Vitamin K factors into activating calcium hydroxyapatite, which is a highly absorbable form of calcium almost identical to that naturally found in the body
We all grew up being told to drink our milk because it would help us build strong bones. As adults, we were told to eat foods high in calcium and take calcium supplements, to prevent bone loss and risk of fractures when we got older. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and another 44 million have low bone density, both of which can increase the risk of a bone fracture and point to needed vitamin K factors in supplementation.
Vitamin k factors in bone loss
Approximately half of all Americans ages 50 and older are at risk of breaking a bone, due to either osteoporosis or bone loss.1
Furthermore, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that osteoporosis rates are still increasing, particularly among women.2 Given the extensive body of research on the benefits of calcium for preventing bone loss, it would seem puzzling that rates for osteoporosis and low bone density are still on the rise. This would seem to lead to the obvious question of whether or not our patients are getting the right kind of calcium supplementation.
Vitamin K has been the focus of recent study because it can both increase bone density and improve cardiovascular health. Let’s take a look at the ability of vitamin K to build up bone mass and protect the arteries, some recent studies on combining vitamin K and vitamin D, and good food sources of vitamin K to recommend to your patients.
General bone health and vitamin k
Although it is true that vitamin D does help maintain calcium levels, it may not be quite the same as what the body naturally produces. On the other hand, vitamin K factors into activating calcium hydroxyapatite, which is a highly absorbable form of calcium almost identical to that naturally found in the body.
This type of calcium formation will not only increase bone mineral density, but may actually strengthen the bones, thereby reducing the risk of fractures. Therefore, the most beneficial type of calcium for healthy bones comes from a combination of vitamin D and vitamin K.3,4,5
Vitamin K for cardiovascular health
Ongoing research has shown that vascular calcification, or hardening, can be a leading predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.3
Interestingly, the same activation process within vitamin K that helps direct calcium hydroxyapatite toward the bones and teeth may also prevent or reduce calcification of the coronary or peripheral arteries via production of a protective protein synthesized by vascular smooth muscle cells.3,6
Foods rich in vitamin K
Although many of your patients may require supplementation beyond diet, many foods rich in vitamin K factors into other health benefits.
Such foods include:
- Leafy greens, such as kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, collard greens, or spinach
- Chicken, pork chops, or beef liver in moderate amounts
- Some hard or soft cheeses in moderate amounts
Of course, diet is not enough to help keep the bones healthy. Your patients should also be engaging in a regular exercise routine to keep their joints, ligaments, and tendons strong.
Such lifestyle changes, combined with a supplement that includes both vitamin D and vitamin K, will keep your patient’s bones strong and prevent their arteries from hardening.
- Osteoporosis Fast Facts. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Accessed Sept. 30, 2021.
- Sarafrazi N, Wambogo EA, Shepherd JA. Osteoporosis or low bone mass in older adults: United States, 2017-2018. NCHS Data Brief, No. 405. March 2021. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- O’Keefe JH, Bergman N, Carrera-Bastos P, et al. Nutritional strategies for skeletal and cardiovascular health: Hard bones, soft arteries, rather than vice versa. Open Heart. 2016;3(1):e000325.
- van Ballegooijen AJ, Pilz S, Tomaschitz A, et al. The synergistic interplay between vitamins D and K for bone and cardiovascular health: A narrative review. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2017;2017:7454376.
- Ambrożewicz E, Muszyńska M, Tokajuk G, et al. Beneficial effects of vitamins K and D3 on redox balance of human osteoblasts cultured with hydroxyapatite-based biomaterials. Cells. 2019;8(4):325.
- Maresz K. Proper calcium use: Vitamin K2 as a promoter of bone and cardiovascular health. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal. 2015;14(1):34-39.