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Monday, September 28, 2020

Vitamin K2: Functions, Benefits and Sources

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It is not shocking that many people around the world have never heard of vitamin K2. This is because vitamin K2 has yet to receive enough mainstream attention, and is also rare is the western diet.

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However, vitamin K2 is a wonderful nutrient that plays a vital role in different aspect of human health. As a matter of fact, vitamin K2 just might be the missing link between several chronic diseases and diet.

What is vitamin K?

Even though it was only recently that some people began to pay attention to vitamin K, it was first discovered in 1929 and identified as a vital nutrient for blood coagulation.

The first discovery of the essential vitamin was first recorded in a German scientific journal, and it was called the “Koagulationsvitamin” and that is where the “K” stems from.

The vitamin was also discovered by a dentist called Weston Price, who went around the world in the early part of the 20th century and studied the relationship between diseases and diet in various populations.

He discovered that the diet of the non-industrial community was high in some unidentified nutrient, which provided them with some form of protection against chronic illnesses and tooth decay.

Mr. Weston called the mysterious nutrient the “activator X,” which scientists now believe must have been the vitamin K2.

There are two primary forms of vitamin K:

  • Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone): This one is found in plant foods such as leafy greens.
  • Vitamin K2 (menaquinone): This one is found in animal foods and fermented foods.

Vitamin K2 can also be divided into many different subtypes, the most prominent mad vital ones being MK-4 and MK-7.

How Do Vitamins K1 and K2 Work?

Vitamin K helps to activate proteins that have a role to play in blood clotting, heart health, and calcium metabolism.

One of the most essential functions of vitamin K is the regulation of calcium deposition. This means that it prevents the calcification of kidneys and blood vessels and promotes the calcification of bones.

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Some scientists have also suggested that the role played by vitamin K1 and K2 are very different, and many others feel that both vitamins should be classified differently as completely separate vitamins or nutrients.

This idea of separation is backed by an animal study that revealed how vitamin K2 (MK-4) reduced blood vessel calcification, and vitamin K1 did not act in that manner.

Controlled studies in humans also pointed out that vitamin K2 supplements generally improve heart and bone health, while there is no significant benefit for vitamin K1.

However, there is a need for more human studies before there can be any understanding of the functional differences between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.

May Help Prevent Heart Disease

The buildup of calcium around the heart and in the arteries is a big risk factor for heart conditions.

Therefore, it is possible anything with the ability to reduce the accumulation of calcium may help with the prevention of heart conditions.

Vitamin K has been found to prevent the deposition of calcium in a person’s arteries.

In a study spanning between 7 to 10 years, individuals with the highest intake of vita3K2 had a 52% less likely chance to develop calcification of the artery, and also had a 57% lower risk of having a heart attack or dying from one.

Another human study in 16,057 women revealed that the participants who had the highest intake of vitamin K have a lesser risk of dealing with a heart condition. For every daily consumption of 10 mcg of K2, they had a reduction of 9% risk of heart disease.

On the flip side, vitamin K1 showed no significant influence in either of those studies.

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However, please note that the above studies are only observational studies, thus they cannot prove cause and effect.

So far, all the controlled studies that have been carried out used vitamin K1, which has proven to be ineffective.

Long-term controlled trials on vitamin K2 and its effect on heart disease are required.

Still, there is a very highly plausible biological mechanism for the effectiveness of this vitamin and strong positive correlations with improved heart health in observational studies.

Vitamin K2 May Help Improve Bone Health and also Lower the Risk of Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which means “porous bones” — is a very common bone problem in Western countries.

Osteoporosis prevails mostly among older women and strongly increases the risk of fractures. As earlier mentioned, vitamin K2 plays a major role in calcium metabolism — the main mineral that is found in your teeth and bones.

Vitamin K2 kick-starts the calcium-binding actions of two proteins — the matrix GLA protein and the osteocalcin. The osteocalcin help with the building and maintenance of healthy bones

Interestingly, there is some substantial proof from controlled studies that vitamin K2 may give some major benefits for bone health.

A study that was carried out for 3-years in 244 postmenopausal women revealed that those taking the vitamin K2 supplements experience a much slower decrease in bone mineral density that is age-related.

Some Long-term studies in Japanese females have observed some similar benefits — but very high doses of K2 were used in these cases. From all 13 studies, only one of them failed to point to any significant improvement.

