New Study Links Skeleton with Obesity and Diabetes

A study in the journal Cell links the vitamin K-dependent protein Osteocalcin to insulin activity and the reduction of obesity and diabetes in mice

Morristown, NJ– August 14, 2007 -- PL Thomas announced today a new study “Endocrine Regulation of Energy Metabolism by the Skeleton” published in the journal Cell that for the first time links the vitamin K-dependent protein osteocalcin to the endocrine system with significant potential benefits for obesity and diabetes.

The bones in the human body are constantly engaged in a process called remolding, with cells breaking down and rebuilding bone structure. Bones also produce red blood cells in their marrow. Now it is known that the skeleton is also an endocrine organ involved in energy metabolism, and may play a role in diabetes and obesity: Bones help regulate glucose (blood sugar) by producing the vitamin K-dependent protein called osteocalcin, which secretes a hormone that enhances insulin activity and was shown to reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes in mice.

According to Leon Schurgers, PhD, a vitamin K expert from the University of Maastricht, “This study shows that bone cells actually play a role in the regulation of fat cells. It is very interesting to consider the potential therapeutic benefits, including perhaps a new method to help regulate glucose. It again demonstrates new functions for vitamin K-dependent proteins, which thus exert a broader effect than only blood clotting.”

The researchers identified the genes that operate primarily in the bone cells that are linked to glucose metabolism. By “knocking out” these genes in mice so that they could not function, the animals lacking a functional osteocalcin gene gained fat, because osteocalcin helps regulate the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas and release it into the bloodstream. These osteocalcin deficient mice also became glucose intolerant. Both conditions are considered “pre-diabetic”

Osteocalcin was also shown to signal fat cells to release a hormone called adiponectin that increases insulin sensitivity. Thus bone cells signaled fat cells. Osteocalcin also promotes insulin for use by the body by promoting the production of more pancreatic beta cells – the cells that make insulin.

The study can be found via Cell’s website or 10.1016/j.cell.2007.05.047.

Awareness of the roles of vitamin K-dependent protein, including osteocalcin, is growing as the body of research expands. Consider the paper published in Thrombosis and Haemostasis this July titled “Vitamin K: The Coagulation Vitamin That Became Omnipotent,” that discusses the historic understanding of vitamin K and coagulation, as well as its newly recognized roles activating osteocalcin for bone health and matrix GLA protein for cardiovascular health.

The authors concluded that in healthy individuals, substantial fractions of the vitamin K-dependent proteins, including osteocalcin, are not fully activated, indicating subclinical vitamin K deficiency.

There are two forms of vitamin K. K1, found in leafy green vegetables which is primarily used by the liver, and K2 (menaquinones) which are found in fermented foods such as cheese and the Japanese soy food natto, which are used also outside of the liver.

Several clinical studies have shown benefits for K1 and synthetic vitamin K2 as menaquinone-4 (MK-4), at pharmacological doses ranging between 1 and 45 milligrams per day. Natural vitamin K2 as Mk-7, due to its longer half-life in the blood and bioactivity, is expected to be beneficial at nutritional levels, i.e. within recommended intake.

For more information, contact Eric Anderson at 973-984-0900x215 or email

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PLT offers a natural vitamin K2 as menaquinone-7 under the tradename MenaQ7 in alliance with Natto Pharma, Norway.

About MenaQ7
MenaQ7 provides Natural Vitamin K2 as an extract of natto, a fermented soy food from Japan. Natto is particularly rich in the highly bio-available form of vitamin K2 called menaquinone-7 (MK-7). MenaQ7 is the only commercially viable Natural Vitamin K2 with guaranteed actives and stability, clinical substantiation and international patents awarded and pending.

About PL Thomas
PL Thomas, a New Jersey-based ingredient supplier, offers fifty years of innovation in securing reliable, high quality raw materials for the food/functional food and nutrition industries. PLT is a one-stop resource for application solutions, current industry information and technical service, and specializes in water-soluble gums and clinically-supported botanical extracts.

About NattoPharma
NattoPharma, Norway is the exclusive international supplier of MenaQ7 natural Vitamin K2. NattoPharma has entered into a multi-year Research and Development program to substantiate and discover the health benefits of natural vitamin K2 for applications in the exciting marketplace for functional food and health food supplements.

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