Ingredient Spotlight: Vitamin K2

December 31, 2021

Ingredient Spotlight: Vitamin K2

In this article:

  • What is vitamin K2?
  • The importance of vitamin K2
  • Benefits of vitamin K2
  • Supplementing with vitamin K2

What is Vitamin K2?

Here's a fun fact, vitamins aren't named based on their importance or prevalence; they are assigned alphabetically according to the date of their discovery. One exception, however, is vitamin K. Vitamin K was assigned the "K" by its Danish discoverer, Henrik Dam, who named it after its most fundamental benefit - blood coagulation (or koagulation in Danish).

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin with a biological role in blood clotting, bone metabolism, and cardiovascular health. New research also highlights the importance of vitamin K as a cofactor for synthesizing Gla proteins and suggests vitamin K intake may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The two forms of vitamin K are K1 and K2. Here are some key differences.

Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is produced by plants and is the primary form of vitamin K we consume in our diets. The most common food sources are leafy green vegetables and plant oils. Phylloquinone is absorbed through the small intestines and processed in the liver. Although K1 accounts for about 90% of vitamin K intake, the bioavailability may be low, with only 20% absorbed into the body.

Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) has subtype names based on the length of their isoprenyl side chains, but the most common forms in food are MK-4 and MK-7. MK-4 is consumed in animal sources like chicken, pork, egg yolks, organ meats, and dairy, but MK-7 is found in fermented foods such as natto (a Japanese dish of fermented soybeans) and other fermented dairy and soybean products. Although less frequently consumed in the modern Western diet, MK-7 has a longer half-life than K1 or MK4, meaning it stays in the blood longer and has greater bioavailability.

The Importance of Vitamin K2

On top of being an important factor in blood clotting, vitamin K also has a major role in both bone and cardiovascular health via calcium distribution. For years we've been told to drink milk for calcium and strong bones. While calcium is important, other vitamins are also essential for bone health and too much calcium can be detrimental for soft tissues in the body, like the blood vessels. Vitamin K2 both activates the proteins that are involved in bone calcification and strengthening, and deters arterial calcification which can lead to heart conditions.  

Did you know that the entire human skeleton is replaced every 7-10 years? Osteoblasts produce osteocalcin, which draws calcium from the bloodstream and uses it to strengthen and build up the skeleton.

Osteocalcin is partially responsible for maintaining and increasing our bone mineral density and preventing bone fractures, but it can't do its job without vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 helps to activate osteocalcin, thus supporting our bone health, dental health, and heart health.

Healthy concentrations of calcium help our blood vessels expand and contract. Conversely, insufficient osteocalcin can lead to vascular calcification of the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis, diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.

Not only is vitamin K2 crucial to the activation of osteocalcin, the osteocalcin then works to activate another significant player in calcium removal, called matrix GLA protein (MGP).

Benefits of Vitamin K

Maintaining a Healthy Cardiovascular System

Considering that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, vitamin K has a significant role to play in heart health. Measuring an individual's undercarboxylated osteocalcin levels provides a marker for vitamin K2 status. One particular study found that daily vitamin K2 supplementation reduced the risk of artery calcification (atherosclerosis) by 52%. Further studies have also found that increasingly high doses of vitamin K2 correlated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease, especially with postmenopausal women.

Building Strong Bones and Preventing Osteoporosis

Using vitamin K2 to protect against osteoporosis in postmenopausal women was also evaluated. In this study, vitamin K2 significantly slowed the rate of bone mineral density loss. A mirrored study of Japanese women also concluded that the incidence and risk of spinal and hip fractures were reduced by as much as 77% compared to the women who took the placebo.

Many Japanese health care professionals recommend vitamin K2 for managing osteoporosis. Not only does vitamin K2 support healthy bone growth, but it may also encourage the growth of new dentin for strong, healthy teeth.

While total vitamin K deficiency is rare, inadequate levels are not uncommon. That's why many people choose to supplement with vitamin K-rich foods and vitamin K2 supplements. Strong bones require more than calcium, and a combination of vitamin K and vitamin D works synergistically to improve bone density.

Improving Cardiac Output for Athletes

While vitamin K2 supplementation has been known to improve cardiovascular function in diseased patients, promising research shows benefits for athletes. For example, an eight-week study at the University of North Texas included male and female athletes who received a 300 mg/d vitamin K2 supplement for four weeks, then a 150 mg/d supplement for four weeks. As a result, participants receiving vitamin K2 supplementation had a 12% increase in maximal cardiac output.

Supplementing with Vitamin K2

You can increase your vitamin K2 intake through your diet and store-bought supplements. Vitamin K2 supplements may be the missing link to both increased calcium deposits in the bone and decreased buildup in the soft tissues.  

One precaution with vitamin K2 supplementation is for anyone currently on oral anticoagulant therapy. Also, certain medications that help lower your cholesterol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamin K. As always, consult your doctor before you make any significant changes to your diet.

As you’ve seen in this article, current research on the benefits of vitamin K is extremely promising. Still, not all forms of vitamin K can be effectively and efficiently used by the body. The form of vitamin K studied in the most recent research is K2 and specifically menaquinone-7 (MK-7).  

Amandean’s 100% Vegan Vitamin D3 + K2 Supplement is made with all-trans menaquinone-7, which is known as the purest, bioactive form available. This MK-7 is paired with vitamin D3 sourced from lab-grown algae (not lichen or lanolin). These clean sources are from non-GMO, cGMP-tested labs. Vitamin D3 has a vast range of health benefits, including building immunity and boosting mood. But one of the most unique benefits of the D3 + K2 combination is enhancing the processes associated with bone development, maintaining bone mass, and helping prevent osteoporosis.*  

In Summary

Vitamin K2 is essential for bone health and cardiovascular function. K2 activates key proteins that transfer calcium into bones, removing potentially harmful free calcium from the arteries. All-trans menaquinone-7, MK-7, is one of the purest, biologically active forms of vitamin K2 and, when combined with vitamin D, has tremendous beneficial health effects, especially in maintaining healthy bones.*

*The text of this site has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Summary Points

  • Vitamin K was assigned the "K" by its Danish discoverer, Henrik Dam, who named it after its most fundamental benefit - blood coagulation
  • Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) has subtype names based on the length of their isoprenyl side chains, but the most common forms in food are MK-4 and MK-7
  • Vitamin K has a major role in both bone and cardiovascular health via calcium distribution
  • Vitamin K2 supplementation has been known to improve cardiovascular function and offer benefits for athletes
  • Vitamin K2 supplements may be the missing link to increase calcium deposits in bone and decreasing buildup in soft tissues

Article References:

  1. Dietary Phylloquinone and Menaquinones Intakes and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
  2. Vitamin K1 vs K2: What’s the Difference?
  3. The Different Vitamins in the K Family.
  4. Comparison of menaquinone-4 and menaquinone-7 bioavailability in healthy women.
  5. Vascular Calcification: an Update on Mechanisms and Challenges in Treatment.
  6. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study.
  7. A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease.
  8. Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women.
  9. Vitamin K and bone health.

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