About 10 years ago, the necessity and powerful benefits of vitamin D on our overall health were still quite misunderstood, and today no one can deny anymore how important this vitamin (which is actually a hormone) is. Especially regarding bone health.
Well today, a bit the same is happening with vitamin K2. This is a vitamin that is rarely talked about and still. Many research and new studies show how highly crucial it is, especially for people taking Vitamin D and/or Calcium supplementation, and people suffering from Osteoporosis or Cardiovascular or coagulation problems. Let’s see what this is all about.
1. What is Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin, that has 2 main crucial functions: supporting Cardiovascular health and bone restoration.
The way it does that is by taking care of the Calcium: vitamin K2 removes the Calcium from the lining of your blood vessels and allows the transfer of that calcium to appropriate places in your body, like the bone tissues or your teeth.
2. Difference Vitamin K1 / Vitamin K2
If you search in the scientific literature, you can easily get confused because it is often talked about vitamin K in general, without specifying whether it is vitamin K1 or K2. This is quite misleading because those 2 vitamins are actually quite different:
- Vitamin K1:
Vitamin K1 is mainly found in plants like dark leafy green vegetables. Vitamin K1 goes straight to the liver, and is used to help stimulate the production of coagulation factors, that are critical for stopping bleeding. This is the vitamin that is very efficient for blood clotting. Therefore, if you are taking any blood thinning medication or anticoagulants, you should ask your health practitioner for advice before starting taking K1 supplements.
- Vitamin K2:
This is the one I want to talk about here. Vitamin K2 is actually quite different to vitamin K1.
It goes straight to the vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than the liver. It is naturally present in our gut but can not be absorbed there and passes out in your stools. It is a vitamin that is naturally produced by certain bacteria, and this is why you can find it in fermented foods. But not in all fermented foods:
-- Natto, which is fermented soy and commonly eaten in Japan, is a rich source of vitamin K2. Fermented vegetables can be a good source too but only if you ferment your own using specially designed starter cultures
-- Most yogurts almost don’t contain any vitamin K2 unfortunately
-- Cheeses like Edam, Brie or Gouda are a good source
-- Egg yolks, raw butter, well sourced dairy are also a good source of vitamin K2
But those natural sources are often not sufficient regarding the daily vitamin K2 amount your body needs. There is no way today to test your levels of K2 (not like vitamin D for example), but it is assumed today, regarding the average lifestyle, that 98% of the population is deficient in this mostly important vitamin.
There are 2 forms of vitamin K2: MK4 and MK7.
MK4 is a short biological half-life (about one hour) and therefore is not good to take as a supplement. It is also industrially synthesized so this is not the part that will interest us here.
MK7, on the contrary, stays longer in the body: up to 3 days. It is a long-chain, natural bacterial derived of K2, that comes from fermentation process, and is therefore very interesting as a supplement form of vitamin K2.
3. What is the principal role of vitamin K2?
Vitamin K2 has a complex biochemistry involving 2 enzymes: Matrix GLA Protein (MGP) and Osteocalcin.
GLA means Glutamic Acid. GLA is imported into the walls of the arteries, binds to Calcium and removes it from the lining of the blood vessels. Calcium is then handed over to Osteocalcin, that helps fix the Calcium in its new place. That’s how crucial K2 is: vitamin K2 is the one facilitating this transfer of Calcium from the arteries into the right places (the bone matrix, the teeth..).
Without vitamin K2, there is NO TRANSFER of Calcium from the arteries to the bones, resulting in a significant increase in risk of arterial calcification.
This is how Vitamin K2 is highly important. It can help people who are vulnerable to:
- Heart / cardiovascular disease
- Heart attack, stroke
- Inappropriate calcification (heels spurs, kidney stones)
- Brain disease
- Tooth decay
Vitamin K2 (MK7 form) also prevents inflammation. It may improve chronic diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, and some autoimmune diseases as well.
