Protect Your Bones With 8 Natural Osteoprotectives

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Your bones support your entire body. Isn't it time to find natural alternatives to strengthen them?

Bones are literally the structure of your body. As you age, bone loss happens. But there are eight natural osteoprotectives -- including puerarin, boswellia, citrus naringin, resveratrol, certain vitamins and whole foods like dried plums -- that could help prevent the deterioration of your bones. When bones lose their density, this can lead to osteoporosis -- a painful and debilitating condition.

1. Puerarin

Puerarin, an isoflavone from the kudzu plant, has osteoprotective properties. Ovariectomy-induced mice are often used for researching treatments for postmenopausal osteoporosis. In a systematic review of eight such animal studies with 203 subjects, puerarin significantly improved bone mass.[i]

Puerarin alleviates osteoclast-related loss of bone mass in ovariectomy-induced osteoporotic rats by inhibiting the tumor necrosis factor receptor–associated factor/reactive oxygen species or TRAF6/ROS-dependent MAPK/NF-κB signaling pathway within the bone tissue.[ii]

In an osteoporosis model of overiectomized rats, the anti-osteoporosis effects of puerarin were related to improvements in gut microbiota via regulating short chain fatty acid levels and repairing the intestinal mucosal integrity.[iii]

A high dose of puerarin and zinc together in an ovariectomized rat model worked better than either alone -- reversing some bone loss and suppressing the adiposity of bone marrow, a marker of osteoporosis.[iv]

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are often associated with increased risk of bone fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis. In a diabetes-induced study of mice, puerarin markedly attenuated bone loss and suppressed inflammatory markers associated with osteoporosis by inhibiting histone deacetylases (HDAC1/HDAC3) enzyme signaling.[v]

In another study of diabetes-induced rats, those given a puerarin injection of 100 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight per day for six weeks had higher bone mineral density, improved osteoblast numbers, new bone formation and reduced caspase-3 expression -- a marker for diabetic osteoporosis -- compared to the control group.[vi]

2. Vitamin C

Many in vitro and animal model studies confirm the significant influence of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) on the skeletal system, and those who have a severe vitamin C deficiency would benefit from supplementation.

However, if you do not have such a deficiency, it is better to get your vitamin C by eating five servings of vegetables and fruits a day, rather than through vitamin supplementation, which remains controversial.[vii] In fact, some reviewers found vitamin C supplementation could actually increase your risk of fractures.[viii]

Greater dietary vitamin C intake -- fruits and vegetables -- was associated with a 33% lower risk of osteoporosis and a lower risk of hip fractures, as well as higher bone mineral density in a meta-analysis study.[ix] Similarly, in a study of 73 healthy people, those who added more plant foods to their diet increased their bone mineral density and had higher vitamin D levels.[x]

In a meta-analysis of six articles with 225,062 people, those who added at least one serving of fruits and vegetables per day to their diet decreased their bone fracture risk.[xi]

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to poor bone health, osteoporosis and higher risk of bone fractures. In a review of 66 patients aged 50 years or more with hip fractures, 74% had vitamin D deficiencies, with 62% diagnosed with osteoporosis and 18% with severe osteoporosis.[xii]

In a study of 100 postmenopausal women, 47% of the group was deficient in vitamin D and 31% had insufficient levels. Hip osteoporosis was 31.9% in the vitamin D deficient group compared to 18.2% in those with sufficient vitamin D levels. Vitamin D insufficiency is a risk factor for osteoporosis associated with increased bone remodeling and low bone mass.[xiii]

In an induced-vitamin D deficiency mouse model, vitamin D treatment reversed age-related osteoporosis symptoms while promoting proliferation, osteogenic differentiation and bone formation of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells and osteoblasts -- cells that build bones -- while inhibiting bone aging and bone resorption -- removal of old bones. 

If bone resorption is higher than bone building, there are overall bone deficits.[xiv]

In research of induced-vitamin D deficiency mice, low vitamin D levels accelerated age-related bone loss, increased oxidative stress and DNA damage, were associated with higher bone cell aging, inhibited osteoblastic bone formation and stimulated osteoclastic bone resorption.[xv]

4. Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 plays a significant role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis because it regulates bone remodeling. When the balance between bone resorption and bone formation shifts to a net bone loss, both men and women can develop osteoporosis.[xvi]

In a human vitro cell study, vitamin K2 promoted the osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells by inhibiting miR-133a expression -- an impactor of genes in muscle and skeletal development.[xvii] In a human studies review of vitamin K2, the commonly used dosage was 45 mg per day and highly benefitted bone health by regulating bone growth and bone loss mechanisms, particularly in osteoporotic postmenopausal women.[xviii]

Trial subjects including 311 men and postmenopausal women 50 to 75 years of age were randomly assigned to four groups -- placebo, 50 micrograms per day or 90 micrograms per day of vitamin K2 or co-supplementation with calcium (500 mg per day) and vitamin D (10 micrograms per day) for one year.

