MORE BENEFITS OF VITAMIN K2: Part 2

In which we continue to examine more benefits of supplementing with Vitamin K2.

ANTIOXIDANT PROPERTIES OF VITAMIN K2

Free radical damage in the body, caused by toxins, radiation, and reactive oxygen molecules, are responsible for cancer, heart disease, inflammatory conditions and premature aging. That vitamin K2 also serves an antioxidant function, over and above its other many functions, makes it an important part of our body’s basic survival mechanisms.

One animal study subjected the test subjects to extreme free radical damage and found that vitamin K2 alone protected their livers from this oxidative stress. Another study showed vitamin K2 to be almost as effective as vitamin E in preventing oxidation of fatty acids, a benchmark of its antioxidant activity. (Vervoort LM, et al. 1997. The potent antioxidant activity of the vitamin K cycle in microsomal lipid peroxidation. Biochem Pharmacol 54:871-6)

AUTISM AND VITAMIN K2

One researcher (Catherine Tamaro, B.S.M.E.) has proposed that Vitamin K deficiency, which causes calcium to be unregulated in the body, and to deposit and form calcium oxalate crystals in the body, may be a cause of many of the symptoms associated with autism. Calcium oxalate crystals are found in many autistic children.

Calcium triggers neurons in the brain to fire, and excess calcium in the blood can cause the neurons to over-fire until they actually die. It is therefore suggested that the addition of Vitamin K to the diet of those with autism, would activate the bone proteins that regulate calcium, thereby reducing the over-firing of these neurotransmitters, and aiding in calming their brains.

VITAMIN K2 AND CANCER

A number of studies have linked vitamin K2 deficiency to increased cancer risk.

The “European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition” involved over 24,000 participants from the ages of 35 to 64, all who were free of cancer when enrolled in the study. The participants were tracked for cancer incidence and mortality for an average of 10 years. Part of the study tracked their vitamin K1 and K2 dietary intake over these years and compared it to cancer incidence and mortality.

What was found was that vitamin K2, but not vitamin K1, was inversely associated with the risk of getting cancer and dying from it. The benefits of vitamin K2 intake was, for some reason, better for men than women, especially showing a dramatic reduction in both lung and prostate cancer. The researchers concluded that the “intake of menaquinones, which is highly determined by the consumption of cheese, is associated with a reduced risk of incident and fatal cancer.” (Certain types of cheeses being some of the few sources of vitamin K2 found in the modern diet.)

Observations from this study indicated that the higher the intake of K2 the lower the risk of all forms of prostate cancer. But the most significant protection offered by vitamin K2 was against advanced prostate cancer, in which case it was associated with a 63% reduction in risk.

At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, researchers have found that people who have higher intakes of vitamin K have a lower risk of developing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In this study, even vitamin K1 (found mostly in leafy greens) showed a preventative value in reducing cancer risk. Those who had the highest levels of vitamin K1 from diet and/or supplements had a 45% less risk for developing this form of lymphoma. (Vitamin K2 Reduces Cancer Rate and Mortality Am J Clin Nutr. Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Kaaks R, Linseisen J.)

VITAMIN K2 AND LIVER CANCER

Researchers in Japan discovered that vitamin K2 may play a role in preventing the type of liver cancer caused by viral cirrhosis. In a 2004 study, 40 women with viral liver cirrhosis were studied, and half the women were given 45 mg vitamin K2 per day (this would be the MK4 form of K2 which requires milligrams to be effective).

The participants were followed for just over 7 years, after which it was determined that vitamin K2 supplementation was found to decrease the risk of the development of liver cancer in these subjects, possibly by delaying the onset of cancer. In the group treated with the vitamin K2, 2 of 21 patients developed liver cancer, compared to the group who did not receive vitamin K2 supplements, where 9 of 19 patients developed liver cancer. (Habu D, Shiomi S, Tamori A, Takeda T, Tanaka T, Kubo S, Nishiguchi S. Role of vitamin K2 in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in women with viral cirrhosis of the liver. JAMA, 2004 Jul 21;292(3):358-61)

BLOOD THINNING DRUGS AND K2

If we see a link between vitamin K deficiency and increased cancer rates, then we have to wonder what effect blood-thinning drugs (such as Warfarin) will have on cancer rates, since such drugs work by blocking vitamin K from doing it’s blood-clotting function. Since these blood-thinning drugs disable vitamin K activity, they also impede its antioxidant functions which must expose cells to higher amounts of free radical damage.

