March 29, 2018

Vitamin K2: Essential Nutrient for Health

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

Over the last few years I’ve written many articles on the importance of vitamin D. It is absolutely essential to have optimum vitamin D levels.

But, lately I have been reading about another vitamin that seems to be on par with vitamin D in necessity for preventing disease. Traditional medicine seems completely uninterested in actually preventing disease from occurring. They are solely focused on testing, procedures and prescribing drugs for existing disease. They want a diagnosis instead of taking care of people who may not have a disease, yet are not healthy and well.

This week we will focus on vitamin K2 and its two main functions of cardiovascular health and bone restoration. Many times when vitamin K is mentioned it is part of a conversation about blood thinning medication. There are two types of vitamin K, they are K1 and K2.

Vitamin K1 is a fat soluble vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, and it is involved in blood coagulation for stopping bleeding. This is the one indicated to avoid when taking blood thinning medicines as it tends to antagonize their effects.  It is theoretically possible to overdose vitamin K1, though I’ve never come across it myself.

K2 on the other hand is a whole different compound. It is produced by bacteria in fermented foods such as Natto, a fermented soy product, fermented vegetables that use vitamin K producing bacteria, certain cheeses like Brie and Gouda, and in grass fed organic animal products such as egg yolks, butter and dairy.

If you are not regularly eating these types of foods, you are most likely deficient in vitamin K2. There are no commercially available tests for K2, so we can only look at lifestyle factors that predispose you to deficiency. If you have osteoporosis, heart disease or diabetes, you are most likely deficient in K2.

The functions of K2 are very specific, yet have whole body health effects. K2 is involved in two specific enzymes: matrix glutamic acid protein (MGP) and osteocalcin.

MGP is imported into the cells in the walls of your arteries where it binds to calcium, removing it from the linings of your arteries. Ever heard of hardening of the arteries? K2 prevents that from happening.

Once calcium is pulled from the vessel walls, where it doesn’t belong, K2 then facilitates infusion of that calcium into your bones, using osteocalcin to cement it into the bone matrix.

Dr. Dennis Goodman, who wrote the book “Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health,” explains it by saying “Vitamin K2 is like a light switch – it switches MGP and osteocalcin on, which takes calcium out of the arterial wall and keeps it in the bone…You’ve got to get K2 when you get your vitamin D3, calcium and magnesium. We need K2 to make sure calcium is going where it’s supposed to go.”

Two very recent studies suggest that statin drugs increase calcification of the arteries and at the same time deplete K2. That is a bad combination for the 1 in 4 Americans over 40 taking a statin drug.
Complicating things further is that there are two primary forms of K2; MK-4 and MK-7. MK-4 products are a synthetic K2, which you do not want to use. MK-7 is a long chain naturally derived K2 from a fermentation process. This type also helps prevent inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory markers in the blood called monocytes.

Dr. Goodman suggests a dose of 180 mcg per day in the form of MK-7.

Most of us have been taught that vitamins A, D, and K are fat soluble, and therefore can be over used. K2 is nontoxic in any dose, so there are no worries about overdosing. But, remember it is still a fat soluble vitamin, so take it with food that has fat in it so it is absorbed properly.

Unfortunately, K2 deficiency does not produce any outwardly visible signs and, conversely, doesn’t show you any visible signs of improvement. Don’t let that stop you from using K2, it is essential to your good health.