Crucial nutrients for strong bones & health
Medical research has discovered conclusive links between bone health and system-wide health.
Osteoporosis is one of the consequences of inadequate bone nutrition, but strong bones do much more than prevent life-altering fractures. Check the impact on strong bones and find the crucial nutrition.
The impact of bone health on overall health
Latest news in bone research
Scientists at the leading edge of osteology (bone research) are discovering that in addition to preventing fractures, a healthy skeletal system is also essential to (1-4):
- Immune strength
- Blood cell production
- Nervous system function
- Insulin sensitivity
- Energy metabolism
- Cardiovascular health
- Weight management
Find out how a comprehensive nutrient regimen, including calcium, trace minerals, and vitamins D3 and K optimizes bone health and total health.
The bone nutrition you need
Adequate bone nutrition hinges on the following group of nutrients that work synergistically to optimize bone health and fend off multiple diseases of aging: Calcium, vitamin D3, magnesium, vitamin K, potassium, boron, zinc, manganese, silicon, and lactoferrin.
Calcium accounts for 1-2% of adult human body weight, with more than 99% of total body calcium residing in the teeth and bones.
The remaining 1% is used in our electrically active tissues such as nerve and muscle, where it plays a vital signaling role.
Thus the skeleton is the body’s only storehouse of the calcium we need to sustain life itself, yet as we age we see a progressive decrease in the amount of calcium in our bones.
Consuming a readily-absorbed form of calcium, then, is essential for restocking that reservoir, but many people do not ingest adequate amounts of calcium. (5)
In order to absorb calcium from the diet or from supplements, the human body requires vitamin D.
For years, we believed that promoting calcium absorption from the intestinal tract was the chief function of vitamin D. But over the past decade there has been an explosion of scientific discoveries about vitamin D’s multiple roles throughout the body. (6,7)
We now recognize that vitamin D functions as a hormone, with receptors located in at least 35 different tissue types. That means the body’s overall requirement for vitamin D is much greater than we originally realized. (6-9)
With regard to bone health, vitamin D not only promotes calcium absorption but also its proper deposition in bone tissue, where it helps maintain the skeleton’s basic function as scaffold and protector of soft tissues. (10)
Elsewhere in the body, vitamin D acts at its specific receptors to promote immune function, subdue inflammation, reduce arterial calcification, enhance cardiac function, improve brain and nerve tissue performance, and even prevent cancer by regulating the cell replication cycle. (7,11, 12)
Conversely, vitamin D deficiency is associated with not only bone diseases, but also cardiovascular disease, the metabolic syndrome, cancer, immune suppression, and autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease. (10, 12-15)
The combination of our increased knowledge about the importance of vitamin D throughout the body, and the widespread lack of adequate levels, has resulted in a rapidly growing international call for increased vitamin D intake. (6,16-18)
Many experts in the field recommend supplementing with doses of 2,000-10,000 IU per day in order to achieve optimal total-body vitamin D status for optimal skeletal, cardiovascular, neurological, immunological, and metabolic health. (16,19-21)
While calcium and vitamin D have been considered the mainstays of bone nutrition and osteoporosis prevention, several other minerals are also essential to good bone health. (22,23)
Magnesium is an element that is involved in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions. Magnesium is also vital to human nerve and muscle cell function. Fully one-half to two-thirds of the total body content of magnesium is stored in bone — another example of the skeleton’s substantial role as reservoir for important minerals. (24,25)
While blood levels of magnesium remain virtually constant throughout life, the total body content diminishes with aging, leading to depletion of the skeletal stores.