The bone loss of femoral neck was significantly lower in postmenopausal women in the high dose vitamin K2 group compared with placebo, but had no effect in men. High dose supplementation of K2 significantly reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women with no benefit of adding calcium and vitamin D.[xix]

In a comprehensive review of vitamin K2, supplementation modulated necrosis factor kappa beta -- NF-κB -- signaling in the body, which ameliorated bone loss and promoted bone health.[xx]

One preclinical study showed that vitamin K2 administration in a Type 2 diabetic rat model increased serum osteocalcin, improved collagen cross-link profiles and increased bone strength, suggesting it as a preventative for bone deterioration and fractures resulting from Type 2 diabetes.[xxi]

5. Boswellia or Frankincense

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease involving articular cartilage degeneration causing patients pain, joint stiffness, physical disability and significantly reducing quality of life. Forty-nine patients who took a boswellia- and bromelain-based supplement for a period between one and six months found it significantly improved quality of life and various osteoarthritis symptoms.[xxii]

Based on a meta-analysis of seven trials including 545 osteoarthritis patients, boswellia effectively and safely ameliorated pain, stiffness and joint function with ideal treatment for four or more weeks.[xxiii] Boswellia -- also called frankincense -- has been found to play a significant role in eliminating inflammation and joint destruction in knee osteoarthritis, with no serious side effects.[xxiv]

The boswellic acids found in gum resin extract were strong anti-inflammatory agents and protectors of cartilage cells in a human in vitro study and improved pain and weight-bearing ability in osteoarthritis-induced rats, which received the supplement for 28 days.[xxv]

In an osteoarthritis-induced rat model, boswellia was orally administered once per day for three weeks and inhibited increases in osteoarthritis symptoms, synovial fluid cytokines, cartilage damage and expression levels of pro-inflammatory mediators/cytokines in the cartilage.[xxvi]

6. Citrus Naringin

Citrus naringin -- a natural flavanone glycoside present in plants like grapefruits, tart cherries, tomatoes, and oregano -- modulates different signaling pathways and interacts with numerous cell signaling molecules to treat inflammation, oxidative stress, metabolic syndrome, bone disorders and cancers.[xxvii]

Naringin enhanced osteogenic differentiation of human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells seen through in vitro study by activating the extracellular signal-regulated kinase, or ERK signaling pathway.[xxviii]

Supplementation with naringin and rabbit bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells together was more efficient in repairing cartilage defects in rabbit knees than the use of either treatment alone. Citrus naringin activates and continuously regulates the growth factor beta, or TGF-β, signaling pathway, which encourages these stem cells to differentiate into chondrocytes, giving function and structure to cartilage.[xxix]

Naringin promoted bone repair and prevented bone loss in a drug-induced osteonecrosis rat model and through in vitro study impacted the Akt/Bad signal cascades.[xxx] Naringin also protected against bone loss in a steroid-treated inflammatory bowel disease rat model.[xxxi]

In a meta-analysis of naringin's effect on postmenopausal osteoporosis in 10 ovariectomized rat studies, citrus naringin improved bone mineral density, bone volume and thickness.[xxxii]

7. Resveratrol

A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis of eight studies with 264 subjects showed improvements in two bone biomarkers after resveratrol supplementation over placebo treatment.

Compound medicine of both tanshinone and resveratrol showed the most improvement on peak bone mass compared to placebo or each alone in 40 growing rats.[xxxiii] In a bovine cartilage model, supplementation with both resveratrol and curcumin together effectively decelerated age-related and diabetes-induced osteoporosis.[xxxiv]

8. Dried Plums

Menopause drastically increases the risk of osteoporosis -- ovarian hormone production stops, which causes accelerated bone loss. Fifty-eight postmenopausal women were randomly assigned to either 100 grams of dried plums or 75 grams of dried apples daily for three months. The dried plums significantly increased two indices of higher bone formation in postmenopausal women.[xxxv]

A follow up study -- five years later -- of postmenopausal women who previously consumed 100 grams of dried plums per day during a three-month trial showed long-lasting bone-protective effects.[xxxvi]


Using natural supplements such as pueraria, boswellia, certain vitamins and resveratrol or adding fruits and vegetables to your diet can help protect your bone health. Consult's database for more detailed research on osteoprotectives, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, bone fractures and bone diseases.


