If you want to preserve your bones as you age, don’t skimp on vitamin-K rich foods, like deep-green vegetables. While we usually think of calcium – found in dairy products, greens, and fortified products like soy products – as the main nutrient essential for bone health, it’s not the only one you need to maintain healthy bones.

Recent attention has focused on the potential for vitamin K (best known for its critical role in blood clot formation), to protect bones from osteoporosis, which can lead to fractures and disability as we age.

Vitamin K Bone Science

Researchers have observed that people with low levels of circulating vitamin K tend to have low bone mineral density, and vitamin K supplementation improves markers of bone health. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which included more than 72,000 women, found that those who got at least 110 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K per day were 30 percent less likely to break a hip than women who got less.

U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers also found that low vitamin K intake was associated with low bone mineral density in women involved in the Framingham Heart Study. And in a 2012 study that investigated data from the Postmenopausal Health Study II, groups receiving dairy products supplemented with two forms of vitamin K had more favorable changes in bone metabolism compared to the group that received nonsupplemented dairy products.

Powering up your Vitamin K

For optimal bone health, it’s a good idea to achieve the recommended amounts of vitamin K in your diet through daily consumption of vitamin-K rich foods. The Institute of Medicine established the Adequate Intake for vitamin K at 90 mcg per day for women and 120 mcg for men.

However, if you’re taking bloodthinning medications like warfarin (Coumadin), you need to be careful about maintaining a consistent level of vitamin K in your diet. You don’t need to cut vitamin K out of your diet all together, but try to avoid abrupt increases and decreases in food sources.

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