It is rare that I would write an article about a single nutrient, but there is one that I believe to be a game changer and needs to be brought in to the public eye—the Vitamin K2. The human body needs a variety of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids) to function properly. When you are deficient in a particular nutrient, health problems generally arise. Since the human body is remarkably resilient it can take years to see any outright “symptoms” of a particular nutrient deficiency. These symptoms generally involve not feeling as good as you used to, changes in skin quality, low energy, hormonal imbalances, joint pain, digestive issues, the list goes on.
What is interesting about Vitamin K2 is that it was not until 1997 that researchers figured out the important role it plays in the human body (imagine all the other things we don’t know). While many people are familiar with Vitamin K1 (present in leafy greens such as kale and spinach and plays a role in blood clotting) most have never heard of Vitamin K2. Simply put, Vitamin K2 plays a critical role in directing calcium where it belongs and away from where it doesn’t belong. It does this through it’s interaction with a few other nutrients, namely Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
Why is K2 so important?
Vitamin K2 is involved in numerous functions in the human body but is especially important for women. Dr. Kate Rhéaume-Bleue, author of Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox, says:
“For the prevention of everything from wrinkles to cancer, Vitamin K2 is the missing nutrient for women’s health. Most women don’t need a calcium supplement, but Vitamin K2 will channel dietary calcium to the right places. And everyone is taking Vitamin D, but without K2 we’re not getting all the benefits of Vitamin D, and even risking harm from it.”
Bone Health - While most associate calcium with bone health the fact of the matter is that calcium (particularly supplemental calcium) plays a very insignificant role in ensuring adequate bone density and Vitamin K2 plays a very strong role. Vitamin K2 does this via its relationship with two other key nutrients, Vitamin A (Retinol not Beta-Carotene) and Vitamin D.
Dental Health - Look no further than Dr. Weston A. Price in understanding the importance of Vitamin K2 for ensuring proper dental health. His research showed that dental decay, tooth sensitivity and other issues can be addressed naturally, simply by ensuring adequate K2 in the diet. He found remarkable dental health (and overall health) in indigenous tribes throughout the world. These peoples had straight, cavity free teeth and rarely brushed. Their diet was very high in K2 and the other fat soluble nutrients (A and D).
Cardiovascular Health - For years we believed that clogged arteries were the results of saturated fat. We now know that this is not true. While there are many layers to cardiovascular disease the real culprit might be a lack of Vitamin K2 in the diet. Those blockages in your arteries are mostly calcium. Vitamin K2 keeps calcium out of your arteries and in your bones, where it belongs.
Wrinkles - Consider regions of the world that have a high vitamin K2 intake and you will find people who look considerably young for their age (i.e. Tokyo - where Natto, the richest food source of Vitamin K2 is consumed regularly). There is also a strong correlation between early signs of aging (wrinkles, loose skin) and low bone density.
Healthy Veins - Varicose veins are technically a disease of the cardiovascular system and like the related section above, involve calcium being deposited where it doesn’t belong. This can lead to veins that have lost their integrity and are more susceptible to bulging.
Where to get it?
Food sources of a particular nutrient are always best, however it can be a challenge with Vitamin K2 since the foods with the highest concentrations are rather obscure and not commonly consumed (see list below). That being said you can supplement with Vitamin K2. I would probably argue that Vitamin K2 is the single most important nutrient you should be including in your supplement routine (with Magnesium a close second).
The foods highest in Vitamin K2:
• Natto (fermented soybeans)
• Goose Liver (and other liver)
MyAchingKnees comment: Yeah, I'm all about Goose liver!
• Dairy products from animals that are eating fast growing spring grass (milk, butter, ghee).
• Cheeses - Gouda and Brie have the highest concentration but any cheese from a grass-fed animal will have Vitamin K2. Consider having some fruit and cheese as a snack.
• Egg yolks from a pasture raised chicken also contain K2. Eat 2-3 egg yolks a day.
Why is deficiency so common?
• It is a nutrient that is not present in high concentrations in many commonly consumed foods.
• The increased consumption of processed foods and a departure away from eating traditional foods (which are notoriously nutrient dense - nose to tail eating, grass-fed dairy, fermented foods, animal fats, etc.).
MyAchingKnees comment: My wife takes 105 micro grams of Vitamin K (in the form of Phylloquinone) each day, and while everyone knows the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is very low for most nutrients, this amount of Vitamin K provides 135% of the RDA. While this article by Steve Macari is excellent, this article and others stressing the importance of a single nutrient could have the tendnancy to push people to supplement with this one nutrient and not consider the fact that people need all the nutrients to order to work synergisitically to provide the body with optimal health.