Lately, I have been hearing a lot about this infamous vitamin. Today, I’m sharing some interesting finds.
What is Vitamin K
Vitamin K is one of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E are the others), meaning its bodily absorption happens after it has been dissolved in fat. Hence why most fat soluble vitamins contain some type of oil or other fatty carrier.
It comes in two forms:
- Vitamin K1, (phylloquinone) found in leafy greens, vegetables, and some plant oils
- Vitamin K2, (menaquinone) found in dairy, fermented foods, and animal products
You can also get vitamin K supplements, but clinical trials show that the vitamin K we consume from food is more effective in our bodies. Our bodies make some vitamin K in the colon, and most people get the rest of what they need from their diet.
Vitamin K1 is the most common form and is primarily known for its ability to clot blood. A true deficiency of vitamin K1 would quickly lead to excessive bleeding from the smallest of cuts.
Why You Need Vitamin K2
Both vitamins K1 and K2 ensure healthy blood clotting, preventing excessive bleeding and bruising when blood vessels get injured. But recent research suggests that they play different roles in other aspects of our health, with vitamin K2 adding health benefits independent of K1.
However, there is not yet a recommended intake set specifically for vitamin K2. You should get between 90 and 120 micrograms of vitamin K — but this requirement is based on the vitamin K1 needed to prevent bleeding.
Scientists studying vitamin K2’s effects suggest its benefits come with a daily intake of between 10 and 45 micrograms. But in the average diet, about 90% of the vitamin K consumed is K1.
Getting vitamin K2 in our diets supports:
Vitamin K breaks down calcium in our bodies, and this effect helps prevent hard deposits (calcium and fatty material) from forming in artery walls. Smooth and flexible blood vessels ensure healthy circulation, reducing the risk of harmful blood clots and heart disease.
This effect may come from vitamin K2 alone, however. Studies show that a person’s risk of dying from heart disease falls by 9% for every 10 micrograms consumed a day, but found no association with K1 intake.
Our bodies need calcium to build and maintain bones. When it breaks down calcium in our bodies, vitamin K2 activates a protein that helps the mineral bind to our bones to do its job.
While research is ongoing, studies show a higher K2 intake improves bone density and reduces the risk of bone fractures.
May Improve Dental Health
Researchers have speculated that vitamin K2 may affect dental health. However, no human studies have tested this directly.
Based on animal studies and the role vitamin K2 plays in bone metabolism, it’s reasonable to assume that this nutrient impacts dental health as well.
One of the main regulating proteins in dental health is osteocalcin — the same protein that is critical to bone metabolism and is activated by vitamin K2 (1). Osteocalcin triggers a mechanism that stimulates the growth of new dentin, which is the calcified tissue underneath the enamel of your teeth ( 2, 3).
Researchers have found that vitamin K2 may slow or stop cancer cell activity.
Other studies show this may improve survival rates and reduce cancer’s recurrence. However, these studies have focused on only certain cancers, like liver and prostate, so much more research is needed.
Several foods are rich in vitamin K-1, and vitamin K-2 is much less common. Bacteria in the gut can convert some K-1 into K-2. Fermented foods are a good source of vitamin K-2.
Also, because it is fat-soluble, organ meats and high-fat dairy products contain fairly substantial quantities of vitamin K-2. Conversely, lean meats, such as poultry, are not good sources of K-2.
Dietary sources of vitamin K-1 include:
- dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- vegetable oils
Dietary sources of vitamin K-2 include:
- natto, a traditional Japanese dish of fermented soybeans
- dairy products, especially hard cheeses
- liver and other organ meats
- egg yolks
- fatty fish, such as salmon
If these foods are inaccessible to you, taking supplements is a valid alternative. An excellent selection of K2 supplements can be found on Amazon.
The benefits of supplementing with K2 may be enhanced even further when combined with a vitamin D supplement, as these two vitamins have synergistic effects (5).
Though this needs to be studied in more detail, current research on vitamin K2 and health is promising.
In fact, it may have life-saving implications for many people.
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