Dietary changes may preclude some prescriptions for osteoporosis, researchers say

While a number of prescription medications exist to reverse the bone loss associated with osteoporosis, a recent survey of medical literature indicated that many patients should first look into getting more calcium and vitamin D in their diets or through supplementation.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stated as much in an article published in the journal Nutrients, where they noted that bisphosphonates may not rebuild the best sort of bone tissue, compared to adequate vitamins and nutrients in one's meals.

In a meta-analysis of more than 200 research papers published in the prior 10 years, scientists found that the direction of medical inquiry has been increasingly swinging toward the initial use of calcium and vitamin D to treat osteoporosis.

Co-author Karen Chapman-Novakofski said that a partial explanation for this trend appears to be the difference in bone quality between individuals on bisphosphonates and those eating a more complete diet or taking dietary supplements.

"Bisphosphonates...disrupt normal bone remodeling by shutting down the osteoclasts - the cells that break down old bone to make new bone," she commented. "When that happens, new bone is built on top of old bone. Yes, your bone density is higher, but the bone's not always structurally sound."

The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that bisphosphonates decrease the risk of hip fracture by up to 50 percent. However, the organization adds that some researchers have raised concerns that the drug class can occasionally lead to negative side effects, including thigh aches and broken femurs.

By contrast, people over the age of 50 who take 1,200 milligrams of calcium and up to 1,000 international units of vitamin D each day may see gains in bone density with relatively few side effects, Chapman-Novakofski said.

The authors of the new article noted that consuming a more complete diet - especially one that contains plenty of protein, phosphorus and other nutrients - may be more beneficial than merely taking supplements.

Even considering the results of the meta-study, the team pointed out that bisphosphonates may be an appropriate therapy for plenty of aging Americans with osteoporosis.