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Vitamin B-12 & Bone Health

By Erica Kannall

Low levels of vitamin B-12 in your body may have a negative impact on your bone health. Bones are a complex matrix of fibrous connective proteins, such as collagen, and minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. Many aspects of your diet play a part in maintaining the health of your bones, including adequate intakes of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and vitamins C, B-6, B-12, D and K.

How Your Body Handles Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin commonly bound to protein in foods. It's essential for many body processes, including red blood cell production, neurological function, DNA synthesis and fat and protein metabolism. Hydrochloric acid, protease enzymes and a compound called intrinsic factor present in your gastric digestive secretions are needed in order to unbind the B-12 from protein in food so your body can absorb it. You may have a hard time getting enough B-12 as you age, if you have an intestinal disorder or are vegetarian or vegan. Along with bone problems, a lack of B-12 in your body may cause anemia and decreased cognitive function.

Improves Bone Density

Vitamin B-12 plays a role in the activity of bone cells, bone formation and red blood cell production, all of which impact your bone health. According to an October 2004 study in "The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research," low levels of vitamin B-12 in your body may be associated with decreased bone mineral density. This means your bones lack the minerals needed to keep them strong. Over time they become weak, brittle and porous, which may lead to osteoporosis. Consuming adequate amounts of B-12 may help to prevent osteoporosis.

Prevents Bone Fractures

A lowered bone density may increase your risk of bone fracture. According to a 2009 study in the journal "Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine," people who follow a vegetarian diet and lack vitamin B-12 in their bodies have an increased rate of bone turnover, which may increase risk of bone fracture. A lack of B-12 in your body as you age may also increase your risk of hip fracture, according to a March 2009 study in the "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism." Hip fracture in the elderly may lead to death or permanent residency in a long-term care facility.

How to Increase Your Intake

To prevent these bone problems, you need to get enough B-12 in your diet. Adults need at least 2.4 micrograms per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. B-12 is found in protein-rich foods such as shellfish, seafood, beef, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs and chicken. Breakfast cereals are commonly fortified with B-12 as well. If you're unable to meet your vitamin B-12 needs from diet alone, talk with your health care provider about supplement options. You may benefit from a sublingual B-12 tablet or a B-12 injection.

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