Magnesium deficiency is therefore common among older adults, who typically consume inadequate amounts of magnesium-rich foods and whose physiology may contribute to increased losses of the element from the body. (26)
Deficiency of magnesium is a risk factor for osteoporosis and is also associated with a long list of other chronic ailments, many of which are themselves age-related. These include virtually all forms of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and diabetes, lipid disturbances, increased inflammation and oxidative stress, asthma, chronic fatigue, and depression. (26)
Plentiful consumption of magnesium is an important part of good bone nutrition. Higher dietary intakes are associated with higher bone mineral density. (24, 25, 27,28)
While the mechanisms of this effect are not entirely clear, it is known that magnesium supports a more alkaline environment in bone and other tissues, which helps to reduce calcium losses in the urine. (22, 27)
Magnesium also reduces markers of excessive bone turnover, helping bones retain their vital mineral mass. (29) Increasing magnesium intake improves bone mineral density and bone strength in both animal and human studies. (28,30)
Conversely, magnesium deficiency may impair the beneficial effects of calcium supplements. In magnesium-deficient rats, calcium supplements suppressed bone formation, a worrisome finding. (31)
That study serves as an important reminder of the importance of comprehensive bone nutrition that includes more than simply calcium and vitamin D. (22)
Simultaneously increasing calcium and magnesium intake helps promote a favourable change in cytokines that can promote bone formation. (32)
Attention to the importance of vitamin K2 in supporting bone health has grown over the past decade. It works alongside vitamin D3 to keep calcium in bones where it belongs and out of arterial walls where it does not. (33,34)
Vitamin K2 reduces production of bone-absorbing cells (osteoclasts) and promotes development of bone-forming cells (osteoblasts). (35,36)
Vitamin K2 is required for production of a small family of proteins that include the bone matrix proteins and the essential bone-produced hormone called osteocalcin. (8,37)
Healthy bone matrix proteins hold tightly to calcium and maintain bone’s integrity and strength, reducing your risk of osteoporosis.
And ample supplies of osteocalcin directly improve insulin sensitivity, reduce fat accumulation, and are associated with lower levels of leptin, a fat-produced hormone that’s implicated in the metabolic syndrome. (38,39)
Vitamin K2 increases osteocalcin production and improves bone mineral density, and may protect against fracture risk. (40-44)
Potassium is one of the predominant ions in the human body, and it is essential to maintaining health at the cellular level. An ion is a mineral or element that has a positive or negative charge. Even apparently minor potassium disturbances can produce significant cardiovascular disorders.
Older adults are at substantially increased risk for having low potassium levels, in part because of lower dietary consumption of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables and also because of the side effects of many common medications such as certain diuretics like furosemide, thiazides such as hydrochlorothiazide, asthma medications such as albuterol inhalers, and the cancer chemotherapy drug cisplatin. (45,46)
Potassium helps maintain a more alkaline or non-acidic tissue environment, which benefits bone health by reducing calcium losses in urine. People with higher potassium intake boast higher bone mineral density, reducing their risk of osteoporosis and potentially life-changing fractures. (27,47)
Animal studies show that increasing potassium intake in combination with exercise improves both bone density and bone mineral content. (48) A modest amount of potassium, therefore, is a wise addition to a bone-health regimen.
Boron is a trace mineral that is essential to healthy bones since it supports the functions of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. (49-52) In a revealing study, postmenopausal women consumed a boron-deficient diet for 17 weeks, followed by 7 weeks of boron consumption.
While on the boron-deficient diet, the women showed increased urinary loss of calcium and magnesium. When boron was re-introduced to their diet, urinary loss of calcium and magnesium declined, and hormones linked with healthy bone mass increased. These findings suggest that boron is crucial in helping maintain the body’s optimal stores of bone-building calcium and magnesium. (51)
Modern eating habits make it difficult to obtain adequate amounts of boron from the typical diet. Scientists have discovered a plant-based form of boron called calcium fructoborate.
Naturally found in fruits, vegetables, and other foods, this form of boron is highly stable and bioavailable and may provide antioxidant capabilities in addition to bone-building benefits. (53,54)
Zinc, manganese & silicon
The minerals zinc, manganese and silicon play important roles in optimal bone formation and health. Low levels of each of these minerals may contribute to bone loss, and increased intake improves bone health in animal and/or human studies. (55)
Why vitamin D & K is a powerful combination
Osteoporosis (decreased bone mass and bone mineral density) is a serious and growing healthcare problem in Europe.
And osteoporosis is only one of the consequences of inadequate bone nutrition.
The most recent research reveals that weak bones contribute to increased fat mass, decreased insulin sensitivity, inflammation, and greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
Morover, people with osteoporosis are more likely to exhibit atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of the arteries) in their blood vessels.
