A lot of “westerners” have never heard of Vitamin K2 because this particular vitamin is rare in our diet since it comes from fermented foods which make it very rare in modern “western” diets. It is very important and one of the key nutrients behind bone health (calcium alone is not very good!) and more. It also plays an important role in many aspects of our overall health.
What is vitamin K2?
Like Vitamin B, which has different forms, Vitamin K has been found to have different forms as well. In the past, vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 were only considered as vitamin K but a dentist by the name Dr. Weston Price, found that non-industrial diets were high with a nutrient which he called “Activator X” which seemed to provide protection against tooth decay and chronic diseases.
This nutrient was later identified as Vitamin K2. Since then vitamin K has 2 main forms, K1 and K2. Our liver uses vitamin K1 to activate calcium-binding proteins involved in blood clotting. Vitamin K2 is being used to activate proteins that controls where calcium ends up in the body.
Vitamin K1(phylloquinone) is mainly found on plant based foods like anything that is leafy and green. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is mainly found on fermented and animal foods. Vitamin K2 has been divided into 2 types known as MK-4 and MK-7. MK-4 are found in animals that are purely grass fed based and MK-7 are found in fermented soybeans or certain types of cheese.
Vitamin K2 benefits
Vitamin K2 acts as an activator of nutrients such as vitamin A and D so that our body can actually take advantage of the benefits from them. It is also an activator of calcium so that our bones can absorb the calcium. It is also responsible for vibrant health and high resistance to degenerative diseases and aging. It might be a reason the Okinawa’s from Japan who often live above 100 years and can stay healthy and active. Fermented foods (like Natto) are very common there.
A study conducted to 244 healthy women, who are on postmenopausal stage, receiving a 3-year low dose menaquinon-7 supplementation has proven to help in preventing bone loss.
Another study conducted on 13 Japanese women using higher dosage have shown similar benefits. It was found that vitamin K2 reduced hip fractures by 77%, spinal fractures by 60%, and all non-spinal fractures by 81%.
According to the studies (1,2), calcium build-up in the arteries around the heart contributes to a huge risk factor for heart related disease. On the other hand, this study shows that vitamin K2 helps prevent calcium from being deposited in the arteries around the heart.
There is a study linking that vitamin K2 may help improve dental health. One main regulating protein in dental health is osteocalcin, which stimulates the growth of new dentin. Osteocalcin is a that protein critical to bone metabolism and is also being activated by vitamin K2.
Another clinical study conducted to about 11,000 men found that taking high dosage of vitamin K2 has lower the risk of advanced prostate cancer by 63%.
Sources of Vitamin K2
As mentioned above, vitamin K2 is mainly found on fermented and animal foods. Here’s a list of vitamin K2 foods that were measured by the USDA as foods high in vitamin K2 according to Chris Kresser.
- Butter (Ideally from grass fed cows)
- Chicken breast
- Chicken liver
- Egg yolk
- Goose liver pate
- Ground beef (grass fed)
- Hard cheese
- Soft cheese
I also like Sauerkraut and Kimchi which are both common in Asia where I am currently. Vitamin K2 sources are very rare in most western diets unless you eat fermented foods or organ meats (liver for example). The recommended daily vitamin K2 dosage is currently estimated to be at least 45 mcg. Most people are not used to eating fermented foods so it is very difficult to obtain it from diet. You might want to supplement but they might not be an ideal long term source… Unfortunately, MK-4 or some vitamin K2 supplements you might find in the market are synthetic with the side effect of only remaining for a few hours in your blood, you would ideally have to take it in a periodic dosing every few hours.
Some other online sources on vitamin K2: