Osteoporosis affects more than 200 million people, including 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50.  White and Asian women are most affected, especially post-menopause. Osteoporosis causes a loss of bone mass, destroys bone tissue, and harms bone microstructure, all potentially leading to weakened bones and a greater propensity for fractures, often in the hips, wrists, or spine.  Our bones can become so frail, that even a cough can cause a fracture.
Our bone cells continuously go through cycles of degradation and replenishment. Throughout youth, new bone rapidly restores old bone, but this reaches a maximum typically by age 30. When new bone does not replace loss of old bone, osteoporosis results, presenting trademark “silent” symptoms such as a hunched-over posture, a loss of height, back pain, and brittle bones.
Defenses Against Osteoporosis
There are many secondary causes of osteoporosis including lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking, alcoholism, and a high salt intake), genetic conditions (e.g., cystic fibrosis, porphyria), neurological disorders (e.g., epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease), endocrine issues (e.g., hyperthyroidism, central obesity) and gastrointestinal conditions (e.g., celiac disease, gastric bypass, inflammatory bowel disease).  Osteoporosis has also been linked to long-term usage of some medications, such as those used to treat acid reflux, seizures, and steroids like prednisone.
So, what can we do to bolster our defense against osteoporosis?
- Ensure adequate calcium intake. Typically, people under 50 years of age require 1,000 mg of calcium, but when women turn 50 and men turn 70, a 1,200 mg of calcium is recommended.  Eat leafy greens like bok choy, collard greens, and kale; low-fat dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese; tofu; calcium-fortified orange juices; canned fish; and broccoli.
- Get enough vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption in the intestine. This can come from sunlight, but can also be obtained via foods like milk, egg yolks, fatty fish, and cereal.
- Temper alcohol consumption.
- Keep active. Sedentary lifestyles have been linked to increased risk of osteoporosis and being overweight has also been linked to increased likelihood of fractures. Weight-bearing (e.g., walking, running, dancing) and strength training exercise is recommended.
- If you are vegetarian or vegan, ensure adequate protein intake.
- Quit smoking cigarettes and avoid secondhand smoke.
Several mushroom species have beneficial properties for osteoporosis, as well. Hen-of-the-woods or maitake mushrooms led to a two-fold increase in bone mineralization when bone cancer cells were incubated with the mushrooms for 21 days.  Bone mineralization relates the depositing of minerals on the bone matrix during bone formation.
Water extracts of turkey tail, maitake, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms have been evaluated in animal models of osteoporosis.  The turkey tail, maitake, shiitake extracts inhibited osteoclast activity. Osteoclasts are bone cells that help break down bone tissue. The shiitake extract increased osteoblast mineralization (osteoblasts are cells that form new bone), and osteocalcin, a biochemical marker for the formation of bone. A combination of maitake and shiitake extracts reduced lumbar spine bone loss.
Mushrooms can also provide a source of “nutritionally relevant” vitamin D when exposed to an ultraviolet (UV) light source.  Scientists evaluated common culinary mushrooms including button, oyster, and shiitake. This is a current practice amongst several large-scale mushroom cultivations in the United States, Ireland, The Netherlands, and Australia. The UV radiation of fresh mushrooms can produce 10 µg of vitamin D2 per 100 g of fresh mushrooms, which means that a 100 g would provide 50-100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D.
There are natural, everyday ways to bolster your bones and control osteoporosis. A proper diet and exercise are a recurring theme. Mushrooms like maitake, shiitake, and turkey tail, all of which are in Spore Life Sciences Mike’s Mushroom Mix, can boost bone mineralization and subsequent formation, inhibit the breaking down of bone by osteoclasts, and reduce lumbar spine bone loss.