Bone health is often discussed in the context of young children and aging adults, but what about everyone in between? Is there anything we can do or should do to support our bones throughout adulthood?
Even though your bones are fully formed and peak bone mass is reached by around age 20, you might be surprised to learn that your bones are completely dynamic. They are constantly being remodeled over your lifetime, which involves two important processes that dissolve and replace bone tissue to keep bones healthy and strong.
Your bone cells are always hard at work
Mature bone tissue is removed or ‘resorbed’ from the body’s skeleton by bone cells called osteoclasts, and new bone tissue forms in its place by bone cells called osteoblasts. Even though we’re not physically aware of this process, it’s estimated that 100% of the bone skeleton is replaced in the first year of life and 10% is replaced every year in adulthood.
When bone remodeling is interrupted or not supported, we have an increased risk of poor bone structure and bone health disease. Osteoporosis is a condition where the bone is dissolving and losing minerals faster than it can be replaced, making bones hollow, porous, and very susceptible to fractures (hence the word osteoporosis, which means ‘pores/holes’ in the bones).
But osteoporosis does not happen overnight—it begins with a condition known as osteopenia, which is a demineralization of the bones. So how can we take steps to keep our bone structure strong and to support bone remodeling? Many factors play a role, including genetics, nutrients, lifestyle, and the food we eat.
Vitamin K2 supports calcium and D3
Calcium and vitamin D3 are well-known nutrients needed for supporting bone health, both of which are fairly prevalent in North American diets. But there are many other vitamins and minerals are also critical, including magnesium, boron, zinc, and vitamin K2. These are all important in proper bone maintenance to make sure calcium is directed to the bones and not deposited elsewhere in the body such as in the heart or kidneys.
Vitamin K2 in particular has really captured the spotlight for its role in bone health, as it’s been shown to significantly improve mineralization and metabolism in bones. Vitamin K2 activates a special protein called matrix Gla protein (MGP), which delivers calcium you take in from your diet to the bone and integrates it into the bone matrix. It also activates another protein called osteocalcin, which helps to form strong collagen bands in the bone that protect from fractures.
Vitamin K2 plays a role from childhood
The prevention of osteoporosis actually begins in childhood and adolescence—we should strive to gain as much bone density as possible by the age of 20-30 and then to maintain that density for the rest of adulthood. Vitamin K2 MK-7, in particular, is important for incorporating calcium properly into quickly developing bone structure.
Vitamin K2 is also needed to protect the cartilage in the growth plates of the bones from prematurely calcifying. This cartilage is essential for the bones to grow longer. Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin K during childhood years can have a significant impact on bone mineral density and decreased bone turnover. In a 2009 study, children who supplemented with 45 mcg of K2 MK-7 over 8 weeks were found to have increased concentrations of both circulating K2 MK-7 and osteocalcin (the protein that helps form strong collagen bonds in the bone).
Ensuring optimal levels through adolescence and beyond of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3, K1 and K2 and zinc from a varied diet and supplementation is essential in providing the building blocks for the bones to grow and be maintained.
Are you getting enough vitamin K2?
Dietary sources of K2 can be hard to come by. Good dietary sources of K2 include animal products from pasture-raised livestock and fermented foods, which are often not consumed regularly. So for most people, K2 deficiency is a risk and therefore supplementation can be ideal. CanPrev’s Osteo Prolong and Vitamin K2 (liquid or soft gels) are formulated with these nutrients—and they work best when taken together to help maintain bone health, while also supporting healthy muscles, teeth and skin.
If you are taking prescription medications like anticoagulants, be sure to consult your physician or other healthcare practitioner about K2 doses. Blood thinners such as warfarin and other 4-hydroxycoumarins work by inhibiting the action of vitamin K.
For a complete primer on vitamin K2 (including why it’s important and how it works), click here.
pH balance is key
pH balance in the body is another factor important for bone health that is not usually addressed or well known. pH refers to ‘potential for hydrogen’ and is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity. The lower the pH number, the more acidic. The higher the number, the more alkaline. Generally speaking, 7.0 is considered ‘neutral,’ below 7 is acidic, and above 7 is alkaline.
How does pH impact bone health?
Blood needs to stay at a pH level of 7.0-7.4, which is a fairly neutral state. If it drops below 7, the body will begin to draw on minerals (which are alkaline by nature) to help keep the blood in a neutral state. This is a problem for our bones, as they are the biggest reserve of alkaline minerals in the body!
Lifestyle factors like chronic stress, smoking, excessive exercise (or not enough) and environmental toxins can be acidifying. So can eating an imbalanced diet low in fruit and vegetables and high in sugar, grains, soda and salt. On the other hand, calcium, potassium, and magnesium are the alkaline nutrients that we want to stay in our bones, but that help to buffer the blood if required.
Can Prev’s pH Pro is a formula containing sodium bicarbonate, spirulina, magnesium bicarbonate and potassium, which are alkaline nutrients that decrease acidity and keep those precious nutrients in the bones. pH test strips are included in each bottle so you can check your pH using urine or saliva.
Eat this, not that.
Beverages such as soft drinks and energy drinks should be limited at all ages. They contain phosphoric acid and caffeine, which increase the amount of calcium lost from the bones. Salt should also be limited because it leads to calcium loss—so processed foods, for example, should be consumed with caution.
In adulthood, multiple lifestyle factors can add up to deplete bone minerals such physical inactivity, smoking, stress, alcohol, recreational drugs, increased consumption of salt, caffeine and sugar, pharmaceutical drugs such as corticosteroids and proton pump inhibitors, and hormonal changes in women.
Pregnancy and beyond
Even pregnancy can leave the female depleted in many nutrients, as the requirement for calcium is very high to support the developing skeletal frame and formation of teeth. Supplementing with a high quality, nutrient packed prenatal vitamin ensures that mom is receiving therapeutic amounts of bioavailable calcium, vitamin D3 and K2 for baby.
Pregnant women can become calcium deficient because of substantial skeletal remodeling to prepare for birth and the baby’s high demand for skeletal formation. In extreme cases, this can result in pregnancy-associated osteoporosis. Supplementing with K2 has been shown to relieve this pain and improve bone health in expectant mothers.
Keeping bone health top of mind is important at every age and stage! Providing your body with the best nutrients to supply critical bone remodeling can make all the difference from a prevention standpoint. For those at risk of developing bone health conditions related to mineral deficiency, or those looking to increase mineral intake and absorption, speak with your natural healthcare provider about what supplements might be right for you.
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- Anatomy & Physiology, 2013. Chapter 6. Bone Tissue and the Skeletal System https://opentextbc.ca/anatomyandphysiology/chapter/6-4-bone-formation-and-development/
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- Cario-Toumaniantz, C. Boularan, L. J. Schurgers, M.-F. Heymann, M. L. Cunff, J. Léger, G. Loirand, and P. Pacaud, “Identification of Differentially Expressed Genes in Human Varicose Veins: Involvement of Matrix Gla Protein in Extracellular Matrix Remodeling,” Journal of Vascular Research, vol. 44, no. 6, pp. 444–459, 2007
- Arnett, T. R. (2008). Extracellular pH Regulates Bone Cell Function. The Journal of Nutrition, 138(2). doi:10.1093/jn/138.2.415s
- Inaba, T. Sato, and T. Yamashita, “Low-Dose Daily Intake of Vitamin K2 (Menaquinone-7) Improves Osteocalcin γ-Carboxylation: A DoubleBlind, Randomized Controlled Trials,” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, vol. 61, no. 6, pp. 471–480, 2015.
CanPrev is an all-Canadian company that develops premium natural health products to healthcare professionals and select health food retailers.