Vitamin K may not prevent age-related decline in bone mineral density. However, it may protect against fractures and cancer in postmenopausal women with osteopenia, say researchers from the University of Toronto.
Osteopenia is a condition where bone mineral density is lower than normal. It's considered to be a precursor to osteoporosis or "porous bones".
In this new study, 440 postmenopausal women with osteopenia received either five milligrams of vitamin K or a placebo every day for two years.
At two and four years, the researchers measured bone mineral density in the lower back.
Women who took daily vitamin K showed similar rates of decline in bone density when compared to those who were given the placebo.
However, after four years, only nine women in the vitamin K group had suffered a fracture compared to 20 in the placebo group.
Cancer was also significantly less common in the women who supplemented with vitamin K. Three women taking vitamin K developed cancer compared with 12 in the placebo group.
As these findings are not definitive, the researchers suggest larger studies to further investigate the effect of vitamin K on fractures and cancer.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that's found in variety of green vegetables including broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, asparagus and green peas. It appears to prevent osteoporosis by helping with absorption of calcium and maintainance of bone mineral density.
According to Health Canada, about one in four women over 50 years of age have osteoporosis.
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This study was published in the October 18, 2008 issue of PLOS Medicine.
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