The following is an excerpt from the book The Osteoporosis Solution: New Therapies For Prevention and Treatment, by Carl Germano, RD, CNS, LDN and William Cabot, MD., published by Kensington Publishing Corp.
In the last seven chapters we’ve explored how your bones work and what can happen to them and to you when they don’t. We’ve also talked about natural ways to help build and maintain healthy bone. Now we’re ready to tell you about a new, natural substance that works as well as the most commonly used medications for osteoporosiswithout any potential risk of increased cancer or other side effects. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. This extraordinary substance is called ipriflavone, and it could well be the biggest breakthrough yet in osteoporosis prevention and treatment. In this chapter, we’ll talk about what ipriflavone is, describe the research behind it, and outline how it can work for you as a safe, natural, and extraordinarily effective treatment for osteoporosis.
Nature’s Answer to Estrogen
If you’re a woman, it’s likely that you have already had to-or soon will have to-grapple with the complex issue of treating osteoporosis with traditional drug regimens. As we’ve seen, the most common of these is estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). In spite of the controversy surrounding estrogen replacement therapy, one fact is clear: hormonal therapy does treat osteoporosis. But its potential for unwanted side effects-most notably, breast and uterine cancers-can be very frightening.
Recent research has identified natural substances that mimic the beneficial aspects of estrogens, without their potential side effects. The most promising of these substances are isoflavones, which we discussed in Chapter 6, and a significant amount of data has been published on their ability to maintain healthy bones.
Based on that work, researchers took isoflavones one step further and discovered how to refine and synthesize from them the compound known as ipriflavone. But before we talk about ipriflavone specifically, let’s look at the action of isoflavones in general to understand how ipriflavone works.
Isoflavones: The Raw Form of lpriflavone
Flavonoids are the most common compounds found in plantsincluding the fruits and vegetables we eat on a daily basis. Within the category of flavonoids are substances called isoflavones. Isoflavones are so-called plant estrogens that have positive influences on bone similar to the effects of estrogen. But while estrogen has been associated with an increased risk of cancer, plant estrogens can help reduce the risk of cancer. Chemically, isoflavones look very much like the estrogen produced by women. In the body, they’re converted into very weak forms of estrogen that are only about 1/1000 as potent as the body’s estrogen.
In spite of their significantly weaker form, isoflavones still have powerful bone building effects. They do not, however, have the potential side effect of causing cancer. Because the body recognizes them as estrogen, isoflavones compete for receptor sites normally occupied by estrogen. Here’s how it works. Every cell has a parking space (the receptor site) that’s earmarked for certain compounds.
Now imagine the bloodstream as a highway and chemical compounds as cars. The chemical compounds "drive" through the bloodstream, looking for their designated parking spots. Because isoflavones look identical to estrogen, they can park in the same spot, forcing estrogen cells to