And indeed, a recent study looked at Warfarin use in men who had developed prostate cancer. There appeared to be no danger for the first 2 years of using Warfarin, but for those taking Warfarin for 4 or more years there was a 220% increased risk of having advanced prostate cancer. Evidently this finding could be explained simply by having a long-term depletion of antioxidant activity in the body. (Warfarin and Advanced Prostate Cancer Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. Tagalakis V, Tamim H.)

DENTAL HEALTH AND VITAMIN K2

Believe it or not as far back as 1945 science was aware of the value of vitamin K2 in preventing dental cavities. Back then American researchers conducted a proper double-blind, placebo-controlled study of chewing gum that had a precursor to vitamin K2 (menadione) added to it. Using the gum reduced the incidence of new cavities, and caused a dramatic drop in the bad bacteria in the mouth that is linked to causing cavities (L. acidophilus, which in the gut is good, but not so in the mouth).

Now, as we gain greater understanding of the role of vitamin K in the body, it is becoming obvious that vitamin K2 especially is necessary for good dental health. Simply knowing that vitamin K is required for maintaining skeletal health tells us something about dental health, since teeth are a part of the skeletal system and, generally speaking, the worse your teeth are the more likely it is that your bones will be weakening as well.

We know that vitamin K2 stores in the body have some of the highest concentration in the salivary glands. In fact in rat studies, even if the rats are fed only vitamin K1, almost all of the vitamin K found in their salivary glands will exist in the form of K2. (Zacharski LR, Rosenstein R. Reduction of Salivary Tissue Factor (Thromboplastin) Activity by Warfarin Therapy. Blood. 1979; 53(3): 366-374)

DR. WESTON A. PRICE AND DENTAL HEALTH

Wondering at the pathetic state of dental health in America of the 1930’s and 40’s, dentist Dr. Weston A. Price (1870-1948) was motivated to search for reasons why. Dr. Price traveled the world to study humans that had not modernized and followed their ancient, traditional diets, including communities in the Outer Hebrides, Inuit and Indians of North America, Polynesian Islanders, African tribes, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori and the Indians of South America. In all these areas he found the inhabitants to have mostly perfect teeth and dental arches, almost no tooth decay, and superior general health and resistance to disease.

His research ultimately concluded that a traditional diet high in vitamins A, D, and K together could not only prevent cavities, but could also work to reverse them (for more information on his amazing research check out www.westonaprice.org ). As a result, he suggested the best foods for preventing and reversing dental cavities was cod liver oil and grass-fed butter oil, natural sources of vitamins A, D, and K2, and in fact he would often put his clients on this regimen, instead of drilling and filling cavities.

We now know that the growth and re-mineralization of the teeth that Dr. Price observed, in response to feeding his patients a combination of cod liver oil and grass-fed butter oil, was a result of providing the dentin (the support structure beneath the enamel) its 3 essential co-factors: vitamins A, D, and K2 (which he called “Activator X” since K2 had yet to be “discovered”).

Dentin produces osteocalcin, a protein that requires vitamin K, and which channels calcium into the skeletal system. Since dentin creates more osteocalcin than bone does, we know that osteocalcin plays an important role in the growth of new dentin. The production of osteocalcin is also dependent on vitamins A and D.

THE ROLE OF VITAMINS A & D

Those familiar with my other writings know that I believe vitamin A deficiency to be widespread, and that the dangers of too much vitamin A have been overplayed in the media. (More information on this can be found in my earlier blogs.) Dr. Price found that a traditional diet contained as much as 10 times more vitamin A that the standard Western diet (of his time period in the 1930’s and 40’s; I’m sure we don’t eat better than that now).

Vitamins A and D are required, along with vitamin K2, in order for the body to produce osteocalcin and MGP (matrix gla protein), both required for moving calcium around the body and ensuring it arrives at the proper locations. Without vitamins A and D these protein substances cannot be made, but without vitamin K2 they cannot be activated, so all three nutrients work together. And, when supplementing with one of them, we should ensure that we have adequate amounts of the other two.

Many people are supplementing with high levels of vitamin D but forgetting about vitamin A, which is in essence a co-factor of vitamin D. In nature both nutrients are found coexisting together in liver (fish or mammal), and would normally be consumed together, before we started taking nutrients in isolated forms.

It is most likely that the toxicity of excessive vitamin A may be due to the ensuing deficiency of vitamin D that follows, and vice versa. Fat-soluble nutrients are so interdependent that taking one fat soluble vitamin creates a need for the other fat soluble nutrients. Studies showing the dangers of supplementing with high levels of vitamins A or D, are based on them being taken in isolation and not in tandem.

Vitamin A is known to be necessary for the development and maintenance of the skeletal system because it is involved in the production and activity of osteoclast cells, which breaks down old bone material. This process is necessary to recycle bone tissue, both for maintaining bone density and for repairing fractured or broken bones.

