Vitamin K2: A Vital Nutrient For Heart and Bone Healthiness; Facts About Vitamin k
.Vitamin K1 is important for proper blood clotting. Vitamin K2 works synergistically with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to impart a number of important health benefits
.Vitamin K2 deficiency produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification of soft tissues that can lead to atherosclerosis
.Health benefits of vitamin K2 include preventing osteoporosis and heart disease, optimizing sexual function, reducing your risk of diabetes and cancer, improving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and knee osteoarthritis and more
.Research found taking 180 micrograms per day of MK-7 vitamin K2 for three years improved arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women, especially those who had a high degree of arterial stiffness.
Pooled evidence show vitamin K2 supplementation can reduce vertebral fractures by 60 percent and hip and other nonvertebral fractures by 80 percent.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is well-known for its role in blood clotting. However, there are two different kinds of vitamin K,1 each providing its own set of health benefits. Vitamin K1 is primarily responsible for blood clotting whereas vitamin K2 works synergistically with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to impart a number of important health benefits.
Broad Definition Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is part of the vitamin K family, a group of fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin K is split into two groups: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. The difference lies on a molecular level. Vitamin K1 has one molecule, so it is a phylloquinone. The K2 group has multiple molecules and known as menaquinones.
While K vitamins are crucial for blood clotting, vitamin K2, unlike K1, is utilized by the liver and then is available to tissues beyond the liver, such as the bones, arteries and blood vessels. So why is vitamin K2 so valuable?
Simply put, vitamin K2 is the body’s light switch. It activates or “turns on” important proteins in the body such as osteocalcin for strong bones and the matrix Gla protein (MGP) in the arteries and blood vessels. By turning on these vitamin K2 dependent proteins, calcium is kept out of the arteries (where it can cause hardening of arteries and blockages) and transported and kept in the bones where it belongs.
Although vitamin K2 is a relative newcomer to the supplement arena, I believe there is now enough scientific evidence to make you take notice and add it to your list of essential nutrients. While I will focus on vitamin K2’s proven cardiovascular benefits, a multitude of studies have also demonstrated vitamin K2’s effectiveness for bone health and children’s health. And more research is being done every day to support its benefits in these crucial areas to the general population.
Vitamin K2: A Vital Nutrient For Heart and Bone Healthiness
Checking Out The Benefits Of Vitamin K2 To The Heart
Adequate intake of vitamin K2 has been shown to lower the risk of vascular damage because it activates MGP, which inhibits calcium from depositing in the vessel walls. Hence, calcium is available for other multiple roles in the body, leaving the arteries healthy and flexible.8
However, vitamin K deficiency results in inadequate activation of MGP, which greatly impairs the calcium removal process and increases the risk of blood vessel calcification.9 As this process occurs in the vessel wall, it leads to the wall thickening via the formation of calcified plaques (typical atherosclerosis progression), which is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Vitamin K2 is essential for bone and cardiovascular health: without vitamin K2, calcium is not properly directed to bones, allowing it to build up in blood vessel walls and soft tissues
The population-based Rotterdam study evaluated 4807 healthy men and women aged 55 and older, and the relationship between dietary intake of vitamin K and aortic calcification, heart disease and all-cause mortality.10 The study revealed that a high dietary intake of vitamin K2 (at least 32µg per day) and not vitamin K1, reduced arterial calcification by 50%, cardiovascular risk by 50% and all-cause mortality by 25%.
These findings were supported by another population-based study with 16,000 healthy women (aged 49–70) from the Prospect-EPIC cohort population.11 After 8 years, the data showed that a high intake of natural vitamin K2, but not vitamin K1, helps to protect against cardiovascular events; for every 10µg of vitamin K2 (in the forms of MK-7, MK-8 and MK-9) consumed, the risk of coronary heart disease was reduced by 9%.
Vitamin K2 Importance To The Bone- Vital For Osteoporosis Prevention
As mentioned, vitamin K2 also plays a crucial role in bone health,20 and may be critical for the prevention of osteoporosis (brittle bones). Osteocalcin is a protein produced by your osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation) and is utilized within the bone as an integral part of the bone-forming process. However, osteocalcin must be “carboxylated” before it can be effective. Vitamin K functions as a cofactor for the enzyme that catalyzes the carboxylation of osteocalcin.
If you do not have sufficient amounts of vitamin K2, you run the risk of both brittle bones and calcification in your soft tissues. In other words, vitamin K2 is necessary to keep your bones strong and your soft tissues pliable. A number of Japanese trials have shown that vitamin K2 completely reverses bone loss and in some cases even increases bone mass in people with osteoporosis.
The pooled evidence of seven Japanese trials also shows that vitamin K2 supplementation produces a 60 percent reduction in vertebral fractures and an 80 percent reduction in hip and other nonvertebral fractures.22 One Chinese meta-analysis23 of 19 randomized controlled trials found that vitamin K2 supplementation significantly improved vertebral bone density in postmenopausal women and reduced the risk of bone fractures.
Another three-year-long placebo-controlled study24 done in the Netherlands found that postmenopausal women taking 180 mcg of MK-7 per day increased their bone strength and saw a decrease in the rate of age-related bone mineral decline and reduced loss of bone density, compared to those taking a placebo. The following graphic, from a 2014 research paper25 on vitamin K2, illustrates the dual effect of vitamin K on bone and vascular health.
Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency
The following conditions may put you at an increased risk of vitamin K deficiency:
.Eating a poor or restricted diet
.Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and other conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption
.Liver disease that interferes with vitamin K storage
.Taking drugs such as broad-spectrum antibiotics, cholesterol drugs and aspirin
Some of the signs and symptoms of a vitamin K deficiency include:
.Blood thinning, poor clot formation, easy bruising and excessive bleeding from wounds, punctures or injections
.Heavy menstrual periods
.Anemia (looking tired and pale; feeling weak and listless)
.Bleeding from your gastrointestinal tract; blood in urine and/or stool
.Frequent nose bleeds
The four keys to good health for everyone are nutrition (including supplements), exercise, stress management and sleep. Pills alone are not the solution, but I feel very strongly that supplements fill the nutritional gaps our diets are lacking. Vitamin K2 should be taken along with vitamin D and calcium, and it’s best to look for one supplement that contains all three ingredients combined, especially the clinically studied MenaQ7 form of vitamin K2 that can be found listed as such on the nutritional label.
Finally, I want to emphasize that you must be proactive with your health, and I encourage you to make your doctor an active partner in your pursuit of well-being. Discuss your health goals and concerns with your physician for a personal roadmap on how to get there.
- M.H.J. Knapen, et al., ‘Menaquinone-7 Supplementation Improves Arterial Stiffness in Healthy Postmenopausal Women: Double-Blind Randomised Clinical Trial,’ Thrombosis and Haemostasis 113(5), 1135-1144 (2015).
- R.P. Heaney and C.M. Weaver, ‘Newer Perspectives on Calcium Nutrition and Bone Quality,’ J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 24(6), 574S–581S (2005).
- P.V. Hauschka, ‘Osteocalcin: The vitamin K-Dependent Ca2+-Binding Protein of Bone Matrix,’ Haemostasis 16(3–4), 258–272 (1986).
- E. Theuwissen, E. Smit and C. Vermeer, ‘The Role of Vitamin K in Soft-Tissue Calcification,’ Adv. Nutr. 3(2), 166–173 (2012).
- Q. Xiao Q, et al., ‘Dietary and Supplemental Calcium Intake and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality: The National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study,’ JAMA Intern. Med. 173, 639–646 (2013).