Posted on 25 March 2022

The best osteoporosis supplements

Dietary supplements are scientifically proven to contribute to preventing osteoporosis and protecting bone health. But with so many on the market, how do you know the best supplements to protect bone health and prevent bone loss?

In this in-depth guide, we provide evidence-backed and medically-reviewed information on selecting the best combination of supplements to help you achieve your bone health goals. We help you understand why supplements are a vital tool in the battle for healthier bones, alongside prescription medicines and lifestyle changes.

Here’s our guide to the best supplements for osteoporosis prevention and bone health protection.

The battle to protect bone density

Low bone density caused by osteoporosis is a growing problem, with the NHS estimating that up to 3 million people suffer from the condition. Many of those with osteoporosis (or osteopenia), may not know they have it, only receiving a diagnosis when they suffer a fracture or fall.

Osteoporosis causes bones to lose their strength and weaken. People with low bone mass can experience fractures, falls and broken bones. That means a loss of flexibility and freedom that can limit lives.

People with osteoporosis experience bone tissue breakdown, as the bone strength continues to drop. The causes of osteoporosis are complex, but the impact is acute, with up to 500,000 people each year experiencing a fracture or break caused by fragile bones that require hospital treatment.

Osteoporosis is associated with ageing, with women at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men. Postmenopausal women, particularly those undergoing hormone replacement therapy, are significant risk factors says Cancer Research.

Many people with osteoporosis are prescribed drugs to treat the condition, but there are significant side effects, including irritation to the foodpipe, swallowing problems and stomach pain say the NHS.

Daily supplements can help to protect bone health and prevent bone loss. The NHS, charities, clinicians and patients are all aware of the bone health benefits of dietary supplements, and at Stronger Bones, so are we.

What supplements should I be taking?

The evidence for the impact and benefits of supplements for osteoporosis is growing every year. Scientists have established for certain that some supplements can help prevent bone loss and protect bone tissue.

While many supplement brands and businesses make claims for their products, many aren’t backed by science, evidence or information. At Stronger Bones, we’ve examined the evidence and researched the science behind the claims to identify the best supplements for osteoporosis prevention and bone health protection. 

Essential bone health supplements include:

  • Calcium supplements
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Vitamin K supplements
  • Collagen supplements
  • Turmeric supplements
  • Magnesium supplements

Calcium supplements

Calcium plays a crucial role in the bone-building process, but as we age it can become more difficult to achieve an adequate calcium intake. The body absorbs calcium from many dietary calcium sources, including milk, cheese and leafy green vegetables. While a healthy diet rich in such foods can help you get the calcium you need, a supplement can ensure optimal calcium absorption.

But how much calcium do you need? The average adult should get at least 700mg of calcium a day but could benefit from up to 1000mg daily. Are you getting enough calcium from your diet? Probably not, say academics.

Scientists have known for decades that calcium can help improve bone health. A 2019 study found that “Total dairy intake was protectively associated with reduced risk of osteoporosis”.

Consuming more calcium had a dramatic impact on bone health, the researchers found. “Every additional 200-gram intake of dairy and milk was associated with a 22% and 37% reduced risk of osteoporosis,” they concluded.

Researchers have established that increasing calcium intake can support bone health, but how do you ensure you get enough calcium?

Taking calcium supplements can help to slow the bone loss associated with osteoporosis, research suggests. “Taken alongside prescribed osteoporosis treatments, it can boost the body’s calcium taken from the diet and help prevent bone breakdown,” they say.

Evidence shows that a daily supplement can help the body absorb calcium efficiently providing clear bone-building benefits.

Vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the bone-building process. This essential vitamin helps your intestines to absorb calcium from your diet. Without enough vitamin D in your diet, research suggests you won’t build new bone and could experience bone loss.

Vitamin D doesn’t come from food, but from the sun which means it’s no surprise that “around one in five adults and one in six children don’t have enough vitamin D,” says the charity HeartUK. A lack of vitamin D is “prevalent” in people with osteoporosis, research has established.

So what can you do?

“Everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D,” advises the NHS. Research has established that “When patients with osteoporosis are treated with a bisphosphonate, they should receive a vitamin D and calcium supplement.”

Vitamin D testing for deficiency isn’t necessary, says the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Regularly taking a calcium and vitamin supplement shouldn’t cause any negative side effects, and could improve your wellbeing – but you must get the correct dose. It’s important to speak to a healthcare professional who can offer expert advice.

If you’re worried about your bone health, a daily dose of vitamin D is essential. “Low vitamin D status is associated with an increased risk of falling and a variety of other health outcomes and is an area that requires urgent attention,” say Cambridge academics.

How much vitamin D do you need? “Benefits are most apparent when 800 IU day−1 vitamin D is complemented with a dose of 1000–1200mg day−1 elemental calcium,” say scientists.

Increasing vitamin D intake can help your body to absorb calcium more effectively, which can improve bone density. A vitamin D supplement can play a role in building stronger bones and preventing the worsening of bone diseases, such as osteoporosis.

Supplements offer additional support to your body, but to achieve the most benefit, you must take them every day, say experts. “Compliance is also key to optimizing clinical efficacy,” researchers have established.

Vitamin K supplements

Vitamin K plays a key role in bone health and increasing bone density by activating proteins involved in bone formation. You’ll find vitamin K in dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli, but it’s unlikely to be enough.

