Bone mass peaks at around age 30 in women, after which bone breakdown outpaces new bone formation. This net loss of bone mass over time increases the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures and the pain and disability that accompany them.
Good bone health depends on adequate intake of many nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus, and several B-vitamins. Weight-bearing exercise plays an integral part, too. As the bones are "stressed" by this type of exercise, they're stimulated to lay down more bone tissue.
Vitamin K = better bones
Previous studies have found that vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and one form of vitamin K2 (menaquinone-4) can improve bone health in postmenopausal women. The aim of the current study was to evaluate whether similar effects could be seen with another form of vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7).
In the current study, 244 postmenopausal women took 180 micrograms of vitamin K2 (as menaquinone-7) per day or a placebo for three years. Bone mineral density, bone mineral content, vertebral fracture risk, and measures of bone strength were taken at baseline and after one, two, and three years of treatment.
Women in the placebo group had the expected age-related decline in bone mineral density and bone mineral content.
Compared with placebo, Vitamin K2 had a positive effect on bone health after three years.
Vitamin K2 significantly decreased bone mineral content and bone mineral density losses in the lumbar spine and femoral neck.
Vitamin K2 improved bone strength and decreased vertebral fracture risk.
"Our findings support the European Food Safety Authorities' acceptance of the health claim that a cause and effect relationship has been established between vitamin K and maintenance of normal bone," the researchers concluded.
Keeping bones healthy as you age
Beyond making sure that you're getting enough basic nutrients, try these strategies to keep your bones healthy and strong as you age:
- Skip the soda: Regular consumption of cola-based sodas can decrease a woman's hipbone density by almost 4%. If you crave that fizz, opt for seltzer water with a splash of fruit juice.
- Quit smoking: Women who smoke are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Smokers tend to go into menopause at an earlier age, which could partially explain this association.
- Go heavy: Without the action of muscles pulling on bones to generate new bone tissue, bones quickly lose mass. One of the best ways to build new bone is to do weight-bearing exercise. This doesn't mean that you have to hit the gym hard; a simple walk around the neighborhood and a few modified push-ups every day will go a long way to boosting your bones.
- Start early: Half of the bone loss a woman will experience in her lifetime occurs during the first several years after her last period. Since it's easier to prevent bone loss than it is to rebuild bones, make sure you get the exercise and nutrients you need throughout your life.
(Osteoporos Int 2013; DOI 10.1007/s00198-013-2325-6)