Bad to the bone

If you have osteoporosis and your doctor writes a prescription for Fosamax (or any of a class of intravenous drugs called bisphosphonates), you might be doing yourself a big favor if you just say no.

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that in addition to a list of very unpleasant side effects (more on that in a moment), Fosamax and other bisphosphonates may also cause very serious eye problems; from simple blurring of vision, to painful swelling, and, if left untreated, even blindness.

Fortunately, there are much safer and less expensive natural alternatives in treating osteoporosis.

Scrubbin’ bubbles 

Bisphosphonates like Fosamax are designed to increase bone density. But it’s a bad design.

According to a report on Fosamax by osteopathic nutritionist Dr. Joseph Mercola, this drug kills the cells in your bones (called osteoclast cells) that remove bone, letting the cells that increase bone density (called osteoblasts) do their work unchecked by the osteoclasts. And as a short-sighted solution, it’s clever: stop the function that removes bone density, and you’re all set!

But you know it’s not that simple.

Even though osteoclasts remove bone density, they’re part of the “design” that requires a balance of the two different types of cells so that bone density is both increased and decreased. And while loss of bone density is certainly an important issue with many people in their later years (especially women), this solution interferes with a complex natural balance. And that’s just asking for trouble.

To make matters worse, Fosamax kills osteoclast cells with poisons that are the same class of abrasive chemicals you use to scrub soap and mildew off of tile! So no wonder that Fosamax comes with a long list of side effects, including: inflammation and ulceration of the esophagus, painful swallowing, stomach pain, indigestion and nausea.

And according to the New England Journal of Medicine, we can now add to that list the possibility of serious inflammation in the eyes, which in the worst cases may lead to blindness.

Got to be a better way 

Although most experts agree that osteoporosis is caused by long-term calcium deficiency, efforts to treat or prevent it with calcium supplements are generally disappointing because calcium is poorly absorbed by the body. As a result, only a small percentage of the calcium we get – whether from food or supplements – actually reaches the bloodstream.

In an e-Alert I sent you last month (“Skinny Dipping” 3/4/03), I told you about two ways to get around the calcium absorption problem. The first is by increasing your intake of calcium and magnesium rich foods. The reason for the calcium increase is obvious, and increased magnesium is known to help the body absorb calcium.

For a good calcium intake, I wouldn’t recommend homogenized and pasteurized milk because it doesn’t actually contain the high amounts of calcium that it’s touted to contain, and for a host of other reasons that I’ve made clear in recent e-Alerts (“Milky Way” 4/9/03). Good sources of dietary calcium include: cabbage; kale; yellow, green, or waxed beans; and salmon. As for magnesium, in addition to supplements, many of the food sources of magnesium fit into a nutritious diet: leafy green vegetables, whole grains, bananas, apricots, meat, beans, and nuts.

The other way to improve calcium absorption is with a unique calcium supplement from Japan called AdvaCAL. Studies have shown that this high-potency supplement is absorbed four times better than typical calcium carbonate supplements. And in an HSI Members Alert we sent you in July 1999, we told you how AdvaCAL was shown to rival the effectiveness of Fosamax and other prescription osteoporosis drugs. In one of those studies, AdvaCAL was not only effective in preventing osteoporosis, but also able to reverse bone loss once the disease process was already underway. More detailed information about AdvaCAL is available at

Hard choicesand not so hard

I purposely haven’t addressed another use of Fosamax: in treating cancer that migrates from breast cancer to the bones – in particular to the spine. From what I’ve read, Fosamax has been effective in lessening pain and improving quality-of-life for those patients. And although I wouldn’t recommend it, I also wouldn’t question anyone’s choice of a pharmaceutical tool in a fight against cancer.

This is not to downplay at all the discomfort and debilitation that can result from osteoporosis. But as we’ve seen, there are natural and safe methods for addressing this disease – far preferable to bathroom scrubbing chemicals.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

“Bisphosphonates and Ocular Inflammation” The New England Journal of Medicine, 2003 March 20:348(12):1187-88,

“Is Fosamax Right For You?”

“Fosamax Type Osteoporosis Drugs Noted to Cause Serious Eye Problems” Dr. Joseph Mercola, 4/9/03,