Osteoporosis and low bone mineral density affects millions of Americans. The majority of adults don’t get enough daily exercise and have insufficient intake of vitamin D and calcium. Many people are aware that vitamin D, calcium and exercise are essential for good bone health. However, many people are less likely to know that dietary insufficiencies of magnesium and vitamins A, B12, C and K are also widely prevalent, and each of these essential nutrients is an important contributor to bone health. In addition, many of these nutrients actually help improve calcium absorption.
Many of the necessary nutrients that support bone health are readily available in the average American diet. Others can be obtained through daily supplementation. These are the best nutrients for bone health:
- Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin obtained from sun exposure, food and supplements. Researchers believe that most Americans fall short on vitamin D. In many parts of the country, especially during the winter months, the sun is too weak to generate vitamin D. Older people especially are at high-risk of vitamin D deficiency as our bodies become less efficient at producing it as we age.
- Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important to building strong, healthy bones. Both osteoblasts (bone building cells) and osteoclasts (bone breaking down cells) are influenced by vitamin A. However, too much vitamin A can actually lead to lower bone density, so it’s definitely a balancing act. One source of vitamin A is retinol, found in meat and fish, fortified breakfast cereals, and vitamin supplements. Another source of vitamin A is beta-carotene, found in dark green and orange fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamin B12 also appears to have an effect on bone building cells. A Tufts University study showed that low levels of vitamin B12 are linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis in both men and women. Vitamin B12 is found in meat and fish, making vegans, who don’t eat meat or dairy, at increased risk for bone loss.
- Vitamin C is important for healthy gums and healthy bones. Vitamin C is essential to the formation of collagen; the foundation that bone mineralization is built on. Studies have associated increased vitamin C levels with greater bone density. Vitamin C is water-soluble and the most common reason for low levels is poor intake.
- Vitamin K is important to normal bone growth and development. This vitamin helps attract calcium to the bone. Low blood levels of vitamin K are associated with lower bone density and possibly increased fracture risk. Thankfully, vitamin K deficiency is uncommon in healthy adults probably because it is found in many of the foods that we eat every day.