Strong healthy bones are essential for a vibrant long life. But often you won’t know your bones are weak until they break.

So, how do you make sure your skeleton remains robust?

How do you avoid the pain and disability of low-impact fractures? Of sneezes that snap ribs and falls that break hips?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that features decreased bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mass. The  quality or structure of bone diminishes, placing people at increased risk of fracture.

We tend to think about this condition as solely age-related. After all, its rate swiftly gains speed from 50 years of age onward. However, we achieve peak bone mass between 25 to 30. From 40, this upward trend reverses. That means what you do throughout your life matters. Any age — from teens to older age — is a good time to start actively looking after your bones.

Weight bearing exercise, curtailing fizzy drink intake, being judicious when taking medications (like proton pump inhibitors), quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption all promote stronger bones. But nutrients matter greatly, too.

The 3 key nutrients for strong, healthy bones

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” The foods you consume form the foundations of your body, your skeleton included. Three key bone-building nutrients include calcium, magnesium, and collagen.


The mineral, calcium, is essential for the strength of your bones. In fact, over 99% of the calcium in your body is found in your skeleton and teeth. This nutrient acts like bricks in a wall, providing rigidity and structure.

The remaining calcium is used in the contraction and relaxation of blood vessels and muscles, the transmission of nerve signals, intracellular communication, clotting of blood, and the secretion of hormones. Because these tasks are essential to life, bones also act to store and release calcium, as needed. Through bone remodeling, calcium can be stored or removed.

Low calcium intake, then, is a significant issue for the health of your bones. If you do not consume enough, two problems occur. First, you will not be able to store sufficient amounts. Second, your body will draw this mineral from your skeleton to support life-sustaining processes.

As a study published in The Journal of Nutrition said, “In adulthood, low calcium intake has been associated with increased risk for osteoporosis, bone fractures, and falls.” Naturally, falls increase the risk of breaking a weakened bone.

The researchers also discovered an important fact: Dietary calcium supplementation was correlated with a greater likelihood of meeting the adequate intake recommendation.

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Many people stop at calcium when they think of supplementing for stronger bones. However, the mineral, magnesium, is crucial too.

Approximately 60% of the body’s total magnesium is stored in bone. Like calcium, the skeleton both relies on this mineral for its strength and acts as a reservoir for the body.

Magnesium is needed by all living cells, including osteoblasts — bone “builders” — and osteoclasts — bone “cleavers”. It is integral to over 300 enzymatic processes, in the production of energy, and to stabilize cell membranes. Like calcium it, too, can be pulled from the bones when needed by the body.

So, as the article, Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current State of Knowledge and Future Research Directions, said, “Controlling and maintaining magnesium homeostasis represents a helpful intervention to maintain bone integrity.”

Yet, your chances of being deficient are scarily high. Supplementing is necessary for most people.

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Collagen is the matrix on which we, humans, are built. The most abundant protein in the body provides sturdiness and flexibility, including for our bones. Collagen even appears to step in when skeletal strength is faltering.

A study published in the leading journal, Nutrients, investigated the effects of collagen supplementation in post-menopausal women with age-related reductions in bone mass density. Participants were given 5 gm of specific collagen peptides daily. After twelve months, the results were assessed.

The conclusion was that collagen supplementation increased bone mass density. Given it has traditionally been considered difficult, even impossible, to reverse failing bone quality, this research is impressive and hopeful. It also provides across-the-board insights; those relevant to everyone.

The authors stated that there was, “A favorable shift in bone markers, indicating increased bone formation and reduced bone degradation.”

Collagen appears to play a key role in building strong, healthy bones. Both throughout life and when weakened through osteoporosis.

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The Bone-Building takeaway

Often, the first sign of weakened bones is a low-force, osteoporotic fracture. Snapped ribs or a broken hip that result from decreased bone mineral density and bone mass. This process is invisible in our day-to-day world. We often don’t think about it until a break occurs.

But your bones are built throughout your life; through your teens and beyond. In your mid-20s, it is important to consciously build your skeleton. From your 40s onward, protection is key. Halting decline — even reversing bone loss — is essential because healthy bones promote a healthy, vibrant life.

However, many people lack the nutrients required to build and maintain a strong, flexible skeleton. The two minerals, calcium and magnesium, and the abundant protein, collagen, play crucial roles here; balancing bone lost versus bone gained.

If you lack sufficient intakes in your diet — which many people do — supplementing is sensible. If we revisit the study mentioned earlier we see why; “Supplementation was correlated with a greater likelihood of meeting the adequate intake recommendation.”

Calcium, magnesium, and collagen are essential to well bones. Ensure you are consuming enough!