Scientists have been studying the role vitamin K plays in bone formation and its relationship to osteoporosis for decades, and while they’ve not been able to establish a clear link, there is a positive relationship. “Epidemiological studies and clinical trials consistently indicate that vitamin K has a positive effect on bone mineral density and decreases fracture risk,” researchers found.

If you’re eating a balanced and healthy diet, you could already be getting the vitamin K you need, but without an expensive blood test, you’ll never know. While some fortified foods such as breakfast cereals may contain added vitamin K, a daily supplement is the best way to ensure you’re getting your essential daily dose.

Collagen supplements

Collagen plays an important role in the “biological and biomechanical features of bone” say scientists. They have gone so far as to suggest age-related changes in collagen play a role in the loss of bone density associated with osteoporosis.

While research is at an early stage, recent results from collagen supplement trials have been incredibly positive, with one 2020 evidence review concluding that: “hydrolyzed collagen has a positive therapeutic effect on osteoporosis and osteoarthritis with a potential increase in bone mineral density.”

A daily collagen supplement showed a positive impact on bone health and bone density in one study. “SCP supplementation was associated with a favorable shift in bone markers, indicating increased bone formation and reduced bone degradation,” concluded the study authors.

The study focused on post-menopausal women with osteoporosis, found that ” intake of SCP increased BMD in postmenopausal women with primary, age-related reduction of BMD.” In simple terms, a daily dose of collagen helped to increase bone density.

Not all collagen supplements are equal, with the market flooded with inferior generic products that don’t deliver the bone health benefits you expect. Price is no indication of quality; instead you should only buy collagen supplements from a source you can trust.

Turmeric supplements

Turmeric is a naturally occurring substance that contains curcumin, believed to be a potential treatment for certain diseases, including osteoporosis. Scientists are learning more about how turmeric supplements, and specifically curcumin, work on the body, but the results are positive with a clear positive impact on bone density.

A 2021 study found that postmenopausal women aged 50-65 with osteorporosis experienced bone health benefits. After reviewing the evidence, the authors concluded that “This study reveals the beneficial effects of CUR-NS on the improvement of some bone turnover biomarkers.”

A 2018 study into the impact of curcumin supplements went even further, establishing that: “The combination of curcumin and alendronate has beneficial effects on BMD and bone turnover markers among postmenopausal women with osteoporosis”.

Evidence is supported by a growing and vocal online community of people with osteoporosis who have experienced the benefits of a daily dose of turmeric.

Magnesium supplements

Magnesium helps to regulate calcium transport within the body and plays an important role in bone formation. A 1995 trial in post-menopausal women found that “magnesium therapy appears to have prevented fractures and resulted in a significant increase in bone density”.

It’s important that the body gets enough magnesium, but too much can be damaging. A healthy dose of magnesium is 300mg a day for men (19 to 64 years) and 270mg a day for women (19 to 64 years), says the NHS.

Thankfully, a magnesium supplement shouldn’t tip you over the top as long as you regulate your intake.

Do I need to take supplements for osteoporosis?

Evidence suggests that taking daily vitamin supplements could help to prevent osteoporosis from worsening and contribute to growing stronger bones. Across the world, many health providers, charities and clinicians recommend that supplementing your daily diet with a selection of essential vitamins, minerals and collagen can improve bone health and increase bone density.

Supplements are safe to take alongside osteoporosis treatment and certain medications recommended by your doctor. Before taking any supplements, you should speak with your doctor.

While taking supplements is a personal choice, it’s an easy and affordable way to boost your body’s natural protection and bone-building power. Supplements are particularly important for those at increased risk of osteoporosis, including post-menopausal women and anyone aged over 65.

Can I take one supplement for osteoporosis?

Sadly, no. There is no single supplement that contains all the essential supplements that you need to build stronger bones. While you may find calcium supplements with added vitamins, none contain all the essential support your body needs to help prevent bone loss and improve bone density.

A single calcium supplement or calcium and vitamin supplement will provide some benefit, but you may see additional benefits by taking them alongside collagen and turmeric supplements for maximum impact.

Are supplements safe to take?

Supplements are food products that have been manufactured in a safe environment. It’s important to take high quality supplements from recognised manufacturers.

Before taking any supplements, we recommend you talk to your doctor. The information in this guide does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment information.

Can I get the vitamins I need through food?

Eating a healthy diet packed full of vitamins and minerals is essential for all of us, but it’s particularly important for those with bone health problems such as osteoporosis. There are a few foods you need to eat more of, including leafy green vegetables and fatty fish rich in omega-3 oils.

However, the reality is that taking supplements is the only way to ensure you’re getting the essential daily dose you need of calcium, vitamin d and vitamin k.

While you can eat turmeric, you won’t be able to consume enough curcumin to experience any health benefits. Collagen can only be consumed as a supplement and doesn’t appear in any foods.

Smarter supplements = stronger bones

At Stronger Bones, we’re on a mission to ensure everyone can get the high-quality supplements they need.

You can choose a subscription box to suit your bone health goals. Whether you want to prevent bone loss, or protect bone health we can help. We also offer you the chance to create your own personalised bone box, containing the supplements you need for healthier bones.

Smarter supplements = stronger bones.

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