If you haven’t heard yet, it’s all the rage. Well…not quite yet, but it’s getting there. As vitamin K1 is on the back burner for the moment, vitamin K2 is stepping up for its chance to shine. Because vitamin K2 isn’t as “mainstream” as vitamin K1, sound and scientifically sourced information isn’t easy to acquire. In the next few years we can hopefully expect to see a surge in scientific research regarding K2 and its benefits. Dr. Rheaume-Bleue author of, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life, emphasizes the importance of the relationship between vitamin K2, vitamin D, and calcium. Rheaume-Bleue states that vitamin D supplementation creates more vitamin K2-dependednt proteins to move calcium around the body. Without the help of K2 these mechanisms don’t work properly and may pose a danger to one’s health. In other words, vitamin D and K2 work together to strengthen bones and improve heart health, while K2 moves calcium where it needs to be (1). So what exactly does the literature say? You may be pleasantly surprised.
Scientists are discovering that vitamin K2 plays a role in osteoporosis, vascular calcification, osteoarthritis, cancer, and cognition (2). While vitamin K2 use may be new in the United States, Japan has used this nutrient for more than 15 years without serious adverse effects and is often the recommended standard of care (2,3). The benefits of bone protection from K2 are proving to be extremely positive when combined with calcium and vitamin D. One study shows that vitamin K2 and calcium helped maintain bone density in osteoporotic patients, whereas patients taking calcium alone lost 2.5% of their lumbar bone density over a 24-month period (2). In addition, the K2 treatment group had 65% fewer fractures. Another study showed that the lifetime risk of a fracture is reduced by 25% with daily supplementation of vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin K2 in certain doses. A systematic review in Japanese patients discovered that vitamin K2 prevents fractures in vertebra by 60%, hip fractures by 77%, and nonvertebral fractures by 81%. Lastly, vitamin K2 has shown to be a key player in bone mineralization and also promotes cell death of osteoclasts (cells that eat bone) (3).
The benefits of K2 don’t just stop at bone health, it also plays a large role in heart and artery health. Animal studies show that vitamin K2 prevented warfarin-induced calcification of arteries, but K1 did not (4). Dietary intake of K2 has been significantly associated with a lower incidence of coronary heart disease, but vitamin K1 doesn’t promise the same benefits (5,6). Intake of K2 has also been related to a reduction of all-cause mortality and severe aortic artery calcification. Another benefit when taking K2 is that blood levels read 7-8 times higher than K1 and distributes into various tissues more significantly (7).
All scientific jargon aside, more research needs to be completed in order to draw a strong conclusion of vitamin K2 benefits, but current results are promising. The United States does not have a recommendation for the use of vitamin K2 but that will hopefully change in the near future. Some articles highlight that vitamin K1 supplementation may not have enough ground to stand on for recommended use in regard to bone health (3). Bringing attention to another interesting point, Dr. Rheaume-Bleue theorizes that K2 is vital for proper fetal development including bone structure. She questions the societal normality of orthodontic work and states, “The degree to which this particular [facial] deformity has become pervasive in our culture is disguised by the ubiquity of orthodontic treatment. Along with the stunted development of the lower third face comes narrow dental arches that can’t accommodate a full set of teeth” (8). Because of its proven bone benefits, vitamin K2 may be optimal to offer in prenatal supplements as well as multivitamins. As the good news continues to get better, vitamin K2 may finally get the long-awaited attention it deserves.
- What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium. Mercola. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/16/vitamin-k2.aspx. Published December 16, 2012. Accessed December 9, 2017.
- Schwalfenberg GK. Vitamins K1 and K2: The Emerging Group of Vitamins Required for Human Health. J Nutr Metab. 2017;2017:6254836.
- Ebina K, Shi K, Hashimoto J, et al. Vitamin K2 administration is associated with decreased disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Modern Rheumatology [serial online]. September 2013;23(5):1001-1007. Accessed December 8, 2017.
- Theuwissen E, Smit E, Vermeer C. The Role of Vitamin K in Soft-Tissue Calcification. Advances in Nutrition. 2012;3(2):166-173. doi:10.3945/an.111.001628.
- Gast GC, De roos NM, Sluijs I, et al. A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009;19(7):504-10.
- Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, et al. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. 2004;134(11):3100-5.
- Gröber U, Reichrath J, Holick M, Kisters K. Vitamin K: an old vitamin in a new perspective. Dermato-endocrinology. 2014;6(1):e968490. doi:10.4161/19381972.2014.968490.
- Rheaume-Bleue K. Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life. John Wiley & Sons; 2011.