If you or someone you love has osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones, there’s a new approach to protecting your bones along with your overall health.

It involves taking a couple of vitamins each day!


“I kept breaking bones and things like that and I thought I was a klutz.”  Gloria Chu Feng is 81, and has osteoporosis.  “The biggest fear is fracturing my hip.  The last bone density test that was taken, it says no longer a candidate for density tests, it’s too far gone.”


There are many factors that contribute to the loss of bone, including not enough calcium and vitamin d.  But there’s a new player---an x-factor if you will—homocysteine.  Homocysteine is a blood protein already labeled as a bad guy in terms of heart attacks and strokes.  And now, there’s a growing body of evidence to show it also causes osteoporosis.


But here's the good news: while it's an x-factor, it's a modifiable factor, meaning, it can be controlled.


The latest research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that because vitamins B12 and folate, or folic acid, can lower homocysteine levels, they can, together, also reduce the risk of hip fracture, Gloria's biggest concern.


What’s interesting is that the reduced risk of fracture was not related to an increase in the bone density.  It appears that the vitamins improve the quality of the bone that is there.  It’s thought that homocysteine disrupts the collagen fibers in the bone that help give its supporting structure.


Those stroke patients using B12 and folate had a five times lower risk of fracture compared to those using placebo.  Now that’s quite a dramatic reduction, but it’s questionable whether this transfers to others who did not have a stroke.


Dr. Ifemoa Okoronkwo is director of integrative medicine at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine.  She says, “When we look at any aging population this study kind of alludes to perhaps looking at this patient population and looking at their homocysteine levels, then make an assessments as to whether or not they might be candidates for fractures or better yet candidates for intervention.”


And intervention means along with B12 and folate to lower the homocysteine, physical exercises can help.


"There are ways that we can prevent falls, um and regular exercise, particularly balance therapy and strengthening is actually a wonderful way to prevent falls and similarly for osteoporosis weight barring exercise we know stimulates bone, the bone regeneration cycle," says Dr. Okoronkwo.


Gloria does all that, and takes her vitamins every day.  “I may get pushed, I may trip a little bit, but I don’t fall, I can show you black and blue marks all over my shins when I fall, but I don’t fall and break a bone,” says Gloria.


The dose of vitamin B12 they used in the study that was shown to be effective was 1500 micrograms by mouth daily.  The dose of folic acid was 5 milligrams daily.