Author Topic: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists  (Read 6288 times)

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Offline habanero

Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« on: February 20, 2009, 04:31:52 pm »
 Does anyone share this situation with me?  In June 2004, just before my start of the L&C trail, I cracked a tooth eating a sandwich that had small seeds in the bread.  The tooth was pulled and I completed the trip.  Then, a few years later, another tooth cracked.  Yes, it had to be pulled, also.  My chiropractor sent my to get a bone scan and to my surprize, I was dianosed with SEVERE osteoporosis.  Other tests confirmed my low bone density.  I'm taking a calcium supplement plus eating more dairy products along with weight lifting and some jogging.  I hope to test myself again soon to see if things are improving.  Anyway, I've read that long distance bicycle riding can cause this problem.  Any thoughts are appreciated. 

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2009, 05:19:36 pm »
Actually, it is a medical problem. I have no idea whether or not cycling can cause the osteoporosis. I always thought exercise strengthened muscles and bones and  added to bone density, given a proper diet. Raw spinach is loaded with calcium. That sounds to me like a question for a doctor.

Offline DaveB

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2009, 07:50:15 pm »
Cycling doesn't "cause" osteoporosis, it just doesn't do a lot to fight it.  Bone density is maintained or improved by weight bearing activities such as running, walking, etc.   Since cycling doesn't cause weight bearing impacts on the bones, it's not much help as a preventative or to improve the condition. 

Offline whittierider

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2009, 09:06:07 pm »
Osteoporosis is very common with long-distance cyclists, because they lose a lot of calcium in their sweat and don't replace what they lose.  Supplementation is an easy way to avoid it.  Even the pros get it, even though their powerful sprints definitely constitute weight-lifting, putting three times their weight on one leg at a time as they heave into each pedal while pulling up on the other one and on the bars at the same time.  I have sweat as much as three gallons in one warm afternoon.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2009, 12:45:17 am »
I was drinking two to three gallons of liquids each day, maybe more, one summer while cycling the S-tier in the eastern regions, and hilly Texas farm roads. I must have lost quite a lot of calcium. I am not sure of any significant loss of bone density. I take supplements. The thing about calcium pills, they say, is that calcium from such sources may not be all that absorbable, which is one reason raw spinach was advised. You just go into a grocery store, buy a bag of spinach leaves, and eat them. According to some nutritionists, the human digestive system will more readily absorb calcium from yogurt than it will from milk and cheese, and it will absorb it in larger quantities. I suppose it is so. I have not conducted any scientific measurements on it myself. I  can only say what I have read. I think it was Dr. Nathan Pritikin who said vegetarians had more bone density and larger bones than habitual meat eaters and those on the so-called typical western diet, and that was because of the human digestive system's ability to absorb calcium much more efficiently from plant sources than from animal and other sources. The Pritikin program of diet and exercise.

I definitely carry supplements with me on bicycling tours. My system may absorb only a percentage of the calcium in the tablet, but some is better than nothing at all.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2009, 12:54:05 am by Westinghouse »

Offline DaveB

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2009, 10:39:46 am »
I was drinking two to three gallons of liquids each day, maybe more, one summer while cycling the S-tier in the eastern regions, and hilly Texas farm roads. I must have lost quite a lot of calcium. I am not sure of any significant loss of bone density. I take supplements. The thing about calcium pills, they say, is that calcium from such sources may not be all that absorbable, ..........I definitely carry supplements with me on bicycling tours. My system may absorb only a percentage of the calcium in the tablet, but some is better than nothing at all.
What greatly improves Calcium absorbtion from any source is Vitamin D and many, if not most of us, are deficient in it.   We work indoors most of the time, and when we are outside we cover ourselves completely in high-SPF sunscreen. So, even being in sunlight doesn't develop the Vitamine D we need.   A 2000 IU Vitamin D supliment taken daily is good insurance and really cheap if you buy house-brand or generics.

Offline habanero

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2009, 04:20:32 pm »
Thanks all.  At least its good to hear others talk about my problem.  By the way, I've been juicing organic vegetables for the last 10 years.  This includes the dark green leafy ones like spinach and kale.  I also thought this was the best way to get calcium, but, I have my doubts now.  Of course, its impossible to juice on the road, but, thats a once in 5 year situation.  Hopefully, I'll be able to do the TA in 2010.

Offline centrider

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2009, 07:13:43 pm »
I'm 73 and take 2400 units of Ca/day.  You do need Vit D, and living in Calif I think I get plenty of sun to activate the Vit D in my skin.  However, at 73 thinks don't work that well anymore, so the Vit. D I take has Vit D3 which is considered to be the most active form of the vitamin.

I also alternate walking (3 miles) alternating daily with riding.

My first fall shattered my collarbone.  My second I managed to get back on my bike and complete a 7 day tour in Canada.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2009, 06:41:56 am »
Thanks all.  At least its good to hear others talk about my problem.  By the way, I've been juicing organic vegetables for the last 10 years.  This includes the dark green leafy ones like spinach and kale.  I also thought this was the best way to get calcium, but, I have my doubts now.  Of course, its impossible to juice on the road, but, thats a once in 5 year situation.  Hopefully, I'll be able to do the TA in 2010.

Lack of calcium is not necessarily the cause of your osteoporosis. If it were that simple, not enough calcium, its cure would be simple, but it is not that simple. There are doctors who specialize in treating osteoporosis, and there is more to it than taking calcium, and in some cases there may be no cure. Calcium chelated with vitamin D is one good thing to take. I believe cod liver oil can give you vitamin D.

