Causes of osteoporosis

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There is an epidemic of osteoporosis in the west where 1:3 women and 1:12 men get it. Although the ultimate causes of osteoporosis are not well understood the direct cause is because of the absorption of old bone by osteoclast cells exceeding the deposition of new bone by osteoblast cells. 

If the absorption of old minerals from the bone into the blood stream exceeds the deposition of new minerals then osteoporosis occurs. Osteoblast cells govern the deposition of new bone, while osteoclast cells remove old bone.

Osteoblasts are immature bone cells found on the surface of bones. They make a protein which is mainly Type 1 collagen, this forms the matrix into which minerals are deposited. Progesterone and testosterone stimulate osteoblast activity.

Mature bone cells are called osteocytes, they originate from osteoblasts.

Osteoclasts cells are responsible for bone resorption, or removing old bone to make place for new. Oestrogen slows down the action of osteoclasts.

Most at risk for osteoporosis are those who...

  • are deficient in vitamin D, most at risk are those who avoid or cover up when in the sun
  • deficient in calcium, magnesium, zinc, boron and vitamin K
  • deficient in protein
  • exercise excessively, i.e. marathon runners and ballet dancers
  • under exercise
  • are or were anorexics and bulimics
  • smoke
  • drink excessive amounts of alcohol and coffee, or carbonated soft drinks which contain large amounts of phosphorus
  • deficient in certain amino sugars, particularly proteoglycans (PGs) and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)
  • have a low level of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, which is very prevalent in the elderly
  • had previously taken/are taking steroids, i.e. cortisone and the Pill, or anti-seizure or anticoagulant drugs
  • had or have thyroid disease
  • had a loss of menstruation for greater than 6 months, other than pregnancy
  • eat a typical western diet of processed foods and refined grains

Taking large quantities of calcium only will not improve bone density, but could cause it to be deposited in the soft tissues. Other essential nutrients are vitamin D, magnesium and Vitamin K2, without these calcium is not deposited in bones.

Normal levels of calcium in bones but low levels of magnesium show abnormal calcification of the bone, which increases the risk of fractures. High levels of calcium in the blood have been implicated in gall and kidney stones, arthritic spurs and calcification of the arteries and brain. Plus depression, blood glucose problems and increased risk of myocardial infarction.

Although people at risk are encouraged to take calcium, it is imperative to have a hair analysis first to ascertain the level of both calcium and magnesium.

If the intake of these two minerals is too high, they can become toxic and the result of toxic levels is severe depression. A hair analysis will confirm which of the two minerals should be taken, if any.

The amino acid taurine is an important osmolyte, vital in regulating the flow of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium into and out of all cells.

Recent research has shown that a high protein diet increases bone strength by aiding in calcium deposition.

The amino sugars have been found to be critical for strong bones. In particular proteoglycans (PGs) and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Osteoarthritis is also accompanied by abnormal bone mineralization, plus joint cartilage and GAG depletion. Glucosamine and chondroitin are based on GAG sugar molecules.

Homocysteine has been implicated in osteoporosis, so it would be advisable to have levels checked, and if high take the nutrients needed to lower it.

A high salt and sugar intake causes the body to excrete increased amounts of calcium.

It is generally believed that osteoporosis in women is due to oestrogen loss beginning at menopause. But as it often starts in women during their mid thirties when they are still making a great deal of oestrogen, this argument doesn't hold much water. In fact some women have lost 25% of their bone density by the time they reach menopause.

Taking oestrogen will slow the loss of bone for up to 5 years, thereafter its benefit declines but the risk of breast cancer increases to 40%. Once the oestrogen is stopped the bones quickly break down to their previous level.

Progesterone, because of it's affect on osteoblast cells, is actively involved in the building of bones. But unlike oestrogen, if the treatment is stopped the bones remain strong and there is no risk of cancer. Progesterone also increases thymidine incorporation into DNA, and proline incorporation into collagen proteins.

Vitamin D is essential, have a blood test done to check the level. The test should only be done for 25-hydroxyvitamin D, also called calcidiol.

30-50% of people have a deficiency, particularly those living in climates with little sun, living above 34 degrees north or south of the equator, work indoors, have dark skin, and spend little time in the sun.

The minimum daily dose should be 5000iu's per day. Although the latest research indicates it should be 10,000iu's per day, see here.

The following list gives an indication of levels of vitamin D found in the blood....

  • Sufficient 70 - 100 ng/mL or 175 - 250 nmol/L
  • Hypovitaminosis less than 30 ng/ml or 75 nmol/L
  • Deficiency less than 25 ng/L or 62 nmol/L

For more information please see...



Depending on the severity of the symptoms, women should use between 100-200mg/day, men should use between 10-100mg/day. For more information please see How to use progesterone.

Before using progesterone it's essential to first read the page on Oestrogen Dominance

The following nutrients are some of those needed to build bone, by no means all..

  • vitamin D
  • magnesium
  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • boron
  • zinc
  • taurine
  • N-acetyl cysteine
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin B6
  • glucosamine sulphate or hydrochloride
  • chondroitin
  • vitamin K
  • probiotics (to increase vitamin K)
  • protein
  • proteoglycans
  • glycosaminoglycans

If homocysteine is high the following nutrients reduce it.....

  • folic acid
  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B12
  • TMG (tri-methyl glycine)
  • zinc

After the age of about forty-five both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production tends to decrease. If they are low consider taking supplementary enzymes and betaine hydrochloride (hydrochloric acid). Weight bearing exercise is essential.

Please see here for more information on Nutrition.

Reference websites for causes of osteoporosis

Medline Alendronate (Fosamax)

Medline Raloxifene (Evista)

Dr Mercola - Evista

Hair mineral analysis

Dr Mercola - breast cancer and stroke 

Research papers for causes of osteoporosis

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