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Nutrition of Bone vs. Nutrition of Cartilage

By Beth Greenwood

Your bones are made of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Your bones also contain collagen, which provides the matrix, or structure, onto which minerals are deposited. Cartilage is made from proteins, sugars and collagen. Bones and cartilage need some of the same nutrients. Your bones and cartilage both need protein, but bones also need a number of other nutrients to be healthy. They obtain nourishment in different ways.

Your Bones

Bones and cartilage both provide structure to the body; cartilage may provide structure to non-weight bearing areas, such as the nose, or act as a shock absorber between bones in places like the spine or knees. Bones help to protect body organs such as your brain, lungs and heart. They also provide an anchor point for muscles. Bones are the calcium storehouse for the body – if you need more calcium in your bloodstream, your body will strip calcium from the bones.

Bone Nutrients

Calcium and phosphorus are the two nutrients that are most important for bones; between 80 and 90 percent of your bone structure is composed of calcium and phosphorus. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is critical for bone formation; your body cannot make this mineral, so you must obtain it through food sources such as dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables and almonds. Other nutrients required for bone health include protein, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, fluoride and vitamins D, A, C, and K.

Nutrient Sources

Bones get nutrients from the bloodstream, while cartilage is nourished by the synovial fluid that surrounds your joints. Synovial fluid contains the proteins and sugars necessary for cartilage nutrition and also removes waste products excreted by cartilage. These processes occur through passive diffusion, which means the nutrients and waste products move back and forth across cell membranes, and are supported by physical activity that includes joint movement. Bones are nourished from substances extracted from the bloodstream, and physical activity is not necessary to transport nutrients or waste products.

Protein and Silicon

Protein is a nutrient required by both bones and cartilage. Protein contains amino acids – often called the building blocks of protein – that are broken down in the body and then used to assemble organ, bone and cartilage cells. Protein also provides iron, zinc, vitamins and other nutrients the bones need. Silicon is another nutrient needed by both bones and cartilage; silicon stimulates the development of collagen, which is present in both bones and cartilage.

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