Is vitamin K on your nutritional radar screen? Mom always said “eat your green leafies;” but as kids, we never quite understood why. If we knew back then what we know now about the benefits of vitamin K, it might have made it a little easier.
We are all familiar with the profound effects vitamin D has on our metabolism. Some clinicians are calling vitamin K the next vitamin D due to its systemic effects. Vitamin K has powerful effects upon bone building, cardiovascular health especially plague build up, certain forms of cancer, and even dementia in addition to its commonly associated coagulation effects.
Three basic forms of vitamin K exist. K1 which is from green leafy plants is called phylloquinone or phytoquinone. “Phyto” helps me think plants. Sources of K1 are green leafy vegetables like collard greens, spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli and other foods like cauliflower or olive oil.
K2 is called menaquinone and comes primarily from fermentation. For example, K2 is found in fermented soy or natto, some cheeses, sauerkraut, butter from grass fed cows, Kim chi and certain meats. We make K2 naturally through the fermentation of anaerobic bacteria in our colon. The third form of vitamin K, K3, represents several synthetic forms that we will not discuss.
Both K1 and K2 in the form of vitamin K are needed and here’s why. Osteocalcin is a type of protein which is made by the osteoblasts during bone formation. Osteocalcin must be modified in a process called carboxylation which allows it to bind to calcium. Vitamin K is essential for this carboxylation process. Researchers have found that low levels of carboxylated osteocalcin are accompanied with low levels of vitamin K. The inverse is also true; high levels of carboxylated osteocalcin are accompanied with elevated levels of vitamin K. If we want to build healthy bones we need adequate amounts of carboxylated osteocalcin. Can you see why Vitamin K is so important to bone health?
Several studies have shown “vitamin K is a key factor with vitamin D, calcium and trace minerals to reduce osteoporosis.” It appears that when using the plant form, phylloquinone or K1, significantly higher doses are needed to attain adequate levels of carboxylated osteocalcin.
K2 or menaquinone has been shown to have some exciting cardiovascular protective attributes. There are proteins that are vitamin K dependent and these proteins have been shown to inhibit vascular calcification. The 2004 Rotterdam Study showed those consuming the upper levels of menaquinone or K2 had the lowest levels of aortic calcification, cardiovascular mortality as well as all cause mortality. People who consumed 45 mcg lived seven years longer than participants ingesting 12 mcg per day.
A follow up study called the Prospect Study tracked 16,000 people for 10 years. Each additional level of dietary K2 of 10 mcg resulted in nine percent fewer cardiac events.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 reported on an 8 year prospective study following over 11,000 men comparing vitamin K and prostate cancer. Their conclusions: “our results suggest an inverse association between the intake of menaquinones, K2, but not that of phylloquinone, K1, and prostate cancer.”
Dr. Vermeer, one of the principal European researchers, suggests 45 to 185 mcg of vitamin K. It appears most of his interests are in coronary heart disease and vascular integrity.
In Japan, scientists are using 45-90 mg of vitamin K to treat osteoporosis with good success and without side effects. More doesn’t mean better, but taking more is not causing side effects.
If you are in any stage of osteoporosis or heart disease, consider increasing your levels of vitamin K1 and K2 by eating more green leafy vegetables as well as the fermented foods mentioned earlier.
In addition, ask Dr. Godo how to supplement with a form of vitamin K that is biologically active and pharmaceutically pure. You won’t find this type of vitamin K in your traditional over the counter multi-vitamin. The different forms of vitamin K are worth paying attention to. Put vitamin K on your nutrient radar screen for healthy bones and a healthy heart.