Armen Nikogosian, MD
Bone health is a major health concern among aging baby boomers. Methods to ward off osteoporosis by improving calcium metabolism continue to evolve, with scientists working to sort out the most effective supplementation protocol.
Initially, back in the 80s, patients with osteopenia were usually advised to simply supplement with calcium carbonate to shore up their bones. When it was discovered that many women with porous bones had vitamin D deficiencies, vitamin D supplementation was added to the regimen. Soon after, magnesium was added to calcium supplementation as it was found to enhance absorption. In recent years, upon the discovery that low levels of vitamin K in the bloodstream is linked to osteoporosis, adding vitamin K to the therapeutic picture reflects the latest iteration in bone health supplementation.
Just when vitamins D and K have become widely accepted as complementary to calcium supplementation for ideal bone health and fracture prevention, vitamin A wants in on the action, too.
Why Vitamin A?
Ongoing studies look at the impact fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K have on the complicated role that calcium plays in the body, pointing to vitamin A as a valuable asset. They’ve found that vitamin A actually enhances the effects of vitamin D, which means that with vitamin A on board, the vitamin D can do an even better job of getting the calcium to the places in the body where it is needed most. Vitamin A enhances the effects of the other vitamins by helping to turn on the signaling proteins where they are needed throughout the body.
The relationship between vitamins A, D, and K is symbiotic. Each vitamin has an effect on the others, and getting the values just right is critical for the relationship to function maximally. Too much vitamin A can actually decrease the absorption of vitamin D—not good. The appropriate compound must reflect the right balance of these three vitamins to ensure the most efficient utilization of calcium in the body. Meanwhile, vitamins D and K can promote the absorption of vitamin A.
The Body's Balancing Act
For those few patients who regularly eat a nutritionally diverse diet rich in whole foods, fermented dairy products, oily fish and other sources of omega-3, and get enough sun exposure, ADK supplementation may not be as effective. But the reality is, most of us fail to meet the dietary needs of our bodies, so ADK interplay can be very beneficial to helping maintain balanced bodily function, including the immune system, and in modulating inflammation.
The protein signaling that goes on biochemically in the body is all about balance. The mindset of supplementation in functional medicine is different than that of conventional medicine. The way we have been programmed to think about treatment is to take this pill for that ailment. Taking this medicine will fix that health condition. With supplementation, the goal is more about creating balance in the body, and to modulate imbalances. Along these lines, ADK creates a natural environment that reflects the body’s expectations for meeting its functioning needs.
Maximizing the roles of the signaling proteins through the interplay of vitamins ADK takes a significant step toward optimizing wellness. To break it down, vitamin A enhances the vitamin D in its role to carry the calcium to the places it’s needed. Vitamin K regulates vitamin A so it won’t interfere in vitamin D absorption, while also helping to minimize calcium build up in arteries and kidneys. These three together form a specific synergy, making each of them more effective when taken together in the appropriate amounts. As a result of utilizing ADK, patients will benefit from a more balanced immune system, as well as improved bone health.
Armen Nikogosian, MD practices functional and integrative medicine in Henderson, Nevada. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and a member of the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) and the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS). His practice focuses on treatment of complex medical conditions with a special emphasis on Autism Spectrum Disorder in children and autoimmune conditions in adults.