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The Process of Bone Deterioration and Demineralization
Bone deterioration is a result of bone resorption, a process in which bone cells called osteoclasts break down bone and release the minerals, resulting in a transfer of nutrients from the bone matrix to the blood. These cells break up the organic and inorganic portions of bone, removing the minerals which comprise the bone density, and transporting the material away from the area, leaving the bone in a weakened state. This process, known as bone resorption is stimulated, or inhibited by, signals from other parts of the body, depending on the demand for specific nutrients. An acid diet will induce such effects, so diets containing foods that promote acidic conditions will lower pH values and promote bone loss. Diets consisting of alkaline forming foods raise pH values and promote bone preservation. In humans, this can be seen in the Western diet as it consists mostly of acidic forming foods such as meat, dairy, soda and alcohol and we have the highest incidence of osteoporosis of any other country or individual nationality. In the horse, influencing factors like stress, illness or mineral availability will greatly influence pH levels and for this reason, minerals must be properly balanced to create the most favorable conditions for bone retention and integrity.
But how do we correct this imbalance?
Most people simply think they need to increase calcium, since we’ve been told time and again how calcium helps develop strong bones. Calcium is certainly an important component when it comes to supporting bone integrity, and most of the calcium in the body is stored in the bone. However, there are other elements that make up the bone matrix and there are other factors that influence calcium solubility; and calcium solubility determines how well calcium is utilized in the bone. Not only do these other elements effect the ability of the body to use calcium in the bone structure but also influences the pH levels in the blood so helps to determines how much calcium is retained in the bone. With the proper conditions and delivery of bone building nutrients in specific proportion that optimizes absorption, we can greatly minimize or even eliminate degenerative effects of horses in a nutrient deficient state.
The take home message here is that over time the correct environmental conditions can improve the rate of mineral retention, and ultimately, bone mineral density. These effects can reduce both the occurrence of, and recovery time from, bone related injuries.