4. If you are taking oral vitamin D supplementation
Vitamin D is essential for many reasons, and I will probably write a whole article about it soon!! But as crucial is the intake of vitamin K2 while you are having vitamin D (D3). Dr. Mercola describes the synergy between the two in a very nice way: imagine the vitamin D is the gatekeeper that controls everything that gets in. Especially Calcium. And now imagine the vitamin K2 is the traffic cop that directs traffic where it needs to go. Without the traffic cop, the circulation wouldn’t work and would be a mess! Well that’s exactly what happens in your body when you take vitamin D without vitamin K2. Vitamin D can let the Calcium in but that might even work against you as this Calcium might start building up in your coronary arteries rather than into your bones. Vitamin K2 is the one that can transfer the Calcium exactly where it should be. So yes, it is advised to take some good vitamin K2 supplement (MK7 form, ask me for details) when vitamin D is taken orally.
The same actually happens when people start supplementing themselves with Calcium, and Calcium only. First, which FORM of Calcium you take matters greatly. Plant-derived calcium is the best: dark leafy green vegetables, pith of citrus fruits, carob or wheatgrass. And second, taking isolated supplements is never a great solution to optimize complicated physiological processes. When taking Calcium, vitamin D, K2 as well as Magnesium, Silica and Omega 3 (Krill oil) should definitely be considered as well.
One fact that shows that Calcium intake is not a good solution by itself is that countries with the highest Calcium intake (US, Canada, Scandinavian countries) actually have the highest rates of osteoporosis…! And this is due to the fact that it is usually a wrong form of Calcium that is taken, and the deficiency in vitamin K2 makes it difficult for your body to move this Calcium to the right places.
Those “wrong” Calcium deposits are major contributors of (short list..):
- Coronary artery disease
- Mental plaque, gum disease
- Colon cancer
- Cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration
- Bone spurs, stiff joints, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bone cancer
5. Statin drugs and vitamin K2
Unfortunately today, about 25% of the population over 40 in the US take a statin drug to lower their cholesterol levels. And we should all know that as mentioned by the American College of Cardiology, Statins may increase the risk of calcification of arteries. This is because Statins deplete vitamin K2, as explained in a recent study in “Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology”. And when levels of vitamin K2 are not sufficient, Calcium stays fixed in the arteries instead of moving to where it should go.
Therefore: if you take statins, the intake of vitamin K2 (MK7 form) should seriously be considered (as well as supplementation in ubiquinol and coenzyme Q10 in fact).
6. Vitamin K2 dosage
There is a good thing with vitamin K2: you can not overdose, there is no toxicity with this vitamin.
45mcg per day should be sufficient, but 180-200mcg are advised for more therapeutic benefits.
The difficult thing with vitamin K2 is that its action benefits are so deep inside the different internal processes of your body, that you may not feel a real physical difference whether you take it or not. But one thing is sure: it is a mostly essential vitamin that we are most likely deficient in.
As it is fat-soluble, you should take it with good fats (coconut oil is always a good solution!).
People taking blood-thinning medication or anticoagulants should be careful because it will antagonize the effect. So always ask for advice to your health practitioners.
So WHAT SHOULD YOU TAKE FROM ALL OF THIS?
What you should remember is that:
- Vitamin K2 is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that works synergistically with vitamin D and calcium especially
- It helps move the calcium in your body to where it belongs, decreasing the risk of calcification of arteries more particularly
- It is therefore particularly important to help treat osteoporosis, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, coagulation problems, and other chronic diseases
- We are all more likely to be deficient in vitamin K2
- Vitamin K2 supplementation (MK7 form) should be even more seriously considered for people with osteoporosis, cardiovascular problems, diabetes (and other chronic diseases), especially if vitamin D is taken orally
- Ask for advice if you are taking blood thinning / anticoagulants medication
- It is non toxic, even in very high doses
I hope this helped you realize how important this “unknown” vitamin is!
Hopefully even the mainstream medias will soon be talking about it…. In the meantime, educate yourself and take action ;-)
In Health and Happiness,