This week’s favourites Friday is a new supplement I recently purchased. It’s not a widely known or talked about supplement but it is lacking in most (if not all) of our diets so I thought it was an important one to talk about. Learn why it’s so important….
Vitamin K2 Benefits and Uses
What is vitamin K2 good for? Here are some of the major benefits associated with this vitamin:
- Helps Regulate Use of Calcium
- Protects the Cardiovascular System
- Supports Bone and Dental Health
- Helps with Nutrient Assimilation
- Supports Growth and Development
- Improves Hormonal Balance
- Helps Prevent Kidney Stones
1. Helps Regulate Use of Calcium
One of the most important jobs that vitamin K2 has is controlling where calcium accumulates in the body. Vitamin K2 benefits the skeleton, heart, teeth and nervous system by helping regulate use of calcium, especially in the bones, arteries and teeth.
The “calcium paradox” is a common term for the realization by medical professionals that supplementing with calcium can somewhat reduce the risk of osteoporosis but then increases the risk of heart disease. Why does this happen? Vitamin K2 deficiency!
You see, vitamin D is responsible for transporting calcium from the intestines as it digests into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, vitamin D’s job is done at that point. Next, vitamin K2 must activate one of its dependent proteins, osteocalcin, which then takes calcium out of the bloodstream and deposits it into bones and teeth. (3)
Vitamin K2 is essential for the function of several proteins in addition to osteocalcin, which is why it helps with growth and development. K2 is involved in the maintenance of structures of the arterial walls, osteoarticular system, teeth and the regulation of cell growth. (4)
2. Protects the Cardiovascular System
Vitamin K2 is one of the best vitamins for men because it offers protection against heart-related problems, including atherosclerosis (stiffening of the arteries), which are the leading cause of death in many developed countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year more than half of deaths due to heart disease are in men. (5)
A 2015 report published in the Integrative Medicine Clinician’s Journalexplains that “Vitamin K2 is associated with the inhibition of arterial calcification and arterial stiffening. An adequate intake of vitamin K2 has been shown to lower the risk of vascular damage because it activates matrix GLA protein (MGP), which inhibits the deposits of calcium on the walls.” (6)
The Rotterdam Study, a very large study done in the Netherlands that followed more than 4,800 adult men, found that the highest intake of vitamin K2 was associated with the lowest chances of suffering from aortic calcification. Men who consumed the most K2 were found to have a 52 percent lower risk of severe aortic calcification and a 41 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. (7)
Vitamin K2 even seems to have life-saving abilities: The men in the Rotterdam study with the highest K2 intake benefited from a 51 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 26 percent lower risk of dying from any cause (total mortality).
Perhaps even more amazing is that vitamin K2 is the only substance on the planet known to reverse plaque buildup in the arteries, making it a unique weapon in the fight against heart disease. (8)
3. Supports Bone and Dental Health
K2 benefits the skeletal system by taking calcium and helping usher it into bones and teeth to make them solid and strong. A number of studies have investigated whether or not vitamin K2 can be useful for helping prevent or treat fractures, osteoporosis and bone loss. Certain clinical studies have found that K2 slows the rate of bone loss in adults and even helps increase bone mass. (9)
K2 can enhance osteocalcin accumulation in the extracellular matrix of osteoblasts inside bones, meaning it promotes bone mineralization. It can even counteract the bone loss experienced during menopause, according to animal studies. (10)
K2 also helps maintain the structure of the teeth and jaws. Many traditional cultures included vitamin K2 foods in their diets because they believed it could help prevent cavities, tooth decay and plaque formation. This impact was observed in the 1930s by dentist Weston A. Price, who found that the primitive cultures with K2-rich diets had strong, healthy teeth although they’d never been exposed to western dental hygiene. (11)
It turns out that getting plenty of K2 during pregnancy is also important for fetal growth. Price also observed this for the first time, although the reason why wasn’t defined until much later. During fetal development, having limited osteocalcin proteins activated (which require vitamin K2) equates to undergrowth of the lower third of the facial bone and jaw structure. Some experts believe this is the reason so many children in modern society need braces. (3)
4. May Protect From Cancer
Those who have high amounts of K2 in their diet are at lower risks of all cancers and death from cancer. (12) Vitamin K2 may also help to protect specifically from leukemia, prostate, lung, and liver cancers. (13, 14, 15, 16)
5. Defends From Rheumatoid Arthritis Damage
In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, supplementing with vitamin K2 resulted in a slowdown of bone mineral density loss and decreased the amount of RANKL, an inflammatory compound, in the blood of subjects. (17) This suggests that vitamin K2 might be a useful supplement to a rheumatoid arthritis diet.
6. Improves Hormonal Balance
Inside our bones, vitamin K2 can be used to produce osteocalcin hormone, which has positive metabolic and hormonal effects. Fat-soluble vitamins are important for the production of reproductive/sex hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. Because of its hormonal-balancing effects, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can benefit from getting more vitamin K2 in their diets. (18)
K2 can also helps promote blood sugar balance and insulin sensitivity, which can reduce the risk for metabolic problems like diabetes and obesity. (19) Some research suggests that K2 helps regulate glucose metabolism by modulating osteocalcin and/or proinflammatory pathways.
7. Helps Promote Kidney Health
Vitamin K2 may benefit the kidneys by helping prevent the formation of calcium accumulation in the wrong places, the underlying cause of kidney stones. It may also do the same for other organs too, including the gallbladder. (20)
In addition, a lack of K2 and vitamin D is associated with a higher occurrence of kidney disease. (21)
Food sources of K2:
- Natto (best source)
- Grass fed butter (raw)
- Grass fed cheese (raw)
- Egg Yolks
- Chicken livers
- Grass fed Beef
Which Form of Vitamin K2 is Best?
Vitamin K1 is found in leafy greens, though only a small amount is actually absorbed and used by the body. In fact, experts suggest that only 10% of Vitamin K1 from greens is used by the body.
Vitamin K2 is found in fermented raw grass fed dairy and certain other fermented foods (like natto). This is because K2 is a product of the fermentation and is created by certain bacteria. In general, these foods contain a proportionately lower amount of K2 (compared to the K1 in greens), though much more is absorbed. (1)
Interestingly, studies have shown great health and cardiovascular benefits from K2, but hardly any effect from K1. K1 is necessary for proper blood clotting and is used by the liver, while K2 benefits the bones and controls proper utilization of calcium. In fact, it is helpful to think of them as two separate nutrients with different purposes.
There is also a misconception that the body can convert K1 to K2. The research actually showed that while some other animals can effectively convert K1-K2, humans need food or supplemental sources of K2 for good health. (2)
Make sure your vitamin K2 supplement is “MK7” form.
MK4, the form of K2 found in many vitamin K supplements, is a synthetic K2 with a short half-life — to get the full benefit of it, you have to take it multiple times throughout the day. Often, an MK4 serving size is thousands of micrograms to counteract the half-life of the compound. However, MK7 derived from natto has a much longer half-life and can be taken in more reasonable doses like those listed above, which is why I recommend looking for an MK7 supplement. (3)
Wishing you a happy, healthy weekend!