By the Author of “Better Bones, Better Body – Susan E Brown PhD
If you are a middle-aged or older woman whose doctor is a member of the conventional medical community, it is very likely you have been told to use drug therapy to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. To date oestrogen therapy has been the primary drug used to reduce bone loss. With the recent FDA approval of the bisphosphonate, alendronate, another player has entered into the field. This new drug is manufactured by Merck and goes under the trade name of Fosomax. Bisphosphonates as a group are considered by many to represent the next generation of osteoporosis treatment. Like oestrogen, the bisphosphonate drugs act to limit bone breakdown but do not stimulate bone formation. Although the drug has been just recently approved, we are already witnessing a carefully orchestrated campaign to promote its use by making osteoporosis and the need for bone density testing a household concern.
I am not sure that such a strong publicity campaign is in the public interest. From the onset, the manufacturers of this new drug have suggested to physicians that all women with a bone density two standard deviations or more below that of normal young women could benefit from lifelong use of this drug. According to osteoporosis authority Dr Robert Melton of the Mayo Clinic, some 45 per cent of all Caucasian women aged 50 years and over in this country have a bone mass at least at one site which is two standard deviations below that of normal young women. So, from the pharmaceutical point of view, 45 per cent of all Caucasian women and an unknown percentage of minority women are candidates for lifelong bone stabilising drug therapy. This by itself is a rather frightening proposition. In fact, the drug has been found to decrease the incidence of vertebral fractures, but it is not known if it will reduce the incidence of hip and other non-vertebral fractures. Nor is it known if the drug is safe, or effective over the long haul, yet it must be used indefinately in order to maintain its benefits. As Dr Sambrook states in a recent New England Journal of Medicine editorial of November 1995 “…because bisphosphonates accumulate in the skeleton for prolonged periods, long-term safety remains a question. Other questions, such as the long-term effect of the new bisphosphonate s on bone turnover and mechanical strength, also remain to be answered”. Earlier bisphosphonate drugs like Editronate have been shown to be inadequate. Should this drug prove effective with minimal adverse effects it would be a boon for many older individuals at high risk for fracture. In this case it would best be used in conjunction with a life-supporting bone regeneration program as described in this book. Should it prove ineffective, we would have yet another case of mass experimentation with women’s health.
No matter what the fate of this or any other new drug therapy however, the Better Bones, Better Body Program represents another direction. Our direction concerns working with nature for the regeneration of our full health potential, including the potential of lifelong healthy bones.
Over ten years ago I began what I intended to be a brief research project looking into a common disorder known as osteoporosis. As an anthropologist I was struck by the rather alarming frequency of this disease within our culture and I wondered what the incidence was in other cultures. Certainly the indigenous and traditional peoples I had worked with exhibited no signs of weak bones at any age. What began as a “brief” project turned into a decade-long endeavor now known as “The Osteoporosis Education Project: What began as “thinking about” osteoporosis turned into a massive “rethinking” the entire nature and causes of excessive bone loss. This rethinking in turn clarified in my mind the need for a new, comprehensive, fully life-supporting approach to building bone health in our culture.
In this book I have woven together my vision of such a life-supporting program from the best research findings of the medical, nutritional and anthropological sciences. It is my hope that the scientific community will direct its research dollars to a comprehensive study of the efficacy of a Better Bones, Better Body approach which incorporates at a minimum:
Optimum intake of all essential bone building nutrients
Reduction in anti-nutrients and bone-damaging lifestyle factors
Adequate weight-bearing exercise
A bone-sparing alkaline diet
Holistic endocrine health optimization
It is clear to me that the compelling public interest dictates broad testing of such a common sense approach.