And those with atherosclerosis are more likely to possess lower bone mass. What do these groups have in common? Both conditions involve insufficiencies of D and K. (56-59)
While most people now know they need to maintain optimal levels of vitamin D, conventional medicine has failed to alert them to the equally vital need for vitamin K. Both of these synergistic nutrients are required to combat atherosclerosis and osteoporosis, two prevalent and life-threatening degenerative diseases.
Cutting-edge research points to the central role of two key nutrients to ensure optimal calcification of your bones while preventing pathologic calcification of your arteries: vitamins D and K.
It's becoming increasingly clear that we need both vitamins D and K to get our dietary calcium into bones, where it belongs, and to keep it out of arteries, where it doesn’t.
Vitamins D and K can work individually and together to keep our arteries young and supple — and to prevent the myriad disorders associated with arterial stiffening.
The power of lactoferrin
All the nutrients above provide the raw material for healthy bones.
However, the process of rebuilding weak bones caused by osteoporosis and building new ones is a complex operation that requires something more. As we age, old, unhealthy (senescent) cells accumulate within our bones and bodies.
These cells have lost the ability to replicate and refuse to die off to make way for new, healthy cells. Moreover, they secrete harmful signaling molecules that actively weaken bones and accelerate bodily aging. These signaling molecules increase the activity of cells that absorb bone and decrease the activity of bone-forming cells. The result is that the bones become weaker, more porous, and prone to fracture.
Research shows that the protein called lactoferrin gives bones the instructions they need to both reduce bone loss and increase the building of new bone. In one study, a lactoferrin product increased markers of bone-forming activity by 24% more than a placebo! (60)
Moreover, lactoferrin is known for its strong immune-boosting properties, and studies suggest that it can promote cellular regeneration helping the body heal and repair itself.
A typical dose of lactoferrin is 300 mg once or twice daily. Taken orally, lactoferrin is readily absorbed.
Read related blog post
- How to keep your bones & joints healthy
- 10 ways to stay mobile as you age
- Targeted nutrition & tips for WOMEN
- Targeted nutrition & tips for MEN
- See all blog posts
- Clemens TL, Karsenty G. The osteoblast: An insulin target cell controlling glucose homeostasis. J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Apr;26(4):677-80.
- Kim YS, Paik IY, Rhie YJ, Suh SH. Integrative physiology: defined novel metabolic roles of osteocalcin. J Korean Med Sci. 2010 Jul;25(7):985-91.
- Confavreux CB. Bone: from a reservoir of minerals to a regulator of energy metabolism. Kidney Int Suppl. 2011 Apr (121):S14-9.
- Available at: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1254517-overview. Accessed May 13, 2011.
- Cashman KD. Calcium intake, calcium bioavailability and bone health. Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S169-77.
- Norman AW, Bouillon R. Vitamin D nutritional policy needs a vision for the future. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2010 Sep;235(9):1034-45.
- Bacchetta J, Ranchin B, Dubourg L, Cochat P. Vitamin D revisited: a cornerstone of health? Arch Pediatr. 2010 Dec;17(12):1687-95.
- Kidd PM. Vitamins D and K as pleiotropic nutrients: clinical importance to the skeletal and cardiovascular systems and preliminary evidence for synergy. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Sep;15(3):199-222.
- Verhave G, Siegert CE. Role of vitamin D in cardiovascular disease. Neth J Med. 2010 Mar;68(3):113-8.
- Querales MI, Cruces ME, Rojas S, Sanchez L. Association between vitamin D deficiency and metabolic syndrome. Rev Med Chil. 2010 Oct;138(10):1312-8.
- Petchey WG, Hickman IJ, Duncan E, et al. The role of 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficiency in promoting insulin resistance and inflammation in patients with chronic kidney disease: a randomised controlled trial. BMC Nephrol. 2009;10:41.
- Guillot X, Semerano L, Saidenberg-Kermanac’h N, Falgarone G, Boissier MC. Vitamin D and inflammation. Joint Bone Spine. 2010 Dec;77(6):552-7.
- Edlich RF, Mason SS, Reddig JS, Gubler K, Long Iii WB. Revolutionary advances in the diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2010;29(2):85-9.