[i] Xiaobin Yang, Haishi Zheng, Yuan Liu, Dingjun Hao, Baorong He, Lingbo Kong. Puerarin for OVX-induced postmenopausal osteoporosis in murine model: systematic review and meta-analysis. Curr Stem Cell Res Ther2019 Jul 3. Epub 2019 Jul 3. PMID: 31269886

[ii] Long Xiao, Mengdan Zhong, Yu Huang, Jie Zhu, Wenkai Tang, Danyong Li, Jiandong Shi, Aiqing Lu, Huilin Yang, Dechun Geng, Hong Li, Zhirong Wang. Puerarin alleviates osteoporosis in the ovariectomy-induced mice by suppressing osteoclastogenesis via inhibition of TRAF6/ROS-dependent MAPK/NF-κB signaling pathways. Aging (Albany NY). 2020 11 7 ;12(21):21706-21729. Epub 2020 Nov 7. PMID: 33176281

[iii] Bo Li, Mingyan Liu, Yu Wang, Shiqiang Gong, Weifan Yao, Wenshuai Li, Hua Gao, Minjie Wei. Puerarin improves the bone micro-environment to inhibit OVX-induced osteoporosis via modulating SCFAs released by the gut microbiota and repairing intestinal mucosal integrity. Biomed Pharmacother. 2020 Dec ;132:110923. Epub 2020 Oct 28. PMID: 33125971

[iv] Hao Liu, Wei Li, Xiyuan Ge, Shengnan Jia, Binbin Li. Coadministration of puerarin (low dose) and zinc attenuates bone loss and suppresses bone marrow adiposity in ovariectomized rats. Life Sci. 2016 Dec 1 ;166:20-26. Epub 2016 Sep 30. PMID: 27697446

[v] Chang-Jun Guo, Jing-Jing Xie, Rong-Hua Hong, Han-Song Pan, Fu-Guo Zhang, Yi-Min Liang. Puerarin alleviates streptozotocin (STZ)-induced osteoporosis in rats through suppressing inflammation and apoptosis via HDAC1/HDAC3 signaling. Biomed Pharmacother. 2019 May 1 ;115:108570. Epub 2019 May 1. PMID: 31054509

[vi] Junbo Liang, Haixiao Chen, Weibo Pan, Chunli Xu. Puerarin inhibits caspase-3 expression in osteoblasts of diabetic rats. Mol Med Rep. 2012 Jun ;5(6):1419-22. Epub 2012 Apr 2. PMID: 22470138

[vii] Brzezińska O, Łukasik Z, Makowska J, Walczak K. Role of Vitamin C in Osteoporosis Development and Treatment-A Literature Review. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 10;12(8):2394. doi: 10.3390/nu12082394. PMID: 32785080; PMCID: PMC7469000

[viii] Heike A Bischoff-Ferrari, Bess Dawson-Hughes, John A Baron, Peter Burckhardt, Ruifeng Li, Donna Spiegelman, Bonny Specker, John E Orav, John B Wong, Hannes B Staehelin, Eilis O'Reilly, Douglas P Kiel, Walter C Willett. Calcium intake and hip fracture risk in men and women: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1780-90. PMID: 18065599

[x] J Berg, N Seyedsadjadi, R Grant. Increased Consumption of Plant Foods Is Associated with Increased Bone Mineral Density. J Nutr Health Aging. 2020 ;24(4):388-397. PMID: 32242206

[xi] Juliana E Brondani, Fabio V Comim, Liziane M Flores, Lígia Araújo Martini, Melissa O Premaor. Fruit and vegetable intake and bones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2019 ;14(5):e0217223. Epub 2019 May 31. PMID: 31150426

[xii] Ankit Dadra, Sameer Aggarwal, Prasoon Kumar, Vishal Kumar, Deba Prasad Dibar, Sanjay Kumar Bhadada. High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis in patients with fragility fractures of hip: A pilot study. J Clin Orthop Trauma. 2019 Nov-Dec;10(6):1097-1100. Epub 2019 Mar 21. PMID: 31708635

