Tips for Building Strong Bones, Maintaining Supple Arteries

Poor bone strength is a serious problem of majority of Americans. A comprehensive and systematic review of nutritional strategies that can significantly improve skeletal health while decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease was recently published in the journal Open Heart, and points to Vitamin K2 as an important part of that strategy.

According to the US Surgeon General’s Report, 1 in 2 Americans over age 50 years is expected to have or to be at risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes 8.9 million fractures annually, with an estimated cumulative cost of incident fractures predicted at $474 billion over the next 20 years in the US. Public health approaches are crucial to prevent symptomatic bone disease, but widespread pharmacological prophylaxis is prohibitively expensive and carries potential serious adverse effects.

The researchers pointed out that dietary changes, including insufficient calcium and excess phosphate, are the key reasons of increased fractures. Strong epidemiological associations exist between decreased bone mineral density (BMD) and increased risk of both cardiovascular (CV) disease and CV death. For example, individuals with osteoporosis have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, and vice versa. This problem will be magnified if the therapies for osteoporosis (e.g., calcium supplements) independently increase risk of MI. The recently updated US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has stated that there is insufficient evidence that calcium and Vitamin D prevent fractures in premenopausal women or in men who have not experienced a prior fracture. Indeed, the USPSTF now recommends against daily calcium supplementation for primary prevention of fragility fractures; stating, ‘the balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined’.

The authors comprehensively and systematically reviewed the scientific literature in order to determine the optimal dietary strategies and nutritional supplements for long-term skeletal health and cardiovascular health. They summarized what is helpful for building strong bones while maintaining soft, supple arteries. The recommendation was:

  • To obtain calcium from dietary sources (the best choice is calcium-hydroxyapatite, particularly effective for building bone) with the adequate intake of animal protein, fruits and vegetables.
  • A concomitant increase of potassium consumption while reducing sodium intake should be taken into account.
  • The authors emphasized that two fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D and Vitamin K are crucial for healthy bones and arteries. They mentioned a large observational study that showed that while supplementation with phytonadione (Vitamin K1) improved bone health, Vitamin K2 was even more effective in this regard. In fact, supplementation with 180 mcg of Vitamin K2 as MK-7 over 3 years increased bone strength in postmenopausal women, and it also proved to improve arterial elasticity in the same cohort.

“It is good news that vitamin K2 has been recognized as important nutrient for bone and arteries together with calcium, vitamin D and magnesium,” says Dr. Katarzyna Maresz, president of the International Science and Health Foundation. “Due to the fact that there are a lot of studies which show that Western population is K deficient, and it is extremely hard (or almost impossible) to keep the appropriate vitamin K status with Western diet, the supplementation with Vitamin K2 should be recommended.”


O’Keefe JH, Bergman N, Carrera-Bastos P, et al. Nutritional strategies for skeletal and cardiovascular health: hard bones, soft arteries, rather than vice versa. Open Heart 2016;3:e000325. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2015-000325.

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