While fresh fruits and vegetables containing vitamin K, vitamin K2 is a little harder to come by in western foods
In last week’s article I highlighted the importance of the sunshine vitamin; D3, for its immune supporting properties. I also mentioned that it is best taken in combination with the other fat soluble vitamins; A, E and especially K2, due to their synergistic effect.
If you only focus on Vitamin D3 intake, you may increase your risk of cardiovascular problems, because Vitamin D3 is also known to help you absorb calcium from your diet or supplements into the blood vessels – but not into your bones. Recent scientific evidence suggests that elevated consumption of calcium may raise the risk for heart disease and can be connected with calcification of blood-vessel walls and soft tissues.
You need Vitamin K2, or menaquinone, along any calcium and vitamin D supplements, because K2 activates osteocalcin, which in turn influences bone mineralization through its ability to bind to the mineral component of bone, hydroxyapatite and make the skeleton stronger, less susceptible to fracture. At the same time, adequate intake of vitamin K2 has been shown to lower the risk of vascular damage, because it also activates matrix GLA protein (MGP) to inhibit the deposits of calcium on the blood-vessel walls.
Vitamin K2 is non-existent in junk food, with little being consumed even in a healthy Western diet. Vitamin K2 deficiency results in inadequate activation of MGP, which greatly impairs the process of calcium removal and increases the risk of hardening of the blood-vessels and osteoporosis. Meanwhile, people with the highest intake of vitamin K2 were 52% less likely to develop artery calcification and had a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease. An increased intake of vitamin K2 could be a means of lowering calcium-associated health risks; for every 10 mcg of K2 consumed per day, your heart disease risk may be reduced by 9%. It is also beneficial in bone demineralisation issues; reducing spinal fractures by 60%, hip fractures by 77% and all non-spinal fractures by 81%.
Vitamin K2 is mainly found in those fabulous fermented foods that may still be too foreign for your palate; the richest of them being natto, which is a type of fermented soybean, and some also found in raw cheeses. The secret is the fermenting bacteria. Our own colon bacteria also produce some K2, if you nourish them with plenty of vegetables, herbs and spices, pulses, nuts and seeds and wholegrains – the more variety of plant foods, the better.
It is a good idea to supplement with vitamin K2 – especially if you take any calcium and Vitamin D3 for bone density, or if you were told you have a high calcium score after a heart CT scan, and indeed, if you have any cardiovascular problems in your family. Look out for supplements that contain an MK-7 form of K2 (menaquinone). Some good multivitamins now include this form, but higher doses are necessary if you take high doses of calcium and vitamin D3.