Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient For Bone and Heart Health
While most women have heard of vitamin K, many do not know that it comes in two forms: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Recent research is showing that vitamin K2 is one of the vitamins important for bone and heart health. We are learning it may be as important as taking calcium when it comes to improving bone health.
Research has found a link between calcium and vitamin. Without adequate levels of vitamin K2 from your food or as a supplement, you can’t regulate calcium levels and bone health suffers. In addition, women with decreased levels of vitamin K2 in their diet put themselves at a greater risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis.
With insufficient calcium in their bones, osteoporosis can develop. At the same time, affected women can see elevated amounts of calcium in their arteries. Vitamin K2 can reverse this condition.
Information on vitamin K is not new. The current dietary recommendations by the US FDA has been provided relative to the small amount of vitamin K needed to clot the blood. However, the amount needed for healthy bones and arteries and bones is more than those recommendations.
Osteoporosis and Heart Disease
While osteoporosis and heart disease may seem unrelated, that’s actually not true. Both medical issues increase with age, particularly in the 60s and 70s. Both are conditions that develop gradually over time. Atherosclerosis can begin as early as one’s teens and may take years to become clinically significant with escalating risks of heart attack or stroke.
Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles have begun to understand the linkage between atherosclerosis and osteoporosis. They seem to be linked to certain regulators, such as osteopontin and matrix GLA-protein, which affect both bone health and the health of the arteries. A protein known as morphogenetic protein-2, thought to be present only in bone, has also been found in the tissue that makes up atherosclerotic plaques.
It was determined that those who suffered from osteoporosis (thinning of the bones from a loss of calcium) also had an increased risk of calcium deposition in arteries and vice versa.
It turns out that calcified plaques are not really plaques at all but actually bony tissue inside the arteries. Calcium in the arteries is actually ossification of the blood vessels.
Sedentary lifestyles, diabetes, aging, smoking, and high cholesterol levels were also linked to both osteoporosis and atherosclerosis. The scientists wondered why both conditions coexist so frequently among older people.
Initially some researchers believed that calcium may be transferred from bones into the arteries but this didn’t wasn’t substantiated by research studies. Drugs that control osteoporosis, such as Evista (raloxifene) and Fosamax (alendronate) resolve the lack of calcium in bone but do not improve atherosclerosis, so the two issues are probably managed under separate regulatory mechanisms.
What we believe now is that Vitamin K2 may be at the bottom of the link between osteoporosis and bone deposition in the arteries.
Vitamin K comes as vitamin K1 and vitamin K2, which is found in egg yolks, dairy products, and organ meats. Most of the research on the vitamin relates to its ability to help the liver make clotting factors, including factors II, VII, IX, and X, as well as proteins C and S. They have found that vitamin K is a good antidote to Warfarin toxicity.
More recently, it was found that vitamin K is strongly linked to the maintenance of healthy bones and the prevention of arterial plaques (which are bony material trapped in the arteries). Vitamin K seems to keep the calcium out of the arteries and puts it back into the bones where it belongs. The dose of vitamin K necessary to do this is far greater than that needed for bone and arterial health.
Link Between Vitamin K2 And Osteoporosis
Vitamin K2 that is the form of vitamin K most responsible for inducing the mineralization of bone and keeping calcium out of the arteries. Women who consume foods high in vitamin K2 are less likely to have osteoporosis than those who don’t eat a lot of vitamin K2.
Research studies have since supported the idea that vitamin K2 limits the incidence of bony fractures. Again, the dosage necessary is much higher than the recommended daily allowances for vitamin K currently recommended.
Link Between Vitamin K2 And Heart Disease
Vitamin K2 has been found to reduce the amount of cholesterol and calcium plaques found in heart valves and in arterial walls. In one large study of more than 4800 participants, it was discovered that those who ate more vitamin K2 in their diet had a 57 percent reduction in the number of deaths due to heart disease. This was not found to be the case for vitamin K1. When adding in vitamin K2, it turns out there is less calcium deposited in the blood vessels and more deposited into bone.
This means that, in the future, there may be a change in the dietary recommendations for vitamin K2 so that it can do what it does best — put calcium into the bones instead of depositing into the arteries.