It is not impossible to juice on the road. There are hand operated juicers. They are not as efficient as the high grade electric juicers, but they do work.
I own a better quality electric juicer myself. I saw a light weight hand-crank juicer somewhere for sale on the internet. I saw one such machine used for juicing wheat grass. It was in Berkley, California. It looked to me to be pretty efficient; slow with a small hopper, but it worked. Actually, I was thinking about taking one with me on my next tour. Freshly juiced carrots, celery, and cucumbers give you all vitamins and minerals, though vitamin D is not all that plentiful. I have found that drinking a fifty-fifty mix of a quart of freshly extracted celery and carrot juice is like a magic elixir for resiliance against heat and the beat-down effect of direct sunlight.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2009, 12:35:37 am »
There is lots of evidence that you need weight bearing exercise to maintain bone density.  It's a good idea to mix up your exercise program with different types of activities, for many reasons.  It will work other muscles, help to avoid overuse injuries, improve flexibility, etc.  Don't get so obsessed with bike miles/year (it's easy to do) that you fail to use a variety of activities.  I try to split my program between biking, hiking, rock climbing, and light, high-reps weight training.  Whenever I get too focussed on one of them, I start to lose motivation and get aches and pains.  Of course, I'm 60 years old now.  I used to be able to overdo it with fewer consequences than I can now! In short, common sense rules.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2009, 12:21:59 am »
PS  I also eat lots of dairy and take supplwmental calcium.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2009, 02:04:20 am »
I looked up osteoporosis on google. It is quite complicated in its progression and treatment. Two things all sites advised were a diet high in calcium and vitamin D.

In a former frame I stated that spinach is loaded with calcium, and the fact is raw spinach is highly nutritious with a goodly dose of calcium; however, there is something else in spinach which is not absorbable which the calcium binds to and prevents it from being absorbed and assimilated. The calcium is there, yes, but your digestive system cannot assimilate it for use. There are other vegetables, fruits, and dairy products that are calcium rich and useable. If you take calcium tablets, they say to take them with meals for maximum absorbtion.

A nutritionist such as Dr. Nathan Pritikin would most likely advise against tablets and calcium fortified breakfast cereals. He would advise only natural foods for your nutrients--fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, whole cereals, etc. The manufactured calcium has been known to form kidney stones because it does not assimilate like calcium from natural sources.  Natural calcium from fresh, wholesome, natural foods will not give you kidney stones. Ref. The Pritikin Program of Diet and Exercise.
I have taken plenty of calcium tablets. I don't know of any adverse effects on my health.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2009, 07:55:13 am »
I have been doing more reading on osteoporosis. There is nothing anywhere I have seen yet that indicates sweating being a cause. There is quite a bit indicating that a diet that is too high in protein causes a negative mineral balance in the body, with calcium being one of those minerals. Tests have shown conclusively in thousands of cases that intake of protein above certain safe levels caused a negative mineral balance with increased amounts of calcium let out in the urin. The more protein the subjects took in, the more calcium they flushed out in their urin. Heavy cigarette smoking and ingestion of alcohol are also noted as causative and or contributing factors. Two authoritative sources say DO NOT take calcium supplements like pills and tablets. They also say it is not necessary to take supplements of vitamin D, and vitamin D supplements can be harmful.

If you want the sources of this information and page numbers, I can give them to you. There is quite a bit more. The original question was a medical one, and not related to cycling per se. The point is, if you are losing a lot of calcium through sweating or through the urinary tract, pumping pedals and sweating are not the causes of your osteoporosis. A negative mineral balance has other causes.

Large scale, extensive medical studies were carried out in Africa among the Bantus and other tribes known to have a diet low in meat and protein and high in fruits, grains, and vegetables. According to this study doctors were unable to find even one single case of decalcification or osteoporosis. Vitamin D is stored in the liver and generated when solar radiation comes into contact with your skin. Even if you were to get no sunlight at all for long periods, it might take several months or even years for the vitamin D in your body to become depleted. Too much vitamin D can contribute heavily to osteoporosis; it can be harmful, and even cause death. You need it, but only in limited quantities. The same with protein. It is very useful in absorbing and assimilating calcium, but too much causes a negative mineral balance, and you lose calcium. That's all I have time for right now. What it all boils down to is what our parents, and grandparents, and their parents before them preached. Eat fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains and whole cereals.

Avoid processed foods and hightly refined carbohydrates as much as possible. If you eat them habitually over a long period, you are treading a sure path to problems with your health.

I have paraphrased this information from a book.

Pritikin, Nathan.1979. The Pritikin Program For Diet and Exercise. Grosset and Dunlap.27,53,375,398,379.

There is more.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2009, 10:45:25 am by Westinghouse »

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2009, 11:09:21 am »
Vitamin D is used for certain disorders of the parathyroid gland. The Food and Drug Administration of the United states recommends 100% to 250% more vitamin and mineral intake than all the medical experts in the world combined. Nobody over the age on 22 needs any extra vitamin D at all. Among all the vitamins it is the one that can cause the most trouble if you take too much. It can upset calcium metabolism, and drain the calcium out of your bones, deposit it in your kidneys, and cause kidney stones, which at their worst can cause death. Even small doses can sause great harm to babies. You can even get vitamin D by exposing yourself to florescent lamps. Most people don't even have to eat to get vitamin D.

Reuben, David, M.D. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Nutrition. Avon, NY. 1978. 37, 66, 97, 11, 15-16, 14-15. A national best seller.

Offline whittierider

Re: Osteoporosis and long distance cyclists
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2009, 04:48:06 pm »
I would not rely on medical publications of 1978 and 1979.  There have been many about-faces since then in of our understanding of physiology.  A quick web search turned up loads of info on the subject, all indicating a loss of around 50mg of calcium per liter of sweat, which would mean I've lost as much as 600mg in a single warm afternoon century.  If the absorption efficiency is 30% that would require me to get an extra 2,000mg of calcium beyond the normal daily value just to break even.