Osteoporosis is a medical condition that increases risks of bone injuries and fractures due to weak bones.

It results when the loss of bone does not keep up with the formation of bones. The main cause of osteoporosis is low levels of estrogen in women after menopause.

It may also occur if bone mass is low or bone loss is greater than normal.

It can also occur as a secondary complication of some diseases, treatments or due intake of certain medications that result in bone loss.

The elderly are more susceptible to osteoporosis due to weak bones.

Proper diet and regular exercise are the most important management measures.

Medications may also be useful in severe conditions. Maca, a root vegetable has been found to be effective in treating osteoporosis by inclusion in the diet.

What is Maca and its Benefits?

Maca is an herbaceous plant that grows in Peru in the high Andes mountains. It is popularly useful as a medicinal herb and a root vegetable.

Maca is known for its high nutritional value and therapeutic properties.

It is an essential crop; researchers have found that it has various benefits in the treatment and management of osteoporosis.

4 Science-Backed Benefits of Maca For Osteoporosis

Here are science-backed reasons as to how maca can benefit in osteoporosis.

1. It shows Anti-Osteoporosis Activity

Research studies suggest the use of Maca for the treatment of osteoporosis.

According to a research study published in Food Research International in 2015, the active biological constituent of Maca called N-benzyl-palmitamide showed anti-osteoporosis activity.

The active constituent promoted proliferation of osteoblasts, differentiation, and mineralization of bones aiding in the bone formation by regulating a variety of related genes.

The study concluded that a single component of Maca was capable of showing significant results in the treatment of osteoporosis.[1]

A clinical study conducted by Gonzales et al. in 2012 revealed that Maca was found to be effective that glucosamine sulfate (a drug commonly prescribed for treating osteoporosis) in treating osteoporosis when orally administered for8 weeks.

Results of the study revealed that Maca improves pain, stiffness, and functioning of the joints affected by osteoporosis. [2]

What does this Mean? Maca can be effective in the treatment of osteoporosis and relieve pain and stiffness in the affected joints. It also enhances the functioning of the bones. It increases proliferation of osteoblasts aiding in the formation of bones.

2. It Strengthens the Bones

Since osteoporosis results due to loss of bone mass or increase in bone loss, it increases the risk of bone injuries.

Maca serves as a rich source of calcium and regulates estrogen levels in the body helping in the treatment of osteoporosis.

A study carried out by Zhang et al. demonstrated the effects of alcohol extracts of Maca on animal models induces with osteoporosis and found that oral administration of Maca improved the bone mineral density thereby preventing bone loss.

The study concluded the effectiveness of Maca in curing bone loss caused by low levels of estrogen in animal models after menopause. [3]

The author of the book, The Pure Power of Maca which describes various essential properties of the plant stated that Maca helps in the treatment of osteoporosis.

It is enriched with various nutrients like calcium that can help in strengthening the bones and aiding bone formation. [4]

What does this Mean? Maca is enriched with calcium content and improves bone density by regulating deficient estrogen levels which result due to loss of bone mass in osteoporosis thereby being used as a successful agent in its therapy.

3. It has Anti-Oxidant Property

Oxidative stress in osteoclasts can lead to greater loss of bone density, weakening the bones further and increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Maca has anti-oxidative potential. A study evaluating the antioxidant properties of Maca reported that Maca decreased peroxynitrite levels, these are superoxide radicals that cause oxidative stress.

The study confirmed that Maca has free radical scavenging ability and can protect cells from oxidative stress. [5]

Another study mentioned that Maca has the potential to act upon anti-oxidant enzymes in the liver and blood reducing oxidative stress by exerting its anti-oxidant properties in areas subject to high levels of free radicals. [6]

These findings suggested that maca is highly beneficial in preventing chronic human diseases.

What does this Mean? Oxidative stress in osteoblasts in osteoporosis can be prevented by consuming Maca as it possesses significant antioxidant properties.

4. It balances the Hormones

After menopause, the estrogen levels drop, and the osteoblasts are unable to form the bone in the absence of the hormone.

This leads to osteoporosis and thus keeping optimum levels of estrogen maintained is a very important factor in controlling osteoporosis.

An experimental study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science in 2006 evaluated the effects of a gelatinized organic preparation of Maca on postmenopausal hormonal levels.

Results of the study revealed that Maca balanced the hormonal levels including estrogen and progesterone keeping them in the normal levels. [7]

Another study confirmed the effects of Maca in preventing conditions experienced by women in menopause.

Clinical trials conducted on postmenopausal women revealed that Maca has a balancing effect on the hormones including estrogen.

The study concluded that Maca could be used as an effective non-hormonal alternative in hormone replacement therapy. [8]

A study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology in 2014 revealed that Maca has a modulating effect on endocrine hormones and help maintain hormonal balance in women after menopause. [9]

What does this Mean? Maca can be used as an effective agent in the treatment of osteoporosis as it can regulate estrogen levels in the body in women after menopause.

Dosage of Maca for Osteoporosis

Maca is available in the market in powdered form to ensure its longer shelf life. There are various types of maca powders available in the market.

Maca tablets and capsules are also available due to its property of gelatinization.

There is no specific dosage for osteoporosis. However, the recommended dose of maca is 1,500-3,000 mg.

Studies suggest dosage according to the weight of a person.

According to that, 10.9—24g of  Maca vegetable for a person weighing 150 pounds, 14.5-32g of Maca for a person with the weight of 200 pounds and 18.1-40g of Maca for a person weighing 250 pounds has been considered effective. [10]

Maca powder can be included in the diet by adding it to beverages, teas, fruit juices, milk, and smoothies to enhance the nutritive value.

One can start with one teaspoon per serving and gradually increase the dose by one tablespoon in a serving.

Maca roots can be added to savory dishes and salad dressings. To bakery products like pancakes it gives a caramelized flavor and enhances the nutritive value at the same time.

Those opting for supplements, tablets, and capsules must consult a health practitioner before consuming it.

Precautions

No adverse or toxic effects have been reported yet on the consumption of Maca up to doses 15g/kg i.e. approximately 1.3 kg for an 85kg individual. [11]

However, some general precautions can be considered.

Maca may produce allergic reactions in certain individuals. If any side effect is observed, one must immediately stop its intake.

Pregnant and lactating women must avoid consumption of Maca supplements as it regulates and interferes with hormonal levels that are very crucial at this stage.

Those on medication must refrain from the use of tablets or capsules of Maca and if needed must maintain a gap between both the medications to avoid interactions between them.

Conclusion

Osteoporosis is commonly observed in the elderly and postmenopausal women. Maca has an important role in preventing people from becoming susceptible to osteoporosis.

It can be used for the treatment of the medical condition. It is a positive agent for therapy as it is safe for consumption and has no reported side effects or toxicity yet.

It can be easily included in the diet in various forms to enhance the nutrient value and flavor.

Thus including Maca in the daily dietary regime along with regular exercise can help in preventing the development and treating osteoporosis.

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