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Background: High vegetable intake is associated with beneficial effects on bone. However, the mechanisms remain uncertain. Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of vitamin K1, which is known to have large effects on osteoblasts and osteocalcin (OC) metabolism.
Objective: To examine the effects of consumption of two to three extra serves of green leafy vegetables daily on bone metabolism.
Methods: Thirty individuals (mean age 61.8 ± 9.9 years, 67% male) completed three experimental phases in a randomised controlled crossover design, each lasting four weeks, with a washout period of four weeks between phases (clinical trial registration: ACTRN12615000194561). The three experimental phases were: (i) increased dietary vitamin K1 by consuming green leafy vegetables (H-K; ~200 g/d containing 164.3 [99.5-384.7] μg/d of vitamin K1); (ii) low vitamin K1 by consuming vitamin K1-poor vegetables (L-K; ~200 g/d containing 9.4 [7.7-11.6] μg/d of vitamin K1); and (iii) control (CON) where participants consumed an energy-matched non-vegetable control. OC forms, total OC (tOC), carboxylated OC (cOC) and undercarboxylated OC (ucOC), were measured in serum pre- and post-intervention for each experimental phase using a sandwich-electrochemiluminescence immunoassay.
Results: Pre-intervention tOC, ucOC and ucOC:tOC levels were similar between phases (P > .05). Following H-K, but not L-K, tOC, ucOC and ucOC:tOC levels were significantly lower compared to pre-intervention levels (P ≤ .001) and compared to CON (~14%, 31% and 19%, respectively, all P < .05), while cOC remained unchanged.
Conclusions: In middle-aged healthy men and women, an easily achieved increase in dietary intake of vitamin K1-rich green leafy vegetables substantially reduces serum tOC and ucOC suggesting increased entry of OC into bone matrix, where it may improve the material property of bone. In conjunction with previous epidemiological and randomised controlled trial data, these findings suggest that interventions to increase vegetable intake over extended periods should include bone end points including fracture risk.