1 August, 2018 by
(NaturalHealth365) Heart disease is the number one cause of death and illness worldwide, causing over 17 million deaths each year – a toll that is expected to rise to 23.3 million by 2030. Researchers have long known that atherosclerosis – calcified deposits in the arteries – is a major player in heart disease. Now, new studies on a little-known nutrient, vitamin K2, reveal its vital role in heart health.
To learn how vitamin K2 can help prevent atherosclerosis and protect your heart, keep reading.
Vitamin K2 deficiencies can set the stage for fatal heart disease
Vitamin K, essential for the proper clotting of blood and maintaining of bone density, exists in two forms: vitamin K1 – also known as phylloquinone – and Vitamin K2, or menaquinone. Vitamin K2, in turn, has different forms that have been used in studies – with the MK-4 and MK-7 forms most commonly utilized.
Research has shown that vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 perform different functions. K1 plays a key role in blood clotting and coagulation, while K2 helps to regulate the levels and location of calcium in the body.
Interesting to note: Low levels of K2 are linked with increased risk of atherosclerosis – the buildup of calcium-containing plaque in the arteries. And, as we know, calcified arteries greatly increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, dementia and premature death.
This is where vitamin K2 can come to the rescue.
High-dose vitamin K can block harmful calcium infiltration
Both animal and clinical studies have shown vitamin K’s beneficial effects on arteries.
Researchers have discovered that vitamin K2 helps block calcification and arterial sclerosis by binding to calcium – thereby enhancing the body’s ability to store calcium in the bones and keeping it from infiltrating soft tissues and arteries.
In one study, daily consumption of more than 32 micrograms of dietary vitamin K2 reduced the risk of arterial calcification and death from heart disease – by an incredible 50 percent.
An additional observational study confirmed the potentially lifesaving effects of vitamin K2. The research showed that participants with the highest intake of vitamin K2 were 52 percent less likely to develop calcification of the arteries. They were also 57 percent less likely to die from heart disease over a 7 to 10 year interval.
In fact, scientists have even worked out a formula identifying the benefits of K2. For every 10 micrograms of vitamin K2 ingested, there is a 9 percent reduction in the risk of heart disease.
More good news: High dose vitamin K2 can help reverse arterial stiffness
One of the dangers of arterial calcification is that it causes arteries to become stiff and brittle, making it harder for the heart to pump blood – and raising blood pressure. In addition to preventing this condition, vitamin K2 may even be able to help reverse it.
An animal study showed that high doses of vitamins K1 and K2 reduced previously accumulated arterial calcification by 37 percent after six weeks. After twelve weeks, the reduction was an amazing 53 percent.
The high-dose vitamin K2 group also had reversals in carotid artery stiffness.
In a 2015 study published in Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis involving 244 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 65 years, those receiving 180 micrograms a day of vitamin K2 (MK-4 form) for three years experienced a significant reduction in arterial stiffness – while the women who had not received the vitamin saw an increase in stiffness.
The team reported that participants who had a higher degree of arterial stiffness at the beginning of the study tended to enjoy a greater benefit than those with less advanced atherosclerosis.
Optimizing levels of vitamin K can provide important health benefits
You can increase dietary levels of vitamin K1 by eating organic cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and by drinking green tea.
While vitamin K1 is found in plant-based foods, Vitamin K2 occurs in animal foods – such as cheese and egg yolks – as well as in fermented foods.
Vegetarians can raise vitamin K2 levels with natto, a fermented soybean dish. But, be warned, strongly-flavored natto is most certainly an acquired taste.
When it comes to raising levels of vitamin K, supplementation could be a wise choice. Many integrative healthcare providers suggest that people supplement with three different forms of vitamin K – vitamin K1, and the two forms of vitamin K (MK-4, or menaquinone-4, and MK-7, or menaquinone -7).
And, yes, the supplements should be taken with a meal containing healthy fat for better absorption.
Naturally, it’s best to check with a knowledgeable physician – who can help advise you on a proper dosage.
Vitamin K2’s calcium-binding properties give this vital nutrient the ability to protect against common degenerative diseases. For example, in addition to lowering your odds of atherosclerosis and life-threatening heart disease, optimal levels of vitamin K2 can reduce risk of osteoporosis – quite a substantial pay-off for an inexpensive supplement to provide.
Sources for this article include:
Vitamin K is the umbrella term for a family of fat-soluble compounds that include phylloquinones and menaquinones, which play an important role in various bodily functions. Phylloquinones are also called vitamin K1, while you know menaquinones better as vitamin K2. You can find both types of vitamin K in specific foods, but vitamin K1 is the primary dietary form of this nutrient. Ask your doctor if you’re getting enough K2 through diet alone, or if a supplement would benefit you.
Functions of the Vitamin K Family
The compounds in the vitamin K family contribute to a variety of bodily functions, but two in particular stand out. First, vitamin K intake is essential to hemostasis, the physiological process by which blood platelets collect at the site of a cut or injury, forming a clot that staunches the loss of blood. Insufficient vitamin K can lead to hemorrhaging.
Also, vitamin K2 supports both cardiovascular and bone health, especially in in peri- and post-menopausal women. The author of an article published in Integrative Medicine in 2015 noted that increased calcium supplementation — needed by older women to reduce their risk of osteoporosis — may become problematic because it can lead to deposits on artery and blood vessel walls. That, in turn, puts women at risk for hardening of the arteries and heart disease. Intake of vitamin K2, however, helps protect against this calcification and stiffening of arteries, cutting the risk of cardiovascular disease while supporting strong bones.
Vitamin-K2 in Fermented Foods
Men aged 19 and older need 120 micrograms of vitamin K daily, while women need 90 micrograms. You may think of vitamin K foods as primarily dark leafy greens, but in fact, foods like kale, spinach and other greens supply only K1.
Vitamin K2 comes primarily from fermented foods and animal products. Fermented soybeans—known as natto—constitute one of the richest sources of natural K2, according to the book Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology. In Japan, natto is a traditional food often eaten for breakfast with rice and condiments such as mustard or wasabi. A cup of natto offers 40 micrograms of vitamin K2. In addition, it offers about a third of your daily calcium needs and a whopping 34 grams of plant-based protein. Some people, however, don’t like the strong smell and sticky consistency of this food.
Animal Foods with Vitamin K2
Chicken, beef, pork, goose and duck, offer MK-4, a type of menaquinone, while beef liver also supplies MK-7, another type of K2. Menaquinones appear in trout, herring and eel, and to a lesser extent in salmon and shrimp. Among dairy foods, fresh milk, cream, yogurt and butter are good sources of different types of K2. Cheeses that are especially rich in this nutrient include the following:
- Cheddar and other English-style cheeses
- Bleu cheese
Eggs — both whole eggs and the yolks — are also excellent food sources of the MK-4 type of vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 and Medications
If you’re taking a blood-thinning medication, talk to your doctor about your intake of vitamin K-rich foods, because prescription medications like warfarin may have a dangerous interaction with this nutrient. Other medications, like antibiotics and some drugs used to lower cholesterol, may reduce your body’s absorption of vitamin K.