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RCT: Vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin K’s effect on activity in postmenopausal women

Posted on: April 30, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


Dr. Spyridon Kanellakis and colleagues in both Greece and the Netherlands recently conducted a first of its kind randomized controlled trial looking at placebo and combinations of vitamin D and calcium, either alone or combined with vitamin K1 or vitamin K2 for 12 months. The four groups looked like this:

  1. Vitamin D, 400 IU, calcium 800 mg (26 Subjects)
  2. Vitamin D, 400 IU, calcium 800 mg, and 100 mcg of vitamin K1 (26 subjects)
  3. Vitamin D, 400 IU, calcium 800 mg, and 100 mcg of vitamin K2 as MK-7 (24 subjects)
  4. Placebo (39 subjects)

Kanellakis S, Moschonis G, Tenta R, Schaafsma A, van den Heuvel EG, Papaioannou N, Lyritis G, Manios Y. Changes in Parameters of bone metabolism in postmenopausal women following a 12-month intervention period using dairy products enriched with calcium, vitamin D, and phylloquinone (vitamin K(1)) or menaquinone-7 (vitamin K (2)): the Postmenopausal Health Study II. Calcif Tissue Int. 2012 Apr.

They used a close to meaningless dose of vitamin D but still got some interesting results. They measured activity with a pedometer (how many steps each subject took every day) and found that the vitamin D and calcium groups (with or without K), all insignificantly increased their activity levels by about 25% over baseline. A number of studies show that vitamin D helps one lose weight, and perhaps this shows the mechanism in that it gives you back your get up and go. However, BMI did not change, so perhaps changes in activity level was simply insignificant, as the statistics show, due to the low dose of vitamin D.

Second, they found that all three of the vitamin D and calcium groups, especially the K2 arm, had a significant increase in IGF-1 (130 to 143). This was significant at the .028 level. IGF-1, or insulin growth factor-one, is used as a proxy to measure growth hormone levels. This may mean that adequate doses of vitamin D, especially with K2, may restore youthful levels of growth hormone without having to resort to daily growth hormone injections. Declining growth hormone levels as one age is involved with age related muscle wasting.

Third, they found that a measure of vitamin K deficiency, uncarboxylated osteocalcin, improved significantly in both the K1 and K2 groups, but  the improvement in the K2 group was double that of the K1 group. This was significant at the .001 level despite the small groups.

As I have written before, your daily 5,000 IU of vitamin D should be accompanied by magnesium, zinc, boron, and K2. You can eat 5-6 servings of vegetables a day, along with seeds and nuts daily to get the first three, but the K2 is hard to get unless you like Natto, hard cheeses or organ meats. That’s why we recommend Bio-Tech’s D-Plus if you think you’re lacking in these nutrients and most Americans are.

Here are some things I’d love to hear from our readers along these lines:

  • If anyone has taken the standard serving size of D-Plus (5,000 IU of vitamin D) for more than a year and is older than 70, get your IGF-1 tested and post the results on the blog site. We’d like to know the results, along with how healthy your muscles are.
  • D-Plus is particularly important for autistic children who often have zinc, magnesium and vitamin K deficiencies, along with very low vitamin D levels. If you use D-Plus for your autistic child and do so in adequate doses (5,000 IU/day or maybe more), we’d like to know their results in this realm as well.


5 Responses to RCT: Vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin K’s effect on activity in postmenopausal women

  1. JBG

    IGF-1 is often cited as a risk factor for cancer (for example, in the excellent book Anticancer, link below). What is your view on that?


    • Brant Cebulla

      From Wikipedia:
      IGF-1 deficiency is associated with neurodegenerative disease, cardiovascular diseases, heart failure, and shorter life span. The IGF signaling pathway appears to play a crucial role in cancer. Several studies have shown that increased levels of IGF lead to an increased risk of cancer. Studies done on lung cancer cells show that drugs inhibiting such signaling can be of potential interest in cancer therapy.”

      Also, IGF-1 is “a stimulator of cell growth and proliferation, and a potent inhibitor of programmed cell death.” Mechanically, makes sense that increased IGF-1 is a risk factor.

      I haven’t looked into it at all, but I’m assuming these studies are all observational, same type of studies that show the higher your vitamin D levels, the less likely you are to develop certain types of cancer. Same types of studies exist for vitamin K intake — increased intake, decreased risk. Putting two and two together, I wonder if there are some studies that show higher levels of vitamin D are associated with higher levels IGF-1 and inversely associated with cancer risk? Anyone want to go digging? Curious small contradiction.

      Another thought: if A influences B and A influences C, and B influences C independently, A is still the overriding power, no? In this case, A is vitamin D, vitamin K and calcium. Your thoughts?

  2. Gary

    Interestingly if you want a lower fat alternative to hard cheeses, cottage cheese (curd cheese) is a good source of K2 for those who are dieting etc or wanting to keep cholesterol under control by keeping saturated fats down. Could the french paradox be due to the benefits of good climate (vit D) and plenty of hard cheeses (K2) in the diet, which are still a french institution??

    There is an interesting interview on Jo Mercolas web site with an expert in Vit K2 research which is worth a look.

  3. Morton Johnson

    Dr Cannell: I had blood tests done on April 3, 2012, and my test results for Vitamin D, 25-OH came in at 86, D3 at 86, and D2 <4 as a result of a daily intake of 16,000 IU (last 17 months). My IGF-I LC/MS came in at 69 with a Z score of -0.8. I turn 72 the end of September, and I maintain a very active exercise program completing an extensive 60 to 75 minute workout including 30 minutes of aerobics, 3 sets of 100 ea situps, 5 sets of chinups (totaling 48-60 chinups), pushup, etc. I average 3 workouts a week. My body weight is 161 and I stand 6' 1.5". My muscles are healthy and actually show definition. In September of 2010 my IGF-I tested at 101 and my D3 level was 61. I take many supplements including calcium, magnesium, and K-1 and K-2. I have your book "Faster, Quicker, Stronger" – It is excellent – thanks for writing it – I gave copies to my children.
    Best Regards- Mort Johnson

  4. Brant Cebulla

    Thanks Mort!

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