Vitamins and minerals play important roles in bone health

Many vitamins and minerals are beneficial to teeth and bone health. Calcium is a central player, of course. But aside from calcium, there are other vitamins and minerals that are also important for healthy teeth and bones.

After calcium, phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the human body. Although 85 percent of it is bound up with calcium in your bones and teeth, small amounts of phosphorus appear in every cell in your body. It plays a role in most of the body's chemical reactions.

Studies disagree over whether calcium and phosphorus need to be kept in balance. One study found that women whose calcium-to-phosphorus intake was skewed toward phosphorus had lower bone density. But other research suggests that a higher phosphorus intake may actually promote bone growth in women who don't get enough calcium.          

Phosphorus is so abundant in foods that it's unlikely that you're not getting enough of it. In fact, increasing consumption of colas and food additives containing phosphorus led researchers to question whether high levels of this micronutrient could adversely affect bone health. Currently, most experts concede that the phosphorus content of soft drinks does not pose a big problem. However, too many soft drinks can nudge more nutritious beverages and foods out of your diet and contribute to weight problems and tooth decay.

Like phosphorus, magnesium is largely found in the bones. Magnesium and phosphorus collaborate with calcium to mineralize bones and teeth; magnesium might also work with potassium to prevent blood from becoming too acidic, which can leach calcium from bones. Chemical reactions in the body, including bone and mineral metabolism, rely on magnesium.

Having enough potassium also benefits your bones. The Framingham Heart Study found that adequate magnesium and potassium intake boosted bone mineral density. Both micronutrients, which come mainly from fruits and vegetables, may keep blood from becoming too acidic and causing calcium to leach from the bones.

The value of magnesium and potassium supplements for bone health is still a matter of debate. A 2002 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that potassium supplements helped prevent urinary excretion of calcium in postmenopausal women whose diets had excessive salt. In another study of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who received magnesium supplements, bone mineral density improved in the first year, but not in the second.

Although it's best known for its role in blood clotting, vitamin K also plays a part in bone health. It helps produce osteocalcin, a key protein used in bone remodeling. It blocks substances that speed the breakdown of bone and it helps regulate calcium excretion from the body in urine. When too much calcium is excreted, the body draws what it needs from bones. A 2002 study published in Maturitas concluded that therapy with vitamins D and K might help increase bone mass in postmenopausal women.


Source: Vitamins and Minerals: What You Need to Know. Copyright © by Harvard University. All rights reserved.