Here are the four vitamins that, in addition to vitamin D, are important to bone health. The good news is that you can find them in many of the foods you eat.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important to building strong, healthy bones. Both osteoblasts (bone building cells) and osteoclasts (bone breaking down cells) are influenced by vitamin A. Despite its good effects, most clinical research links higher vitamin A levels with lower bone density and fractures.
One source of vitamin A is retinol, found in meat and fish, fortified breakfast cereals, and vitamin supplements. Vitamin A is fat-soluble and stored in our livers. So the liver of fish and animals are particularly rich in vitamin A.
Another source of vitamin A is beta-carotene, found in dark green and orange fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is generally considered safe. According to the National Institutes of Health, the RDA for men age 19+ is 3,000 International Units (IUs) and 2,330 IUs for women in the same age range.
Too much vitamin A (more than 3,000 mcg or 10,000 IU/day) will give you a headache and has been linked to bone loss. Pay particular attention to this possibility if you eat liver or take supplements.
Sources of vitamin A: Cantaloupe, carrots, cheese pizza, eggs, fatty fish, fat-free milk, kales, liver, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and spinach
Vitamin B12 appears to have an effect on bone building cells.
A Tufts University study done by Katherine Tucker and her colleagues showed that low levels of vitamin B12 are linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis in both men and women. Vitamin B12 is found in meat and fish, making vegans, who don’t eat meat or dairy, at risk for bone loss.
People who have had a gastric bypass or have gastrointestinal disorders that cause poor absorption of fat lose the ability to absorb B12. Elderly people in their 80s and 90s may develop changes in the linings of the stomach that prevents them from absorbing iron and B12. In these cases where absorption is an issue, doctors may give injections of B12, bypassing the digestive tract, so patients get the benefits of the vitamin.
Sources of Vitamin B12: Dairy products, eggs, fish, fortified breakfast cereal, meat, milk, poultry, shellfish, supplements
Vitamin C is important for healthy gums and healthy bones. Vitamin C is essential to the formation of collagen, the foundation that bone mineralization is built on. Studies have associated increased vitamin C levels with greater bone density.
Vitamin C is water-soluble and the most common reason for low levels is poor intake. Some people with poor absorption will have lower levels of vitamin C. The elderly who are in nursing homes tend to have lower levels of vitamin C. Smokers also tend to have lower blood levels of vitamin C because their intestines do not absorb vitamin C normally. (Yet another reason to stop smoking!)
Sources of Vitamin C: broccoli, bell pepper, cauliflower, kale, lemons, oranges, papaya, strawberries
Vitamin K is important to normal bone growth and development. Vitamin K helps attract calcium to the bone. Low blood levels of vitamin K are associated with lower bone density and possibly increased fracture risk. However, clinical trials have not shown vitamin K supplementation to be helpful in improving bone density.
Vitamin K deficiency is uncommon in healthy adults probably because it is found in many of the foods that we eat every day. People on a blood thinner should not take vitamin K.
Sources of Vitamin K: Broccoli (cooked), Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Canola oil, kale, olive oil, parsley (raw), spinach, and Swiss chard