Home' Nova National : August 2011 Contents HEALTH NATUROPATHY
© NOVA AUGUST 2011
JEREMY HILL: NDAdv, HMAdv, NutAdv
AT AROUND THE same time a combination
of genes, lifestyle and gravity was triggering
my young self to lighten up on excess body
fat and to lay down extra muscle and bone,
Neil Armstrong was planting his footprints
on the moon's surface. And while my
footsteps were slowly getting heavier, Neil
was suddenly treading extremely lightly
due to the effects of micro gravity.
Such a drastic reduction in force can
have a negative effect on the skeletal
system, inducing bone loss at an average
rate of about 2% for every month spent
in space. This rate of gradual structural
entropy would likely have had minimal long
term effects upon Neil and his crew, who
were up to the moon and back in just over
six days. But spare a thought for the bones
of Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalevit, who
has currently clocked up over two years
of space time over the course of several
Unfortunately for Sergei, another
damaging effect of space travel on the
bones, beyond that of weightlessness, is the
high level of radiation exposure affecting
space travellers. The spongy part of the
bones known as trabecular bone, which
is crucial for maintaining bone strength,
appears to be significantly harmed by the
cumulative radiation exposure of being in
space long term.
Long trips of several months or more
provide brave individuals such as Sergei
with the very real possibility of osteoporosis,
not to mention the many other negative
effects on one's health of such extreme
Back on Earth, such challenges faced
by space explorers may seem far removed
from our own. In fact, the truth is that
many people face these same problems to
varying degrees without having to leave
their city, let alone the atmosphere.
The lack of gravitational stress applied
to the skeleton accounts for the most
intense bone loss in space and, as Newton
described in his second law of motion,
force equals mass times acceleration. So,
the level of load bearing movement we
apply against the pull of gravity on our
Earth-drawn bones affects the rate at
which they will break down.
Newton's third law of motion states
that for every action there is an equal and
opposite reaction. So basically, if you just
sit back and leave it all up to gravity, then
you will be missing out massively. Push
back. Commit to fighting gravity vigorously
on a regular basis and your skeleton will
reap the rewards. This is why regular
weight bearing exercise is an important
player in staving off osteoporosis.
And men, don't switch off here.
Osteoporosis is a condition that is way
too common and frequently ignored in
the male population, having typically been
seen mainly as a postmenopausal female
problem. Men generally do have a higher
bone mineral density than women, but
bone loss still does occur and a variety
of situations, including long term use of
bronchial corticosteroids for asthma relief,
low testosterone levels, excessive alcohol
consumption and high blood pressure, are
all common triggers for male bone loss.
In one recent study, a quarter of males
over 70 met the criteria necessary for the
prescription of osteoporosis treatment
and, startlingly, 90% of these men had no
idea they had osteoporosis. Unfortunately,
the often severely restricted level of
physical activity of many older people
simply adds to the rate of bone loss and
increases the risk of a fracture, which only
serves to compound the inactivity.
Vitamin D deficiency is another
common trigger for bone loss and
unfortunately deficiencies in this hormone
(yes, it's technically a hormone) in Australia
appear to be at epidemic levels. It appears
we may have become too sun smart. On
the other hand, it is important not to
overdo it and risk UV damage-induced
skin cancers. Many people these days are
finding Vitamin D3 supplements to be
cheap and safe alternatives to extra time
in the sun, especially convenient in the
Going back to radiation from space
travel, some of us don't need to enter an
orbital pattern to be exposed to dangerous
levels of radiation. Many people who have
undergone radiation therapy as a treatment
for cancer may already be well aware of the
increased risk of osteoporosis that such
a course of treatment has concurrently
Diet plays an important role in
maintaining a healthy skeleton, well beyond
ingesting enough calcium each day -- an
interesting example is the effect of different
fats on our bones. While a diet high in
saturated fat has been shown to adversely
affect the development of bone density in
young rats, alternatively the Framingham
Osteoporosis Study suggested a high intake
of fish (rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids
EPA and DHA) had a protective effect on
bone loss in older adults. The primary
difference between the saturated fats and
omega 3 is that an excess of the former
tends to promote inflammation, while
omega 3 fats inhibit it. Chronic inflammation
is known to strongly promote osteoporosis,
as well as virtually every other chronic
disease known to affect humankind.
Other interesting research has
demonstrated that foods and herbs rich in
various flavone antioxidants, such as extracts
of pinus pinaster bark and anthocyanadin-
rich blueberries, have shown promise
in preventing the loss of bone mass and
preserving the structural peptides of bone
known as osteocalcin and type 1 collagen.
It would appear that the best advice for
bone mass preservation may be "don't go
into space for too long". But if it's too late
and you have already been, not to worry,
help is at hand and it's rarely too late. ●
Good health, Jeremy Hill.
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