The amazing vitamin you have probably not heard of – Vitamin K2

For a while now I have been reading everything I can get hold of on Vitamin K2. A year or two ago I read Kate Rheaume-Bleue’s e-book “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox” and I have been hooked ever since. I am a big watcher of YouTube and recently ran across one presentation that stood out from all the others. It was from a microbiologist Dr Kiran Krishnan and it took about 47 minutes.

Dr Krishnan is the Chief Scientific Officer at the Microbiome Labs so he explains the microbiome can manufacture Vitamin K2 from Vitamin K1, given the right bacteria  in the bowel.  (probably those on a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet, especially younger people, have bodies perfectly capable of doing this conversion) Vitamin K2 is called menaquinone. Dr Krishnan has been studying Vitamin K2, particularly a form of Vitamin K2 called menaquinone MK7, for a decade. In the video he lists all the important functions that it performs in the body. And he says that “We are all subclinically deficient in Vitamin K2” because it is not common in our typical diet.

Natto

Contrast our typical Western diet with the diet of Eastern Japan where they eat nattō, a fermented soy bean. (Krishnan cites at least two studies showing high levels of nattō prevents osteoporosis.) You can source a list of natural sources of Vitamin K2 and Nattō is head and shoulders higher other foods, having 1000 mcg of MK7 per 100gm. The others foods are animal based and less than 10% of nattō in terms of Vitamin K2 content e.g. Gouda cheese (73mgm per 100 gm),  chicken liver (14.1mgm), eggs (8mgm), butter 20.9mgm, chicken wings 25.3mgm and then there are the processed meat sources like sausages and salami. But these animal sources  have it only in the various forms of MK4, the form that doesn’t stick around in the body long because it has a shorter half life.

People often dismiss the possibility of eating nattō because it is slimy and smelly and unfamiliar. In New Zealand it is available in Asian food stores but comes frozen from Japan. I didn’t find it offensive at all so I am now experimenting various ways to make it. I found that in our country it is almost impossible to source organic soy beans so I have to make it from black beans or chickpeas or mung beans.

Now what is this list of functions that Vitamin K2 performs in our bodies?

I won’t go over all his scientific sources, but I will list the diseases that can be avoided.  Vitamin K2-MK7 plays a vital role in the following:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Joint health
  • Dental health
  • Facial/cranial development
  • Muscle function
  • Neuropathy
  • Mitochondrial function
  • Cardiac function

That is a long list! Because it activates a protein called osteocalcin, it helps deposit calcium in the bones where it should be. Because it activates a protein called Matrix Gla which loves binding with calcium, it removes calcium from arteries and other soft tissues. In other words it takes calcium and deposits it in the right place in our bodies – in our bones and teeth not our soft tissues. It can slow dow the progression of diabetes.  He says it can revive dead or dying mitochondria , which are the power houses producing energy in our muscles. The muscle that has the highest number of mitochondria is your heart so that is why it can improve cardiac output. The improved cardiac output helps every cell get more nutrients and blood. It can revive dead and dying nerve cells.

Vitamin K2 reduces risk of fractured hip as well as heart disease.

Remember Vitamin K1 has been known about for a long time. It is available in leafy greens and is necessary for normal blood clotting. We have been taught that Vitamin K exists but few know that Vitamin K2 performs very different tasks from Vitamin K1. Many descriptions fail to differentiate between the two, and they are very different.

There are now a great many studies on Vitamin K2.  Dr Krishnan’s group  has been doing their research using supplementation with 320 micrograms a day, but many sources say an amount of 50 mgm/day is enough to improve some health outcomes.

Official Guidelines for Australia and New Zealand

On our Ministry of Health’s website there is no Recommended Daily  Intake for Vitamin K2 that I can find.  In fact one would be forgiven when reading P147 of their 2006 document Nutrient References for Australia and New Zealand for thinking that only Vitamin K1 was important. It mentions menaquinones only as an offshoot of Vitamin K1 and even says, “The only important molecular form of vitamin K in plants is phylloquinone (vitamin K1) but bacteria can synthesise a family of compounds called menaquinones (vitamin K2).”

On Vitamin K2  it says in 2006, “The only important molecular form of vitamin K in plants is phylloquinone (vitamin K1) but bacteria can synthesise a family of compounds called menaquinones (vitamin K2). The biologic functions of vitamin K-dependent proteins produced in other tissues, notably osteocalcin and MGP are unclear…. Evidence of a possible association of suboptimal vitamin K deficiency with increased risk of adverse outcomes for bone health and bone fracture is under investigation by a number of groups but the outcomes have not been clear cut to date (Binkley & Suttie 1995, Binkley et al 2002, Braam et al 2003, Schaafsma et al 2000, Shearer 1997, Vermeer et al 1995).”.

The guidelines are being reviewed now, according to an email I received from a team member at the National Health and Medical Research Council   (of Australia)on 22 October, 2019 .

You can take a supplement of Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2 by pill, but having read Colin Campbells’s book Whole  I am ready to make my own nattō and experience the health benefits that the elderly Japanese do when eating it. I have followed a guy called Natto Dad on YouTube and he makes nattō from many sources. Here is one of his. However because I have small house I have bought myself a yoghurt maker and am making it that way. I read this piece from the fellow that is sending me my nattō starter.

And having written all this, I discover Dr Krishnan is actually in a commercial venture selling supplements, so I might have to take his research as having declarations of interest. I knew there was a Microbiome Institute and thought he was from this non-profit.

Pubmed search

So I checked different sources. When doing a search for Vitamin K2 on Pubmed  I found 3951 studies reported. There are 266 on osteoporosis and 100 on “vascular”, 102 on “calcification” and fewer on Altzheimers, dementia and diabetes. There was nothing where Krishnan was an author. It seems Krishnan publishes on researchgate.net because I found a lot of his articles there.

A review of the literature there summarised the case in 2015. “Vitamin K2 may be a useful adjunct for treatment of osteoporosis, along with Vitamin D and calcium, rivalling bi-phosphonate therapy without the toxicity”. They said the evidence was insufficient for diabetes, arthritis, renal calculi and cancer but it was promising.

So it is an important Vitamin in the body. Even if it just made sure the calcium you absorb from your food is going to the right place, it would significantly reduce your risk of osteoporosis and vascular disease. And that means heart disease and strokes. But it definitely looks as though it does more than prevent heart disease and fractures.

So it’s worth keeping an eye on the new dietary guidelines now that will be coming out of Australia for our use!

 

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