When osteoporosis knocks on life’s door so hard it splinters a bone, you rarely think of seeking out a replacement—hopping in the car and driving to the nearest supermarket to pick out a nice-looking femur. Yet, that is exactly the innate reaction of your body, and with the right nutrients, you can ceaselessly replace your bones without second thought. Is it possible a vitamin can help?
Few people realize that the entire skeleton is constantly being remodeled. All your bone mass is completely replaced approximately every 7 years. Bone is comprised of a hard-outer shell and spongy
“Vitamin K2 Naturally Builds Stronger, Healthier Bones”
inner tissue matrix, which is a living substance. The bone replacement process is regulated by osteoblasts, cells that build up the skeleton, and osteoclasts, which break it down. As long as the bone-forming activity (absorption) is greater than the bone-breakdown (resorption), the process of maintaining healthy bones is kept under control. But for that balance, the body requires certain nutrients to ensure that it is operating optimally. Before starting prescription medications for supplementing bone growth, there are some key nutrients to consider that have been proven as safe and effective treatment options without potentially harmful side effects.
THE MISSING LINK
Many studies show calcium is an important nutrient to build bones, and many of us recognize that supplementing with calcium is important. However, there have been some concerns that calcium can hasten heart disease. In some studies, calcium supplementation has been linked to higher risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke. Because these studies made headlines, many people have abandoned their calcium supplementation—ignoring their bone health out of fear they will damage their cardiovascular health. This is a huge mistake. Our bodies cannot produce calcium on their own, and it is required for many functions in the body, including building strong bones. The answer is to take calcium with vitamin K2, as this nutrient plays a critical role in regulating calcium metabolism.
Vitamin K2, specifically as menaquinone-7 (MK-7), has been shown to increase the activation of 2 important vitamin K-dependent proteins: osteocalcin and matrix GLA protein (MGP). Once activated, osteocalcin binds calcium to the bone matrix, while MGP inhibits calcium from depositing into arteries and blood vessels. In this way, vitamin K2 helps the body simultaneously build strong, dense bones while protecting cardiovascular systems from dangerous calcium deposits. There is strong clinical evidence to support this: In recent studies, a specific brand of vitamin K2 as MK-7 called MenaQ7, not only improved bone mineral density, bone mineral content, and bone strength, it also stopped age-related arterial stiffening and improved arterial flexibility. In the first study, the research team monitored 244 healthy postmenopausal women who were randomly selected to receive either 180 mcg of MenaQ7 or a placebo daily for 3 years. The supplementation group significantly increased the circulating active osteocalcin (cOC), a well-established biomarker for bone and vitamin-K status. After 3 years of supplementation, improvements in both bone mineral content and bone mineral density were statistically significant in the MK-7 group. Moreover, bone strength was statistically improved. In the second study, the same research group took recognized standard measurements for cardiovascular health (pulse wave velocity and ultrasound techniques) from the same group of 244 healthy postmenopausal women. Results confirmed that carotid artery distensibility was significantly improved after a 3-year period when compared to the placebo group. Also, pulse wave velocity significantly decreased in the MenaQ7 group, but not the placebo group, demonstrating an increase in arterial elasticity and reduction in age-related arterial stiffening. In other words, the arteries became more healthy and flexible. By keeping calcium in your bones and out of your arteries, where calcium buildup can lead to artery clogging heart disease and strokes, vitamin K2 is an essential nutrient for promoting bone and cardiovascular health simultaneously.
Bone health is not solely a concern for the elderly and aging. In fact, the probability of developing a bone disease later in life is closely related to the amount of bone mass one accumulates before age 30, so it is essential to adopt good bone-building habits early. Up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is acquired by the time girls are 18 years old and boys are 20. Just a 10-percent increase in bone mass is estimated to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fracture in adult life by 50 percent. A 2014 study published in Food & Function revealed that healthy children have the largest tissue-specific vitamin-K deficiency—8 to 10 times more inactive osteocalcin—followed by adults 40 years and older. And still more research has emphasized the importance of MK-7 supplementation: A 2009 study indicated that improving vitamin-K status in children during a 2-year period resulted in stronger, denser bones. A year later it was demonstrated that in healthy pre-pubertal children, modest supplementation with MenaQ7 vitamin K2 as MK-7 increased osteocalcin activation. In this 8-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, just 45 micrograms of vitamin K2 as MK-7 increased osteocalcin carboxylation, the 2009 British Journal of Nutrition study concluded.
OTHER SUPPLEMENTS THAT BENEFIT BONE HEALTH
In addition to vitamin K2 as MK-7, calcium, vitamin D3, magnesium, strontium, boron, and silica are important nutrients to add to the protocol for osteoporosis. Both magnesium and vitamin D are necessary to help the body effectively utilize calcium. It’s critical to know your vitamin D levels, so you know how much vitamin D you should be supplementing with; this can be easily tested from the comfort of your own home. Speaking as a scientific advisory board member for the Organic & Natural Health Association, that organization has recently launched an initiative called, “The Power of D,” making it possible for anyone to order a vitamin D testing kit for use in the privacy of their own home. Not only will you be able to discover your vitamin D levels, you can become part of the international study that is designed to learn more about the influence vitamin D has on many areas of your health. Adding strontium, which must be taken apart from calcium, to an oral supplementation regimen has been shown to increase bone mineral density. Boron and silica are other nutrients that are not as well studied in osteoporosis but certainly safe and may be effective in preventing further bone loss or building up bone strength. And if there are no contraindications, bioidentical hormone replacement is an effective treatment to maintain bone strength, using transdermal estradiol, Estoril, progesterone, and sometimes testosterone, depending on blood levels. Estradiol protects bones, and many studies show it prevents the advancement of osteoporosis. Some Japanese studies hint that Estoril can increase bone density when taken with calcium. In conclusion, the supplementation combination of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, strontium, and possibly boron and silica in conjunction with bioidentical hormone replacement and weight-bearing exercise is a powerful regimen when it comes to osteoporosis challenges.
Dana Cohen, MD, is a nationally renowned internal and integrative medicine specialist whose multi-disciplinary approach helped treat thousands of patients using a variety of conventional and complementary therapies. www.drdanacohen.com