For a long time, we have all worried about getting enough calcium. On T.V., in our grocery stores, and in our kitchen, calcium is one of the most sought after nutrients. But calcium isn’t the only vital nutrient we need to consume to prevent bone loss.  When it comes to preventing osteoporosis, it’s not just about the calcium.  Vitamin D is certainly needed to help aid absorption of calcium and Magnesium is an important co-factor for Vitamin D (more on that here).  But wait, there’s more– there is another little known nutrient that works with calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D to promote bone formation, and that is Vitamin K2.  Deficiencies for Vitamin K2 can not only lead to osteoporosis but heart disease as well, so it is of utmost importance to include K2 in your diet.

Periodic Table of Elements display at Griffith Park Observatory

Photo taken by faria!/Flickr

Vitamin K2 is not to be confused with Vitamin K1.  These are two different nutrients which perform separate functions in the body.  K1 (phylloquinone) is primarily found in leafy green vegetables and is involved with blood clotting, while K2 (menaquinone) plays an important role in bone formation and is found in fermented plant foods and animal sources.  The beneficial bacteria in our intestines can produce a small amount, but not enough to meet all our Vitamin K2 needs.

There are many recent studies that indicate excessive calcium supplementation may not prevent bone fractures and worse, can lead to increased calcium plaque formation in the arteries.  So if taking Ca supplements alone can be attributed to a higher risk of heart disease, what nutrients are we missing?  There are certain proteins responsible for taking calcium from the blood and into the bone.  Vitamin K2 is an important nutrient that activates these proteins.  These proteins prevent calcium from being deposited in soft tissues and arteries (which leads to heart disease) and transport it into the bone matrix.



Photo taken by Artizone/Flickr

So how can we increase this powerful bone building nutrient in our diets?  Bacteria generated in cheese and fermented foods are great dietary sources. Out of all the dairy products, brie and gouda have especially high amounts of Vitamin K2 –who doesn’t love an excuse to indulge in that?  It is also found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi (which also happen to be loaded with handy probiotics!).  But the single food that is by far the highest in Vitamin K2 is natto, a fermented soy food found in traditional Japanese foods.  More familiar sources include eggs and butter, but not from conventionally raised grain-fed animals.  Butter from grass-fed cows and eggs from pastured chickens are where it’s at, so keep a look out for relevant information on the packaging while you’re at the store.  Daily values for Vitamin K2 have yet to be established, but some experts recommend around 200 micrograms.

As I’ve said before, nutrients from whole food sources will be absorbed better than just supplements.  Hopefully now you are more equipped to take control of your bone health, in addition to having extra excuses to break out the cheese plate and charcuterie this holiday season!


Featured photo taken by rc!/Flickr

About The Author

Jennifer Musser
Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist

Jennifer Musser was born and raised in Seattle but loves living in Denver and enjoys most everything that the city and mountains have to offer. After receiving her B.S. in Human Nutrition and Food Science from Colorado State University, she became a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in 2004. As a Certified LEAP** Therapist, Jennifer has specialized training in food sensitivities and related inflammatory conditions. An experienced healthcare practitioner, she understands the importance of being mindful of what we eat and that both traditional and alternative nutrition therapies have a place in helping us look and feel our best. At Fitness Luxe, she will dole out sound and delicious advice on what you should be eating to make the best out of your diet for a healthy, fit and happy life. **Lifestyle Eating and Performance