Are you standing on the cliff of heart disease? If you enjoy adequate vitamin D in your body, your risk of heart disease may be reduced. But are you aware of the benefits of vitamin D’s essential partner, vitamin K2? This little-known nutrient may play a role in whether or not you develop heart disease.
Vitamins D and K2 partner to build and maintain strong bones and teeth as well as fight heart-related diseases. Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption in the intestines to maintain strong bones and dental health. However, once calcium enters the blood stream, vitamin D transfers the control of calcium’s destination to vitamin K2. Then vitamin K2 moves calcium out of the arteries and into the bones and teeth—where this mineral belongs!
Vitamin K1 is Vital for Blood Clotting
Before discussing vitamin K2, I would be remiss if I did not mention the first form of vitamin K. Vitamin K1 is literally a vital nutrient. Without vitamin K1 our blood would not clot, and we could bleed to death. The good news is that vitamin K1 (or phylloquinone) is present in all green plants that acquire energy from sunlight. Green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, collards, broccoli, and brussel sprouts abound with vitamin K1. Better news: vitamin K1 constantly recycles in our bodies so deficiency is rare.
Vitamin K2 Sweeps Calcium to the Bones and Teeth
Vitamin K2 (or menaquinone) however differs greatly from K1. There are two forms of vitamin K2: menaquinone-4 (MK-4) found in grass-fed animal protein including meat, egg yolk, butter, some cheeses, and calf’s liver. A fermented soybean called natto, generally consumed in Japan, is abundant in a more potent form of vitamin K2 called menaquinone-7 (MK-7).
Health benefits of adequate vitamin K2 levels include potential prevention of osteoporosis, arterial plaque, and dental cavities. Vitamin K2 moves calcium to the bones and teeth, as well as sweeps calcium from soft tissue lining such as arteries. Specifically, vitamin K2 activates proteins (osteocalcin and matrix gla protein) produced by vitamin D that facilitate moving calcium to where it belongs: the bones and teeth.
Low vitamin K2 levels, however, are common. First, vitamin K2 is not recycled in the body. Second, the vitamin’s natural sources are lacking in most diets. Owing to the preponderance of industrial farming in many parts of the world, many people are low in vitamin K2. When insufficient vitamin K2 is in the blood stream, calcium can linger along arterial pathways potentially causing calcification, the process whereby calcium deposits form plaque accumulating in the cardiovascular system. These calcium deposits can cause heart disease.
Vitamin K2 Supplementation
Supplementing with adequate amounts of vitamins D and K2 balances calcium metabolism. The word “balance” is important: one can enjoy optimal vitamin D levels but unknowingly have a vitamin K2 deficiency, a potential recipe for development of heart disease. Unless you consume grass-fed animal products or natto on a regular basis, consider taking a daily K2 supplement. Some experts recommend a daily dose between 100 and 120 mcg. (I take a daily 90-mcg vitamin K2 (MK-7) soft gel containing natto.) As vitamin K2 is fat-soluble, a soft gel taken after a fatty meal is probably the best means for absorption. Vitamin K2 supplements are widely available in health food stores and at online retailers.
However, please be aware that anticoagulant medications (blood thinners such as warfarin) block the action of both forms of vitamin K. If you are taking blood-thinning medication, please check with your healthcare professional before adding any form of vitamin K to your body.
The Bottom Line
The reason I wrote this article is to increase awareness of the essential role vitamin K2 plays by moving calcium out of the cardiovascular system. Many of us do not acquire adequate vitamin K2 from our diets, and do not take adequate vitamin K2 supplements. No wonder calcified cardiovascular tissue is so common! I encourage you to consult with your healthcare professional about the essential benefit of vitamin K2. And please don’t forget K2’s partner: vitamin D!
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Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life by Kate Rheaume-Bleue, ND, 2012.
Defend Your Life by Susan Rex Ryan, 2013.
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