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Out of all these trials, seven took fractures into consideration, and it was discovered that vitamin K2 reduced the risk of spinal fractures by up to 77% and reduced the risk of all non-spinal fractures by 81%

In line with the above findings, supplements of vitamin K have been officially recommended for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis in Japan.

However, some scientists are still not convinced that this outcome is plausible. Two large review studies that were carried out concluded that there is insufficient evidence to recommend vitamin K supplements for use as bone treatment.

May Improve Dental Health

Researchers have also speculated that vitamin K2 may be beneficial to dental health.

However, there is currently no human studies that have directly tested this.

Based on the animal studies that have been carried out, and the role that vitamin K2 plays in bone metabolism, it is only expected that people assume that this nutrient has an impact on dental health.

One of the major regulating proteins when it comes to dental health is osteocalcin — which is the same protein mentioned before that is vital for bone metabolism and is also activated by the vitamin K2

Osteocalcin is a protein that triggers a mechanism which stimulates the growth of new dentin, and that is the calcified tissue that is found underneath the enamel of your teeth.

Vitamins A and D are also known to play an imperative role here, working in synergy with the vitamin K2

May Help Fight Cancer

Cancer is one of the most common cause of death in many Western countries.

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Even though modern medicine is yet to find any way to treat it, many new cancer cases continue to spring up.

Therefore, looking for effective prevention strategies for cancer is of utmost importance.

Interestingly, a good number of studies have been carried out on vitamin K2 and some types of cancer.

Two clinical studies have suggested that the use of vitamin K2 will reduce the recurrence of liver cancer and also increase survival times.

Additionally, an observational study that was carried out in 11,000 men revealed that a high intake of vitamin K2 was linked to a 63% less risk of cases of advanced prostate cancer, while vitamin K1 showed no effect at all.

However, there is a need for more high-quality studies before any strong claims can be made in this regard.

How to Get the Vitamin K2 You Need

Many widely available foods are good and easy sources of vitamin K1, but when it comes to vitamin K2, sources are less common.

The human body can partly convert vitamin K1 to vitamin K2. This little conversation is useful because the amount of vitamin K1 that is present in a typical diet is ten times more than that of vitamin K2.

However, current evidence proves that the conversion process of K1 to K2 is inefficient. As a result of this, you may benefit a lot more from directly eating vitamin K2.

Vitamin K2 is also known to be produced by the gut bacteria present in your large intestine. In fact, some evidence also suggests that some broad-spectrum antibiotics may contribute to a vitamin K2 deficiency.

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Nevertheless, the average intake of this essential nutrient is too low in the modern diet.

Vitamin K2 is primarily found in some animal and in fermented foods, which a lot of people do not eat much of.

Rich animal sources of K2 include high-fat dairy products derived from egg yolks, grass-fed cows, as well as liver and other organ flesh.

Also, vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that low-fat and lean animal products cannot contain it in large amounts.

A lot of animal foods contain the MK-4 subtype of vitamin K2, while fermented foods such as natto, sauerkraut, and miso carry more of the longer subtypes of vitamin K, which are MK-5 to MK-14.

If foods like these are inaccessible to you, you can opt for taking supplements as it is a valid alternative. You can find an excellent selection of vitamin K2 supplements on Amazon.

The benefits that are derived from supplementing with vitamin K2 may be further enhanced when combined with a supplement of vitamin D, as these two vitamins work in synergy.

Though there is still the need for this to be studied in more detail, present studies on vitamin K2 and health has proved to be quite promising.

In fact, vitamin K2 may have some incredible life-saving implications for many individuals.

The conclusion

Vitamin K is a family of nutrients that are divided into vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.

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Vitamin K1 is responsible for blood coagulation while vitamin K2 offers benefits for bone and heart health. However, there is a need for more studies on the roles played by vitamin K subtypes.

Some scientists are of the opinion that vitamin K2 supplements should be used regularly by individuals who are at risk of heart disease. Others have pointed out that more research is needed before solid recommendations for the vitamin are made.

However, it is obvious that vitamin K plays a vital role in body function.

Vitamin K1 and K2 are needed for the maintenance of good health, thus it is important that you get enough of them from the foods you eat, or from supplements.

Vitamin K2
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.
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