Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis: Socially Responsible Trade
Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.
In 2003, I visited 10 cities in Asia.  Wherever I went, there was always someone asking me about methods for treating osteoporosis and bent spinal cord.  As far as I know, consuming too much animal protein will lead to the loss of calcium.  Also the decrease in secretion of progesterone in women after menopause may also cause osteoporosis.  Additionally, cellular phones that people carry around, microwaves, radiowaves and electromagnetic waves may also lead to the loss of calcium.  However, I was still quite puzzled on why osteoporosis is so common in China nowadays?

After I returned to US, there was a huge fire in the forest of California.  The smoke was blown into the sky and for one week, the sun and blue sky could not be seen.  This scene reminded me of many of the cities I had visited during the trip.  Due to the pollution from industries and transportation, the sun and blue sky cannot be seen in the cities permanently.  But the generation of vitamin D which maintains the immunity of bones requires that the skin be exposed to the sunlight which is then absorbed by the body.  People living in an environment that is smoggy tend to lack vitamin D, and this is another cause for osteoporosis.

A friend who lives in the city of Shanghai told me that in recent years Shanghai has done a good job in protecting the environment.  After the removal of chimneys, the blue sky could be seen more often now.

Transportation is another source of pollution.  A university professor told me that the standard for emission control equipment in Japanese cars sold to China is lower than that in Japan.  The car emission control standard in California is higher than those in other states, so the cars sold to California require special installation.  I once asked a staff in a Taiwanese car company why they do not install emission control equipment of higher standard.  He said, “The cost will be slightly higher.”

Inadvertently I found other causes for osteoporosis in agricultural books.  The lacking of boron in one’s diet may cause osteoporosis.  If the fertilizer contains lots of potash fertilizer, it will cause boron in soil to “disappear”, and also cause magnesium, calcium and salt to “disappear”.  Early in the 20th century, Andr’e Voisin, a famous agriculturalist in France, was aware of this problem.  At the same time, he also mentioned that excess lime will cause manganese to “disappear”, yet manganese has a direct impact on the level of vitamin C in plants.  Phosphoric acid fertilizer may cause zinc to “disappear”, over-usage of nitrogenous fertilizer may cause copper to “disappear” and lead to over 30 times more nitrate content in spinach.

Obviously, the fertilizer used in modern farming can change the nutritional content in food and affect our health; this is reflected through our bones and teeth.  Dr. Voisin specifically emphasized that the agriculture industry should not use quantity produced as a standard, but rather the nutritional value (quality of the produce) should be used instead.

From this osteoporosis health issue, it can be seen that to thoroughly solve the problem, both the consumption and the production sides must be conscientious.  For our health and the survival of the earth, we will continually introduce socially responsible investments as a model.  Let us be the “friendly bacteria” that benefit one another and not the “parasites” of society and earth.

Translated by Singapore Lapis Lazuli Light.
Article originally published in Chinese in Lapis Lazuli Light magazine (Feb 2004 issue); available at