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Vitamin K and bone health

  • Susanne Bügel (a1)

Vitamin K, originally recognised as a factor required for normal blood coagulation, is now receiving more attention in relation to its role in bone metabolism. Vitamin K is a coenzyme for glutamate carboxylase, which mediates the conversion of glutamate to γ-carboxyglutamate (Gla). Gla residues attract Ca2+ and incorporate these ions into the hydroxyapatite crystals. There are at least three Gla proteins associated with bone tissue, of which osteocalcin is the most abundant and best known. Osteocalcin is the major non-collagenous protein incorporated in bone matrix during bone formation. However, approximately 30% of the newly-produced osteocalcin stays in the circulation where it may be used as an indicator of bone formation. Vitamin K deficiency results in an increase in undercarboxylated osteocalcin, a protein with low biological activity. Several studies have demonstrated that low dietary vitamin K intake is associated with low bone mineral density or increased fractures. Additionally, vitamin K supplementation has been shown to reduce undercarboxylated osteocalcin and improve the bone turnover profile. Some studies have indicated that high levels of undercarboxylated osteocalcin (as a result of low vitamin K intake?) are associated with low bone mineral density and increased hip fracture. The current dietary recommendation for vitamin K is 1 μ/kg body weight per d, based on saturation of the coagulation system. The daily dietary vitamin K intake is estimated to be in the range 124–375 μg/d in a European population. Thus, a deficiency based on the hepatic coagulation system would be unusual, but recent data suggest that the requirement in relation to bone health might be higher.

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Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Professor Susanne Bügel, fax +45 35282469,
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Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
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