Hello Everyone! Today I want to talk about Vitamin K2. I’m excited to share that in Dec 2018 Mindbodygreen published an article I wrote on Vitamin K2 and I want to review some of that same information today with you! I will post the link to that article at the bottom of this blog. Have you heard of Vitamin K2, the top nutrient for heart health?
Vitamin K is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins: A, E, D, and K. You may be aware that Vitamin K guides calcium safely into the bones to strengthen bone mineral density and reduce fractures, but beyond that, it also prevents calcium from accumulating in our vessels and can even remove dangerous calcifications.
So how does this relate to heart disease? If you’ve ever heard of a coronary calcification score, this test checks for calcium build up in your coronary (heart) arteries. A high score means you’re at high risk of heart disease. I have patients all the time present to me having had this testing done really be scared that they are on the way to a heart attack, and the truth is that they really could be.
The more calcium built up the stiffer the vessel. You want your vessels to be more stretchy and elastic. Not only can Vitamin K prevent these calcium plaque heart blockages, it improves arterial stiffness and elasticity.
What Really Clogs Our Arteries
If you want to really dig in and learn more, I suggest reading this book Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox. Here, author Kate Rheaume-Bleue, ND says it best, “Whether your cholesterol is high or low, what really matters is whether calcium plaque is building up in your arteries, leading to potentially fatal blockages.”
Vitamin K helps direct calcium to the correct and beneficial places for your health, keeping it away from the wrong places that can be detrimental to your health, like the arteries.
How does Vitamin K accomplish this? It activates important proteins like matrix gla protein (MGP). This is where the magic happens, keeping your calcium from depositing onto blood vessels and other soft tissues.
In fact, the Rotterdam Study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2004 showed that individuals with the highest dietary intake of K2 will live on average 7 years longer than K2 deficient individuals. Why? Because it reduces the incidence of arterial calcification.
The Different Types of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is broken into K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is known as phylloquinine and. K2 is known as menaquinone. K1 deficiency is actually very rare because you’ll find it in leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, turnip greens, beet greens, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. As long as you’re getting greens in your diet regularly, this is not something to worry about. Vitamin K2 on the other hand, comes from specific foods and bacterial synthesis. Because of that, many individuals are deficient in K2 and don’t even realize it.
It was previously believed that we didn’t need to supplement K2 because our gut bacteria was able to make it. However, the amount produced in your gut varies from person to person. You must have enough healthy bacteria for this process to happen. However, if you have taken antibiotics, or have suffered from gut infections and food sensitivities, you may not have ample K2 production in the gut. K2 is not stored in the body, so we need to consume it regularly by consuming the right foods or through supplementation.
Vitamin K2 is found in the fermented soybeans, as well as the fat, milk, and organs, of grass-fed animals. This includes egg yolk, butter, and even liver. Much of our livestock is no longer grass-fed, which will reduce the K2 concentration in foods they produce. In her book, Rheaume-Bleue says, “When we removed animals from the pasture we inadvertently removed K2 from our diets” (p 52.) Why? Chlorophyll is the pigment that makes green plants green. When cows, for instance, consume these green plants they are ingesting K1 which is then converted to K2. Only the grass-fed animals have likely converted K1 to K2 for us, so we don’t have to. Also, wild game like pheasant, duck, rabbit, venison, elk, boar and wild turkey eat more green vegetation, which can increase the K2 you get from foods they produce as well. This is another example that makes Michael Pollen’s famous statement, “You are what you eat, eats” true.
Heart disease is known as the silent killer, so you may not necessarily experience classic symptoms of a “K2 deficiency.” However, what we know is that many cancers, osteoporosis, infertility, varicose veins, diabetes, wrinkles, dental cavities, Crohn’s disease, heart disease, and kidney stones are associated with a deficiency in K2.
You may be wondering where Vitamin D fits in? Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium from the intestines, but unfortunately, once it makes it into our bloodstream, Vitamin D has no control over where calcium goes. Although some will end up in the bones, some may also end up in the arteries. Think of vitamin D as the doorman opening the door for calcium to enter the bloodstream. Vitamin K is the usher that takes calcium from the lobby and directs it to its appropriate seat in the bone matrix. K2 helps bind calcium into the bone and synergistically works with vitamin D3 to improve calcium absorption.
Taking Vitamin D increases the body’s need for Vitamin K2 as well. That means if you supplement with Vitamin D, your body likely needs K2 as well.
Types of K2 Supplements
There are two major categories of K2 supplements, MK4 and MK7.
MK4 is typically extracted from the tobacco plant. Its downside is that is has a very short half-life, meaning it doesn’t stay in the body very long – really only a few hours at a time. MK7 is typically sourced from natto (fermented soy) beans, geranium, or chickpea. It has a longer half-life, so a single daily dose can provide longer protection. The effective studied dose is at least 90 mcg/day. Many studies will tell you 180 mcg. MK7 at this dose shouldn’t significantly interfere with the blood-thinning benefits of drugs when taken at a similar dose. However, always alert your medical provider of all supplements and medications you are taking and they can monitor this effect.
If your mind is reeling after reading this, let me break down the key takeaways: getting enough K2 in your diet all boils down to having proper gut health, eating the K2 rich foods I’ve listed above, and taking K2 supplementation – preferably from MK7. Having the right amount of K2 is not only beneficial for your bone health, but protects your vessels. Remember that K2 is essentially the usher that directs calcium to all the right places, while avoiding the wrong places like our arteries.
To learn more about nutrients like K2 read Chapter 4 of my book Your Longevity Blueprint.
In summary, have you heard of Vitamin K2, the top nutrient for heart health? Watch my video now to learn more about this important topic!
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*Always share with your medical provider what supplements you are taking*
*Always share with your medical provider what supplements you are taking*