Vitamin K—Important Facts That You Need To Know
When I think of Springtime I think about vitamin K. In part, this is because I’m a nerdy Naturopath. This association probably comes from knowing that Vitamin K is the fat soluble vitamin found in the green vegetables that are plentiful during the spring season.
There are two different basic types of vitamin K called K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is the vitamin that is responsible for our body’s healthy blood clotting system and is found in all those healthy green vegetables. Vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods like Japanese Natto, specific cheeses like Edam and Brie. It is also found in egg yolks and butter from grass-fed animals. Menaquinone-7 (MK-7), a specific form of K2, has been the subject of extensive research over the last several years. According to research, MK-7 may play a role in the prevention of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Benefits of Vitamin K2 (MK-7)
- MK-7 K2 increases a bone building hormone osteocalcin and may be why research is showing vitamin K2 supplementation reduces vertebral fractures by 50% and hip fractures by 80%.
- MK-7 K2 helps move calcium out of soft tissues and into bone.
- Vitamin K2 along with vitamin D helps prevent calcification in the arteries and especially the coronary arteries.
- MK-7 K2 helps prevent cardiovascular disease by decreasing hardening of the arteries.
- In some studies, K2 was found to slow cancer cell growth.
- A research group out of Germany showed that vitamin K2 may decrease prostate cancer risk by almost 50%.
- MK-7 prevents inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory chemicals released by immune cells.
Increasing your vitamin K2 intake
For those with a family history of heart disease or Osteoporosis, I strongly suggest that you add vitamin K2 to your diet or nutritional supplement plan. Humans can convert the K1 contained in green leafy vegetables into small amounts of vitamin K2 when consumed. It is estimated that you would need to eat over a pound of dark leafy greens per day to get adequate vitamin K intake. However, it appears that we may require a larger amount of vitamin K2 than can be adequately converted from K1 foods. Vitamin K2 may be an essential nutrient that we need to consume directly through vitamin K2 rich foods and supplements.
The richest source of the MK-7 form of vitamin K2 is found in natto, a fermented soy food from Japan. The target dose for MK-7 is 180mcg daily which can be found in just a ½ ounce of natto. However, many find the ammonia odor and slimy texture of natto unappealing. Some with extra culinary skill go as far as trying to ferment their own vegetables and beans with the specific type of good vitamin K2 producing bacteria (Bacillus natto) that is used to make the traditional Japanese natto dish. Unfortunately, the other bacteria found in some of our good quality probiotics are not the type of bacteria produce high levels of vitamin K2.
For many the ease of nutritional supplementation makes sense. Two of my favorite products* that have therapeutic doses of MK-7 form of vitamin K2 include:
- K-Force (Orthomolecular): provides 180 mcg of soy-free vitamin K2 delivered in the preferred MK-7 form, along with 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per capsule, for optimal support of cardiovascular and bone health.
- OsteoPrime Ultra (Integrative Therapeutics): A comprehensive bone formula that delivers a complete complement of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K and trace minerals for ultimate bone support. Four capsules provide 345 mcg of vitamin K from both sources of vitamin K including K1 and MK-7.
*Caution should be used when starting any new nutritional supplement. Consult your healthcare practitioner before using these products. This is especially important if you are taking Warfarin, Coumadin or other blood thinning medications.
Our knowledge and understanding of vitamin K2 and its role in our health continues to expand daily. Although previously overlooked this fat-soluble vitamin is emerging as a key player in our overall health and will likely to continue to shine as an important nutrient for our ongoing vitality.