Curcumin Builds Bones

May 4, 2015 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

My patients ask me all the time, if I had to choose one supplement—only one—to take every day, what would it be?

The tremendous benefits of a multivitamin and omega-3 essential fatty acids are undeniable. I’m also a huge fan of vitamin D and melatonin for overall health. But if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, one nutrient stands out among all the rest—curcumin.  I use and recommend it for more reasons than I can count.

The active ingredient in the spice turmeric, curcumin is probably best known as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. For this reason, it’s extremely effective in the prevention and treatment of diseases associated with chronic inflammation.

A short list of conditions curcumin protects against includes diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis. It also shows great promise against cancer, particularly breast, colon, pancreatic, and prostate.

But it doesn’t end there.

Curcumin is slowly emerging as a key player in osteoporosis prevention as well! To recognize why this is such an exciting discovery, it helps to understand the “life cycle” of your bones.

Bone is living tissue that goes through a breakdown/buildup cycle every three to six months. This keeps them strong and prevents breaks. In very simple terms, the cycle works like this: Special cells called osteoclasts dissolve old, weakened bone. Then different cells called osteoblasts take over and build new bone in its place.

This cycle continues pretty reliably throughout childhood and adulthood. But with age, it tends to fall out of balance, which results in old, weaker bone sticking around for longer than it should. As you can imagine, this leaves the bones brittle and vulnerable to fractures.

Fragile bone is a hallmark sign of osteoporosis—a condition that affects 10 million Americans (mainly women). Another 30 million people are at increased risk due to severely brittle bones.

At the moment there are two primary ways to go about combatting osteoporosis.

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Conventional Vs. Holistic Therapies

Conventional therapies for osteoporosis leave a lot to be desired. The leading class of osteoporosis drugs, bisphosphonates, slows the rate of bone loss by blocking the action of osteoclasts. So they don’t actually build new bone; they simply prevent it from breaking down.

This may sound like an effective strategy in treating osteoporosis. But trust me when I say it’s not. Bisphosphonates basically encourage old, frail bone tissue to stay in place significantly longer than nature intended.

As a result, long-term use can actually raise your risk of certain fractures, such as subtrochanteric (a type of hip fracture) and diaphyseal (breaks that occur along the shaft of a long bone like the femur). Not only are these fractures difficult to treat, they take dramatically longer to heal.

Rather than stopping osteoclasts from doing their job, holistic doctors prefer to give the body the proper raw materials to boost bone growth. That’s why calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and other bone-centric minerals are mainstays in my practice.

And now I’m very excited to add curcumin to that list. Here’s why:

In laboratory testing, researchers found that a compound in curcumin dubbed UBS109 exhibited some very distinct characteristics when it comes to bone health. Not only did it spur new bone growth by activating the signaling mechanism that instructs the body to make more bone, it also hindered the development of osteoclasts.

The researchers noted that UBS109 shows potential as “an anti-osteoporotic agent capable of promoting new bone formation while simultaneously reducing bone resorption.” In other words, this natural compound can do what no manmade pharmaceutical has been able to: It can suppress breakdown and stimulate the formation of new bone at the same time. It’s truly a win-win in terms of re-regulating the natural bone cycle that usually falters with age.

Additional research on UBS109 indicates that this compound could also play a role in preventing the spread of breast cancer into the bones.

As if I didn’t already feel strongly about the value in taking a curcumin supplement every day, these bone benefits add a whole new realm of possibility. Even if you don’t have osteoporosis or brittle bones, I still suggest taking curcumin to help prevent its onset—and for its overall anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

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