Keeping our bones healthy is important because they provide structure to our bodies, help us move and protect our organs. Without certain vitamins our bones may be at risk of breaks or fractures.

According to National Geographic, vitamin D is often seen as one of the most important vitamins for bone health. However, paying attention to other vitamins such as A, B, C, E and K is just as crucial.

What is vitamin D and why is it important for your bones?

Per the Royal Osteoporosis Society, or ROS, vitamin D aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium, contributing to the strength and hardness of your bones. Insufficient vitamin D levels may heighten the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Osteoporosis weakens bones, making them prone to fractures even from minor stress like bending or coughing. Fractures typically affect the hip, wrist or spine. It happens when new bone formation lags behind old bone loss, leading to brittle bones, according to Mayo Clinic.

Severe vitamin D deficiency can also lead to conditions like rickets and osteomalacia, characterized by weakened and softened bones, per the ROS.

What and why are other vitamins needed for strong bones?

According to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, deficiency or excessive intake in vitamins A, B, C, E and K resulted in the development of osteoporosis or problematic bone formation, respectively.

In looking at the study above, National Geographic described each vitamin and their importance in bone development.

Vitamin A

Sources of citamin A include sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, leafy green vegetables and fortified milk.

Adequate levels of a citamin A are crucial for the formation of early bone tissue and dissolving of bone during remodeling processes.

Additionally, the body can make vitamin A from carotenoids, which are vibrant yellow, orange and red pigments found in various vegetables and fruits. Increased consumption of these colorful foods has been linked to a reduced risk of hip fractures in men, although this correlation has not yet been observed in women.

Vitamin B

Salmon, beef, tuna, chickpeas and dairy products are rich sources of vitamin B, particularly B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12.

Collagen forms the foundational scaffolding of bone structure. Its strength is enhanced through a twisting process of its constituent amino acids, which requires the presence of B vitamins, per National Geographic. Without adequate levels of these vitamins, the twisting process necessary for collagen strength is compromised.

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Studies conducted in laboratories have revealed that deficiency in vitamin B6 can lead to dysfunction in bone-building processes. Moreover, female mice genetically deficient in B12 displayed weakened bones, a condition also observed in their offspring.

Although the precise implications for humans remain unclear, supplementation studies focusing on B vitamins have not demonstrated a reduction in fractures among post-menopausal women, who are at a heightened risk of bone weakening following estrogen reduction. However, it’s worth noting that the women enrolled in these studies may not have been deficient in B vitamins at the outset, per National Geographic.

Vitamin C

Citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, Brussel sprouts and kale are rich sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin C likely plays a crucial role in both the breakdown and rebuilding of bone tissue. Similar to the B vitamins, it contributes to the twisting of collagen fibers in bones.

A collective analysis of 17 observational studies involving nearly 20,000 individuals revealed that those with the highest vitamin C intake experienced a 34% reduction in hip fractures compared to those with the lowest intake.

Low levels of vitamin C pose a particularly heightened risk for smokers.

Vitamin E

Almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, spinach and red bell peppers are good sources of vitamin E.

This vitamin influences cell proteins involved in both bone breakdown and formation. Additionally, it acts as an antioxidant, enhancing communication among cells engaged in bone development and repair.

Elevated blood levels of a-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E, have been correlated with higher bone mineral density in individuals. Conversely, markedly low levels were linked to a more than 50% increased risk of hip fractures, per National Geographic.

Vitamin K

Rich sources of vitamin K include kale and other leafy green vegetables, avocados, kiwi, soybeans and pumpkin seeds.

Studies conducted in laboratories underscore the vital role of vitamin K in attracting and binding the calcium essential for bone mineralization, per National Geographic.

In human studies, one form of vitamin K, K2, demonstrated a beneficial impact on bone mineral density and fracture risk. However, previous research involving another form, K1, did not yield similar benefits. Further research is necessary to determine if one form is superior to the other.

What happens if we get too much of a vitamin?

Excessive intake of certain vitamins can weaken bones. While reaching optimal levels is crucial, surpassing them can hinder bone formation. However, determining these optimal levels, especially for vitamins other than D, remains unclear. Hence, individuals without severe deficiencies, confirmed through blood tests, should obtain vitamins from food rather than supplements, according to National Geographic.

Havard Health recommends vitamin D levels between 40 and 60 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) for both children and adults.

How can we increase vitamin levels with food and when should we take a supplement?

National Geographic finds that the Mediterranean diet is best to benefit bones. Furthermore, avoid boiling or cooking at high temperatures for heat-sensitive vitamins like A.

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For specifics, look at the information under each vitamin above to see which foods have a higher source of that vitamin.

According to the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation, if you have Osteoporosis, low bone mass or a vitamin D deficiency (as vitamins’ A, B, C, E and K optimal levels are unknown), your doctor will discuss supplements with you.