- Grant WB, Schwalfenberg GK, Genuis SJ, Whiting SJ. An estimate of the economic burden and premature deaths due to vitamin D deficiency in Canada. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Aug;54(8):1172-81.
- Jorde R, Sneve M, Hutchinson M, Emaus N, Figenschau Y, Grimnes G. Tracking of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels during 14 years in a population-based study and during 12 months in an intervention study. Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Apr 15;171(8):903-8.
- Holick MF. Vitamin D: evolutionary, physiological and health perspectives. Curr Drug Targets. 2011 Jan;12(1):4-18.
- Faloon W. Startling findings about vitamin D levels in Life Extension® members. Life Extension Magazine®. 2010 Jan;16(1):7-14.
- Wei MY, Giovannucci EL. Vitamin D and multiple health outcomes in the Harvard cohorts. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Aug;54(8):1114-26.
- Vieth R. Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 May;69(5):842-56.
- Vieth R. Vitamin D toxicity, policy, and science. J Bone Miner Res. 2007 Dec;22 Suppl 2:V64-8.
- Garland CF, French CB, Baggerly LL, Heaney RP. Vitamin D supplement doses and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the range associated with cancer prevention. Anticancer Res. 2011 Feb;31(2):607-11.
- Kitchin B, Morgan SL. Not just calcium and vitamin D: other nutritional considerations in osteoporosis. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2007 Apr;9(1):85-92.
- Tucker KL. Osteoporosis prevention and nutrition. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2009 Dec;7(4):111-7.
- Martini LA. Magnesium supplementation and bone turnover. Nutr Rev. 1999 Jul;57(7):227-9.
- Matsuzaki H. Prevention of osteoporosis by foods and dietary supplements. Magnesium and bone metabolism. Clin Calcium. 2006 Oct;16(10):1655-60.
- Barbagallo M, Belvedere M, Dominguez LJ. Magnesium homeostasis and aging. Magnes Res. 2009 Dec;22(4):235-46.
- Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, Cupples LA, Wilson PW, Kiel DP. Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Apr;69(4):727-36.
- Ryder KM, Shorr RI, Bush AJ, et al. Magnesium intake from food and supplements is associated with bone mineral density in healthy older white subjects. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Nov;53(11):1875-80.
- Aydin H, Deyneli O, Yavuz D, et al. Short-term oral magnesium supplementation suppresses bone turnover in postmenopausal osteoporotic women. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2010 Feb;133(2):136-43.
- Toba Y, Kajita Y, Masuyama R, Takada Y, Suzuki K, Aoe S. Dietary magnesium supplementation affects bone metabolism and dynamic strength of bone in ovariectomized rats. J Nutr. 2000 Feb;130(2):216-20.
- Matsuzaki H, Miwa M. Dietary calcium supplementation suppresses bone formation in magnesium-deficient rats. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2006 May;76(3):111-6.
- Bae YJ, Kim MH. Calcium and Magnesium Supplementation Improves Serum OPG/RANKL in Calcium-Deficient Ovariectomized Rats. Calcif Tissue Int. 2010 Oct;87(4):365-72.
- Wallin R, Schurgers L, Wajih N. Effects of the blood coagulation vitamin K as an inhibitor of arterial calcification. Thromb Res. 2008;122(3):411-7.
- Fodor D, Albu A, Poanta L, Porojan M. Vitamin K and vascular calcifications. Acta Physiol Hung. 2010 Sep;97(3):256-66.
- Yamaguchi M, Uchiyama S, Tsukamoto Y. Inhibitory effect of menaquinone-7 (vitamin K2) on the bone-resorbing factors-induced bone resorption in elderly female rat femoral tissues in vitro. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Mar;245(1-2):115-20.
- Yamaguchi M, Weitzmann MN. Vitamin K2 stimulates osteoblastogenesis and suppresses osteoclastogenesis by suppressing NF-kappaB activation. Int J Mol Med. 2011 Jan;27(1):3-14.
- Gravenstein KS, Napora JK, Short RG, et al. Cross-sectional evidence of a signaling pathway from bone homeostasis to glucose metabolism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Mar 9.
- Ducy P. The role of osteocalcin in the endocrine cross-talk between bone remodelling and energy metabolism. Diabetologia. 2011Jun;54(6):1291-7.
