Many people know of vitamin K as the fat soluble vitamin critical to blood clotting. As scientists learn more about vitamin K, however, they are realizing it plays a far broader role in human health. They are also finding the vitamin is far more complex than initially known.
Vitamin K is a whole group of fat soluble vitamins. There are actually three types, and if you have an adequate supply of the first two types, they can save your life.
Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is the substance involved in blood clotting. That is its only function. It is found in leafy green vegetables, and it is easily obtained through your diet.
Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, has long been overlooked. We now know its biologic role is to move calcium into areas of the body where it is needed, such as teeth and bones. It supports blood vessel walls, and it helps remove calcium from arteries and soft tissues. It is made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract. K2 works synergistically with other nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D.
We now know Vitamin K2 can be broken into two more categories, called:
MK-4 (menaquinone-4), which is a short-chain form present in butter, egg yolks, and animal foods sources.
MK-7 (menaquinone-7), the longer-chain forms present in fermented food.
In selecting supplements, look for MK-7, because the MK-4 used in supplements is derived from synthetic, rather than the natural, sources. MK-4 is a long-chain form of K2, made through a fermentation process. It stays longer in the body, and has a longer half-life, which makes once-a-day dosing viable.
Scientists are still investigating the optimal dose of vitamin K2, but current thinking is that 100 to 200 micrograms of K2 should be adequate to stimulate the body’s K2-dependent proteins to distribute calcium appropriately in the body, and remove it from areas where it should not be. The average American is getting about ten percent of the amount needed.
Vitamin K2 deficiency puts you at significantly heightened risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, strokes and cancer. These diseases used to be rare. During the past century, however, as food production has changed, the incidence of these diseases has skyrocketed. Calcification disorders such as heel spurs and kidney stones can also be a consequence of K2 deficiency. In addition, K2 has been shown in research to help maintain normal mitochondrial function, critical in Parkinson’s Disease.
There is also a third type of vitamin K. Vitamin K3, or menadione, is a synthetic form of the vitamin, and its use is not recommended. In fact, infants injected with synthetic K3 have experienced toxicity.