Health Canada Licence NPN 80044077
• The preferred MK7 form of K2
• Strengthens bones which can help to prevent osteoporosis and tooth decay
• Protects against hardening of the arteries and associated stroke risk
• Assists in regulating blood sugar levels
• Studies show K2 deficiency increases cancer risk
• Enhances mental function and may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease
Quick K2 prevents vitamin K2 deficiency, promotes bone, teeth and cardiovascular health.
What is Vitamin K?
In 1929 a Danish scientist discovered what was to later become identified as vitamin K. Henrik Dam was studying the effects of cholesterol by feeding chickens a diet lacking in it. He observed that after a few weeks the chickens started bleeding and he could not reverse this by adding purified cholesterol back into their diet. At that point he realized that there was another element in the unpurified cholesterol which he referred to as the “coagulation vitamin”. This substance later became known as vitamin K. At that point it was determined that serious vitamin K deficiencies would manifest as bleeding disorders, or malfunction in blood clotting functions.
It is now known that vitamin K is a family of vitamins that exists in various forms including K1 (phylloquinone), K2 (menaquinone) and K3. Vitamin K3 is a synthetic form that is toxic in high doses. Vitamin K1 is the most commonly available form in the modern diet and is found in plant foods. While the famed Framingham Study showed a lower risk for hip fracture in those who consumed the most K1 from food, another study that attempted to get the same results with supplemental K1 showed no benefits. Therefore, K1 is not recommended for use in supplemental form.
We now know that the type of vitamin K that is most utilized by the body is the K2 form, found mostly in butter, eggs yolks and meat products, especially organ meats, from animals fed grass. In North America most food animals are fed grains because it is cheaper, so deficiency of K2 in humans has become widespread. Vitamin K2 is also created during fermentation, so some is found in cheese and a lot in the soybean product called Natto, a Japanese food that is considered quite unpalatable by most North Americans.
Supplemental forms of K2
Vitamin K2 is usually found in the forms known as MK4 and MK7. These forms are the ones most studied and the ones that are available in supplemental form. Both the MK4 and MK7 version of K2 are available in supplemental form, though the effective dosages are very different. The problem for those of us in Canada, is that the recommended dosage of MK4 is 45mg daily, but in this country the maximum amount of K2 allowed in a product is 120mcg (a mcg being one thousandth of a mg). Since MK4 is not effective in microgram doses, we in Canada can only use MK7, which is effective at this low dose. The recommended amount of MK7 is about 120mcg for maintenance, and twice that much for therapeutic use.
Vitamin K2 Benefits
MK7 Prevents Osteoporosis
The MK7 form of K2 showed its effectiveness in stimulating bone formation and inhibiting bone decline in this Japanese study. (Yamaguchi M (November 2006). “Regulatory mechanism of food factors in bone metabolism and prevention of osteoporosis”. Yakugaku Zasshi 126 (11): 1117–37)
And another study showed elevation in biomarkers of bone formation along with inhibition of bone-reabsorbing factors found in parathyroid hormones. (Tsukamoto Y (2004). “Studies on action of menaquinone-7 in regulation of bone metabolism and its preventive role of osteoporosis”. BioFactors 22 (1-4): 5–19) As well, in 2011, the Singapore government approved a health supplement that contains the MK7 form of vitamin K2, along with vitamin D3, for increasing bone density.
Why is K2 so Important?
The critical importance of vitamin K2 for us in the modern age is due to its link to two widespread ailments: osteoporosis and heart disease, in the form of atherosclerosis (calcification of the arteries).
It is well established that vitamin K develops bones during growth by directing calcium where to go in the skeleton and in the cells. Vitamin K2 is not only necessary for growing bones but will rebuild and maintain bones in adults as well, and is one of the most important nutrients required to prevent osteoporosis.
When we have enough vitamin K it will direct calcium to the bones and teeth and keep it away from the areas where it could do harm, such as the cardiovascular system and soft tissues.
Vitamin K2 is not commonly found in the North American diet due to the fact that it exists mostly in the meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals, and commercial cattle and dairy farms now feed their animals grains. Cultures such as the Japanese who do not traditionally consume dairy products have derived it from “natto” a fermented soya bean food.
It was up until recently believed that vitamin K deficiency only occurred if the intestinal tract was damaged, forbidding absorption of the nutrient. Since K2 (in the MK7 form) is also produced from K1 by friendly bacteria in the gut, a deficiency was also often found in people who had been on long term broad spectrum antibiotic use. Heavy antibiotic use has been shown to reduce vitamin K2 production in the body by almost 75%.
Vitamin K2 production is also reduced as we get older, much like B-12 production. Since much of the K2 in the body is converted from K1, a diet too low in the plant foods containing K1, will also reduce the amounts of K2 in the body. Vitamin K deficiency can be caused by gallstones, diseases of the GI tract, liver disease, lack of gallbladder and estrogen drugs.
Vitamin K2 and D3
Combining vitamin D3 with K2 has been shown to be more effective on building bones than either one alone. (Weber P., “Vitamin K and Bone Health,” Nutrition, 17: 880-887; 2001) Science has long known that vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, but now we know that it is the vitamin K2 that directs the calcium into the skeleton, while preventing it from being deposited in the organs, joints and arteries.
