One of the most frightening aspects of an osteoporosis and osteopenia diagnosis is the way the risk of fracture is presented by the Medical Establishment. When a doctor determines that you fit the pre-established parameters of increased fracture risk, instead of helping you understand how you can reduce that risk, they pronounce you with an ominous disease: osteoporosis.
Today’s article debunks that classification, using evidence-backed data and by looking at another set of risk factors that have been pathologized with the help of Big Pharma: obesity. Osteoporosis and obesity both describe physiological conditions that should be corrected, but they are not diseases, in spite of what a doctor may tell you.
First we’ll have a look at definitions of osteoporosis and the shifting use of that word, then we’ll see how obesity is a label with a similar trajectory. You’ll learn why neither really qualifies as a disease, and why that label serves Big Pharma and the Medical Establishment.
What Is Osteoporosis?
There’s much to be learned from the Establishment’s definition of osteoporosis and how it is used. Before the year 1994, there were relatively few osteoporosis diagnoses, because at the time it wasn’t considered a disease. It was a condition that was only ascribed to people who had already fractured a bone.
But then in 1994 the World Health Organization stepped in and gave new meaning to this word by defining it as a disease. The conference in 1992, just two years before, at which this decision was made had another host: the International Osteoporosis Foundation. This non-profit isn’t as neutral as its name implies. The corporate advisory board of the IOF contains no less than 31 drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers. These companies knew there was money to made, if only they could find a way to redefine a natural part of aging as a scary, and treatable, disease.
In fact, the Merck Manual provides the following “official” definition, also quoted in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program:
“Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone, with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture.”
This a very short and dense definition that has an enormous impact on the lives of thousands and thousands of people. And it wasn’t possible without some creative reimagining of the qualifications of osteoporosis.
For something to be a disease there needs to be a clear indicator, some symptom that a doctor can use to diagnose it. When age and fracture were the factors that were used, very few people qualified. So a new set of diagnostics had to be invented.
The Invention Of A Disease
At the 1992 conference, the participants decided that the way to judge whether or not someone would be pronounced with this new disease called osteoporosis was by a measure of bone mass. That’s why the phrase “characterized by low bone mass” is in the definition above. Once someone’s bone mass crosses below a predetermined threshold, a diagnosis can be made and, more importantly for the pharmaceutical companies pushing this change, drugs can be readily prescribed.
Here’s how this is summed up in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program:
“Until it was re-defined as a measure of low bone mineral density (BMD) in 1994, osteoporosis was considered an uncommon disease of fragile bones inflicting mainly the very elderly. Everyone naturally loses bone density as they age, but the new definition does not account for that. The standard reference norm on the bone density machines is that of a young woman, making it almost impossible for an older person to have a normal diagnosis. Merck’s definition categorizes osteoporosis by focusing only on the density of bones, thus completely ignoring many other factors that can contribute to bone fragility. Statistics show that there is no direct correlation between low bone density and the occurrence of fractures, and that over 85% of women turning 50 years old today will never have a fracture, regardless of their bone density.”
Surprisingly, an editorial response to a scientific study published in BMJ in the year 2000 about the increasing use of peripheral bone densitometry lays out a clear-eyed perspective on the matter. The doctor who authored this response compares hypertension as just one of many risk factors for stroke or heart attack to osteoporosis:
“Similarly osteoporosis is not a disease. As the authors point out, osteoporosis is the name given to the bone mineral density when it falls below an arbitrarily defined threshold. Osteoporosis is a risk factor; indeed only one of several risk factors which may (or may not) lead to the patient suffering a fracture.”1
This remarkably echoes the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. Unlike the definition provided by Merck, which is unfortunately applied by the vast majority of medical professionals, this view of osteoporosis recognizes that there are many risk factors for fracture, and that this danger can be addressed in multiple ways. BMI is not the only way to assess fracture risk – it’s only a fraction of the general picture.
And yet, the Medical Establishment doubled down on this misguided attempt to create clarity by providing the makers of osteoporosis drugs another way to sell their products: inventing osteopenia. This condition creates an even lower bar for scaring unsuspecting patients into taking toxic and dangerous drugs.
What is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia is basically a diagnosis that describes a risk of developing a risk of experiencing a fracture (yes, you read that right!). The definition gets even murkier when you consider that the risk-evaluation method at play is the measurement of bone density, which simply isn’t an effective predictor of fracture without considering other factors.
