Ah, dem bones, dem bones..
Our bones are the one part of our anatomy we neglect almost totally, yet our bones are alive, growing and constantly changing. The skeleton performs so many important functions. DID YOU KNOW? There are 206 bones that make up the adult skeleton, yet, more often than not, the skeleton is one of the 'forgotten' parts of our anatomy ' that's until something goes wrong with it.
Structurally, the skeleton:
provides structure and support for the whole body and allows us to maintain our upright posture
protects vital parts of our anatomy, the brain, spinal cord and internal organs for example
together with the muscles, ligaments and tendons allows us to move about
Besides that the skeleton is a storehouse for important nutrients, including calcium and phosphorous, both important for optimum health. And, finally the bones are responsible for the production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets produced in the red bone marrow of the long bones.
Some interesting facts about the skeleton include:
the hands (54 including the wrist) and feet (26) have the most bones
the largest bone in the human body is the femur (the thigh bone) and the smallest is the stapes (one of the bones in the ear)
on average our bones comprise approximately 15% of body weight
Anatomy of a bone Bones have 3 primary components:
Periosteum ' this is the very outer membrane of the bone through which veins, arteries and nerves enter the inner layers to bring nutrients and neurological innervation.
Cortical layer ' the hard outer layer also called compact bone. The cortical layer accounts for about 80% of the bone strength and is the 'living' part of the bone containing osteoblasts that make bone and osteoclasts that resorb bone.
Cancellous layer ' also known as the spongy bone because it's much softer, containing the marrow. Platelets and red and white blood cells are manufactured within the cancellous layer.
Simply looking at a bone one might be fooled by its relatively simple appearance. In reality nothing could be further from the truth. A bone is anything but simple.
Bones are a complex set of living cells embedded in a matrix composed of both organic material (produced in the body) which is predominantly collagen and inorganic, which is primarily hydroxyapatite (more about this below), calcium and phosphorus. It's the combination of the organic and inorganic material that gives bone its intrinsic strength.
Hydroxyapatite is the predominant inorganic compound found in both bones and teeth and is largely responsible for the 'hardness' of bone. As I have mentioned, bones are living things and need to be fed.
Bone reaches its maximum density and strength by around the age of 25 years of age. After that, there is a gradual, but perceptible loss of bone density, more pronounced in females as estrogen production reduces. This can lead to osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis if bones aren't given optimal nutrition and care.
Building bone strength usually isn't something parents actively consider when children are in their formative years, yet this is the time when special attention should be paid to optimum nutrition for the skeleton.
The primary nutrients for building optimum density and bone strength are amino acids (from protein and specifically animal protein), Calcium, Phosphorus and Vitamin D, necessary for calcium absorption. These nutrients, as well as intermittent exposure to sunlight, supply the necessary ingredients for healthy bones:
Yoghurt (preferably unsweetened)
Salmon, tuna, sardines and other small fish
Spinach and other green leafy vegetables
Oranges and other fruits
A diet deficient in these natural, healthy foods will actually slow down and even prevent optimum bone building and function. This type of diet is often referred to as the SAD diet (South African Diet!) ' high in processed food, fast foods, saturated fats, refined foods and sugars.
Besides a nutrient dense diet, exercise is crucial to build strong bones and to prevent bones from breaking down and weakening. Resistance exercise (weight training) and exercise where compressive forces are transmitted through the bones, like jogging, re-bounding, aerobics and others make a huge difference to maintaining optimal bone density.
The unfortunate part about not concentrating on building healthy, strong bones is that the effects are only felt in the latter years of life. I'm a great believer in supplementation for healthy bones. How you supplement is important and should be guided by a nutritionist or health professional, well versed in the right type of diet and targeted supplementation, as well the necessary blood tests to evaluate any potential deficiencies.
About Dr Kevin Lentin
Dr Lentin has been in private practice for more than 30 years. While his is core interest revolves around the diagnosis, treatment and management of neuro-musculo-skeletal conditions, his continual search to deepen his understanding of 'wellness' led him to study and practice Functional Medicine. He now focuses his years of study and clinical experience on a more integrated approach to health and wellness, incorporating his skills in the musculo-skeletal (chiropractic), bio-nutritional and functional wellness (Functional Medicine) as well as the psycho-emotional realms to offer patients a holistic approach to health care.
1976 graduated from the University of Natal with a B. Social Science, majoring in Psychology.
1984 graduated Doctor of Chiropractic, Cum Laude, from Life Chiropractic College, in Atlanta, Georgia.
2004 Diploma in Applied Clinical Nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition, in Sydney, Australia
2006 & 2012 Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice'
Contact Dr Kevin Lentin at Constantia Chiropractic Clinic, 36 Constantia Road, Wynberg, W Cape Tel: 021 797-8056
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