http://naturalhealthchiropractic.com/who_knew/view/995/the_vitamin__e_ight_story, vitamin K is made up of a family of vitamins: K1, K2, and K3 vitamins. Interestingly, like some siblings, they couldn’t be more different in how they function in the body. For this newsletter we will ignore K3 (menadione) which is a synthetic form of K3 used mainly in pet foods and instead focus a little on K1, and mostly on K2 and the subsets within that clearly make K2 the most gifted sibling in the family.
Vitamin K or more specifically K1 (phylloquinone) has historically been known as the clotting factor vitamin. It got its name from the German spelling of Koagulation and it’s found in green leafy vegetables and oils. Without K1, a simple cut to our skin could be a life-threatening event. K1 stimulates 4 of the 12 different clotting factors. K1 is contraindicated to take if someone is on anti-coagulants such as coumadin and warfarin.
K2 (Menaquinone): Since the 1990’s research is discovering different menaquinones and how they function in the body. I should add that today’s research was really started by Dr. Weston Price who in 1945 wrote a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in which he described a chemical from fermented foods and its importance in health. He called it Activator X, but it’s now known to be K2. The most common forms of K2 that have been studied are menaquinone 4 and menaquinone 7, henceforth to be referred to as MK4 and MK7. K1 can convert to MK4 but it cannot convert to MK7. MK7 appears to circulate for longer periods of time within the body and for this reason it may be more useful than MK4. MK4 is found mainly in herbivore animals and their byproducts who have converted grasses into K2. This would be the meat, milk, eggs, and organs of grass fed animals. Emu oil is also high in MK4. MK7 is found in foods that have undergone bacterial fermentation. This would be fermented fish, soybeans (natto, tempeh), cabbage, pickles, kimchi, and cheeses such as brie, gouda, and edam. Natto uses a bacterium called bacillus subtilis to ferment making it the highest source of K2 of any food. This bacterium is vitally important to increase MK7.
What is K2 and why doesn’t it get the respect it deserves?
Research is showing K2 helps with the following health issues: Heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, dementia, joint health, cranial development, skin health, dental health, muscle function, neuropathy and neurodegenerative disorders, mitochondrial restoration, and cardiac function. Arguably it might be the most important anti-aging nutrient of all.
With osteoporosis, vitamin D3 and calcium are usually mentioned. However, without K2, calcium won’t get into the bones and will stay in the arteries. Here’s why. Vitamin D3 brings calcium into the bloodstream and stimulates osteoclasts (cells that build bone) to release a non-activated or (under carboxylated) protein called osteocalcin. A specific GLa protein needs K2 to activate (or carboxylate) the osteocalcin which only then can release the calcium from the artery to deposit it within the matrix of the bones and teeth. When this happens two health problems are helped. Bone remineralization can occur, and the removal of the calcium from the artery prevents cardiovascular problems by not allowing the calcification of the arteries. Protecting the inner walls of arteries from calcification helps prevent clots and heart attacks. For those people who have stents or calcified coronary arteries, increasing K2 is essential. Additionally, approximately 25% of adults over 40 yrs. old in the U.S. are on a statin medication. Statins decrease K2, so this entire population of patients should consider taking K2.
Much of the research on K2 was done in Japan because eastern Japan has a much lower hip fracture rate than western Japan. Three researchers, Kaneki in 2001, Ikeda in 2006, and Yaegashi in 2008 all showed that because eastern Japan eats much more of a fermented soybean dish called natto, which is high in K2, the eastern population of Japan was able to significantly protect themselves both from osteoporosis and hip fractures. They also had a lowered rate of diabetes and senile dementia.
A Rotterdam study of almost 5000 men and women aged 55 and older was followed for ten years. The conclusions were 45ug/day of K2 equaled a 50% reduction of arterial calcification and cardiovascular death and a 25% reduction of all cause mortality. In another Dutch study with 38,000 participants over ten years, concluded that K2 was able to reduce diabetes risk by 20%. In yet another study with 23,000 German adults it determined that K2 was able to reduce the likelihood of developing or dying from cancer. There was also a study that showed K2 was able to improve basal mitochondrial rate, with a 13% improved cardiac output with a resting heart rate. This equates to pumping 900 more liters of blood through your body in a 24-hour period!
Because there is no human blood test for K2, the research was done by measuring vitamin K2 levels in certain foods and later determining that those diets that were higher in K2 had more protection against many diseases. Are you low in K2? Symptoms such as bone loss, weak teeth, or frequent muscle cramps, and any signs of vascular calcifications would be an indicator for a need for K2. Also, any neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s disease or a neuropathy.
Dr. Chris Masterjohn has depicted the ideal diet to derive the proper amount of vitamin K2 from your diet. It appears that the ideal amount is somewhere between 45-180 ug or mcg (micrograms) per day. Dr. Masterjohn also has a link that I have included where you could type in just about any food and see how much K2 is in that food and includes supplements that he feels offer the highest amount of K2. I would add that he neglected to include Menaquinone K2-7 from Microbiome Labs. They have the second highest dose available, with two capsules supplying 325 mcg of MK7. They also sell the spore-based bacteria known for increasing K2 called bacillus subtilis which is in theirMegasporebiotic probiotic and by itself in a product called HU 58.