In last week's examination of the dangers of excessive vitamin D supplementation, I noted how it can trigger extra calcium absorption and that excess calcium can cause muscle pain, mood disorders, abdominal pain and kidney stones. It also needs to be said that excessive calcium supplements may advance heart disease.
Before you pop that calcium pill with the notion that you are building strong bones, let us first chew on this inconvenient fact: Americans get more calcium than almost every other nationality in the world. It's found in milk, orange juice, pasta, yogurt, toothpaste, chewing gum, snack crackers, granola bars and, in many regions, the water you drink.
Yet our incidence of osteoporosis is among the highest in the world. In the United States, 10 million people have osteoporosis, and 18 million more are at risk of developing the disease, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Eighty percent of people who suffer from osteoporosis are women.
If we're to build bones that last a lifetime, we need to fix the underlying problem, according to Dr. Al Sears, a clinical nutrition specialist and a leading voice in integrative medicine and anti-aging research. This means giving your body both the essential nutrients and the weight-bearing movements it needs to create and maintain new bone growth. Sears believes both vitamin D-3 and vitamin K-2, given in proper dosage, are key players in this process, as both of these fat-soluble vitamins support and activate the production of new bone cells and help determine how many of these new cells actually "stick" to your bones. This process is important in that it also reduces the buildup of plaque associated with cardiovascular disease.
Along with the intake of vitamins, we should include a routine of age- and condition-appropriate weight-bearing exercises to help build and maintain bones. When we put stress on muscles during a weight-bearing exercise, such as pushups, the muscles and tendons put stress on the bones themselves. This pressure triggers key changes and adaptations that stimulate new growth and higher bone density.
If you need extra restorative help, there is a much better option available than calcium. Sears is among the growing list of health experts recommending supplementation with curcumin each day.
"What's that?" you say. Curcumin is a naturally occurring, active ingredient found in the spice turmeric. My wife, Gena, and I have been supplementing our diet with 1 gram of curcumin daily for some time now and firmly believe in its benefits.
Turmeric is grown primarily in the Asian subcontinent. Indians have known its health benefits for thousands of years. Curcumin lowers inflammatory enzymes, which helps stop platelets from gathering to form blood clots. It is also said to reduce blood sugar levels, a property that's valuable for those suffering from diabetes. Perhaps its greatest benefit is the fact that it acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, relieving sufferers of arthritis and osteoarthritis. It is also said to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. Though the findings are preliminary, in some lab tests, curcumin appears to also block the growth of certain kinds of tumors.
In research conducted by the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and published in the current issue of the journal PLOS ONE, new, more efficient ways of unleashing curcumin's biological effects both therapeutically and as a daily supplement to combat disease were explored.
"This study suggests that we have identified a better and more effective way to deliver curcumin and know what diseases to use it for so that we can take advantage of its anti-inflammatory power," said Nicholas Young, a postdoctoral researcher in rheumatology and immunology at Ohio State and the lead author of the study.
Young and his group mixed curcumin powder with castor oil and polyethylene glycol in a process called nanoemulsion, allowing the compound to dissolve and be more easily absorbed by the gut to enter the bloodstream and tissues. The concentration of emulsified curcumin in blood was more than 10 times higher than the concentration of curcumin powder suspended in water.
Until you can get this new concoction, perhaps in salad dressing form, try adding curcumin to your regular diet with turmeric in conventional ground form or whole. It's a natural for stir-fry dishes and stews. You must make sure it's all curcumin and not just some of the root ground up with curry.
An even more potent way to use curcumin is in supplement form. Look for a curcumin supplement that contains piperine, a black pepper extract that increases the absorbency of other compounds. Remember that not all curcumin supplements are created equal and that it can be difficult to verify its purity and potency. If you have an existing health issue, it's important to talk to a specialist to determine what the best course is for you.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.