How Nutrients Contribute to Bone Health

While calcium and vitamin D are effective at promoting bone health, new information proves nutrients like iron, vitamin K and C, probiotics and minerals also figure prominently.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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It's widely known calcium and vitamin D help build strong bones. Milk and yogurt provide the calcium and vitamin D needed to help slow bone breakdown and increase bone mineral density. But iron is another important nutrient associated with bone health.

skeletonAccording to Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, iron helps produce collagen, an integral component of bone. But Tufts warns that iron must be taken with the recommended 800-1200mg of calcium. And calcium absorption is dependent on vitamin D. Osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer may be due to improper iron metabolism in the body.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation ( predicts those over age 50 are at higher risk of bone fracture. Their numbers will exceed 300 million worldwide by 2040. According to the U.S. National Osteoporosis Foundation, 10 million Americans currently have osteoporosis and another 44 million who have low bone mineral density are at risk of it. Bone problems are also being diagnosed in younger people too, especially those who don't consume much dairy.

"The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that more than half of Americans age 50-plus have either osteoporosis or low bone mass," cites the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine. "Osteoporosis is a rising public health concern, given the aging population and suboptimal dietary intakes of dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which provide a variety of essential nutrients that influence bone accretion and maintenance across the lifespan."

Banken MushroomsTo combat osteoporosis and bone fractures and to support vitamin D absorption, Banken Champignons ( received the green light from the European Food Safety Authority to market mushrooms that contain vitamin D. Mushrooms are a natural source of ergosterol, which is converted into vitamin D by the sun. Banken's mushrooms contain 10mg of vitamin D, equivalent to the recommended daily intake. The company's processing technology mimics the sun's conversion process in specially selected mushrooms that offer consumers a tasty product with health-promoting benefits.

A single serving of the new mushroom variant can make up a vitamin D deficiency, explains Jurgen Banken, director of Banken Champignons. "Vitamin D’s effects include boosting the immune system and producing strong bones and healthy teeth. With vitamin D mushrooms, anyone can make up a vitamin D deficiency in a tasty and healthy way," he says.

"Vitamin D’s effects include boosting the immune system and producing strong bones and healthy teeth. With vitamin D mushrooms, anyone can make up a vitamin D deficiency in a tasty and healthy way."

The other vitamins

There are more vitamins than D essential for bone health. "Dried plums are not only a source of dietary fiber, but a good source of potassium and vitamin K," say studies reported in the National Library of Medicine. "One serving of roughly four [prunes] provides 2.4g of dietary fiber, 280mg of potassium and 22.8µg of vitamin K."

The two main groups of vitamin K that occur naturally are vitamin K1 and K2. Different foods contain different kinds of vitamin K, and the body also gets some vitamin K from the bacteria normally living in the large intestine. A recommended dietary allowance (RDA) has not been established for vitamin K, but an adequate intake is considered to be 120μg /day for men aged 19+ and 90μg /day for women aged 19+.

Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, parsley, romaine and green leaf lettuce; vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, prunes, kiwi, avocado, blackberries, figs, fish, liver, meat, eggs, and cereals.

Hand XRayThe International Osteoporosis Foundation says research supports the powers of vitamin K, a "forgotten" vitamin, as good for bone health. Recent studies indicate low levels of circulating vitamin K have been linked with low bone density, the IOF reports. "New evidence points toward the potential role of this vitamin in slowing down bone loss and bolstering bone strength after menopause in women and increasing bone strength and decreasing and/or limiting the risk of fractures in people suffering from osteoporosis."

Research shows there also are benefits provided by vitamin C in normal bone development and the formation of collagen, cartilage and other structures. Bone mineral is laid down over the collagen protein matrix. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, appears also to stimulate the bone-building cells, enhance calcium absorption, and enhance vitamin D's effect on bone metabolism. Collagen comprises about 30 percent of our bones, serving as a support structure for mineral deposits and giving bone its resilience, according to reports from the Center for Better Bones (

In addition, vitamin C assists in the formation of collagen and studies show it appears to stimulate the cells that build bone and enhance calcium absorption. The vitamin also helps with synthesizing and optimizing the functioning of adrenal steroid hormones, which play a vital role in bone health — especially for women during perimenopause and menopause, when production of these hormones slows, the center reports. Men are also affected by bone loss, which increases the risk for osteoporosis and consequently bone fractures, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In 2020, it states, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to suffer from low bone density.

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