Two of the most common diseases in midlife and beyond are type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, the weakening of once-healthy bones. It turns out that that the two conditions are related.
The common chemical in both type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis is an inflammation-causing molecule known as tumor necrosis factor alpha, abbreviated TNF-α. This inflammation factor is not inherently a bad thing. It acts as a beacon to white blood cells searching for sites of infection. It also causes fever, and helps the body clear away dead tissue. But that last function is the problem when people have diabetes.
When someone has poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, the body makes more TNF-α. This substance stimulates the bones to make osteoclasts, which are the clean up crew for aging bone. If you have just enough osteoclasts, then aging or dead cells in your bones are taken away so a different kind of cell, called an osteoblast, can make new bone. But in many people who have diabetes, the osteoclasts are stimulated a lot more than osteoblasts, so bone gets broken down faster than it can get built up.
What can diabetics do about this additional complication of high blood sugar levels? The very best treatment is to keep blood sugar levels normal. It also helps to avoid treatment with Actos and Avandia (pioglitazone and rosiglitazone). These drugs stimulate the production of baby fat cells inside bones, causing them to break. If you possibly can, it helps to lose excess body fat, since the problem hormone is made in your fat cells.
It also helps to make sure you get enough antioxidants (especially vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium) from your food and you get enough vitamin D. These help your bones retain the calcium and other minerals that keep them strong. And if you get gentle exercise, strengthening your muscles helps your bones keep their proper shape. Some supplements may also help, but not as much as monitoring your diet and exercise so you keep your blood sugar levels right.
If you happen to be into herbal medicine, the herb cat's claw will help, but you have to take it in a certain way for it to be useful for stopping inflammation. You need to use a tincture, and you also need to add a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar into a 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water into which you add the cat's claw. This makes the tannins in the herb absorbable so they actually enter circulation. Don't add vinegar or lemon juice to the bottle of tincture itself.
Alblowi J, Kayal RA, Siqueira M, McKenzie E, Krothapalli N, McLean J, Conn J, Nikolajczyk B, Einhorn TA, Gerstenfeld L, Graves DT:. High Levels of TNF-%u03B1 Contribute to Accelerated Loss of Cartilage in Diabetic Fracture Healing. Am J Pathol, 2009 175: 1574-1585