Supplement Spotlight: Vitamin K
For those of you who don’t know my history, I was diagnosed with osteopenia at the ripe old age of 26. I had suffered a complete shattering of my distal tibia and an additional fracture of my fibula all from a very benign fall while snowboarding. I received the standard and worthless advice to just take more calcium and be careful. I was even offered a prescription for bisphosphonates (yep, the same stuff old Sally Fields is promoting on TV). Well, I can tell you that I knew for sure that was a bunch of B.S. and went away ready to do some serious research. Guess what helps you get stronger bones? A healthy, well-rounded diet, minimal acidic foods and beverages, and a serious amount of heavy lifting and gravity-laden exercises!!
So, after building up some bone mass and helping multiple clients do the same, I can tell you from experience, that Calcium by itself is NOT the way to go!! In fact, I don’t even eat dairy!! And Rx drugs will only put cement on a house of cards. Ever heard of “Phossy Jaw?” That’s enough of scare-tactics, but suffice it to say, I’ll never be taking those drugs!!
Enter Vitamin K
This little gem of a vitamin has come up more and more in my conversations with clients. Vitamin K is actually a rather misunderstood and or even unknown critical component of optimum bone and cardiovascular health. If you’ve heard of it at all, it’s likely in that you should be avoiding it if taking a blood thinner like Coumadin.(1) However, there are actually several different versions of Vitamin K: K1 and K2 are the ones we’ll be discussing today. These two versions of vitamin K have wide-ranging uses within the body’s metabolism.
The first discovery of Vitamin K came in 1929 when it was figured out that depriving chickens of cholesterol left them unable to properly coagulate blood and they began to hemorrhage.(2) This blood coagulant was later found to be vitamin K1. In 1945, the famous Dr. Weston A. Price found in his travels to undeveloped cultural areas that there must be some kind of “Activator X” that was allowing these people (with no access to modern hygiene) to maintain pristine teeth, strong bones, clear vision, and a lack of heart disease.(3) This mysterious Activator X that seemed to be helping the body properly deposit calcium, is indeed vitamin K2.
The more widely known version of Vitamin K is K1. It is found mainly in dark green leafy and some cruciferous vegetables. K1 or Phylloquinone is actually only partially absorbed by the body and has a very short half-life. In fact, you’ll only likely get about 10% of your consumed K1 in foods. When it gets to the liver, it stays there and is mostly used up within 4 hours.(4). Both forms of vitamin K are fat-soluble, so ideally you’d be consuming your dark green leafies with a dose of oil/butter/cheese. If you are taking an anti-coagulant like Coumadin, please avoid taking K1 and keep your leafy veggies to a minimum if your doctor recommended as such.
Vitamin K2 is even more fat-soluble, and is mainly found in fermented foods and full-fat natural foods: Japanese natto, gouda cheese, egg yolks, organ meats/offal, real butter, and grass-fed meats.(5) Unlike K1, K2 or Menaquinone is mostly absorbed and is quickly redistributed by the liver via LDl particles to peripheral tissues (like the vascular system and bones).(4). This distribution is critical to moving calcium into the bones and reducing calcification of arteries.(6) I like to think of K2 like a traffic cop: with the necessary cofactors, it can direct the flow of Calcium into the right areas (bones and teeth) and keep it from block the major thoroughfares (arteries).
However, K2 cannot work in a vacuum. It needs it’s other fat-soluble vitamins to function. Vitamins A, D, E and K all work synergistically to help mineralize your bones correctly, keep your cardiovascular system functioning optimally, and keep brain and nerve function at it’s best.(7) Notice, I said fat-soluble!! That’s one of the reasons I detest the low-fat trends of the past few decades. What exactly is the point of fat-free milk? Why “fortify” a natural food with a bunch of minerals (in forms made in a lab nonetheless) when you can’t absorb them anyway??? I just don’t get it.
Okay, so should you be taking vitamin K, and if so in what form and what dose?
Unless you are a regular consumer of natto (I used to work in a Japanese restaurant, and I can tell you this is a seriously acquired taste!), eat a ton of fermented foods, and only eat grass-fed meats, cheeses and butter, I definitely recommend you supplement with vitamin K2. Proper levels of K2 have been shown to decrease risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, some cancers and dementia.(8)
If you’re going to supplement with Menaquionone, you have two options: MK-4 and MK-7. The MK-4 form is synthetic and may be preferable for those with a sensitivity to soy.(9) However, keep in mind it is synthetic, so you may be taking some risks as to how your body assimilates it. Personally, even though I have a soy allergy, take MK-7. The MK-7 form is the exact chemical structure you’d find in nature, and we know the body can use it effectively.(10)
I hope you found all this helpful. If you have additional questions about what vitamins/minerals YOU should be taking? Hit me up below and let’s continue the conversation!
Yours in Health,
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Please note, this blog originally appeared on my old site and was published Jan 5, 2018. I apologize for outdated information, and will work to answer any questions you may have about this content.