[xiii] Vasundhara Kamineni, Akkenapally Prasanna Latha, K Ramathulasi. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and bone mineral density in normal postmenopausal women. J Midlife Health. 2016 Oct-Dec;7(4):163-168. PMID: 28096639

[xiv] Renlei Yang, Jie Chen, Jiao Zhang, Ran Qin, Rong Wang, Yue Qiu, Zhiyuan Mao, David Goltzman, Dengshun Miao. 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D protects against age-related osteoporosis by a novel VDR-Ezh2-p16 signal axis. Aging Cell. 2020 02 ;19(2):e13095. Epub 2019 Dec 26. PMID: 31880094

[xv] Wanxin Qiao, Shuxiang Yu, Haijian Sun, Lulu Chen, Rong Wang, Xuan Wu, David Goltzman, Dengshun Miao. 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D insufficiency accelerates age-related bone loss by increasing oxidative stress and cell senescence. Am J Transl Res. 2020 ;12(2):507-518. Epub 2020 Feb 15. PMID: 32194899

[xvi] V D Myneni, E Mezey. Regulation of bone remodeling by vitamin K2. Oral Dis. 2017 Nov ;23(8):1021-1028. Epub 2017 Apr 5. PMID: 27976475

[xvii] Yuelei Zhang, Shiyang Weng, Junhui Yin, Hao Ding, Changqing Zhang, Youshui Gao. Vitamin K2 promotes mesenchymal stem cell differentiation by inhibiting miR-133a expression. Mol Med Rep. 2017 May ;15(5):2473-2480. Epub 2017 Mar 9. PMID: 28447758

[xviii] Julia Khéde Dourado Villa, Marisa Alves Nogueira Diaz, Virgínia Ramos Pizziolo, Hércia Stampini Duarte Martino. Effect of vitamin K in bone metabolism and vascular calcification: A review of mechanisms of action and evidences. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Dec 12 ;57(18):3959-3970. PMID: 27437760

[xix] Yingfeng Zhang, Zhipeng Liu, Lili Duan, Yeyu Ji, Sen Yang, Yuan Zhang, Hongyin Li, Yu Wang, Peng Wang, Jiepeng Chen, Ying Li. Effect of Low-Dose Vitamin K2 Supplementation on Bone Mineral Density in Middle-Aged and Elderly Chinese: A Randomized Controlled Study. Calcif Tissue Int. 2020 Feb 14. Epub 2020 Feb 14. PMID: 32060566

[xx] Masayoshi Yamaguchi, M Neale Weitzmann. Vitamin K2 stimulates osteoblastogenesis and suppresses osteoclastogenesis by suppressing NF-κB activation. Int J Mol Med. 2011 Jan;27(1):3-14. Epub 2010 Nov 11. PMID: 21072493

[xxi] Jun Iwamoto, Yoshihiro Sato, Tsuyoshi Takeda, Hideo Matsumoto. Bone quality and vitamin K2 in type 2 diabetes: review of preclinical and clinical studies. Nutr Rev. 2011 Mar;69(3):162-7. Epub 2011 Feb 14. PMID: 21348880

[xxii] Giovanni Italiano, Mariangela Raimondo, Giovanna Giannetti, Anna Gargiulo. Benefits of a Food Supplement Containingand Bromelain for Improving the Quality of Life in Patients with Osteoarthritis: A Pilot Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Nov 1. Epub 2019 Nov 1. PMID: 31674795

[xxiii] Giovanni Italiano, Mariangela Raimondo, Giovanna Giannetti, Anna Gargiulo. Benefits of a Food Supplement Containingand Bromelain for Improving the Quality of Life in Patients with Osteoarthritis: A Pilot Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Nov 1. Epub 2019 Nov 1. PMID: 31674795

[xxiv] Raju Vaishya, Amit Kumar Agarwal, Amish Shah, Vipul Vijay, Abhishek Vaish. Current status of top 10 nutraceuticals used for Knee Osteoarthritis in India. J Clin Orthop Trauma. 2018 Oct-Dec;9(4):338-348. Epub 2018 Jul 20. PMID: 30449982

[xxv] Venkata Krishnaraju Alluri, Sreenath Kundimi, Krishanu Sengupta, Trimurtulu Golakoti, Eswar Kumar Kilari. An Anti-Inflammatory Composition ofResin Extracts Alleviates Pain and Protects Cartilage in Monoiodoacetate-Induced Osteoarthritis in Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020 ;2020:7381625. Epub 2020 May 21. PMID: 32565872

