B12 for bone health

When it comes to bone health, vitamin B12 levels aren't the first thing that comes to mind. It's not second, third or fourth, either.

It might not even crack the top 10.

But maybe it should make that list after all, because new research finds that low B12 levels can lead to a bone break, especially in senior men.

The lower your levels, the higher your risk, according to the study of more than 1,000 men with an average age of 75. And if you're among the millions quietly suffering from low B12 levels, you're facing a 70 percent higher risk of fracture overall and a 120 percent jump in the risk of a potentially crippling lumbar fracture.

That's a fracture you might not recognize as a bone break at first. No, all you know is that you've got a little back pain -- and since back pain tends to come and go over the years, you might even ignore it at first.

But this one doesn't go away.

Instead, it gets progressively worse -- and eventually, you're in so much pain you can't even bend down to tie your shoes.

Standing too long hurts. Sitting too much hurts. And you don't even want to think about how tough it is to sleep with a lumbar fracture.

That's why it's critical to give your bones everything they need to stay strong. While B12 may play a role here, this is the first study to make the link -- so let's not rush out and add B12 for bone health just yet.

I'd like to see more research first.

That said, most seniors are low in B vitamins -- and since these nutrients are critical to brain and nerve function, adding a supplement is not a bad idea.

(Click here for more on B12 levels and brain health.)

But for bone health, let's stick to the tried and true.

You already know about the importance of calcium when it comes to bone health. But what you may not realize is that calcium is practically useless by itself. You need both vitamin D and magnesium to put it to work -- and while many people have adequate calcium levels, most fall short in D and magnesium.

Also consider vitamin K, which the body needs to form the protein that brings calcium into the bone matrix. Studies have shown that low K levels increase the risk of both osteoporosis and bone breaks.

One note of caution: Speak with a doctor before taking vitamin K, especially if you're on blood thinners.