Vitamin K2: Health Benefits, Functions, Food Sources

Most of us hardly know much about vitamin K2, which is crucial to our health.

Vitamin K2 was one of the most underrated and misunderstood nutrients by the scientific community and the general public until recently.

Most researchers now agree that vitamin K2 is a “missing link” between several chronic diseases and diet.

What is Vitamin K?

We mostly know vitamin K for its role in blood clotting and have never understood its many other significant effects on our health. The existence of vitamins K1 and K2 has yet to be differentiated appropriately.

Vitamin K was discovered in 1929 as an essential nutrient for blood coagulation or blood clotting.

The name “K” is an abbreviation for the word Koagulationsvitamin, the name first given to the chemical substance that helped blood clotting.

Vita has two principal forms: phylloquinone (K1) and menaquinone (K2).

Weston Price, a well-known dentist, discovered an unknown nutrient that protects against tooth decay and chronic diseases. At first, he named this unknown nutrient “Activator X”, but later on, it was renamed vitamin K2.

This vitamin has several subtypes, but the most important ones are MK4 and MK7.

The benefits of the K2 vitamin go much beyond the blood clotting function.

Several recent studies indicate that K2 improves heart health, is essential for healthy skin, strengthens bones, improves brain functioning, and prevents cancer, to name a few benefits.

Vitamins K1 and K2 have several functions that are unrelated to one another.

Most researchers support the idea that K1 and K2 are entirely different vitamins.

It is interesting to note here that Vitamin K2 is needed for 17 different vitamin K-dependent proteins for their metabolism. Several important functions and development of the body depend on the metabolism of these proteins.

This surprising fact is a clear indication for medical and nutritional science experts to prioritize K2 as one of the most important vitamins to keep our bodies running smoothly.

Health Benefits Of Vitamin K1 And K2

Several important health factors are taken care of by the K1 and K2 vitamins. Here are a few major effects:

  • Vitamin K modifies proteins to give them the ability to bind to calcium,
  • helps in formulating the building material for bones and teeth,
  • the liver uses K1 to activate calcium-binding proteins involved in blood clotting,
  • K2 activates proteins that regulate calcium deposits in teeth, bones, and cells,
  • K2 is important for maintaining skin elasticity,
  • important for the healthy functioning of the central nervous system,
  • helps in anti-tumor activities by reducing the ill effects of inflammation,
  • essential for mental acuity and brain health.

A deficiency in vitamin K, especially K2, produces poor health conditions called the “calcium paradox.” In this condition, the bones and teeth underutilize calcium. As a result, the bones become weak, and the teeth show signs of decay. At the same time, a bulk of calcium accumulates in the arteries, making them stiff and inelastic.

Makes teeth strong 

Osteocalcin (bone gamma-carboxy glutamic acid-containing protein) is responsible for the growth of new dentin. Osteocalcin turns into calcified tissue underneath the enamel of teeth.

This protein is also necessary for bone metabolism. Vitamin K requires the help of vitamins D and A to initiate bone metabolism.

Vitamin K2 activates the osteocalcin protein that is needed for forming strong teeth. Thus, the K2 vitamin is important for developing and maintaining strong and healthy teeth.

However, this important role of K2 in the development of teeth is based on the findings from animal studies. There are no human studies to prove this fact to be true.

Strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis

Vitamin K2 helps to reduce the occurrence of osteoporosis, which is a common bone weakness’ issue faced by older women in western countries.

Vitamin K2 activates the calcium-binding activity of two proteins called Matrix Gla protein and osteocalcin, which are essential for maintaining the strength of the bones.

A 3-year trial study in 244 postmenopausal women found that women who took Vitamin K2 supplements could maintain healthy bone mineral density levels compared to those who did not ingest the supplement.

Regular vitamin K2 intake reduces bone fractures by 60–81%, according to seven different trial studies conducted in Japan.

Currently, vitamin K supplementation is a medically accepted solution for osteoporosis. Also, it improves overall bone health. Vitamin D3 with K2 is simply a perfect combination.

Improves the heart health

One of the prime reasons for heart disease is the calcium buildup in the arteries around the heart.

Vitamin K2 has been shown to prevent calcium buildup in the arteries surrounding the heart.

According to the reports of a study that had 16,057 female participants, it was found that those women who had a sufficient daily intake of vitamin K2 had the lowest risk of heart disease.

About 45mg of Vitamin K2 daily supplementation is the right dosage to give the best health benefits. Vitamin K supplementation may delay the progression of aortic valve calcification. However, vitamin K1 intake did not show any specific benefit in reducing cardiovascular diseases.

Please note that these study reports are based on mere observational facts, and there is no guarantee that the findings are 100% correct in all cases.

 Prevents certain types of cancer

According to a recent European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, vitamin K2 can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 63%.

According to two clinical trial reports, vitamin K2 supplementation effectively reduces liver cancer recurrence. This vitamin can also delay or suppress the progress of liver cancer for a long period.

The K2 vitamin promises great hope for future discoveries in cancer treatments. Currently, cancer has become the deadliest disease in the world.

Best Dietary Sources Of Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is chiefly found in fermented foods and animal foods. Whereas vitamin K1 is richly present in green vegetables and other plant foods,

There is a common misconception that humans do not require an additional vitamin K2 diet and supplementation because the body has a natural mechanism for converting vitamin K1 to vitamin K2.

However, several recent studies do not agree with this misconception, as this theory applies only to animals, not humans. They recommend a daily intake of vitamin K2-rich foods or diet supplementation.

The human body has only a limited ability to convert K1 to K2. It is interesting to note here that Vitamin K1 is an abundantly present vitamin in most plant foods; it is 10 times more abundant than vitamin K2.

The gut bacteria in the large intestine contribute to the production of K2 in some amounts.

However, certain antibiotics decrease the presence of vitamin K2 in the body.

The best sources of vitamin K2 are animal and fermented foods, which many people do not consume.

Dairy products, organ meats, and egg yolks usually have a good bit of K2.

The following is a list of the foods high in vitamin K2, as measured by the USDA:

  • Natto
  • Hard cheese
  • Soft cheese
  • Egg yolk
  • Butter
  • Chicken liver
  • Salami
  • Chicken breast
  • Ground beef

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, cheese, and natto (a soy dish popular in Japan) are high in vitamin K2. Natto contains the highest concentration of K2 of any food measured. The MK-7 vitamin, which is highly beneficial to health, accounts for most of the K vitamins in natto.

Vitamin K2 is generally a fat-soluble vitamin; for this reason, all high-fat animal foods have a good amount of this vitamin.

If your diet does not include foods that contain this vitamin, it is best to choose a supplementation option.

Intake of vitamin K is best absorbed by the body when combined with vitamin D, for both have synergistic effects.

The Bottom Line

In the past, medical authorities and the general public underestimated K vitamins’ importance. Previously, vitamin K2 was known only for its role in clotting blood.

Several recent research studies have expanded our understanding of the many important functions of this vitamin.

It is truly beneficial and important to ensure that your body gets about a 40 mcg daily supply of optimal levels of vitamin K2 through diet or supplementation.

This vitamin matters a lot for teeth, bones, and heart health. This vitamin also helps to prevent certain types of cancer, heart ailments, bone and tooth decay, and many more.

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