If you’re very serious about bone health, then you need to make sure that you have optimal levels of four key nutrients. The four big players in the battle for good bone health are:
Calcium is the most plentiful mineral in the body, comprising the bulk of bone and tooth material, and is also involved in numerous vital body functions. Blood levels of calcium must be high enough to prevent Vitamin D3 from stealing calcium from the stores in your bones. Otherwise, the process of leaching calcium from the bones will result in the development of osteopenia and osteoporosis over time.
Common dietary sources of calcium include seafood, leafy greens, legumes, dried fruit, tofu, milk, cheese, and yogurt. The U.S. recommended daily allowance is 1,300 milligrams daily for children, 1,000 milligrams daily for most adults, and 1,200 milligrams daily for women over 50 and elderly individuals over the age of 70. The dosage should be split up, since the body typically cannot absorb more than about 500 milligrams at a time.
Vitamin D3 is an important regulator of calcium levels in the blood, maintaining those levels primarily by enhancing the absorption of calcium from food consumed. However, when insufficient calcium is provided by food sources, vitamin D3 will draw on the calcium which is stored in bones. Vitamin D3 also acts as a hormone in the body and is responsible for a myriad of physiological processes. Dietary sources of Vitamin D include primarily fatty fish like salmon and tuna, egg yolks, and cheese. Some foods like dairy, cereals, and orange juice are often fortified with vitamin D as well.
If you prefer to take a supplement, vitamin D3 is available in several potencies. I generally recommend 5,000 IU per day, especially if you have confirmed low serum vitamin D3 levels.
Known more for its essential role in the blood clotting sequence, vitamin K plays an important role in the prevention of fractures by promoting the accumulation of calcium in bones and teeth. It promotes calcification in bones and teeth by activating osteocalcin, while also preventing calcium from accumulating in soft tissues such as blood vessels. It is found in leafy greens such as parsley, kale, brussels sprouts, lettuce and spinach, fermented legumes and vegetables, as well as in some fatty, animal-sourced foods, such as egg yolk, liver and cheese.
Adequate daily intake of vitamin K is 90 mcg for women and 120 mcg for men. Since it is fat-soluble, it’s a good idea to consume it with a healthy dietary fat source. Vitamin K levels should not be ignored when supplementing one’s diet with vitamin D3, as high levels of vitamin D3 have been shown to cause blood vessel calcification when vitamin K levels are low.
While calcium makes up most of the tissue found in bone and teeth, magnesium gives those structures their strength and rigidity. In addition, adequate levels of magnesium must be present for the absorption and metabolism of calcium to occur.
Dietary sources of magnesium include spinach and other leafy greens, whole grains, dark chocolate, nuts like almonds and walnuts, legumes, and avocado. Magnesium can also be taken in supplement form, and comes in many varieties.
Make sure you are taking all four supplements to optimize bone health. It’s always a good idea to get bloodwork to determine serum levels of these substances. Make sure to consult with your physician before starting any of these supplements, especially if you are taking medications which may interfere with or interact with supplementation.