Vitamin K nutrition infographic with medical and food icons: diet healthy food and wellbeing concept

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

Vitamin K2 is a ghost vitamin. It doesn’t get much press even though it’s involved with some very important metabolic functions in the human body. There are two types of this vitamin that are well known and understood: K1 and K2, and K2 subdivides further. Vitamin K3 has garnered very little analysis so far and won’t be brought up anymore in this article.

Both K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone) are similar in their basic function of binding proteins to calcium, but for different reasons. The liver uses K1 mostly to activate proteins that are capable of binding for the purpose of coagulation in the blood as needed for blood clotting upon bleeding.

Vitamin K was discovered in 1929 Germany by observing its coagulation factor for clotting. They called the newly discovered vitamin Koagulationsvitamin. That may be one of the most straightforward and clear vitamin functions in a label we’ll ever see. Obviously that’s where the K comes from.

Though using similar biochemical processes, K2 mostly activates proteins that regulate where calcium ends up in the body, which may be an even more important issue for heart health than has been publicized.

Some studies have shown cross-over functions of the K1 and K2 aspects of vitamin K. But while K1 can even reverse arterial calcification somewhat and K2 can assist blood clotting actions, they both function primarily as mentioned in the earlier paragraph.

The Mostly Unknown Virtues of Vitamin K

There are many who take in too much calcium supplementation. A small percentage of calcium is involved with other biochemical functions, but the bulk of it goes into bone matter if that calcium has helpers. If not, where does it go? It remains in the blood, creating strong chances for arterial calcification and calcium deposits in heart valves.

From a paper that examines different aspects of arterial calcification, “Vascular Calcification: Pathobiology of a Multifaceted Disease,” published June 2, 2008 in the journal Circulation, we have this excerpt from that paper’s concluding summary that spells out the peril of too much calcium that’s not absorbed into bone matter: (Source)

Clinically, vascular calcification is now accepted as a valuable predictor of coronary heart disease. (…) Thus, treatments for osteoporosis such as calcitriol, estradiol, bisphosphonates, calcium supplements, and intermittent PTH are likely to affect vascular calcification (…) As we develop and use treatments for cardiovascular and skeletal diseases, we must give serious consideration to the implications for the organ at the other end of the bone-vascular axis. (Emphasis added)

Many outside the USDA box of nutritional “advice” recommend more supplementation with magnesium over calcium. Magnesium plays a large part of bone structuring, along with silica and vitamin D3.

The mineral calcium is but one aspect of bone building, and vitamin K is a part of metabolizing calcium and ensuring it goes where it should go, mostly in bone matter and not roaming about our vascular tubing where it can cause vascular damage or into the heart where it can calcify and clog heart valves.

More Vitamin K Subdivisions

Vitamin K2 has more elements or subdivisions, which can be somewhat complicated for most consumers. The menaquinone symbol MK will have a number attached that represents a certain level of molecular formation variance within the menaquinone types.

It’s common to see vitamin K2 supplement packages on health store shelves, some with the symbol MK-4 and others with MK-7. MK-4 is a lab synthesized molecule, and MK-7 comes from fermented foods, mostly natto. Most health experts give the health value thumbs up to MK-7. That’s because it is considerably more bio-available and lasts longer in the blood than MK-4.

There are two others, MK-8 and MK-9, but they are strictly in high quality meats, dairy foods, and cheeses and are not sold as supplements. Vitamin K1 is common in plant foods, especially leafy greens, because K1 is an essential component of photosynthesis in plants. Anyone eating sufficient whole organic plant foods cooked, raw, or as salads should be doing fine with their K1 levels.

Not all fermented foods are high in K2, but natto is. Others, such as miso and tempeh, are not so high in K2. Dr. Joseph Mercola interviewed Dr. Rheaume-Bleue, and she claimed the cheeses highest in K2 are Gouda and Brie, each containing about 75 mcg per ounce. Other scientists have found high levels of MK-7 in a type of cheese called Edam.

Variations of vitamin K2 are available in certain meats, egg yolks, dairy products from free roaming grass eating livestock and fermented foods such as natto, but adding K2 MK-7 supplements may still be necessary. Especially if you supplement vitamin D3 in fairly high daily levels, 1,000 IU (international units) and up.

Many knowledgeable medical practitioners recommend giving that high dose D3 supplement the symbiotic help it needs from vitamin K2, preferably MK-7. Otherwise protection from arterial calcification may be compromised somewhat or even seriously challenged.

Vitamin K2 is fat soluble. So if you’re using supplements it’s wise to be eating a fat of some sort, such as yogurt or coconut oil, along with the supplement. Renowned vitamin K researcher Dr. Cees Vermeer recommends between 45 mcg and 185 mcg daily for adults. (Source)

Vitamin K2 Just Keeps Getting More Vital for Health as It’s Studied

Vitamin K2 deficiency leaves you vulnerable to a number of chronic diseases, including: osteoporosis, heart disease, heart attack and stroke, inappropriate calcification (kidney stones and heel spurs), brain disease, and even cancer.

Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, a naturopathic physician, estimates that about 80 percent of Americans do not get enough vitamin K2 in their diet to activate their K2 proteins to shuttle the calcium where it needs to be and remove it from the places where it shouldn’t be.

There’s been a lot of discussion about vitamin K2 moving calcium around the body away from where it shouldn’t be into areas where it’s needed. Dr. Rheaume-Bleue brings up another vital feature of K2:

“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. 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.” (Source)