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Study Suggests Vitamin K Deficiency as an Osteoporosis Risk Factor

A new study by Jane Lukacs of the University of Michigan School of Nursing suggests that the impairment of vitamin K function// could compromise bone health and contribute to the development of osteoporosis. The study found that one of the early effects of declining estrogen is the impairment of vitamin K function in bone even before any bone loss that could be attributed to menopause can be measured.

"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.

Vitamin K is essential for making a bone protein called osteocalcin fully functional. This protein is part of the bone structure when it is "carboxylated" (a chemical modification of the protein that changes its shape making it easy to bind to calcium) in the presence of sufficient vitamin K. With adequate vitamin K, this protein can bind to calcium in the bone environment---sort of like glue, Lukacs said.

The study involved volunteer human subjects of whom 80 percent were white with the remainder of African-American, Hispanic and Asian heritage. All were healthy middle-aged women or young adult women. The study included blood tests, interviews to determine dietary habits and calculation of the body mass index and measurement of bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and the non-dominant hip. If right handed, left hip.

While vitamin K comes from green leafy vegetables, green vegetables and vegetable oils, most individuals don't consume amounts on a consistent basis that are sufficient to promote bone health. Few multivitamins contain vitamin K, and those that do have minimal amounts of vitamin K. Anyone considering vitamin K supplements should consult with their medical adviser first; people on blood thinners should not be taking vitamin K.

So, what's a woman to do? For now, Lukacs suggests getting back to basics. "In early menopause, increase
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