Consider too that even though osteopenia is supposedly a much less serious risk (being only the risk of a risk), the same drugs at the same doses, are prescribed to “treat” it. What’s the point then of even having two names, if the one-size-fits-all response is the same?
All of these reasons and more made it clear that the Save Institute needed to redefine osteoporosis to dispel the myths that surround it. This definition addresses not only the risk of fracture, but the causes of that increased risk, and the path to lowering it. This is quoted directly from the Osteoporosis Reversal Program:
“The correct definition of osteoporosis is: a condition of the skeletal system, common in middle aged and older individuals, mainly caused by the body’s attempt to correct an unhealthy biochemical imbalance by utilizing the calcium that should normally remain in the bones, causing bone density loss. However, unless certain abnormal endocrine and/or gastrointestinal conditions are present, the biochemical imbalance may be corrected by diet and lifestyle changes.”
This definition gives you power back over your life and your body. You can make changes to improve your bone quality and your health. Let go of the idea that osteoporosis is a disease that is beyond your control and only manageable through prescription drugs. It’s simply not true!
The transformation of osteoporosis from a relatively rare condition describing a risk, into a widely diagnosed disease requiring treatment, is not unique. Another argument against this redefinition of conditions is apparent in the story of obesity.
Obesity: Disease or Condition?
Obesity had for decades been considered a condition, a description of a physical state that carried risks and had many potential causes. The American Medical Association (AMA) referred to it as an “urgent chronic condition,” or a “major health concern” and a “complex disorder.”
Then, in the summer of 2013, the American Medical Association or AMA made a drastic decision: obesity was redefined as a disease. Dr. Patrice Harris, an AMA board member, explained,
“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately 1 in 3 Americans.”2
The AMA assumably made this decision in the hopes that the reclassification would encourage doctors and patients to approach obesity with more seriousness, and ultimately stem the rise of obesity in America. However, the results might not match the goals, and the declaration of a condition as a disease is part of the problem.
First, much like the BMD scores that doctors use to diagnose osteoporosis, obesity is often diagnosed with a single, questionable metric. A Body Mass Index (BMI) score is commonly used to determine whether an individual is obese. However, this simple height-to-weight formula is imprecise and fails to consider multiple factors, like the distribution of body fat, and the general health of the patient.
The first chimes of doubt about the reclassification actually came from the AMA itself. The organization’s Council on Science and Public Health issued a 14 page report for AMA delegates to consider, and the lack of precision of BMI was a major sticking point. They wrote:
“Given the existing limitations of BMI to diagnose obesity in clinical practice, it is unclear that recognizing obesity as a disease, as opposed to a ‘condition’ or ‘disorder,’ will result in improved health outcomes.”2
The AMA delegates disregarded the council’s recommendation and decided to medicalize obesity instead.
Effects Of Diagnosing Obesity As A Disease
Just like when osteoporosis was reclassified, pharmaceutical companies stand to make an enormous profit off of these new diagnoses. Weight loss drugs that have been entering the market steadily for years suddenly have a new purpose, “curing” a “disease.” Does that sound familiar?
And just like in the case of osteoporosis, instead of lifestyle changes that could reduce the risk that obesity actually describes, patients can be encouraged to take a quick-fix drug, without ever considering the sources of the problem.
It may seem strange to you that someone would think they have to take a potentially dangerous drug to lose weight, when it’s widely accepted that for most people weight loss can be achieved through changes in lifestyle. However, consider that the context of the doctor’s office, the authority of their recommendation and the psychological impact of being diagnosed with a disease can really shake you up and change the way you think.
Being labelled obese can have serious psychological impacts like body dysmorphia, reduced self-esteem, and a sense of helplessness. Being diagnosed with a disease can make you feel like you have been struck by fate, like you’re powerless to impact your body and your health. This is obviously harmful, and clearly untrue.
An article published in Australasian Medical Journal in 2014 examines whether the AMA made the right choice by classifying obesity as a disease. Here’s the conclusion:
“Obesity has reached pandemic proportions, is strongly associated with myriad co-morbid complications, and is leading to a progressive economic and social burden. However, being obese does not necessarily equate to poor health, and evidence suggests individuals may be fat but fit. Perhaps most importantly, labelling obesity a disease may absolve personal responsibility and encourage a hands-off approach to health behaviour. This knowledge raises the question of morality, as individuals must now choose whether they will invest effort into maintaining a healthy lifestyle in order to free society of the healthcare burden associated with obesity. Given the myriad issues surrounding the decision to classify obesity in this way, perhaps a new question should be posed in order for society to continue this discussion: who benefits most from labelling obesity a disease?”3
The answer to that question isn’t “the people who qualify as obese”, so clearly, the label really ought to change. And yet, it persists, much to the benefit of Big Pharma.