[xxvi] Hae Lim Kim, Hae Jin Lee, Dong-Ryung Lee, Bong-Keun Choi, Seung Hwan Yang. Herbal Composition LI73014F2 Alleviates Articular Cartilage Damage and Inflammatory Response in Monosodium Iodoacetate-Induced Osteoarthritis in Rats. Molecules. 2020 Nov 23 ;25(22). Epub 2020 Nov 23. PMID: 33238379

[xxvii] Maryam Ghanbari-Movahed, Gloria Jackson, Mohammad Hosein Farzaei, Anupam Bishayee. A Systematic Review of the Preventive and Therapeutic Effects of Naringin Against Human Malignancies. Front Pharmacol. 2021 ;12:639840. Epub 2021 Mar 29. PMID: 33854437

[xxviii] Huichao Wang, Chunbo Li, Jianming Li, Yingjie Zhu, Yudong Jia, Ying Zhang, Xiaodong Zhang, Wenlong Li, Lei Cui, Wuyin Li, Youwen Liu. Naringin enhances osteogenic differentiation through the activation of ERK signaling in human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2017 Apr ;20(4):408-414. PMID: 28804610

[xxix] Chao Ye, Jing Chen, Yi Qu, Hang Liu, Junxing Yan, Yingdong Lu, Zheng Yang, Fengxian Wang, Pengyang Li. Naringin and bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells repair articular cartilage defects in rabbit knees through the transforming growth factor-β superfamily signaling pathway. Exp Ther Med. 2020 Nov ;20(5):59. Epub 2020 Sep 4. PMID: 32952649

[xxx] Ming-Jie Kuang, Wei-Hao Zhang, Wei-Wei He, Lei Sun, Jian-Xiong Ma, Dachuan Wang, Xin-Long Ma. Naringin regulates bone metabolism in glucocorticoid-induced osteonecrosis of the femoral head via the Akt/Bad signal cascades. Chem Biol Interact. 2019 May 1 ;304:97-105. Epub 2019 Mar 14. PMID: 30878453

[xxxi] Chengli Li, Jun Zhang, Fang Lv, Xingtao Ge, Gang Li. Naringin protects against bone loss in steroid-treated inflammatory bowel disease in a rat model. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2018 Jul 15 ;650:22-29. Epub 2018 May 17. PMID: 29753722

[xxxii] Zhu Zhu, Wenjing Xie, Yanyan Li, Zaiou Zhu, Wei Zhang. Effect of Naringin Treatment on Postmenopausal Osteoporosis in Ovariectomized Rats: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021 ;2021:6016874. Epub 2021 Feb 10. PMID: 33628301

[xxxiii] Fang-Fang Yang, Yu-Hai Gao, Hui-Rong Xi, Wen-Yuan Li, Hui-Ping Ma, Ke-Ming Chen. Effect of Compound Medicine of Tanshinone 2A and Resveratrol on Peak Bone Mass in Growing Rats. Zhongguo Yi Xue Ke Xue Yuan Xue Bao. 2018 Aug 30 ;40(4):456-462. PMID: 30193597

[xxxiv] Shikhar Mehta, Cameron C Young, Matthew R Warren, Sumayyah Akhtar, Sandra J Shefelbine, Justin D Crane, Ambika G Bajpayee. Resveratrol and Curcumin Attenuate Sugar-Induced Cartilage Glycation, Stiffening, Senescence, and Degeneration. Cartilage. 2021 Jan 20:1947603520988768. Epub 2021 Jan 20. PMID: 33472415

[xxxv] Bahram H Arjmandi, Dania A Khalil, Edralin A Lucas, Amanda Georgis, Barbara J Stoecker, Claudia Hardin, Mark E Payton, Robert A Wild. Dried plums improve indices of bone formation in postmenopausal women. Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 Mar-Apr;16(2):12-4. PMID: 11860726

[xxxvi] Bahram H Arjmandi, Sarah A Johnson, Shirin Pourafshar, Negin Navaei, Kelli S George, Shirin Hooshmand, Sheau C Chai, Neda S Akhavan. Bone-Protective Effects of Dried Plum in Postmenopausal Women: Efficacy and Possible Mechanisms. Nutrients. 2017 May 14 ;9(5). Epub 2017 May 14. PMID: 28505102

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