Nutrition & bone health
Key vitamins for bone health — vitamin K1 and K2
by Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD
While vitamin K is best known for its role in blood clotting, this nutrient also
plays an important part in the maintenance of healthy bones. Noted nutrition authority
Dr. Alan Gaby has suggested that vitamin K is as important to bone as calcium. So let’s follow Dr. Gaby’s lead and delve a little
deeper into its role in bone health.
Vitamin K is required for the synthesis of osteocalcin, the bone protein
matrix upon which calcium crystallizes. Osteocalcin provides the structure and order
to bone tissue; without it bone would be fragile and easily broken. Vitamin K also
aids in the binding of calcium to the bone matrix — in essence, it serves
as the “glue” that binds calcium onto the skeleton.
Just as vitamin K is central to bone formation, so it appears to play an
important role in fracture healing. Vitamin K levels fall during recovery
from fracture, and it appears that this nutrient is actually drawn from the rest
of the body to the site of fracture to speed
Vitamin K is not a single nutrient, but the name given to a group of vitamins of
similar composition. The two main groups that occur naturally are phylloquinone,
or K1, which is found in plant-based foods, particularly green leafy vegetables;
and the menaquinones, or K2, which are produced by bacteria in fermented
foods and to some minor extent in our intestinal tracts. In combination with vitamin D and calcium, both vitamins K1 and K2 increase bone quality. But
vitamin K2 is more bioavailable, longer lasting, and provides for greater increase
in bone strength.
The more we learn about K, the more we see how it takes on various forms and roles
in the body. To date most of the research has been done on K1. But a new wave of
research is now focusing on K2 — in particular the subset of K2 known as menaquinone–7,
or MK–7. This research documents the superior ability of MK-7 over K1 to enhance
both bone and heart health. Getting enough of the K2 forms of this vitamin has been
found to be especially important for healthy bones in patients being treated with
oral anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin). (Read more about vitamin K research at the Better Bones Foundation.)
Aside from getting K through dietary sources, vitamin K can also be produced in
the body by certain beneficial intestinal bacteria. Long-term use of antibiotics
compromise this process and can lead to vitamin K deficiency. Aside from oral antibiotic
and anticoagulant use, culprits in vitamin K inadequacy include the freezing of
foods, mineral oil laxatives, rancid and hydrogenated fats, radiation, impaired
fat absorption, sulfa drugs, and certain liver diseases.
To learn more, read my article on vitamin
K — the overlooked bone builder and heart protector.
Return to table
The Personal Program for Better Bones: the approach I recommend for naturally strong bones.
At the Center for Better Bones we promote an all-natural approach to bone regeneration
and repair that includes nutrition, diet, exercise, lifestyle guidance, and support.
The Personal Program for Better Bones is a convenient,
at-home version of this approach that was developed with Women to Women, one of America's premiere on-line women's
health websites. Working together, we've developed the most comprehensive approach
to bones health available today, and based on the 25 years of Dr. Brown's leading-edge
research in the field.
Questions about the Personal Program for Better Bones? Call toll-free at
Original Publication Date: 01/01/2009
Last Modified: 07/10/2012
Principal Author: Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD