How it puts you on the fast track to osteoporosis and the natural prevention strategies you need
As we get older, our obesity risk often increases for various reasons. And you already know how this disease contributes to many of the health issues dogging the world today.
Of course, obesity has an especially detrimental effect on our bones. (Not to mention, our bone marrow begins to favor fat cells as we age, too.)
These fat cells secrete chemicals that cause inflammation. They also block bone-building osteoblasts while stimulating the activity of bone-degrading osteoclasts.
In other words, “fatter bones”—when your bone marrow mainly consists of fat cells—tip the scales away from regular bone growth… and toward long-term bone loss.
The result? Osteoporosis—a condition that’s particularly common among postmenopausal women. But affects older men, too.
And new research shows that men with high levels of body fat—a reality for most men in this country—are especially vulnerable.
So, let’s take a look at how obesity spells disaster for bone health as we age. And then, I’ll outline the natural prevention strategies that can help.
Body composition makes a critical difference
Doctors typically assume that a heavier weight protects against bone loss.
As a result, patients with higher body weight—particularly men—are less likely to receive osteoporosis screening.
But this latest study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, shows that your body composition—and whatever’s contributing to your weight—matters. Because if it’s fat mass instead of muscle or lean mass that you’re packing, your bones could be in the crosshairs.
(Fat mass is different than muscle mass, and both are different than lean mass. Fat mass is calculated by comparing the weight of your fat to your height. Muscle mass is simply the amount of muscle in your body. And lean mass is the weight of your body minus its fat.)
Researchers looked at the bone mineral density and body composition of nearly 11,000 participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011-2018. As you might expect, they found a strong positive link between lean mass and bone density in both men and women.
But they also found a negative association between fat mass and bone mineral density. This association was particularly negative among men.1 (Remember, the lower your bone mineral density, the higher your risk of osteoporosis.)
Of course, this isn’t the first we’re hearing about male osteoporosis risks. Low bone mineral density has been an overlooked problem among men for years.
In fact, in 2014, a study by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) noted that osteoporosis prevention and treatment efforts have largely failed to reach the male audience, with most of the focus on postmenopausal women.
Even now, you’ll still notice that osteoporosis (and prescription remedy) commercials are geared towards women. But the fact is, these researchers predicted a threefold increase in bone fractures among men by the year 2050.2
That grim conclusion came after data analysis revealed a shocking discrepancy between men and women: Following a wrist fracture, 53 percent of women had their bone mineral density measured, compared with only 18 percent of men.
Not to mention, only three percent of men versus 22 percent of women started taking bisphosphonates—drugs that slow bone loss—following an injury.
Now, I’m hardly suggesting that anyone should be taking more of these drugs. While they’re a common treatment to help increase bone mass, they have also been shown to increase, rather than decrease, bone fractures. (And the list of unwanted side effects doesn’t end there.)
Instead, the real key—for both men and women—is to fight bone loss naturally. Here’s how…
Slash “bone fat” by 50 percent in just six weeks
I can’t overstate this fact: Exercise is essential for good health—and that includes bone health.
In fact, research on mice has found that exercise doesn’t just burn body fat. It also burns fat within the bone marrow.
In one study, lean and obese mice increased their exercise levels for six weeks. At the end of that period, both had a serious reduction in the amount of fat in their bone marrow.
The results for obese mice were most impressive. After that short period of time, their bone marrow fat looked identical to that of lean mice. What’s more, the obese mice saw the total number of fat cells in their marrow decrease by 50 percent.3
The study also found that exercise increased bone thickness, particularly in obese mice. This helps protect against fractures.
Of course, research on mice is just a start—and you know how I feel about animal studies. But these results offer an interesting and compelling perspective on one of the many ways that exercise improves bone health.
So for the millionth time, if you’re not exercising already, now’s the time to start—especially if you’re obese or have high belly fat.
In this study, the mice’s exercise consisted of running—and I certainly won’t discourage you from doing the same. But I also suggest relying on the tried-and-true human research out there, which demonstrates that one type of exercise in particular boosts bone health…
The best workout for building strong bones
Weight-bearing exercise is proven to preserve bone density, which is why I recommend it to anyone interested in maintaining strong bones. (And really, that should be everyone. Especially as we age.)
Researchers at the University of Missouri found that a regimen of weight-lifting and jumping exercises boosted bone density in healthy, middle-aged men with low bone mass, within a matter of months.
Their programs required 60 to 120 minutes of targeted exercises each week for a year. And scans of the whole body, hip, and lumbar spine showed significant increases at six months, which were still maintained after a year.4
I generally recommend up to 120 minutes of weight-bearing exercise a week… and results like this are a big reason why. You can even start with resistance bands, which you can find at any big box or sporting supply store.
They serve as a cheap, easy-to-use, and convenient alternative to weights. A quick internet search will give you instructions on doing a full-body workout with them.
As an added bonus: Weight-bearing exercises don’t just address bone density. They also strengthen your muscles. And strong muscles are essential for balance—another key to fall (and fracture) prevention.
Rescue your skeleton with six key supplements
In addition to targeted workouts, I encourage everyone—women and men alike—to nourish their bones with a combination of supplements as well.
Here’s a quick breakdown of my recommendations:
1.) Calcium—500 to 600 mg per day, in tablet form.
2.) Magnesium—The following two forms are best absorbed by the body: Magnesium orotate (32 mg per day) or taurate (125 mg per day).
3.) Vitamin K2—45 mcg, twice per day.
4.) Vitamin D3—At least 50 mcg (2,000 IU) to 125 mcg (5,000 IU) daily to maintain optimal blood levels. If your levels are low, I recommend 250 mcg (10,000 IU) daily. (Have your vitamin D blood levels screened every six months. Optimal levels are between 80 and 100 ng/mL.)
5.) Strontium—500 mg per day.
6.) Resveratrol. At least 500 mg per day. You may not see this entry on your typical bone-boosting supplement list, but believe me, it’s an important one. Here’s why…
As part of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial—a gold-standard study design—Danish researchers assessed bone density and formation in 66 middle-aged men with metabolic syndrome. For 16 weeks, the men either took 500 mg of resveratrol, 75 mg of resveratrol, or a placebo, twice daily.
Results showed that, after just four months, men on the higher dose of resveratrol saw their lumbar spine density increase by nearly three percent. They also saw a 16 percent boost in key bone formation markers compared to controls.5
At the end of the day, if you’re struggling with brittle bones, I hope this discussion helps you take back control.
So, before you fill that dangerous prescription that might do more harm than good, keep in mind how daily movement and smart supplementation serve as powerful protection against fatty bones (and fatty waists).
- Jain RK, et al. “Fat Mass Has Negative Effects on Bone, Especially in Men: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of NHANES 2011-2018.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2022 Feb 10;dgac040. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgac040. Online ahead of print.
- “Distal Radial Fractures in Older Men: A Missed Opportunity?” The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery2014; 96(21): 1,820-1,827
- “Exercise Decreases Marrow Adipose Tissue Through ß-Oxidation in Obese Running Mice.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.3159
- Hinton PS, et al. “Effectiveness of resistance training or jumping-exercise to increase bone mineral density in men with low bone mass: A 12-month randomized, clinical trial.” Bone, 2015; 79: 203 DOI: 10.1016/j.bone.2015.06.008
- Marie Juul Ørnstrup et al. Resveratrol Increases Bone Mineral Density and Bone Alkaline Phosphatase in Obese Men: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, October 2014 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2014