Vitamin D produces the osteoblasts, those cells that build bone structure, so after the vitamin A breaks down old bone material, vitamin D steps in to help with the rebuilding of new bone tissue. Even though vitamin D can produce osteoblasts on its own, it has been found that when there is adequate vitamin A present, a synergistic effect occurs that produces more osteoblasts than vitamin D can do alone.

Recommended amounts of vitamin A and D vary depending on who you talk to, but one thing appears to be evident. As long as you have a reasonable amount of each, it will prevent toxicity overload from excess of the other. (See my earlier blogs for recommended amounts of vitamins A and D.)

VITAMIN K2 AND PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Recent research on vitamin K2, published in the journal Science, has given new hope to people with Parkinson’s disease. Neuroscientist, Patrik Verstreken, stated “It appears from our research that administering vitamin K2 could possibly help patients with Parkinson’s. However, more work needs to be done to understand this better.”

In people who have Parkinson’s, the activity of their mitochondria has been disrupted, resulting in the mitochondria no longer producing sufficient energy for the cell. The mitochondria can be considered to be like power plants that drive the operation of each cell. As the cells in parts of the brain start dying off, communication between neurons is disrupted, resulting in the symptoms of Parkinson’s including lack of movement, tremors and muscle stiffness.

Upon discovering that the mitochondria in experimental fruit flies were defective, like with Parkinson’s patients, the flies were given vitamin K2. The flies with the genetic defect akin to the one associated with Parkinson’s had lost their ability to fly but once they were supplemented with K2 their ability to fly was restored.

Vitamin D is also required for healthy function of the mitochondria. Researchers from Newcastle University found that muscle function improved with vitamin D supplementation. The study was led by Dr Akash Sinha, who said: “We have proved for the first time a link between vitamin D and mitochondria function.”

WHAT DEPLETES VITAMIN K2?

Excessive antibiotic use, by killing off intestinal flora, can negatively affect the ability of the body to create vitamin K2 from the K1 found in the diet.

Any substances that interfere with absorbing fat-soluble nutrients can reduce vitamin K levels. This includes drugs that reduce cholesterol, Olestra, fat-blocking supplements and even low fat diets. In the case of low fat diets one should be aware that the oil found in salad dressing allows the vitamin K1 found in the leafy greens to be absorbed.

Mineral oil commonly used as a laxative can prevent absorption of vitamin K.

The preservative BHT interferes with the function of vitamin K.

Vitamin K deficiency can be caused by gallstones, diseases of the GI tract, liver disease, lack of gallbladder and estrogen drugs.

WARNINGS

Extremely high levels of supplemental vitamin E, above 1200IU daily, can affect vitamin K’s ability to coagulate blood, if vitamin K levels are dangerously low in the body.

People on blood thinning drugs such as warfarin or heparin should not take vitamin K since it works by interfering with vitamin K activity in the body.

Since vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient if you are taking it in a softgel pill form (more effective than powder or tablets) you need to take it with a meal containing fat, in order to fully absorb it. This does not hold true with liquid vitamin K products which can be taken under the tongue and will absorb through the mouth.

11 Responses to MORE BENEFITS OF VITAMIN K2: Part 2

  1. Thank you for your informative 2-part post on the benefits of vitamin K, it is very much appreciated.

    One question that I’ve asked elsewhere online that no one has answered yet is this: Since calcium is also needed by the muscles, is it possible to take too much vitamin K2, because it may direct too much of it to the bones/skeleton?

    I know if I don’t get enough calcium — seems to be approximately 300-600 mgs a day — then I’ll get strong cramps in my feet and lower legs. Magnesium helps a little too, but if I skip the calcium, then I get the cramps big time. That’s why I’m curious about the K2…

    Thanks in advance.

    • According to Dr. Andrew Weil: “While no known toxicity is associated with vitamin K, high doses may cause numbness or tingling in the extremities.” The body can excrete excess vitamin K2 in most circumstances, but it still makes no sense to take amounts far higher than normally required by the body. The amount of K2 in the MK7 form (the one available in Canada) is 120 mcg for maintenance and 240 mcg for therapeutic purposes. Taking much more than this is not advisable as all nutrients work with and require other nutrients (K2 seems to work with vitamins A and D), and excessive levels of one nutrient is likely to cause an imbalance with some others. Usually cramping is a magnesium deficiency but in your case it seems the calcium is also necessary, which is fine since you are not taking excessive levels of calcium. I have never heard of too much K2 causing an excessive build up of calcium in the skeletal system; this usually occurs when there is a lack of magnesium.
      hope this helps,
      Ken

