Vitamin K2 - The New Kid on the Block
What is Vitamin K?
Most of us have heard about vitamin K and perhaps associate it with the injection new-born babies are given to prevent internal bleeding, and you would be right – from here we quite rightly believe Vitamin K is heavily involved in blood-clotting mechanisms, and in fact the K actually comes from the German word ‘Koagulationsvitamin’, discovered in 1929 and first reported in the German Scientific Journal as an essential nutrient for blood coagulation.
Why is K2 so important?
Vitamin K2, specifically the menaquinone-7 variety plays a huge role in calcium metabolism in the body. As such, it’s not only necessary for placement and retention of calcium in bone, but to prevent errant calcium from building up in the arteries and causing cardiovascular conditions associated with this occurrence.
K2 is not only important for these biological functions, but adequate amounts are vital for these functions to occur. Unlike blood coagulation proteins that need lower levels of Vitamin K, higher levels are needed for its bone-building properties.
Vitamin K2 plays a crucial role in:
Let’s face it, ever since Vitamin D came on the scene the awareness that calcium is no one-man show when it comes to building and maintaining healthy bones has increased, but its not a double act either.
In a cascade of events involving bone matrix synthesis, our osteoblasts produce a Calcium-binding protein called osteocalcin. However, in order for this protein to be activated, it’s imperative we have enough Vitamin K2 to switch on the osteocalcin and bind it to calcium, thus fulfilling its duties in calcium uptake and bone mineralization.
Like our bones, the other major site we find calcium deposits are in the arteries and blood vessels particularly around our heart – exactly where we do not want them to be. But without proper regulation calcium can run rampant, its therapeutic capabilities not only becoming redundant but wreaking havoc in the body.
How is this affected by Vitamin K2?
Well to put it simply, the proteins that inhibit calcification in our arteries are Vitamin K2 dependant. This means the proteins are basically useless without adequate levels, allowing calcium to infiltrate vascular tissue and increase the risk to our cardiovascular health. Vitamin K2 not only prevents this, but improves elasticity of arterial walls and overall cardiovascular health.
Where can we get it and how much do we need?
Unlike Vitamin K1 which is found abundantly in dark leafy green vegetables, Vitamin K2 can be found in small amounts in chicken, butter, egg yolks and cheese, and is also produced to some extent by our intestinal bacteria.
It was also thought that the dish of fermented soybeans called Natto, eaten in parts of Japan and containing high amounts of vitamin K2, was responsible for the correlation between lower occurrence of osteoporosis and cardiovascular health risks in these inhabitants compared to those in other areas of the country.
However, the levels of K2 required on a daily basis to effectively modulate calcium are much higher than the average person can adequately achieve through diet. So unless you’re eating fermented soybeans every day, it’s a great idea to supplement to get the 180mcg dose associated with its amazing health benefits.
Calcium, Vitamin D, and K2 are now part of the holy trinity of bone health!