- Takemura H. Prevention of osteoporosis by foods and dietary supplements. “Kinnotsubu honegenki”: a fermented soybean (natto) with reinforced vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7). Clin Calcium. 2006 Oct;16(10):1715-22.
- Tsukamoto Y. Studies on action of menaquinone-7 in regulation of bone metabolism and its preventive role of osteoporosis. Biofactors. 2004;22(1-4):5-19.
- van Summeren MJ, Braam LA, Lilien MR, Schurgers LJ, Kuis W, Vermeer C. The effect of menaquinone-7 (vitamin K2) supplementation on osteocalcin carboxylation in healthy prepubertal children. Br J Nutr. 2009 Oct;102(8):1171-8.
- Forli L, Bollerslev J, Simonsen S, et al. Dietary vitamin K2 supplement improves bone status after lung and heart transplantation. Transplantation. 2010 Feb 27;89(4):458-64.
- Inoue T, Fujita T, Kishimoto H, et al. Randomized controlled study on the prevention of osteoporotic fractures (OF study): a phase IV clinical study of 15-mg menatetrenone capsules. J Bone Miner Metab. 2009;27(1):66-75.
- Shea MK, Booth SL. Update on the role of vitamin K in skeletal health. Nutr Rev. 2008 Oct;66(10):549-57
- Luckey AE, Parsa CJ. Fluid and electrolytes in the aged. Arch Surg. 2003 Oct;138(10):1055-60.
- Passare G, Viitanen M, Torring O, Winblad B, Fastbom J. Sodium and potassium disturbances in the elderly : prevalence and association with drug use. Clin Drug Investig. 2004;24(9):535-44.
- McCarty MF. Rationale for a novel nutraceutical complex ‘K-water’: potassium taurine bicarbonate (PTB). Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(1):65-70.
- Rico H, Aznar L, Hernandez ER, et al. Effects of potassium bicarbonate supplementation on axial and peripheral bone mass in rats on strenuous treadmill training exercise. Calcif Tissue Int. 1999 Sep;65(3):242-5.
- Schaafsma A, de Vries PJ, Saris WH. Delay of natural bone loss by higher intakes of specific minerals and vitamins. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2001 May;41(4):225-49.
- Miggiano GA, Gagliardi L. Diet, nutrition and bone health. Clin Ter. 2005 Jan-Apr;156(1-2):47-56.
- Nielsen FH, Hunt CD, Mullen LM, Hunt JR. Effect of dietary boron on mineral, estrogen,and testosterone metabolism in postmenopausal women. FASEB J. 1987 Nov;1(5):394-7.
- Hegsted M, Keenan MJ, Siver F, Wozniak P. Effect of boron on vitamin D deficient rats. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1991 Mar;28(3):243-55.
- Palacios C. The role of nutrients in bone health, from A to Z. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(8):621-8.
- Scorei R, Cimpoiasu VM, Iordachescu D. In vitro evaluation of the antioxidant activity of calcium fructoborate. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2005 Nov;107(2):127-34.
- Pepa GD, Brandi ML. Microelements for bone boost: the last but not the least. Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2016 Sep-Dec;13(3):181-5.
- Tintut Y, Demer LL. Recent advances in multifactorial regulation of vascular calcification. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2001 Oct;12(5):555-60.
- Jie KS, Bots ML, Vermeer C, Witteman JC, Grobbee DE. Vitamin K intake and osteocalcin levels in women with and without aortic atherosclerosis: a population-based study. Atherosclerosis. 1995 Jul;116(1):117-23.
- Jie KG, Bots ML, Vermeer C, Witteman JC, Grobbee DE. Vitamin K status and bone mass in women with and without aortic atherosclerosis: a population-based study. Calcif Tissue Int. 1996 Nov;59(5):352-6.
- Hmamouchi I, Allali F, Khazzani H, et al. Low bone mineral density is related to atherosclerosis in postmenopausal Moroccan women. BMC Public Health. 2009;9:388.
- Bharadwaj S, Naidu AG, Betageri GV, et al. Milk ribonuclease-enriched lactoferrin induces positive effects on bone turnover markers in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2009 Sep;20(9):1603-11.