When the levels of circulating D3 get too high and they mobilize calcium into the bloodstream, even if we haven’t hit the danger zone of hypercalcemia, we may still have a problem. Because most of us are deficient in vitamin K we don’t have enough of that nutrient circulating to guide this extra calcium to where it belongs, in bones and teeth. We then face the danger that some of this calcium will deposit in inappropriate places like the joints, leading to arthritic conditions, and worse, the arteries, leading to calcification or “hardening” of the arteries.
There is now evidence that the safety of vitamin D3 is dependent on vitamin K2, and that vitamin D toxicity may be caused by vitamin K2 deficiency. So, the vitamin D3 mobilizes calcium into the bloodstream, but if the K2 is not present to channel the calcium into the bones, it can just build up on plaque on the arterial walls, leading to atherosclerosis. Therefore, those of us taking anything more than 3,000IU to 5,000IU of vitamin D3 daily, should definitely add a vitamin K2 supplement to the regimen, for that reason alone.
Why we don’t add Vitamin D to our K2
Many Vitamin K2 products come with added vitamin D3. Nutristart chose not to do this because while 120mcg, the daily allowable serving of K2, is sufficient for most people’s needs, the allowable dosage of vitamin D3, in Canada, is only 1,000 IU, and many people now choose to take more D3 than that. Therefore, by taking our D3 as a separate supplement we can attain the levels recommended by current experts in the field, rather than being limited to 1,000 IU as when it is combined with the daily dose of K2.
Health Benefits of Vitamin K2
A European study of more than 8,000 people over the age of 55 found that those with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a 50% reduction in death by coronary heart disease. (Geleijnse J.M., et al, “Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, The Rotterdam study,” Journal of Nutrition, 143 (11): Nov; 2004) Furthermore, studies done on animals have indicated that calcification of the arteries can even be reversed with supplemental vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 was also tested but shown to not prevent arterial calcifications.
Antioxidant Properties of 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)
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. People who have higher intakes of vitamin K have a 45% lower risk of developing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and researchers in Japan discovered that vitamin K2 may play a role in preventing the type of liver cancer caused by viral cirrhosis.
Dental Health and K2
In 1945 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. 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. And we know that vitamin K2 stores in the body have some of the highest concentration in the salivary glands.
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.”
Another recent finding is that the kidneys store large amounts of vitamin K2, and also secrete a protein component dependent on K2, one that prevents the formation of calcium salts. We know that people who have kidney stones only secrete this protein in an inactive form that poorly inhibits the development of kidney stones, suggesting that K2 may be an important piece of the puzzle of why some people develop kidney stones more than others do.
Vitamin K2 and Stroke
The importance of vitamin K2 in preventing osteoporosis may indicate another valuable function that it performs as well. In a “Study of Osteoporotic Fractures” it was shown that bone density is a good general predictor of early mortality. This study found that every standard deviation from normal bone density lead to a 20% greater risk of mortality in older women.
What was discovered was that the women with osteoporosis didn’t die from complications from broken bones or the resulting surgery; falling accounted for only about 3% of the mortalities in this study. The majority of deaths actually occurred mostly from cancer, heart attack and stroke. Science now suspects that osteoporosis is a warning sign that calcium has built up in the arteries, instead of remaining in the bones, where it belongs. It has been shown that diets high in vitamin K prevent the thickening of arteries in rats prone to stroke.
Inflammation and Vitamin K2
It well known that inflammation is the root of many ailments including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. The older we get the more we produce the inflammatory compound called Interleukin-6, a chemical messenger known as a cytokine that is part of our immune system. When produced in normal amounts it is a necessary component of a healthy immune system, but when it overwhelms the other cytokines, IL-6 causes excessive inflammation.
People with the highest amount of IL-6 were nearly twice as likely to develop mobility-related ailments. Elevated levels of IL-6 were also found in people with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, also a disease characterized by symptoms of inflammation. Fortunately vitamin K2 also inhibits both IL-6 and general inflammation.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Vitamin K2
Some years ago a research scientist at the University of North Carolina discovered that hemodialysis patients were more prone to bone fractures, and at the same time had higher than normal levels of a compound called “apolipoprotein E” in their blood. The scientist (Dr. M. Kohlmeier) suspected that these people might also be prone to poor vitamin K status or may not absorb or produce it well, and eventually studies confirmed this fact. Later, elevated levels of this apoE compound were directly linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The combination of low vitamin K and high apoE affected the body’s ability to regulate calcium levels in the brain. And, indeed, studies have found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease have unhealthy calcium levels in their brains.
Vitamin K2 and Insulin Regulation
The fact that some of the highest levels of vitamin K are stored in the pancreas has lead to the idea that it may also be a necessary part of controlling blood sugar levels. Japanese scientists did study the link between vitamin K and insulin function in the body and, while it was an animal study, what occurred with vitamin K deficiency mimicked what occurs with diabetics. A small scale human study, done in 2011, concluded: “To summarize, we have demonstrated for the first time that vitamin K2 supplementation for 4 weeks increased insulin sensitivity in healthy young men.”
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.