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D.iet & H.ealth : N.utrition Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Vitamin K essential for bone health
By Ben Wasserman
Sep 24, 2006, 14:24

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24 Sept. ( - Many scientists believe vitamin K deficiency is uncommon. But women in early post-menopause may not have enough vitamin K, which is essential for bone health, suggests a new study published in the September/October 2006 issue of Menopause.

Jane Lukacs, Ph.D., first author of the study, from the University of Michigan School of Nursing and colleagues suggested that impairment of vitamin K function, a result of declining estrogen, could contribute to the development of osteoporosis.

"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," Lukacs said.

The study involved 38 healthy women aged 40 to 52 and 21 young adult women aged 20 to 30. Participants were subject to blood tests, interviews to determine dietary habits and measurement of bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and the non-dominant hip.

Calcium and vitamin D are known to be important for bone health, prompting many to drink a lot of milk. But vitamin K is little known for its function in the maintenance of bone health.

Vitamin K participates in a process known as carboxylation of a bone protein called osteocalcin. The carboxylated osteocalcin binds to calcium and helps bone mineralization.

Vitamin K is found abundantly in green vegetables such kale, spinach, leafy lettuce and parsley. That may explain why people in poor country who have high intake of green vegetables get stronger bone than those in the wealthy countries where less vegetables are consumed.

To improve the bone health, Lukacs suggested "In early menopause, increase your intake of dark green vegetables and vegetable oils on a daily basis.” But it remains unknown whether high intake of vitamin K- rich green vegetables in early menopause helps prevent osteoporosis.

"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 added.

A scientist affiliated with suggested that in addition to consumption of green vegetables and weight-bearing exercise such as jumping in childhood, children should not over-use meat and dairy products, too much of which may result in an acidic environment in the body and cause loss of bone minerals.

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