Protect your bones with this free radical

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

February 1, 2021

Free radicals are bad for you, right? Not always. The truth is free radicals are only dangerous when you have too many of them.

Otherwise, they are absolutely critical for optimal health. And we’re finding that one free radical in particular is absolutely critical for your bones.

In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, you probably need more of this free radical. That’s because a study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association details how important this free radical is for your bone health.

In this study, the researchers followed 243 postmenopausal women. This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study — the best kind.

The researchers had half of the women apply 15 mg of nitroglycerin ointment to their skin every night. The other half applied a placebo ointment. Once you absorb nitroglycerin, your body converts it into nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is the free radical that’s so good for your bones. I’ve told you about nitric oxide before. It’s great for you blood pressure, your circulation, your oxygen usage, and so much more. Now this study gives us another use for it.

Improves Spinal Bone Density

The researchers had the participants apply the ointments for two years. Here’s what they found: After two years, the spinal bone density in the nitroglycerin group had increased 8% more than the placebo group.

They also measured the bone density in the hip. Once again the nitroglycerin group excelled. They had an increase of 10.7% better than the women using the placebo.

The researchers then measured the n-telopeptide levels in the urine of those taking the nitroglycerin. N-telopeptide is a biochemical marker that shows up in the urine when you lose bone. The higher the n-telopeptide levels, the more bone you’re losing.

The women using the nitroglycerin had a 54% reduction in their n-telopeptide levels.

That’s a big deal!

The only side effects they reported were headaches. A brief headache occurring right after using nitroglycerin is a common side effect. In this study, 35% of the women taking the nitroglycerin had these headaches.

How Does It Work?

Nitric oxide acts to stimulate the activity of the cells that produce bone. We call these cells osteoblasts. In addition, nitric oxide acts to suppress the activity of the osteoclast cells. These are the cells that are responsible for tearing down bone.

So should you run right out and ask your doctor to start you on some nitroglycerin ointment? I don’t think so. Notice that both groups had improvement. And notice that the nitroglycerin group had only a very modest improvement over the placebo.

Besides, it’s very easy to increase your nitric oxide levels without needing any drugs or the headaches that go along with them. Just exercise and eat plenty of leafy green vegetables. These are two proven ways to boost your nitric oxide levels naturally.

If that’s not enough, you can take a supplement that increases your nitric oxide levels without the headaches. There’s a lot more to nitric oxide, and I’ll explain all the details in upcoming articles. Stay tuned.


Jamal SA, Hamilton CJ, Eastell R, Cummings SR. Effect of nitroglycerin ointment on bone density and strength in postmenopausal women: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2011 Feb 23;305(8):800-7.

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