It’s relatively easy to get plenty of vitamin K1 via your diet, especially if you eat leafy green vegetables.
There’s another form of vitamin K, however, known as vitamin K2, or menaquinone, and this is made from bacteria in your intestines (as well as found in certain foods, such as fermented foods). Unlike vitamin K1, vitamin K2 appears to have multiple roles in your body, including supporting heart health, calcium regulation, healthy arteries and more.
80 Percent May be Deficient in Vitamin K2, Putting Their Health at Risk
Vitamin K2 is sometimes referred to as the ‘forgotten nutrient’ because, according to Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, author of “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox,” up to 80 percent of Americans may not get enough vitamin K2 in their diets. This may set the stage for bone problems, heart disease or stroke in part because the calcium in your body is not being ‘directed’ to the proper locations.
Instead of going to your bones, for instance, without adequate vitamin K2 calcium may deposit in your arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. According to Dr. Rheaume-Bleue:[i]
“While millions of people take calcium and Vitamin D supplements thinking they’re helping their bones, the truth is, without the addition of Vitamin K2, such a health regimen could prove dangerous. Without Vitamin K2, the body cannot direct calcium to the bones where it’s needed; instead, the calcium resides in soft tissue (like the arteries)–leading to a combination of osteoporosis and atherosclerosis, or the dreaded “calcium paradox.””
In fact, research shows that in people taking either vitamin D alone or vitamin D plus vitamin K2 (as the form menaquinone-7, or MK-7), those taking the K2 had a slower progression of coronary artery calcification,[ii] which may be important for lowering your risk of heart problems.
Vitamin K2 Fights Inflammation, Supports Bone Health and More
One of the most exciting revelations about vitamin K2 is its potential role in fighting inflammation, which is at the root of many chronic diseases, including heart disease. Recent research presented at the 13th International Nutrition and Diagnostics Conference found that vitamin K2 as MK-7 “prevents inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory markers produced by white blood cells (monocytes).”[iii]
The researchers in that study underscored the finding’s potential importance for bone and heart health, and again pointed out that much of the general population is likely lacking in this ‘forgotten’ nutrient …
“Cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis are major age-related health conditions characterized by chronic inflammation. The nutritional insufficiency of vitamin K2, particularly menaquinone-7, emerges as one of the underlying causes of progressive deterioration of cardiovascular and bone health.
Our study may provide an additional explanation on the role of inflammation and preventing inflammation with vitamin K2 as an important mechanism of this re-emerging vitamin in sustaining health and preventing disease.
… We know that in Western populations, most people do not obtain enough due to modern diet. Our food is increasingly deficient in vitamin K2 in particular, and up to 98% of the general healthy population may be vitamin K2 insufficient with long-term detrimental impact on bone and cardiovascular health.”
In post-menopausal women, another study found that elevated intake of vitamin K2 lowered the risk of coronary heart disease — a benefit that was not associated with vitamin K1 intake.[iv]
Other research has shown that vitamin K2 may potentially have anti-cancer effects, with some research supporting its use for a reduced risk of liver cancer,[v] and enhanced survival,[vi] as well as a potential protective role in lymphoma.[vii]
How to Increase Vitamin K2 in Your Diet
Vitamin K2 is found primarily in animal foods like meat, poultry, eggs, butter and cheese. The MK-7 form, in particular, which many studies have highlighted as the ‘superstar’ among vitamin K varieties, is found in fermented foods such as natto (fermented soy) or cheeses, especially Brie and Gouda.
MK-7 is highly bioavailable and well absorbed by the body, making it a preferred source for increasing your vitamin K levels.[viii]
Vitamin K2 for Your Joints?
While vitamin K1 goes to your liver once ingested, vitamin K2 goes to your blood vessels, bones and tissues, hinting at its body-wide role in optimal health.
You might be surprised to learn that vitamin K2 may even play a role in joint health, as arthritis — one of the top causes of joint pain in the United States — may occur because inflammatory cytokines destroy joint cartilage and synovial fluid.
Not only has vitamin K2 been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, as mentioned above, but it’s also known to induce apoptosis (cell death) of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial cells and decrease disease activity in RA patients.
This is one of the reasons why we’ve included vitamin K2 (as MK-7) in every serving of Super Joint Support. If you have joint pain or want to protect your joints (and bones) as you age, include more fermented foods in your diet and also try K2-enriched Super Joint Support (which also contains 12 additional ingredients to improve joint function and pain).
Written By: Updated: December 17,2013