Vitamin K2 is the newest letter vitamin to make a splash. For years it was the Rodney Dangerfield of vitamins, relegated to giving iceberg lettuce its only nutrient worth talking about.
Simply stated, vitamin K2 (MK-7) takes calcium from your arteries, where you do not want it (can you say “hardening of the arteries?”) and puts it in your bones, where you do want it. It activates osteocalcin in bones, which binds calcium to the surface of bones. For the past decade, Vitamin K also has been linked to cardiovascular disease. It activates vitamin K-depending proteins, something which no other vitamins, micronutrients or structures can do.
“The form of vitamin K2 known as menaquinone-7 (MK-7) has proven effective in halting and reversing bone loss in both lab animals and humans. It has also proven effective in helping shuttle calcium out of hardened arteries for incorporation into bones or for excretion,” write Larry Howard and Anthony Payne, PhD, in Health Benefits of Vitamin K2 (Basic Health Publications, 2006). “Japan, in fact, has approved vitamin K2 as a treatment of osteoporosis.”
This is the kind of information to make post-menopausal women sit up and take notice, since their two chief concerns is bone loss and cardiovascular disease. The latter point is notable because men lead the heart disease race until we reach the age of post-menopause, when the women catch up. It is believed the primary reason for this is iron in the blood, which for women would conveniently be excreted once a month in their younger years. This is the reason why men’s multivitamins do not contain iron.
The study that launched K2 to the summit of the vitamin world was conducted in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and published in 2004. For 10 years researchers followed 4,800 health people who were 55 years or older. At the end of the study, researchers found that those who consumed 45 micrograms (a very small amount indeed) a day of vitamin K2 had 50 percent less arterial calcification, 50 percent less deaths from cardiovascular disease and 25 percent less deaths from any causes.1
At the time, there was no vitamin K2 for sale as supplements. That situation has surely righted itself. The best dietary source of vitamin K2 is the Japanese food called natto, a fermented soybean which is – how shall we put it? – not exactly in line with the American palate’s idea of fine dining. Very slimy. Most vitamin K is in the vitamin K1 form. But vitamin K2 is the one to watch. In supplements, you’ll find it either in menaquinone-4 (MK-4) or MK-7. More research has been conducted on MK-4, but the more compelling research is on MK-7.
In the U.S., the recommended daily intake for vitamin K, in either K1 or K2 form, is 120 micrograms for men and 90 micrograms for women.
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