fracture risk

  1. Vitamin B12 levels can slash your risk of a fracture

    B12 for bone health

    When it comes to bone health, vitamin B12 levels aren't the first thing that comes to mind. It's not second, third or fourth, either.

    It might not even crack the top 10.

    But maybe it should make that list after all, because new research finds that low B12 levels can lead to a bone break, especially in senior men.

    The lower your levels, the higher your risk, according to the study of more than 1,000 men with an average age of 75. And if you're among the millions quietly suffering from low B12 levels, you're facing a 70 percent higher risk of fracture overall and a 120 percent jump in the risk of a potentially crippling lumbar fracture.

    That's a fracture you might not recognize as a bone break at first. No, all you know is that you've got a little back pain -- and since back pain tends to come and go over the years, you might even ignore it at first.

    But this one doesn't go away.

    Instead, it gets progressively worse -- and eventually, you're in so much pain you can't even bend down to tie your shoes.

    Standing too long hurts. Sitting too much hurts. And you don't even want to think about how tough it is to sleep with a lumbar fracture.

    That's why it's critical to give your bones everything they need to stay strong. While B12 may play a role here, this is the first study to make the link -- so let's not rush out and add B12 for bone health just yet.

    I'd like to see more research first.

    That said, most seniors are low in B vitamins -- and since these nutrients are critical to brain and nerve function, adding a supplement is not a bad idea.

    (Click here for more on B12 levels and brain health.)

    But for bone health, let's stick to the tried and true.

    You already know about the importance of calcium when it comes to bone health. But what you may not realize is that calcium is practically useless by itself. You need both vitamin D and magnesium to put it to work -- and while many people have adequate calcium levels, most fall short in D and magnesium.

    Also consider vitamin K, which the body needs to form the protein that brings calcium into the bone matrix. Studies have shown that low K levels increase the risk of both osteoporosis and bone breaks.

    One note of caution: Speak with a doctor before taking vitamin K, especially if you're on blood thinners.

  2. A sucker punch for vitamin D

    After enjoying a shining moment as the darling of the mainstream, vitamin D is being kicked around.

    That didn't take long, did it?

    Maybe you've seen some of the headlines, which made it sound as if vitamin D failed a major new study. But never trust the headline writers--because this study on the sunshine vitamin should have been kept in the dark.

    The new research, which you'll find in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found no benefits for women who take vitamin D--and that it might even increase the risk of fractures in some of them.

    But that's not even close to the whole story here.

    The women in this study were given a lot of vitamin D--but the real problem here isn't how much they took, but how often they took it: Once.

    Not once a day... once a week... or even once a month.

    Just once a year for up to five years.

    Definitely don't try this at home!

    Researchers gave 2,256 women 70 years old or older either a placebo or a whole lot of the sunshine vitamin: 500,000 IUs, delivered in 10 tablets taken in a single day. The women, who were all believed to have a high risk of fractures, were given the tablets annually for between three and five years.

    By the end of the study, the researchers found no real benefit in the megadose group. Not only that, but the women who took the real vitamins had a slightly higher risk of falls and fractures compared to those who took the placebo.

    But you can take those results and throw them out the window on a cloudy day... because you need vitamin D the way you need food and water: daily, not once a year.

    Just look at the overwhelming preponderance of evidence, which finds that vitamin D is essential to bone health and can lower your risk for diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Vitamin D has also been shown to boost your immune system, and it may even help you live longer.

    Even the researchers behind this study say they're not down on D--and now, they want to see if giving patients smaller doses over longer periods has any effect.

    Here's a hint: Of course it will, and you can see the results for yourself. If you're not getting enough quality sunlight (and you're probably not), be sure to add a natural vitamin D3 supplement to your routine.

    Just be sure to take it every day--not once a year.

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