Most athletes know the importance of strong bones in order to prevent injuries like the dreaded stress fractures. Most will also know that calcium and vitamin D intake are essential for building healthy bones. However, what is often overlooked are the other nutritional factors that play a role in bone health such as protein, magnesium and the topic of this week: vitamin K.
Vitamin K is actually a group of fat soluble vitamins. The most predominant type of vitamin K found in the human diet is vitamin K1. Green leafy foods such as kale, Swiss chard or broccoli are rich sources of vitamin K1. While not playing an important role in bone health, Vitamin K1 plays an important role in producing proteins that help with blood clotting.
Another type of vitamin K is K2. Vitamin K2 is the type of vitamin K that is important for maintaining strong bones and is linked with improved bone mineral density. Interestingly, vitamin K2 also plays a role in calcium transport and helps prevent calcium deposit in the lining of blood vessels. Vitamin K2 is made by bacteria in our gut and is also found in fermented foods like natto, sauerkraut, cheese and yogurt, as well as some protein rich foods like egg yolk, chicken, pork and ground beef.
Vitamin K2 supplementation has been used in the treatment of osteoporosis to improve bone mineral density. However, while some studies do show an improvement in bone mineral density, not all are in agreement with this and there is not sufficient evidence to recommend vitamin K supplementation in the treatment of osteoporosis. In addition, adequate intake of vitamin K is not going to make up for poor intake of calcium and vitamin D, which should be a continued priority from a bone health perspective. If you missed last week’s blog on calcium and vitamin D intake, click here.
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