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By Dr. Mercola | mercola
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin most well known for the important role it plays in blood clotting. However, many do not realize that there are different kinds of vitamin K, and they are completely different.
The health benefits of vitamin K2 go far beyond blood clotting, which is done by vitamin K1, and vitamin K2 also works synergistically with a number of other nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D.
Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, a naturopathic physician with a keen interest in nutrition, has authored what I believe is one of the most comprehensive books on this important topic, titled: Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life
“I tuned in to the emerging research about K2 early in 2007,” she says. “Not long before, I had read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. When I learned about vitamin K2, I thought:
“Hey, you know what? I’m sure Price talked all about this in his book.” I went to the book, looked through it, and didn’t find any reference to vitamin K2. I was really stumped.
A little bit later in 2007, I read a brilliant article by Chris Masterjohn that links vitamin K2 to Prices’ work on Activator X.
Once I realized that link, the light bulb went on about how important this nutrient is, and how overlooked it’s been for so long. It really provides the missing piece to the puzzle of so many health conditions, and yet it was being completely overlooked, despite the overwhelming amounts of modern-day research.”
Click HEREto watch the full interview!
What’s So Special About Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K is actually a group of fat-soluble vitamins. Of the two main ones, K1 and K2, the one receiving the most attention is K1, which is found in green leafy vegetables and is very easy to get through your diet. This lack of distinction has created a lot of confusion, and it’s one of the reasons why vitamin K2 has been overlooked for so long.
The three types of vitamin K are:
1. Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is found naturally in plants, especially green vegetables; K1 goes directly to your liver and helps you maintain healthy blood clotting
2. Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, is made by the bacteria that line your gastrointestinal tract; K2 goes straight to your blood vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than your liver
3. Vitamin K3, or menadione, is a synthetic form I do not recommend; it’s important to note that toxicity has occurred in infants injected with this synthetic vitamin K3
Vitamin K1 exclusively participates in blood clotting — that’s sole purpose. K2 on the other hand comes from a whole different set of food sources, and its biological role is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, such as your bones and teeth. It also plays a role in removing calcium from areas where it shouldn’t be, such as in your arteries and soft tissues.
“K2 is really critical for keeping your bones strong and your arteries clear,” Rheaume-Bleue says.
Now, vitamin K2 can be broken into two additional categories, called:
1. MK-4 (menaquinone-4), a short-chain form of vitamin K2 found in butter, egg yolks, and animal-based foods
2. MK-7 (menaquinone-7), longer-chain forms found in fermented foods. There’s a variety of these long-chain forms but the most common one is MK-7. This is the one you’ll want to look for in supplements, because in a supplement form, the MK-4 products are actually synthetic. They are not derived from natural food products containing MK-4.
The MK-7 – these long-chain, natural bacterial-derived vitamin K2 – is from a fermentation process, which offers a number of health advantages:
1. It stays in your body longer, and
2. It has a longer half-life, which means you can just take it once a day in very convenient dosing
How Much Vitamin K2 Do You Need?
The optimal amounts of vitamin K2 are still under investigation, but it seems likely that 180 to 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 should be enough to activate your body’s K2-dependent proteins to shuttle the calcium where it needs to be, and remove it from the places where it shouldn’t.
“The most recent clinical trials used around those amounts of K2,” Rheaume-Bleue says. “The average person is getting a lot less than that. That’s for sure. In the North American diet, you can see as little as maybe 10 percent of that or less. Certainly, not near enough to be able to optimize bone density and improve heart health.”
She estimates that about 80 percent of Americans do not get enough vitamin K2 in their diet to activate their K2 proteins, which is similar to the deficiency rate of vitamin D. Vitamin K2 deficiency leaves you vulnerable for a number of chronic diseases, including:
|Osteoporosis||Heart disease||Heart attack and stroke|
|Inappropriate calcification, from heel spurs to kidney stones||Brain disease||Cancer|
“I talked about vitamin K2 moving calcium around the body. Its other main role is to activate proteins that control cell growth. That means K2 has a very important role to play in cancer protection,” Rheaume-Bleue says.
“When we’re lacking K2, we’re at much greater risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. And these are three concerns that used to be relatively rare. Over the last 100 years, as we’ve changed the way we produced our food and the way we eat, they have become very common.”
Researchers are also looking into other health benefits. For example, one recent study published in the journal Modern Rheumatology1 found that vitamin K2 has the potential to improve disease activity besides osteoporosis in those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Another, published in the journal Science2, found that vitamin K2 serves as a mitochondrial electron carrier, thereby helping maintain normal ATP production in mitochondrial dysfunction, such as that found in Parkinson’s Disease.
According to the authors:
“We identified Drosophila UBIAD1/Heix as a modifier of pink1, a gene mutated in Parkinson’s disease that affects mitochondrial function. We found that vitamin K(2) was necessary and sufficient to transfer electrons in Drosophila mitochondria. Heix mutants showed severe mitochondrial defects that were rescued by vitamin K(2), and, similar to ubiquinone, vitamin K(2) transferred electrons in Drosophila mitochondria, resulting in more efficient adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. Thus, mitochondrial dysfunction was rescued by vitamin K(2) that serves as a mitochondrial electron carrier, helping to maintain normal ATP production.”
The Interplay Between Vitamin K2, Vitamin D, and Calcium
As I’ve discussed on numerous occasions, vitamin D is a critical nutrient for optimal health and is best obtained from sun exposure or a safe tanning bed. However, many are taking oral vitamin D, which may become problematic unless you’re also getting sufficient amounts of vitamin K2. Dr. Rheaume-Bleue explains:
“When you take vitamin D, your body creates more of these vitamin K2-dependent proteins, the proteins that will move the calcium around. They have a lot of potential health benefits. But until the K2 comes in to activate those proteins, those benefits aren’t realized. So, really, if you’re taking vitamin D, you’re creating an increased demand for K2. And vitamin D and K2 work together to strengthen your bones and improve your heart health.
… For so long, we’ve been told to take calcium for osteoporosis… and vitamin D, which we know is helpful. But then, more studies are coming out showing that increased calcium intake is causing more heart attacks and strokes. That created a lot of confusion around whether calcium is safe or not. But that’s the wrong question to be asking, because we’ll never properly understand the health benefits of calcium or vitamin D, unless we take into consideration K2. That’s what keeps the calcium in its right place.”
IMPORTANT: If You Take Vitamin D, You Need K2
This is a really crucial point: If you opt for oral vitamin D, you need to also consume in your food or take supplemental vitamin K2.
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