral out of control.
“In the bigger holes in damaged tissue, pure chemistry takes over. Pretty much the moment calcium and phosphate touch, they form a solid. You end up with these expanding clumps of brittle crystal, with water and citrate relegated to the outside of them,” she said.
“In terms of chemistry, that solid clump of mineral is the most stable structure. Biomechanically, however, it’s hopeless – as soon as you stand on it, it shatters. If we want to cure osteoporosis, we need to figure out how to stop the bigger holes forming in the protein matrix.”
The study is the first in a series of findings, with other studies from the team’s work on bone chemistry expected to come out later in the year.
Steve just uploaded his latest podcast on how to build strong healthy bones for a lifetime. Thanks Steve.
“My wife increased her bone density by 7 % in 7 years.”
I have worked with a lot of women regarding their bone health. It is one of the major concerns for women as they age. I know from personal experience as my wife went from osteopenia to osteoporosis by her mid 50s. This occurred even though she was on a quality bone support formula. She had the same result as thousands of other women who we desperate to stop the bone loss. Something was wrong.
The nutrients were all the reported required nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, vitamins D, B6 etc. These were the better of the formulas available in the early 2000s. My wife was looking for a solution that did not involve the drugs.
It was at this time that we learned something new about osteoporosis. We learned that strontium is used as a treatment for osteoporosis in some parts of the world. We learned of another nutrient called ipriflavone which has a similar benefit, and we were all learning about the importance of higher dose vitamin D3. So these were added to her supplement program. Her doctor was skeptical and wanted her to take a bisphosphonate bone building drug. No, thank you. As a result, her bone density was increased by nearly 4 percent in 4 years. Wow. She was then 60 years old and building bone.
Around 2010 we began to learn more about bone support nutrients.We discovered BioSil (orthosilisic acid) a specific form of collagen building silica. And we learned about vitamin K2. And so these were added to her program. The result after 2 more years was another 3 percent improvement in bone density. She is up 7 % in 7 years. She is soon due for her next bone density scan. Will this trend continue? It’s been an exciting result so far, and we anticipate continued benefit.
This is an expensive program to follow if you take everything my wife takes. So here is my list in declining order of importance. I have no basis for this other than personal experience of my wife and other women I have advised. You need to determine the program that you are comfortable with and can afford.
- A high quality natural bone support formula – if you aren’t sure visit a knowledgeable health food store. There are now bone building formulas that include higher amounts of vitamin D3 and added K2. Some even include strontium as a separate formula. These may be the more cost effective but somewhat limited way to go. Look for quality brands and then compare formulas and price.
- Vitamin D3 – Get tested and the adjust to the optimum dose for you.
- Vitamin K2 – 80 to 100 mcg. per day.
- BioSil – follow label directions.
- Strontium – 680 mg. per day, taken apart from calcium.
- ipriflavone – follow label directions.
In this podcast, I will give you my best advice for women who are concerned about osteoporosis. You can also print out a copy of my paper entitled “A Natural Approach to Bone Health”. You will find in depth interview on vitamin D3, K2 and BioSil at HealthQuestPodcast.com. Search the TAG INDEX to easily find all related content.
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Roasted red peppers, mini crab cakes and Brazil nuts can all help to increase fertility. They will all feature in a special Fertility Buffet, laid on by Dr Margaret Rayman, Director of the MSc Course in Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey, on 3 July 2003.
A good, balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) and protein sources such as meat, poultry and fish, is necessary to optimise fertility.
Meat is a good source of animal protein and important minerals such as iron and zinc, the latter being especially important for fertility. “Oysters are by far the best source of zinc, but they are not included in this meal, as they are out of season,” Dr Rayman explained. “Fatty fish is a very good source of n-3 fatty acids, which are important in the development of the fetus’ brain and vision.”
To give yourself the best chance of conceiving, alcohol and smoking should be avoided. This applies to both men and women, as there is evidence that sperm damage through smoking can predispose to cancer in the offspring.
All the dishes on the buffet were carefully selected by Vicky Chudleigh, State Registered Dietician from Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.
“The sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seed bread contains vitamin E, which is claimed to be an aphrodisiac because of its effects on boosting circulation. It is also an antioxidant and needed for fertility,” Vicky explained.
“Brazil nuts and mini crab cakes are both excellent sources of selenium and required for sperm motility. Without adequate selenium, sperm tails kink and break off. Selenium also minimises the risk of miscarriages.”
Roasted red peppers, tomatoes, pesto (containing basil) and of course, chocolate mousse, were all selected for their reputed aphrodisiac qualities.
Spinach, together with other dark green leafy vegetables, provide the folate required to reduce the risk of neural tube defect in the developing baby. The cheese platter not only contains calcium and zinc, but also vitamin A, which aids the production of sex hormones. They are all needed for healthy reproduction and libido.
The fertility buffet will not only be a gastronomic experience, but also forms part of the module, Pregnancy, Infancy & Childbirth in the Nutritional Medicine course, aimed at doctors. But there will be no retiring to the drawing room after dinner, as the doctors on the course will need to complete an assignment on dietary advice to give to their patients.