Category Archives: supplementation

Is Anything Missing From Your Calcium Supplement?

Why haven’t I updated this blog for over half a year? After much soul searching, I’m still not sure and I’m not sure it matters. What matters is:






I’ve got both virtual and paper folders filled with articles on vitamin K2. That was going to be my triumphant comeback post – Superhero Nutritionist using research powers to explain why a good calcium supplement should have vitamin K2.

A helpful, practical post made especially relevant by my recent recurrence of bone metastasis (alongside new lymph and liver mets). I need to keep the healthy bits of my spine and ribs as strong as possible; the right calcium supplement is essential.

A promising setup for a post that inspired many hours of research. And procrastination. Could be that the swamp of excuses pulling me down, or maybe I’ve gotten bored with this blog format. I don’t want to feel like I’m writing research papers.

I want to have fun with my writing – to let my thoughts and ideas soar in wild abandon without regard to technical details or support from scientific literature.

I want to be helpful, too, but that doesn’t seem to be enough at the moment to motivate me to write blog posts. So I’ll be trying a new approach.

Still, if you’re reading my post with the expectation that I’ll address the question posed in the title regarding calcium supplements, I’ll direct you to a Living Beyond Breast Cancer page where a Registered Dietitian answers:

What vitamins or supplements would be most helpful to someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

While the RD focuses on women diagnosed with breast cancer, it could be applicable to most people concerned about their bone health. I like the thoroughness of her answer – she mentions not only calcium and vitamin D but also magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and even vitamin K.

But not vitamin K2 specifically. Such an omission is a common oversight that must be corrected.

As the table below shows, vitamins K1 and K2 have different food sources (green leafy veggies vs. butter & egg yolks) as well as different functions in our bodies. There’s been a lot of research on the ability of both types of vitamin K to increase bone density and bone quality.

I got frustrated when I tried to compare the various studies, though. Some used K1 supplements while others focused on the MK-4 or MK-7 form of vitamin K2, not to mention that the research subjects ranged from mice to people in different countries and different stages of life and health. Even when I considered only those that looked at vitamin K2, there was little consistency in whether calcium, vitamin D and magnesium intake was also noted.

Such fertile ground for procrastination! I could write a thorough review of the effect of vitamin K2 on bone health.

Alas,/Fortunately, Dr. Schwalfenberg of the University of Alberta beat me to it. Published this June, his review article concludes:

  • Vitamin K2 may be useful…for the treatment of osteoporosis, along with vitamin D and calcium, rivaling bisphosphonate therapy without toxicity
  • [Vitamin K2] may also significantly reduce morbidity and mortality in cardiovascular health by reducing vascular calcification
  • Supplementation may be required for bone and cardiovascular health

Ideally, I’d be getting all the vitamin K2 that I need from food sources. But I don’t think I can (or want to) eat as much butter, eggs, or natto

as would be necessary to meet my daily K2 requirement.

What are the daily requirements of vitamin K2 for a 30-something woman with cancer cells invading her ribs and spine and other organ systems? They didn’t teach me that in grad school, nor was it covered during my dietetic internships.  If you find any studies or other info on the matter, dear reader, please let me know!

In any case, I do try to eat a nutrient-dense diet. However, at this point, it’s not realistic to think that I can get enough of all the nutrients necessary to keep my non-cancerous cells in tip-top shape through food alone. That’s why I supplement with calcium in addition to getting bisphosphonate therapy (specifically Zometa) monthly. The calcium supplements that have magnesium and vitamin K2 in addition to vitamin D are annoyingly expensive, but I hope they’re worth it.

Since I take warfarin to prevent blood clots, supplementing with vitamin K also means that I have to make extra trips to get my fingers pricked. My oncologist adjusts the warfarin dose to keep my blood in the right range of thinness based on the results from those checks. Again, my hope is that this annoyance is worth it.

I set out to write my triumphant comeback update as a declaration of freedom from writing nutritionist-y & science-y posts. Guess it’s harder for me to get off the research-y track than I anticipated. Oh well, I’ll aim to be more adventurous in my next post.