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Preventing Osteopenia

Top books for prevention and treatment.
Includes a definition of what it means compared to osteoporosis.


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When my doctor pointed out years ago that I was at high risk for osteopenia because of my history of scoliosis and (at that time) my thin build, I started reading everything I could about osteopenia and osteoporosis prevention and treatment. Out of the many books I looked at that are currently available on the subjects, the books reviewed below are the ones I found the most helpful.

In the book Food and Our Bones, the author focuses on osteoporosis, but she also also discusses bone health and bone density in general. The book Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis is also intended for people with osteoporosis, but since it covers a variety of bone density treatment factors such as diet, exercise programs, magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin D and zinc, it should also be valuable reading for people with any bone-related health condition such as osteopenia (a precursor condition to osteoporosis), osteomalacia and rickets.

I think the tips from these books have helped me to keep my bones strong. I just had a bone density test at age 45, and my bones are fine. This is despite the fact that I have at least 4 major risk factors for bone density problems including:

  • a disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome where osteopenia and osteoporosis are extremely common

  • scoliosis

  • a mother and maternal grandmother with both scoliosis and osteoporosis

Interestingly, I don't drink milk, only rarely have dairy products, I don't take any calcium tablets and I don't take any kind of prescription drugs to keep my bones strong. (Recent studies link popular prescription osteoporosis medications, including Fosamax, with osteonecrosis/osteopetrosis of the jaws (dead jaw bone). Check out the paper on "Bisphosphonate-induced exposed bone (osteonecrosis / osteopetrosis) of the jaws: risk factors, recognition, prevention, and treatment" from PubMed. After clicking on the link, you can click on the related articles tab at the PubMed page for more info.)

Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can heal the patient with food. - Hippocrates

So how am I beating the odds against low bone density? All I do is exercise regularly (walking, dancing and yoga) and eat as healthy as I can, including lots of nondairy foods high in calcium. There are a number of good diet and exercise tips in the books below, including many osteoporosis prevention tips that are often overlooked by doctors and the mainstream media.

Book Reviews

My top pick

Reversing Osteopenia by Harris McIlwain, M.D. and Debra Fulghum Bruce, PH.D. with Laura McIlwain Cruse, M.D., and Kimberly Lynn McIlwain, M.D.

Update: I am currently reading this book and it is now my top pick for osteopenia books. I'll have a complete review posted shortly.


Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis book cover

Still helpful, but a bit dated

Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis by Alan Gaby, M.D.

Update 1/7/07: This book, while it still has good info, has become a bit dated now, and has been replaced as my top pick for osteopenia books by the book Reversing Osteopenia, as noted above.


Review:    This book takes a good look at a very wide variety of the existing medical studies on bone density and presents them in a concise format. It is head and shoulders above the simple advice I see on a lot of web sites just to take hormones and drink milk. This book gave me about a hundred different factors to consider to keep my bones strong, including many diet and exercise tips.  By reviewing probably hundreds of actual studies on osteoporosis and osteopenia, the author shows that there is many more factors involved in keeping your bones strong than just taking prescription hormones or calcium alone. 

I thought it was a great book on osteoporosis and bone health in general, and probably one of the most well researched and well documented books I have ever read in my life on any subject. If you are one of my regular readers who likes the layout of my web site , you'll probably enjoy the way this book is laid out, too, because I tried to pattern my whole web site after the way the material is presented in Dr. Gaby's book.

Below are just some of the factors reviewed and considered in Dr. Gaby's book for osteoporosis prevention suggestions. (Click on the links to see the abstract for the actual studies in the PubMed database at the National Institute of Healths' web site.):

This is just a sample of the studies and factors reviewed in Dr. Gaby's book. If you are interested in a comprehensive osteoporosis and osteopenia prevention and treatment program that emphasizes the role of supplements, diet and exercise more then conventional medical treatments like hormone replacement therapy, then this would be good book to read.

Click here for an excerpt from this book - Osteoporosis - What You Eat Affects Your Bones, by Alan R. Gaby M.D. (Excerpted from Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis Published by Prima Publishing).


Food and Our Bones book cover

Out of print

Food and Our Bones: The Natural Way to Prevent Osteoporosis by Annemarie Colbin

Update 1/7/07: This book is still relevant but unfortunately it is currently out of print.

Review:  Like the book by Dr. Gaby described above, this book has some great ideas on building bone strength, too.  I like this book because it has good diagrams and it is more of a book to sit down and read than a reference book.  It has a slightly different perspective than the Gaby book. Though Ms. Colbin reviews many ways to prevent osteoporosis and osteopenia through diet and exercises like the Dr. Gaby book, her book has less emphasis on nutritional supplements and more diet emphasis on meal planning and recipes.  
I liked the way she refers to a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price, because I had read that book, too. I thought the book by Dr. Price made a lot of sense on why people on modern, Westernized diets have more osteoporosis and other health problems than those on traditional, native diets of whole foods.
One thing I especially liked about this book is that Ms. Colbin mentions the high bone density/breast cancer connection, which I think is important to know about. While osteopenia may be a condiiton to worry about, recent studies show a very strong link between high bone density and breast cancer, as noted in the following studies:

Studies linking high bone mineral density to breast cancer include:

Here is a link on lower bone density and a lower risk of breast cancer:

Interestingly, hormone replacement therapy, a common medical treatment in the U.S. for treatment of osteoporosis, is known to increase both bone density and the risk of breast cancer. As such, it appears that too much bone mass may be as just as unhealthy as osteopenia. This a subject that rarely gets mentioned on osteopenia and osteoporosis prevention web sites (which may be funded by drug companies) so I'm glad Ms. Colbin brings the subject up in her book.

Her book also includes a lot of interesting recipes for healthy bones. I've tried her suggestions about making soup with stock made from bones, and for whatever reasons, this, more than anything else, has helped my fibromyalgia.  I'm sure its been good for my bones, too. Overall I found this to be a well written book with many logical ideas and some great recipes.  

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Medical Definitions

Osteopenia: the presence of of less than normal amount of bone. Osteopenia, if not treated, may result in osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis: the pathologic state of osteopenia in which bone mass is so reduced that the skeleton loses its integrity and becomes unable to perform its supportive function.

According to the authors of the book, Osteoporosis: What it Is, How to Stop It, How to Prevent It, the definitions of osteoporosis, osteomalacia, rickets and possibly other bone diseases are "not entirely accurate." The authors go on to state that, "Even with the process of biopsy it is not always possible to distinguish one kind of lesion from another. On examination, it is more likely that several types are discovered."

Continue to => Part 2





Related Sections:

What to eat for healthy bones - recommendations for diet changes to build strong bones.

View my article on exercises that help build strong bones.

Conditions That May Be Related to Osteopenia:

Hot Flashes and Sweaty Heads - treatment tips borrowed from Ayurvedic medicine.

Menorrhagia - heavy menstrual bleeding

Health Conditions - Linked to Vitamin K Deficiency

Selected References:

1. BMJ (British Medical Journal), 2001;322:1566 ( 30 June )


Stop by my connective tissue disorder home page complete with a site map, search feature for more information on bone health and connective tissue disorders.

For a list of books that helped my connective tissue disorder symptoms, including my fibromyalgia, TMJ, MVP and scoliosis, please see my recommended book list.

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