Some vitamins don’t get the attention they deserve. Ask anyone about vitamin K2 and few people can give an answer. In Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health, Dr. Dennis Goodman says ignoring vitamin K2 can be dangerous. So here are some important points to help you understand why K2 needs more attention.
In 1929, Dr. Hendrik Dam, a Danish scientist, discovered vitamin K. Now we know there are two types of K: K1 and K2. Most people get sufficient amounts of K1 by eating leafy green vegetables, rich in this vitamin. If you’re cut, K1 plays a role in blood clotting.
K2 supports bone density. Bones, although solid structures, are not inert. Rather, they are constantly changing. Cells called osteoblasts build up bone, while other cells, osteoclasts, are breaking it down. Until around 30 years of age, osteoblasts win. But then osteoclasts take over in mid-life and we begin to lose one percent of bone mass each year.
There is a good solution. Bone must be built up early in life to ensure that it does not become like Swiss cheese later on, a condition called osteoporosis. These bones can snap like a dry twig, resulting in broken hips, which may mean ending life in a wheelchair or death.
Vitamin K2 serves the important role of helping direct calcium into bone where it belongs. A Japanese study showed that vitamin K2 decreases the risk of spinal fractures by 60 percent and hip fractures by 80 percent.
A combination of calcium and K2 is like building up money in the bank early in life. Later on, there will be enough calcium for some of it to be withdrawn from bones without causing a fracture.
K2 also supports cardiovascular health. If you have been reading this column for years, you know the benefits of vitamin C in decreasing the risk of coronary attack. But vitamin K2 also plays a role in fighting cardiovascular disease.
We all need calcium for strong bones. But too much calcium can be deposited into coronary and other arteries if there is a deficiency of vitamin K2. For instance, calcium can be deposited into the aorta, the largest artery in the body, that carries blood to all our organs. Calcium deposits in this location weaken the wall of the aorta increasing the risk of rupture and sudden death.
A Dutch study of 4,600 men aged 53 and older showed that a high intake of vitamin K2 decreased the risk of aorta calcification by 52 percent. Another study reported that K2 decreased the risk of coronary attack by 41 percent. In a study of 16,057 women, those on high doses of vitamin K2 lived 9 percent longer.
K2 can help with other health problems too. K2 acts like a traffic cop. It helps direct calcium traffic into tooth enamel decreasing the risk of dental decay. Some researchers report that K2 increases insulin sensitivity making it more effective in the fight against Type 2 diabetes.
There is no easy test to measure K2 levels. But if suffering from osteoporosis, heart disease or diabetes, you are most likely deficient in vitamin K2. Statin drugs to lower blood cholesterol inhibit K2 synthesis.
People who are taking blood thinners should not take vitamin K as it decreases the effectiveness of these drugs. Vitamin K2 is an especially important partner to vitamin D, which controls the absorption of calcium. Various brands of K2, including in combination with D, are available, so check with a health food store and your doctor for guidance.