      • I was recently prescribed mega-doses of vitamin K supplement (with 1000 mcg K1, 1000 mcg K2 mk-4 and
        50 mcg mk-7. I didn’t notice any negative effects the
        first time I took the supplement, but on the 3rd or 4th
        day I took it the same time I took Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D. Within a very short time my muscles in my shoulders and neck became extremely stiff and uncomfortable. I am use to some muscle stiffness, but this went way beyond that. Taking more magnesium which usually helps me did not help at all. Finally after about 5 hours of intense pain and stiffness that was getting worse and effecting my head as well I did some
        research on how vitamin K promotes clotting. I already have a condition (heavy metal poisoning from cobalt from a medical implant) that tends to thicken the blood which impedes iron transport throughout the body.
        I also know that changing the calcium situation in my body can interfere with iron absorption. Both processes
        could be interfering with the amount of oxygen being delivered to my muscles. I took low dose iron supplement and experienced relief in 20-30 minutes.
        The extreme stiffness came back when I later ate a food containing Vitamin K. Again, for me low dose iron 27 mg (plus Vitamin C for better absorption) provided relief. To help deal with any increased tendency
        for my blood to thicken even more due to the Vitamin K,
        I took a couple ginger capsules which I read helps to
        thin the blood to more normal levels,

        After my experience with Vitamin K, I fully agree with the Article above that there is no need (and may also be harm) in taking high doses of Vitamin K. Being fat-soluble, Vitamin K does not leave the body as quickly as water-soluble vitamins do so taking high doses day after day presents seems like there would be even more possibility of harm from excessive build-up of excess K
        in one’s body. I have no idea why a doctor would tell anyone to take such an extremely high amount, but I am
        also responsible because I didn’t do my research into appropriate recommended dosages until AFTER I took the Vitamin K supplement and had side-effects, when I should have checked it out before hand.

        Thank goodness for the internet where we can do lots
        of research ourselves on these subjects before experimenting with new medications or supplements.

        I may be a unique case due to my other conditions, but
        I would say Vitamin K Supplements especially in high doses) IS or CAN BE VERY HARMFUL at least to some people. Be very careful if you have a tendency to “thick Blood” even if it is not severe enough that you need to be on medication for it.

        Shari

        • Thanks for your input. I do believe that you are a unique case due to the fact that you were not really given high doses of vitamin K2 (and yet experienced serious side effects.) The amount of MK4 that you were given was 1000mcg (1mg), and this form of vitamin K2 is often prescribed at a level of 45 mg for treating osteoporosis. The amount of MK7 that you were given was 50mcg whereas the common dose is 120 to 240mcg, and in fact the Japanese consume about 1000mcg of that form of K2 on a daily basis (at least those who eat Natto get that much). I am glad you figured out somewhat of a solution to your situation and I am grateful that you are sharing this information with our other readers.

  2. Can you please provide the reference for the clinical trial of dental caries with vitamin K2? I haven’t found it in PubMed, but would greatly benefit our work on vitamins and dental caries… please?

    • Unfortunately, there is very little independent science that specifically refers to vitamin K and dental health, however you have only to search PubMed for “vitamin K2 and osteoporosis” in order to leave no doubt that K2 builds, maintains and rebuilds bones. Since teeth are part of the skeletal system they depend upon exactly the same nutrients as bones do, for their growth and maintenance. Most of the material on K2 and dental health is based on the work of Dr. Weston Price, and on anecdotal and experiential feedback from followers of his principles. http://www.westonaprice.org

  3. I have been diagnosed with otosclerosis in one ear which had reduced hearing in that ear to five percent. Could a vitamin B2 deficiency be the cause of the soft bone build up between the anvil and cochlear given that this vitamin is reported to control the proper deposition of calcium in the body? Thanks in advance..

    • Hi John: I could find no co-relation between vitamin B2 and your condition but I did find a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and the development of ostosclerosis, along with the comment that “the cochlea has high amounts of vitamin A. Both vitamin A and D are necessary for the mucous membrane in the ear and vitamin D will help with keeping calcium where it belongs, as will vitamin K2. Finally magnesium seems to also be necessary to prevent and reverse hearing loss. Hope that helps.
      Ken Peters

    • There is no reason that Vitamin K2, or the olive oil carrier, should cause tremors. In fact vitamin K deficiency has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, so it should actually help to prevent ailments that have tremor symptoms. Another supplement that can help prevent ailments with tremor symptoms is vitamin B12, so you may wish to try a therapeutic dose of that for awhile. And perhaps see a medical professional.

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