Vitamin D loses its place in the sun

Vitamin D loses its place in the sun

While no one disputes vitamin D's importance as a nutrient, research finds that lesser-known vitamins work just as well, if not better, in affecting calcium absorption, bone formation and resorption. Who are the new heroes of bone health? Vitamin K2 is climbing high and natural eggshell membrane is cracking the glass ceiling in the bone health category.


The next time the letter D sponsors Sesame Street, it might want to focus on the events of 2011—deficit in the U.S., deluge in Japan, democracy in Egypt. Even in the supplements world, D has hogged the spotlight following the release of new U.S. dietary guidelines for the vitamin late last year.

But no matter how compelling each D event has been, the public has moved on. That even seems to be the case for vitamin D and bone health. In the last year, organizations as diverse as the USDA and General Mills have made it clear that D and its cohort calcium are not the only solutions for an aging population’s weakening bones.

“Despite many years of research on the roles of calcium and vitamin D in bone health, we still haven’t been able to prevent osteoporosis,” wrote research nutritionist Jay Cao, PhD, on the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service website last summer. “Now, we know many other dietary factors may have equal or more important roles affecting calcium absorption, bone formation and bone resorption as calcium and vitamin D.” And this summer, General Mills announced it was looking for innovations in dairy products that “enhance the bone formation process beyond the known impact of calcium and vitamin D.”

That sets the stage for D’s less famous cousin, vitamin K, and other ingredients for bone health. “The category is heading in the direction of more ingredients that help deliver nutrients like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and sulfur to bone matrix and cartilage,” says Vladimir Badmaev, MD, PhD, director of medical and scientific affairs for P.L. Thomas. These ingredients include not only vitamin D3, but vitamin K2, essential fatty acids and carotenoids, he says.

Here’s a look at innovations in branded and nonbranded ingredients for bone health.

K2: the summit of bone health?

Research shows like vitamin D, vitamin K helps move calcium into the bones; K also transports calcium out of the arteries, helping prevent plaque buildup. In addition, K helps activate the protein osteocalcin, which binds calcium to bone surfaces.

Vitamin K is available in two forms: K1, which comes from plants such as algae and leafy greens; and K2, which is derived mainly from meat, dairy and soy. Studies show that K2, which debuted in functional ingredients only a few years ago, is the more bioavailable form. “Bone health benefits from introduction of vitamin K2 to the marketplace, broadening interest in safe and effective prevention of osteoporosis,” Badmaev says.

There are two main forms of K2: menaquinone 4, aka MK-4, which is sourced mainly from meat, and MK-7, which is usually derived from natto, or fermented soybeans. There is some debate over which form is the most effective.

“Basically, MK-4 has been widely researched in human studies, while little human research exists for the MK-7 forms. All human MK-7 studies were association studies with natto intake,” says Kathy Lund, director of business development for AIDP, which makes KoACT MK-4. “MK-7 converts to MK-4 in the body anyway, and MK-7 is much more expensive than MK-4.”

P.L. Thomas’ argument in favor of MK-7 is that studies show it reduces the risk of age-related decline in bone tensile strength, and potentially prevents bone resorption. In addition, MK-7 is thought to remain in the body much longer than MK-4.

Beyond the alphabet

Calcium from eggshells, like ESM Technologies’ NEM (natural eggshell membrane), has been shown in human and animal research to have an effect on osteoporosis. Clinical studies involving postmenopausal women and women with osteoporosis show that eggshell powder increases mobility and bone density.

A higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the body has been shown in several studies to have beneficial effects on bone health, Badmaev says. An epidemiological study of 78 young men found that those with higher serum levels of the omega-3 DHA had greater bone mineral density; a study of rats produced the same results. The theory is that omega-3s effect calcium balance in the body and the physiology of bone cells. They also decrease inflammation, which may harm bone building and regeneration.

A recent interventional study of nearly 1,000 men and women with a mean age of 75 found that those with the highest carotenoid intake had a significantly lower risk of hip fracture, while those who ingested the most lycopene had not only a lower risk of hip fracture, but all non-vertebral factures.


Condition Specific Directory

Bone Health

AGD Nutrition, LLC
Vitamin D

AHD International
Vitamin K2 MK7

KoACT – calcium collagen chelate


ESM Technologies
ESC (Egg Shell Calcium)

Fortitech, Inc.
Vitamin K

Pat Vitamins
Vitamin D3

P.L. Thomas
Menaquin Gold Vitamin K2-MK7

Stratum Nutrition
ESC (Egg Shell Calcium)

TSI Health Sciences, Inc.
Ostivone® Ipriflavone

XSTO Solutions, LLC
A new Vitamin K2 preparation supporting Bone and heart health. Unique for its high level of purity and soy-free origin, K2Vital from Kappa BioScience represents the next generation in vitamin K2 nutritional. Vitamin K2MK7 enhances the utilization of vitamin D for bone health and integrity.
[email protected]
Morristown New Jersey, USA

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