Did you know that Vitamin K2 is every bit as important as vitamin D for protecting your heart and bone health? It is essential for activating enzymes involved in transporting calcium through arterial walls and into your bones.
Vitamins K1 and K2 are part of a family, but they are very different in their activity and function. Vitamin K1, found in green leafy vegetables, is a fat-soluble vitamin involved in the production of coagulation factors which are critical for stopping bleeding. This is why when someone is on a blood thinner such as warfarin, they need to be careful not to take too much vitamin K1, as it will counteract the effect of the drug.
Vitamin K2 is very different. There’s a complex biochemistry that occurs with K2 involving two enzymes:
- Matrix GLA-protein
“GLA” is short for glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is imported into cells in the wall of your arteries, where it binds to calcium and removes it from the lining of your blood vessels. Once removed from your blood vessel lining, calcium makes its way into your bone matrix when vitamin K2 hands it over to osteocalcin. The osteocalcin then helps cement the calcium in place. Vitamin K2 activates these two proteins. Without it, this transfer process of calcium from your arteries to your bones cannot occur, which raises your risk of arterial calcification and heart disease.
Luckily for us, vitamin K2 is produced by certain bacteria in our digestive tract. The primary food source of these bacteria is fermented foods such as natto, a fermented soy product typically sold in Asian grocery stores. Fermented vegetables can be a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using a specially-designed starter culture. Other sources of K2 include organ meats, egg yolks, and dairy.
The major problem we face when it comes to optimizing vitamin K2 is that, unlike vitamin D, there’s no easy way to screen or test for vitamin K2 sufficiency. Without testing, we’re left with looking at various lifestyle factors that predispose you to deficiency. As a general rule, if you have any of the following health conditions, you’re likely deficient in vitamin K2:
- Heart disease
As for a clinically useful dosage, some studies have shown as little as 45 micrograms per day is sufficient. I recommend taking 100-200 micrograms of Vitamin K2 per day, making sure the K2 is in the form of MK-7. If you’re eating natto, all you need is about one teaspoon. That said, vitamin K2 is relatively non-toxic despite being fat-soluble, so you don’t need to worry about overdosing if you get slightly more. Some studies recommend up to 1000 mcg daily, and the FDA has not been able to set a safe maximum. Do keep in mind that vitamin K2 may not necessarily make you “feel better” per se. Its internal workings are such that you’re not likely to feel the difference physically. Compliance can therefore be a problem, as people are more likely to take something that has a noticeable effect. This may not happen with vitamin K2, but that certainly does not mean it’s not doing anything! Last but not least, remember to always take your vitamin K2 supplement with fat since it is fat-soluble and won’t be absorbed without it.
You can find Pagdin’s Picks at the following retailers, where you can also enter a draw to win three months supply of Vitamin K2:
- Medicine Shoppe (3957 Lakeshore Road)
- Lakeside Medicine Centre (Gordon at Guisachan)
- Prescription Health Studio (540 West Ave, just off Pandosy)
- Abaco Health (Gordon at Cook Rd)
- Nolan’s Pharmasave (Vernon)
- Summerland Pharmasave
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Dr. Grant Pagdin, MD
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