The example of the misclassification of obesity as a disease reinforces what Savers already know about osteoporosis: it’s not a disease. And just like obesity, the health risks that osteoporosis labels can be reduced by changes in diet, physical activity and lifestyle.
Blood pH and Bone Health
As described above, one problem with the simplistic definitions of osteoporosis is that it doesn’t address any underlying causes of the condition. While the natural process of aging results in less dense bones, that process has very specific biochemical causes.
If we can influence that process in favor of our bones, then we can help strengthen our skeletal system.
The work of doctor Lynda Frassetto, an extensively published doctor, medical researcher, and professor of medicine at UCSF, has revealed one of these aging processes and how it affects our bodies. Here’s what she has to say:
“Some of the effects attributed to “aging” are due to the body’s attempts to mitigate the actions of a chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis associated with acid-producing foods in the diet and declining renal function.”4
The pH of your blood tends to become slightly more acidic as you age. Some of this has to do with reduced renal function in some cases, but nutrition plays a central role . Especially in the West, diets have become extremely acidifying, filled with food additives, refined sugars, processed foods, and excessive animal protein consumption. Additionally, as you age, your body’s filtration system, your liver and kidneys, become less efficient at keeping the pH in balance.4
But your body needs a balanced pH to function properly, so it takes whatever actions are necessary to rectify this imbalance. Unfortunately, one effective way to do this is bone dissolution. Alkalizing minerals are ‘stolen’ from your bones to neutralize the acid in your systems.4-5
A Nutrition Society Medal Lecture by Dr. Susan New, published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society in 2002, uses the extensive history of research on the relationship between bones and pH to draw the same conclusions:
“The role that the skeleton plays in acid–base homeostasis has been gaining increasing prominence in the literature; with theoretical considerations of the role alkaline bone mineral may play in the defence against acidosis dating as far back as the late 19th century. Natural, pathological and experimental states of acid loading and/or acidosis have been associated with hypercalciuria and negative Ca balance and, more recently, the detrimental effects of ‘acid’ from the diet on bone mineral have been demonstrated. At the cellular level, a reduction in extracellular pH has been shown to have a direct enhancement on osteoclastic activity, with the result of increased resorption pit formation in bone. A number of observational, experimental, clinical and intervention studies over the last decade have suggested a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and the skeleton.”5
These studies are further evidence that the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is exactly right about bone loss and how to counteract it. From rectifying the definition of osteoporosis, to recommending the diet necessary to reverse the acidification that steals alkalizing material from your bones, the Program is comprehensive and complete. Savers have attested to the positive impact that the Program has had on their bones, and on their entire lives.
You Don’t Have To Give Up Control Of Your Bone Health!
You do have the power to improve your life. Don’t let the language of a “disease” and a “diagnosis” frighten you into feeling like you’re helpless in the hands of fate and that your only recourse is to take osteoporosis drugs. As we’ve seen today, that language was invented by fallible people, who accidentally did more harm than good. You can overcome that barrier, as you’ve overcome plenty of others in your life, and the Save our Bones Program can help you achieve that goal.
Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss
Join thousands of Savers from around the world who have reversed or prevented their bone loss naturally and scientifically with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Keep learning about how your body works, making positive changes to your habits, and living a fuller life!
Till next time,
1 Kevin Pearce, GP. “Osteoporosis is a Risk factor not a disease.” BMJ 2000; 321 Web: http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/28/osteoporosis-risk-factor-not-disease
2 Christopher Bergland. “Should Obesity Be Classified As a Disease?” Psychology Today. Posted Jun 19, 2013. Web: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201306/should-obesity-be-classified-disease
3 Stoner L, Cornwall J. Did the American Medical Association make the correct decision classifying obesity as a disease? AMJ 2014;7(11):462–464. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4259211/
4 Lynda Frassetto, MD. “Acid-base, diet, and preventing age-related dysfunction of bone, muscle, kidney, and cardiovascular system” Presentation. NASA 10-7-09. http://www.dsls.usra.edu/20091007.pdf
5 Dr. Susan A. New. “The role of the skeleton in acid–base homeostasis” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2002), 61, 151–164 Web: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/nutrition-society-medal-lecture-the-role-of-the-skeleton-in-acidbase-homeostasis/3F0B999D61D37947FD5F1DF17ADD36F3