Factors Affecting Bone Strength

There are many ways to reduce fragility fractures. Ways to reduce fractures vary from making walking areas smoother to putting pads on the hips. One of the ways that would reduce fractures is to increase bone strength. If a bone is stronger, it will be less likely to break when someone falls. Bone mineral density (BMD) is a good way to measure bone strength, although it is not perfect. Some bones that are very dense are also very fragile. With some bone diseases, such as osteopetrosis, denser bones are more easily fractured. For normal bones, though, denser is better.

Factors Affecting Bone Strength

Osteoporosis Locations
Osteoporosis Locations

Several factors can lead to stronger bones. Weight bearing is one factor. It is the reason that weight bearing exercise is recommended to prevent osteoporosis. Diet can play a role, although rarely mentioned. When mentioned, it is usually in the context of deficiencies of vitamin D and calcium. You need Vitamin D and calcium in adequate amounts, or else your bones will be weak. But it is questionable whether more than the amount to prevent deficiency is helpful.

Authors rarely discuss high potassium foods as a factor in osteoporosis. In prior posts we discussed how populations with a higher potassium to sodium ratio in their diet have fewer fractures and have greater bone mineral density. What is not fully understood at present is the basic science behind this finding.

How Are High Potassium Foods Like Weight Bearing?

What do high potassium foods have in common with weight bearing to increase bone density? Basic science gives clues about how these two affect bone in a similar fashion.

Both weight bearing (compressive force) and the dietary potassium to sodium ratio change the cell membrane potential in bone cells. Other factors that change the membrane potential of bone cells are the acidity of the fluid surrounding the cell, and the electrical field the cell sits in.

The electrical field a cell sits in influences the cell membrane potential. This is the principle that PEMF is based on to improve healing in bone fractures. A small, pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) affects membrane receptors and pores, as well as having other possible effects.

Compressive force on the bone, when the bone bears weight, also change the membrane potential. Likewise, the balance of ions, mainly hydrogen, sodium and potassium inside and outside the cell, changes the cell membrane potential.

Bone Strength Is Affected By Cell Membrane Pores

Changes in the cell membrane potential cause changes in the cell by influencing the various pores in the membrane. These pores allow the passage of molecules such as calcium, potassium, and sodium into and out of the cell. Very small changes in the cell membrane potential open and close certain pores. Open and closed pores change the concentration of molecules inside the cell. The change in concentration results in changes in the chemical reactions occurring inside the cell, including many influenced by the calcium concentration inside the cell.

Open and closed pores also affect the concentration of molecules outside the cell. The calcium concentration outside the cell can change the mineralization process in the matrix surrounding the bone cells. The amount of mineralization determines the bone density.

The hormones of the body also affect reactions inside the cells. Parathyroid hormone, thyroid hormone, growth hormone, sex hormones and corticosteroid hormones are the main hormones affecting bone cells. The interaction of these hormones with bone cells influences bone strength.

More To Discover

A great deal of research is going on in all these areas. To have a clear understanding of how a change in one area can affect another area requires a systems approach. This systems approach resulted in a clear picture of hypertension not too long ago. Many of these investigations of bone density are at the same stage that hypertension research was a few decades ago.

With more research, there will emerge a clearer understanding of these interactions at the cellular and tissue levels. How these factors affect osteoclasts (cells that break done bone), osteoblasts (cells that build up bone) and osteocytes (other bone cells), as well as how they affect the surrounding bone matrix, will allow a more complete understanding of how bones get stronger.

Until then, we will not know exactly how a high potassium foods diet results in stronger bones. But with all the evidence to date, it is clear that high potassium foods will strengthen bone, and help protect against fragility fractures from osteoporosis.

To Find Tables Of High Potassium Foods

To find tables of high potassium foods to increase bone strength, click on the “Links to Food Potassium Tables” tab at the top of the page. Look under the category of food you are interested in, such as vegetables or fruits to find a link to a table.

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