Date Published: 8 November 2006

Vitamin K deficiency may increase risk of osteoporosis

A recent study has suggested that the impairment of vitamin K function could adversely affect bone health and contribute to the development of osteoporosis (see books about osteoporosis). The results of the study indicated that one of the early effects of declining estrogen is the impairment of vitamin K function in bone even before any bone loss that could be attributed to menopause can be measured.

" Our study suggests that the generally accepted level of vitamin K in healthy women is inadequate to maintain bone health just at the onset of menopause," said Jane Lukacs, author of the recent study which was conducted at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Vitamin K is necessary for the complete functioning of the bone protein osteocalcin. This protein is part of the bone structure when it is carboxylated (a chemical modification of the protein that changes its shape making it easy to bind to calcium) in the presence of sufficient vitamin K. When sufficient vitamin K is available, osteocalcin can bind to calcium in the bone environment.

The study used volunteer human subjects who were all healthy middle-aged women or young adult women. It involved taking blood tests, interviewing the subjects about their dietary habits and calculation of the subjects' body mass index (BMI), as well as measurement of the bone mineral density of the subjects' lumbar spine and the non-dominant hip.

According to Lukacs,

" Many factors contribute to the development of osteoporosis and fracture risk,"
" Part of our effort in this study was to examine vitamin K as a novel nutritional factor that may play a role in bone health in a group of women well characterized for their vitamin nutriture, reproductive status and age, something that is rarely attempted in descriptive studies."

Lukacs suggests eating well and exercising safely.

" In early menopause, increase your intake of dark green vegetables and vegetable oils on a daily basis," she said.
" In adolescence and early adulthood, the incorporation of weight-bearing exercise is crucial because we also observed lower bone density in the hip of premenopausal women in their late 40's well before the onset of menopause.She said it will be important to explore whether vitamin K supplementation in the early postmenopause will offer an additional intervention for women concerned about their future risk of fracture."

The results of the study referred to above are published in the September/October 2006 issue of Menopause (volume 13, issue 5.)

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