In this article, I hope to prove to you the importance of vitamin K in your diet and supplements.
First, it is important to note that vitamin K exists as two main forms; vitamin K1 and K2. Vitamin K1, called phylloquinone, comes from vegetables and is converted into vitamin K2 by intestinal bacteria. Vitamin K2 is the activated form of vitamin K and is found in organ meats, egg yolks and some fermented foods such as natto. We get much more vitamin K1 in the diet then we do vitamin K2.
In the body, vitamin K activates two enzymes: osteocalcin and matrix GLA-protein. I realize that those two words may be Greek to you but they are important to know because they have two different impacts on the body. When vitamin K activates osteocalcin, the result is more calcium and minerals get deposited into the bones resulting in stronger bones. When vitamin K activates matrix GLA-protein the result is less calcium is deposited into the arteries. Some research suggests that matrix GLA-protein may even decrease the calcifications of the arteries that are already present . Now that you know how important these two enzymes are to the body you can see how devastating a vitamin K deficiency can be. In addition, it should be noted that vitamin K2 is much more active in the body and is the only form that can activated these two critical enzymes.
Why are we deficient in vitamin K?
This deficiency likely occurs for three main reasons.
1. We don’t eat enough vegetables. Most vitamin K in the diet comes for plant sources in the form of vitamin K1. The vitamin K1 is then activated by intestinal flora and absorbed as K2.
2. Our intestinal bacteria are out of balance. Many of us are deficient in healthy bacteria that play important roles in the conversion of vitamin K1 into the active K2. Many things can decrease the number of healthy bacteria in the gut such as: antibiotics, chlorine, stress, etc.
3. We do not eat organ meats, fermented foods or egg yolks. These foods are the primary sources of vitamin K2.
Knowing that both factors are important in the maintaining healthy vitamin K levels, you can see that it is important to get more vitamin K in the diet and to make sure that your intestinal bacteria are in good balance.
How do we do this?
In our society, I believe that it is necessary to supplement with vitamin K in order to optimize the vitamin K levels in the body. You can find vitamin K supplements in both the K1 and K2 form. It is generally recommended that you opt for the vitamin K2 as the research confirms that it is far superior for the prevention of bone loss and the protection from artery calcification. If you are generally healthy, I recommend a low-dose vitamin K2 from Jarrow formulas called MK-7 which provides 90 mcg of vitamin K2 from natto. This is a small dose that meets your daily vitamin K needs which may suffice to maintain healthy bones and arteries. If you suffer with bone loss or calcification of the arteries I recommend a therapeutic dose of 15 mg (15,000 mcg) three times daily. This dose has been studied and proven to be safe and effective for improving bone loss while normalizing carboxylation to activate the osteocalcin and matrix GLA-protein. You do not need to worry that vitamin K will cause excessive clotting unless you are on a medication called Coumadin (warfarin) which works by blocking vitamin K in the body. If you are on Coumadin, research has shown that a small dose of vitamin K2 such as the dose found in the Jarrow MK-7 can actually help you to achieve more consistent INR levels while possibly preventing complication of long term Coumadin use which includes bone loss and artery calcification. Always discuss vitamin K supplementation with your health care practitioner prior to starting as you will likely need to increase the dose of the Coumadin to account for the effect of the K.