More Love for Veggie Calcium

For a long time I thought the only place you could get calcium was milk and since I’m lactose intolerant, well, I thought I was screwed. So I panicked, I used to take calcium supplements the size of horse pills. Sometimes I still have flashbacks that I’m grazing in a meadow, odd.

But now, even though I avoid dairy products like the plague, I’m not worried about my calcium. Why? I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Greens like kale and romaine lettuce, not to mention hearty portions of sesame seeds; both of which Dr. Fuhrman considers great sources of calcium.

In fact, in a previous post he explains that vegetable calcium is absorbed better than animal calcium. From Choose Vegetable Calcium Over Animal Calcium:
Green vegetables, beans, tofu, sesame seeds, and even oranges contain lots of usable calcium, without problems associated with diary. Keep in mind that you retain the calcium better and just do not need as much when you don’t consume a diet heavy in animal products and sodium, sugar, and caffeine.
So if you’re system kicks back dairy like mine, here’s a thought, hit the produce isle with a vengeance! And it seems, this idea if being put to the test. The Los Angeles Times reports nutrition scientists are feeding older women with osteoporosis prunes in hopes that it will yield measurable restoration in their bone mass. Susan Bowerman explains:
Although that study was too brief to measure changes in bone density — something the new study will allow — the women who ate 10 dried plums daily had significantly higher blood levels of two compounds (the hormone IGF-1 and the enzyme BSAP) that are associated with greater rates of bone formation.

What do prunes offer that other dried fruits don't? Various substances, and scientists don't yet know which among them is most important. Prunes contain small amounts of calcium and magnesium — both bone-building minerals — and some natural acids that could improve mineral absorption.

They are a rich source of antioxidant polyphenols, which also could be bone protective. They're also rich in boron, a bone-building mineral that is often lacking in the diet. (Boron prevents excretion of calcium and magnesium, which allows these minerals to be deposited in bone tissue.)
It is kind of funny that prunes, a food already associated with old people, are good for them for a reason outside of, “Prunes, prunes, a wonderful fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel, so eat some prunes at every meal!” And yes, I know that song is really about beans, but it works!

For a couple charts on the calcium content of fruits and vegetables, check out these posts:
And here’s another interesting tidbit about fruits and veggies. Did you know that some vegetables have a more protein per calorie than meat? Oh I’m not making it up! Dr. Fuhrman explains Vegetables Deliver Protein with Micronutrients:
It is interesting to note that peas, green vegetables, and beans have more protein per calorie than meat. But what is not generally considered is that foods that are rich in plant protein are generally the foods that are richest in nutrients and phytochemicals. By eating more of these high-nutrient, low calorie foods we get plenty of protein, and our bodies get flooded with protective micronutrients simultaneously. Animal protein does not contain antioxidants and phtyochemicals, plant protein does. Plus, animal protein is married to saturated fat, the most dangerous type of fat.
As we saw yesterday in Michael Pollan’s article about nutritionism, the stuff that lurks in plants might be the best dietary recommendation of them all. Hey, maybe this Dr. Fuhrman guy is onto something. You think?

Osteoarthritis: High Nutrient Supply

From the March 2005 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

High cholesterol levels and other blood markers of heightened cardiovascular risk are a documented risk factor for both knee and generalized osteoarthritis.1 It is not difficult to understand why osteoarthritis is related to meat and cheese consumption, since sufferers of both conditions are more likely to have high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. These are typical signs of a diet that promotes atherosclerosis, impaired circulation, and subsequent cartilage compromise.2

Populations with lower rates of heart disease, such as the Chinese, correspondingly have lower rates of osteoarthritis in the same age bracket. The elderly in Beijing, China were found to have 80-90 percent less osteoarthritis than elderly Americans.3 Radiographic signs of arthritis in the age range of 60-89 were found in only about one percent in the Chinese portion of the study, and the percentage did not increase with age.

Cardiac risk factors also are risk factors for arthritis, but there is more to the story. Marginal nutrient intake also can interfere with the chondrocytes’ ability to make structurally strong cartilage. Contrary to the view held for many years, in osteoarthritis the cartilage does not passively erode away; in fact, the body works hard to protect itself. In the early years when the joints are stressed by improper nutrition, the body increases the production of cartilage in an attempt to compensate. The production of cartilage matrix has been observed to increase as much as six times the normal amount in the beginning phase of osteoarthritis.

The problem lies in the production of poor quality cartilage. Without optimal nutrition, DNA synthesis goes on, but does not perform singing the best tune. As time goes on and the disease advances, the chondrocytes start to die and collagen synthesis falls.

