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Vitamin K2 for Strong Bones and Flexible Arteries

Vitamin K2 for Strong Bones and Flexible Arteries

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The vitamin that sends calcium where it’s needed.

Calcium is an important mineral for bone health, muscle contraction, nerve signaling, and blood clotting.[1],[2] But more calcium isn’t necessarily better: If calcium deposits in the walls of arteries, it can cause the blood vessels to become stiff, thus increasing the risk of heart disease. [3],[4],[5]

One way to reap the benefits of calcium while minimizing the risks is to keep the daily dosage of calcium supplements under 1,000mg.[6],[7] Another strategy is to get adequate amounts of vitamin K2.[8]

What is vitamin K2?

Also known as menaquinone, vitamin K2 has been shown to block the formation of hard calcium deposits in the walls of arteries, thus preventing stiffness in the vessels.[9],[10] Smooth, flexible blood vessels preserve blood circulation, thus reducing the risks of blood clots and heart disease.[11],[12] These effects are mediated by K2’s activation of a protein known as matrix GLA protein (MGP).[13]

During states of vitamin K2 deficiency, however, MGP cannot be properly activated, in turn increasing the risk of arterial calcification and atherosclerosis (the thickening of the vessel walls), a risk factor for heart disease.[14],[15],[16],[17],[18]

What the studies say

A study of 4,807 healthy adults age 55 older revealed that high dietary intake of vitamin K2 – at least 32 mcg per day – was linked to a 25% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 50% reduction in deaths related to cardiovascular disease.[19]

These findings were echoed in another population-based study of 16,000 healthy women ages 49 to 70, who followed for a period of eight years. High intakes of natural vitamin K2 were found to confer protection against cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes. It was observed that for every 10 mcg of dietary vitamin K2 the women consumed, their risk of coronary heart disease was reduced by 9%.[20]

Another study – this one following 564 postmenopausal women – also found vitamin K2 was associated with decreased coronary calcification, whereas vitamin K1 intake was not.[21]

Fortunately, vitamin K2’s “anti-calcium” effects act on the blood vessels, and not the bones. In fact, vitamin K2 supplementation may enhance bone health.[22]

A randomized, double-blind, clinical trial found that a daily dose of 45mcg of a vitamin K2 supplement improved the bone mineral content (BMC), bone strength, and femoral neck width of 325 postmenopausal women followed over three years. [Interestingly, this study found that vitamin K2 at this dose range did not improve bone mineral density (BMD).[23]]

For these reasons, vitamin K2 pairs synergistically with vitamin D3, another nutrient that helps calcium get to where it’s needed.[24]

As an additional perk, vitamin K2 may also have anti-cancer properties.[25],[26],[27]

Food sources of vitamin K2

Although vitamin K is found in a variety of foods, we tend to consume vitamin K primarily in the form of vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), which is found in dark, leafy greens and other vegetables.

Vitamin K2 (menaquinone), on the other hand, is found in fermented foods, certain dairy products, and some animal products. Foods especially rich in K2 include:[28]

  • Sauerkraut (fermented sauerkraut)
  • Natto (a fermented soybean dish from Japan)
  • Butter
  • Cheese (Munster, camembert, edam, and gouda in particular)
  • Beef liver
  • Chicken
  • Eel
  • Egg yolks (ideally from chickens not fed corn or soy)

While it’s typically best to get nutrition from food than from supplements, the consumption of vitamin K2 in the diet has unfortunately decreased gradually since the 1950’s.[29] The modern food manufacturing process further compromises the K2 content of food, and today’s “junk food” contains virtually no vitamin K2. These facts all support the case for K2 supplementation.[30],[31]

In summary

Getting enough vitamin K2 – at least 32 mcg daily – can help keep the blood vessels flexible and strong. By activating matrix GLA protein, vitamin K2 stops calcium from depositing on the walls of the blood vessels. This in turn keeps the vascular system flexible and healthy, and allows calcium to be available for other roles in the body, like improving the health of the bones, nerves, and muscles.

In short, vitamin K2  helps ensure that calcium ends up where it can help us the most – and not where it can cause harm.

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