Breaking the link between air pollution and osteoporosis

While preventing osteoporosis should be a priority for everyone, no matter what their sex, for women, keeping their bones strong is especially important, particularly during and after menopause.

That’s because as estrogen levels go down, a woman’s chances of osteoporosis go up.

Is it any wonder then that one in two women over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture due to declining bone mineral density, or that 80 percent of the approximately 10 million Americans living with osteoporosis are women?

This means that as women, we have to be particularly aware of things that can make our bones more brittle — some of which can be surprising.

 And according to research from the Women’s Health Initiative Study, one of the most surprising and dangerous might just be air pollution…

Breathing in bone damage

The research followed over 9,000 post-menopausal women through almost 33,000 doctor’s visits. Each woman’s exposure to air pollutants was estimated based on where they lived and then compared to their bone mineral density over a period of six years.

Advanced models were used to investigate the impact of four common air pollutants from a family of gases that form when fuel is burned at high temperatures — exactly what you find emitting from automobiles, trucks and even construction equipment and boats.

And sure enough…

The results clearly showed that long-term exposure to air pollution could take a woman’s bones from strong and healthy to weak, brittle and osteoporotic.

Unfortunately, post-menopausal women living in areas with high levels of air pollutants suffered the highest levels of bone loss.

While the research didn’t reveal exactly how these pollutants eat away at healthy bones, the investigators believe it likely has to do with inflammation and oxidative stress. That’s not especially surprising given that exposure to air pollutants has been linked to these same destructive processes in other studies.

Preserving your bone health now and post-menopause

So how can you keep your bones strong when even the air around you could be turning them brittle with every breath?

Of course, I firmly believe vitamin D is essential to bone health (and so much more). And, as I’ve said before, most people’s blood levels show they are deficient in this valuable nutrient.

But air pollution is a different kind of ever-present threat. To reduce the silent damage it’s doing with every breath we take, we have to go after the two ways it appears to eat away at our bones…

That means combatting the inflammation and oxidative stress we just talked about.

For that, there are two options at the top of my list…

  • Omega-3’s – The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are powerful inflammation fighters. But one source of omega-3s, krill oil, also offers high levels of the powerful antioxidant, astaxanthin, which can also provide protection from oxidative stress. That makes krill oil a two-in-one for inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Exercise – Physical activity helps to render inflammatory molecules powerless to keep inflammation from destroying the tissues of your body. And we know exercise, especially weight-bearing, strengthens bones. A side benefit of taking omega-3s when exercising? Doubling your muscle strength which can help guard against a vicious cycle of bone loss, muscle loss and weight gain that happens often around menopause and post-menopause.

Sadly, every day we’re learning more about how air pollution can drag our health down. It’s easy to feel powerless against it. But the truth is, you can still fight back.

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Air pollution and decreased bone mineral density among Women’s Health Initiative participants – eClinicalMedicine

Vitamin D – Mayo Clinic

Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation and oxidative stress parameters: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials – NIH

Virginia Tims-Lawson

By Virginia Tims-Lawson

Virginia Tims-Lawson has dedicated her life to researching and studying natural health after her mother had a stroke that left her blind in one eye at the age of 47, and her grandmother and two great uncles died from heart attacks. Spurred by her family history, Virginia’s passion to improve her and her family’s health through alternative practices, nutrients and supplements has become a mission she shares through her writing. She is founder of the nutritional supplement company Peak Pure & Natural®.