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The Hip Bone’s Connected to the… Brain?


bone health Remember that catchy childhood sing along tune about bones?

You know, “The shin bone’s connected to the knee bone…” Well, as it turns out, many seemingly unrelated body systems are, in fact, deeply connected. Think about it: blood sugar and heart health, digestion and immunity, and eye health and circulation.

But in the twist of all twists, researchers have found that bone health is even connected to brain health. And the results from a recent study show that poor bone mineral density is associated with cognitive decline in seniors.

Six Degrees of Separation

At first blush, it seems unlikely that bone health and brain health would have anything in common. However, osteoporosis and cognitive decline do, in fact, have several shared risk factors. These include advanced age, lack of physical exercise, tobacco use and excessive alcohol use.

And now, in addition to sharing risk factors, it seems that bone mineral density and cognitive impairment often show up as comorbidities.1

Researchers looked at 655 women age 65 and older who had participated in the InCHIANTI study and followed for three years. Scientists determined bone mineral density (BMD) by taking three different measures of bone density from the tibia, or the shinbone. They then determined cognitive ability by using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Trail Making Tests (TMT) A and B. An MMSE score of less than 24 indicated cognitive impairment.

After a three year follow up, the researchers found that one BMD measure (cortical) in particular was associated with cognitive impairment and deteriorating cognitive impairment. In fact, as cortical BMD increased (leading to better bone density), there was a significant decrease in the likelihood of cognitive impairment or worsening cognitive performance.

Given this, researchers concluded, “In older women, low BMD might represent an independent and early marker of subsequent cognitive impairment. Physicians should assess and monitor cognitive performance in the routine management of elderly women with osteoporosis.”

4 Ways to Boost Bone AND Brain Health

The key takeaway from this study is to keep your bones and brain healthy long before either osteoporosis OR cognitive decline kicks in. That means using targeted nutrients clinically shown to support both. Here are four go-to nutrients to keep your bones and brain healthy as you age:

  1. Vitamin D is quickly becoming the universal health nutrient. When it comes to bone health, the tie to vitamin D has been well researched. In fact, one of vitamin D’s primary roles is to establish and maintain normal calcium absorption by the small intestine, as well as the formation of new bone or the remodeling of existing bone. When it comes to brain health, reduced levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of dementia.2-3 Aim for 500-1,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.
  1. Curcumin is the main polyphenol found in turmeric. It is well known as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. When it comes to bone health, curcumin appears to have an impact on the process in which bone tissue breaks down, suggesting that it may provide some protection against osteoporosis.4 On the brain front, curcumin has been shown to significantly lower several inflammation markers, as well as reduce plaque on the brain (a sign of Alzheimer’s) by 43 to 50 percent.5 Aim for 100-200 mg of turmeric extract, standardized to 95% total curcuminoids.
  1. Silica is the active ingredient in horsetail extract. It is critical for skeletal growth and development.6 Silica has been shown to increase bone mass density, aid in cartilage formation and help with calcium absorption.7 Additionally, thanks (in part) to its ability to detox aluminum, silica has been shown to reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. In fact, one study found that an increase of 10 mg/day in silica intake was associated with a reduced risk of dementia.8 Aim for 2-5 mg of horsetail extract (standardized to 7% silica) per day.
  1. Vitamin K has been well studied for bone health in particular. In fact, one study found that a subtype of vitamin K2 (MK-7) helped decrease bone loss in postmenopausal women.9 Similarly, vitamin K2 has been shown to be more concentrated in the brain. Additionally, people with early stage Alzheimer’s have been shown to have low vitamin K intake.10

Vitamin K2 has also been found to play a role in the formation of sphingolipids, a group of fats found in your central and peripheral nervous system. Autopsies of Alzheimer’s patients show that they have markedly lower levels of sphingolipids, indicating that they play a key role in neurological function.11 Aim for 120-250 mcg of vitamin K2 (as MK-7) daily.

For healthy aging, start loading up on these vital nutrients today so you can reap the benefits in the future!

1. Laudisio A, et al. Calcif Tissue Int. 2016 May;98(5):479-88.
2. Afzal S, et al. Alzheimers Dement. 2013 Jul 18. [Epub ahead of print.]
3. Knekt P, et al. Epidemiology. 2014 Nov;25(6):799-804.
4. Yamaguchi M, et al. Integr Biol (Camb). 2012 Aug 23;4(8):905-13.
5. Lim GP, et al. J Neurosci.  2001 Nov 1;21(21):8370-7.
6. Jugdaohsingh R. J Nutr Health Aging. 2007 Mar-Apr;11(2):99-100.
7. Schwarz K and Milne DB. Nature. 1972;239:333-4.
8. Rondeau V, et al. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Feb;169(4):489-96.
9. Knapen MH, et al. Osteoporos Int. 2013 Sep;24(9):2499-507.
10. Presse N, et al. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Dec;108(12):2095-9.
11. Carrie I, et al. J Nutr. 2004 Jan 1;134(1):167-72.

Kimberly Day Kimberly Day has spent the past 15 years uncovering natural and alternative health solutions. She was the managing editor for several of the world’s largest health newsletters including those from Dr. Susan Lark, Dr. Julian Whittaker and Dr. Stephen Sinatra. She has also penned several health-related newsletter and magazine articles, co-authored the book the Hormone Revolution with Dr. Susan Lark, contributed articles to Lance Armstrong’s consumer site, and created a number of health-related websites and blogs.

For tips, tools and strategies to address your most pressing health concerns and make a positive difference in your life, visit Peak Health Advocate.

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