A little-known nutrient called vitamin K2 may inhibit the growth of two deadly forms of breast cancer.
In a recent ground-breaking study, Irish researchers discovered that the most common form of vitamin K2, menaquinone-4 (MK-4), demonstrated a dramatic reduction in invasive breast cancer cell growth.
A Nutrient Called Vitamin K2 MK-4
Vitamin K2 MK-4, a fat-soluble nutrient, is abundant in grass-fed animal proteins such as meat, cheese, egg yolk, and butter. Its known health benefits include potential prevention of osteoporosis, arterial plaque, and dental cavities. By partnering with vitamin D3, vitamin K2 moves calcium to the bones and teeth, as well as sweeps calcium from soft tissues.
Low vitamin K2 levels are common across the globe. The vitamin’s natural sources are lacking in most diets. Owing to the preponderance of industrial farming in many parts of the world and varying nutritional regimens, many people do not consume grass-fed animal products.
Could a widespread vitamin K2 MK-4 deficiency be related to the growth of breast cancer cells?
TNBC and HER2+ Breast Cancers
The research team used vitamin K2 MK-4 concentrations of varying doses on two forms of breast cancer cell types: triple-negative (MDA-MB-231) and HER2+ (MDA-MB-453). Both types of breast cancer cells in this study present difficult treatment challenges.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), the more deadly form of these breast cancer subtypes, has no targeted treatment. About 20 per cent of women who develop breast cancer are diagnosed with TNBC.
Women who are diagnosed with HER2+ (human epidermal growth factor receptor) breast cancer have tumors with too much HER2 protein or extra copies of the HER2 gene. About 1 in 5 breast cancer patients have been diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer. These patients are usually treated with an antibody drug that may cause serious or life-threatening heart issues.
Vitamin K2 MK-4’s Effect on TNBC and HER2+ Cellular Growth
The treatment of vitamin K2 MK-4 produced a remarkable decrease in the growth of TNBC and HER2+ cells. Their respective cell types, MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-453, responded to “a significant dose-dependent, growth inhibitory effect” of vitamin K2 MK-4. (The anti-proliferative properties of vitamin K2 MK-4 have been previously reported on human glioblastoma, a highly aggressive and infiltrative form of brain cancer.)
Monitoring the treatment of vitamin K2 MK-4 derivatives on live breast cancer cells in a laboratory, the researchers observed in real-time the anti-adhesion and anti-proliferative effects of vitamin K2 MK-4 on both cell types. The findings of this landmark research were published in the August 2015 issue of the journal Nutritional Research.
Vitamin K2 MK-4 Intake
Vitamin K2 MK-4’s reported, albeit limited, success against aggressive select breast and brain cancer cells may have you wondering if you and your loved ones are getting enough of this nutrient?
The human body requires relatively small but regular doses of vitamin K2 MK-4 to be effective. Unfortunately, routine clinical testing is limited, at best, as little of this nutrient is stored in the body. (1)
Fortunately, grass-fed animal products are making a comeback to the dining table. Some hard cheeses such as Gouda, Brie, and Edam are reliable sources of vitamin K2 MK-4. For example, approximately one ounce of Gouda cheese from the Netherlands contains a whopping 75 mcg of vitamin K2 MK-4. Aim for a daily intake of about 100 mcg of foods containing vitamin K2 MK-4. (2)
The Bottom Line
Scientific research indicates that the application of vitamin K2 MK-4 to aggressive TNBC and HER2+ cancer cells inhibits their growth. A similar effect was reported against glioblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. Patients diagnosed with these types of cancer may wish to consider, in concert with their heathcare professional, adding vitamin K2-MK-4-rich foods to their daily diet.
***Important Note: Anticoagulant medications (blood thinners such as warfarin) block the action of vitamin K2 MK-4. If you are taking blood-thinning medication, please check with your healthcare professional before taking any form of vitamin K.***
Footnote 1: A blood test called “serum undercarboxylated osteocalcin (ucOC)” is available from some clinical laboratories. High amounts of the ucOC protein typically indicate a low vitamin K2 level. This test however focuses on evaluating ucOC as a biomarker for bone health.
Footnote 2: If foods rich in vitamin K2 MK-4 are not in your diet, over-the-counter K2 MK-4 supplements are available. However, they are synthetic; some reportedly contain tobacco. In addition, their short half –life requires the supplements (450 mg dosage) be taken three times a day. As vitamin K2 is fat-soluble, a soft gel capsule or liquid supplement taken with a meal that includes healthy fat is the best means for absorption. (Personally, I am not a fan of these supplements for the reasons stated; I prefer to get my vitamin K2 MK-4 from foods replete with this nutrient.)
Author’s Note: I first became acquainted with vitamin K2 during my scientific literature research of vitamin D. If you are interested in avoiding cardiovascular disease, I encourage you to visit my blog at smilinsuepubs.com for easy-to-read articles about how vitamins D3 and K2 work together to move calcium from soft tissue to the bones and teeth: where they belong!
Publisher’s Note: Susan Rex Ryan is the author of the award-winning book “Defend Your Life” about vitamin D’s health benefits and includes an overview of vitamin K.
Smilin Sue Publishing, LLC Medical Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as, nor should it be a substitute for, professional medical advice. See Terms and Conditions .
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Re “***Important Note: Anticoagulant medications (blood thinners such as warfarin) block the action of vitamin K2 MK-4. If you are taking blood-thinning medication, please check with your healthcare professional before taking any form of vitamin K.***” This is not the case for antiplatelet medication – for which no interaction is currently known to exist (this includes aspirin). Looks like this vitamin is soon going to hit the big time especially for CVD – bring on the Natto 🙂