Mounting research has pointed to the fact that a high intake of carotenoids, particularly lutein and beta-cryptoxanthin, found in colorful vegetables, is necessary for high-quality cartilage.4 Studies also have shown that low levels of boron, selenium, glutathione, and sulfur are related to osteoarthritis incidence and exacerbation.5 The good news is that if osteoarthritis is caught early—before much loss of cartilage and death of chondrocytes—and nutritional excellence is initiated, most of the damage still can be reversible.

Fish oil supplements, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), glucosamine, and chondroitin have been shown to be helpful in retarding the advancement and reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.6 Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce joint inflammation, and glucosamine and chondroitin can supply nutrients needed for cartilage synthesis. Keep in mind, however, that just as with other diseases, supplements alone are not all that is necessary for optimal results. However helpful supplements may be, without the adoption of a superior diet containing the full concert of healthful phytochemicals and antioxidants that results in low cholesterol, one cannot expect maximum healing and maximum protection against OA. Once excellent nutrition is instituted, the body adequately produces its own cartilage precursors, and supplements have little effect.

Here’s more on osteoarthritis:
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Osteoarthritis: Joint degeneration

From the March 2005 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Currently, the pathogenesis of OA is explained by various contributing factors that adversely affect cartilage cells. In simple terms, the chondrocytes (cells that produce cartilage) become stressed, overworked, injured, and eventually die. This destruction of the chondrocytes makes it impossible for your body to keep up with the production of high-quality collagen needed for normal wear and tear. As the cartilage erodes, the joint becomes inflamed, and lytic (caustic) enzymes can further degrade the cartilage matrix. As cartilage wears away on the ends of the bones and cushioning is lost, the intensity of pain may increase. Pain may become quite severe if the cartilage has completely deteriorated.

Surprisingly, physical inactivity can be more harmful to the joints than overuse. Joint activity signals for the delivery of nutrients to the joints. A lack of exercise or varied movement can weaken the muscles that support the joints, and an underused joint may become stiff, painful, dysfunctional, and prone to injury and osteoarthritis.

Joints, because of their somewhat unusual blood supply, are extremely sensitive to negative nutritional influences compared with other parts of the body. When we abuse our body with poor nutrition, we not only raise our blood pres sure and increase our risk of heart attack and stroke, but we also damage our joints. In fact, OA and degenerative bone disease of the spine could be early warning signs of heart disease in years to come.

The reason why joints have an increased susceptibility to damage from dietary folly is because of their indirect blood supply. Instead of direct oxygenation and nourishment from being bathed in blood (such as with muscles and organs), cartilage is nourished from the fluid in the joint capsule. Oxygen comes from tiny capillaries that surround the joint capsule and diffuses across the joint capsule membrane and into the joint fluid. With normal microcirculation and good nutrition, plenty of oxygen and nutrients bathe the cartilaginous surface of the joints.

This intricate and fragile system can be vulnerable to nutritional stresses. The nourishment to the cartilaginous surface of the joint can be curtailed even by the smallest impediment to normal blood flow. When atherosclerosis is present, the delivery system can be easily disrupted by as simple a thing as eating a high-fat meal. Even the earlier stages of atherosclerosis can impede oxygen delivery to the joint, revealing itself in joint problems that occur decades before the heart problem is diagnosed.

When you eat a piece of high-fat food—such as cheese pizza, bacon, or steak—the saturated fats thicken the blood and make the red blood cells sticky. This clumping together of red blood cells makes them too large to enter the small capillaries that surround and nourish the joint capsules. Atherosclerotic deposits thicken the walls and narrow the vascular bed, further impeding delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the joint area where most cartilage and bone remodeling takes place. Defective remodeling then occurs, with gradual destruction of the joint.

Here’s more on osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis: Understanding and Preventing our Nation's Primary Crippler

From the March 2005 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a nearly universal degenerative condition, affecting both men and women as they age. OA is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 28 million adults in the United States.

In OA, the cartilage cushion in the joints breaks down, which eventually can cause the bones to rub together. Pain, stiffness, and sometimes the formation of bone growths, called spurs, result. OA can affect any joint, but it is most common in the hands, feet, spine, and in large, weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees. OA of the hip and knee represents the leading cause of pain and disability in adults in the U.S. OA is often referred to as the “primary crippler” of adults, and the percentage of the population with these symptoms has been increasing in recent years.1

OA also is called degenerative joint disease (DJD) or ordinary arthritis. It differs from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as it does not involve an immune system-mediated attack on the joints as is the case with RA.

Despite its prevalence and the fact that it worsens with age, OA is not the inevitable consequence of aging. Recent scientific advances have enabled us to better understand the contributory factors that promote arthritis, dispelling the myth that joint degeneration is merely an age-related phenomenon.

Here’s more on osteoarthritis:

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