Vitamin K2? Many haven’t heard about it. It isn’t so common in the Western diet and has not received a lot of mainstream attention.
But then, Vitamin K2 is vital to your health and has several benefits. Many studies suggest that a lack of it in the diet may be the reason for the many cases of chronic diseases.
So, What Exactly is Vitamin K2?
1929 was the year that vitamin K2 was discovered. It was discovered as a vital blood clotting factor.
The maiden discovery was documented in a German journal. As of then, it was identified as “koagulationsvitamin” (1).
Another discovery was made by Weston Price, a dentist in the 20th century. Price studied the relationship between disease and diet in various populations. The results from his study showed that non-industrial diets contained an unknown nutrient that offered protection against chronic disease and tooth decay.
This mysterious nutrient was referred to as “activator X,” and later renamed vitamin K2 (1).
There are two kinds of vitamin k:
The first is phylloquinone or vitamin K1. It is found in leafy greens and other plant foods. The second is menaquinone or vitamin K2. It is found in fermented foods and animal foods (2). There are other subtypes of vitamin K2, but the major ones are Mk4 and Mk7.
What is the Mechanism of Action of Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K serves as the primary activator of blood clotting proteins. They also activate those proteins that are involved in heart health and calcium metabolism.
One of the major functions of vitamin K is the regulation of calcium deposition. What this means is that it promotes bone calcification, and prevents the calcification of the kidneys and the blood vessels (3,4).
Vitamin K2 supplements play significant roles in bone health and heart health, as well as reduction of blood calcification (5,6).
What are the Health Benefits of Vitamin K2?
1) It Helps Prevents Heart Disease
The build-up of calcium in the arteries of your heart is a major risk factor for heart disease (7,8,9). And so, whatever can reduce the buildup of calcium can also prevent the onset of heart disease.
Studies suggest that vitamin K can prevent the deposition of calcium in your arteries (10). In a particular study, people who took in a lot of vitamin K2 had a 52% lesser chance of developing artery calcification. Their risk of heart disease-related death was also reduced by over 57% (10).
In another study involving 16,057 women, the results showed that high consumption of vitamin K2 reduced the risk of heart disease by 9% (11). These, however, were observational studies that don’t prove a cause or effect.
There is a need for long-term controlled trials on heart disease and vitamin K2. But that notwithstanding, studies so far show that it is effective in the prevention of heart health.
2) It Reduces the Risk of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis simply means “porous bones.” It has a high prevalence in the West. Osteoporosis is common among the elderly and is a major risk factor for fractures.
Like we’ve stated above, vitamin K2 is deeply involved in calcium metabolism – the major mineral occurring in the bones and teeth. Vitamin K2 acts as an activator for osteocalcin and matrix GLA protein – the two important proteins that help to build bones and maintain them (12,13).
Some controlled studies have shown evidence that vitamin K2 is beneficial to bone health. A study involving 244 women in their postmenopausal years found that intake of vitamin K2 supplements reduced the incidence of decreasing age-related bone mineral density (14).
Similar results have been gotten from Japanese studies. However, very high doses of vitamin K2 were used in these studies. In seven of these studies (involving fractures), intake of vitamin K2 was shown to reduce spinal fractures by 60% and, 81% reduction of non-spinal fractures, and also a 77% reduction in hip fractures (15).
Because of the many positive results, vitamin K supplements are officially used for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis in Japan (16).
3) It Lowers the Risk of Cavities
There are indications that vitamin K2 may improve dental health. Results obtained from animal studies assume that this nutrient has positive impacts on dental health.
Osteocalcin is one of the important proteins that regulates dental health. Osteocalcin is also important in bone metabolism. The activation of osteocalcin is done by vitamin k2 (17).
Osteocalcin is highly involved in the growth of dentin. Dentin is a tissue underneath your teeth’s enamel (18,19). Vitamin K2 doesn’t perform this function alone. It works synergistically with vitamins A and D (20).
What’s the Best Way to Get Vitamin K2?
There are many sources of vitamin k2. It is also important to note that your body can convert vitamin k1 into k2. Of course, this is very important considering that the amount of vitamin k1 in a diet is usually 10 times more than that of vitamin k2. However, current research shows that the conversion of vitamin k1 to k2 is not entirely efficient. As such, you may be better off taking in vitamin k2 directly. Results from studies suggest that the intake of broad-spectrum antibiotics may be associated with k2 deficiency (21,22).
Nevertheless, the modern diet remains deficient in vitamin k2. It is found in fermented foods like natto, which many people don’t eat.
Healthy sources of vitamin k2 include egg yolks, high-fat dairy products, and organ meats (23). If you are unable to access these foods, then you can go for the supplements.
What’s more? You can enhance the benefits of k2 supplements by combining them with a vitamin D supplement. Both vitamins are known to synergize the effects of each other (24).
Although there is a need for more detailed studies, the findings from current research is promising.