Vitamin K is essential for many processes in the body, including the maintenance of the skeleton. We know less about the role of vitamin K in bone health than we do about calcium and vitamin D, but research tells us that not getting enough vitamin K from the diet may lead to weaker bones and an increased risk of fractures.
Vitamin K2 appears to be the most important form of vitamin K for bone health. Recently, scientists have been studying the relationship between vitamin K2 and bone in more detail, carrying out trials to investigate how vitamin K2 supplements may improve bone health in some people. The research has focussed on women who have been through menopause – this group is most at risk of developing osteoporosis and suffering fractures.
So far, the research shows that vitamin K2 supplements:
• Slow down the rate of bone weakening after menopause
• Increase bone strength and may decrease the number of fractures in women with osteoporosis
• May boost the effectiveness of osteoporosis medications
These results are encouraging.
It is important to remember that, as with calcium and vitamin D supplements, increasing vitamin K2 levels alone cannot reverse osteoporosis. Although vitamin K2 improves bone strength, we don’t know definitely whether this leads to a reduction in the risk of fractures, as clinical trials are needed to answer this question.
For most people diagnosed with osteoporosis-specific osteoporosis, medications must be taken to significantly reduce the risk of having a fracture.
Vitamin K2 and diet
It is always best to try to get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet. Vitamin K2 is found in meat, eggs and dairy foods, especially fermented products such as cheese and yoghurt (which are also high in calcium). Vitamin K2 levels are particularly high in a fermented soybean product known as natto. When bones start to weaken naturally with age, evidence suggests that getting the right amount of vitamin K2 is even more important.
Vitamin K2 supplements
Research has shown that vitamin K2 supplements are safe for most people (people taking certain blood-thinning drugs, including warfarin, should not use vitamin K supplements), and can help improve the bone health of postmenopausal women2. Studies suggest that a form of vitamin K2 known as MK-7 may be most effective for bone health. More research is needed to understand the potential benefits for men or younger people and to establish the most appropriate dose. If you are considering taking a vitamin K2 supplement, OA recommends that you discuss this with your doctor.