When it comes to vitamins, one of the most under appreciated is Vit. K. In fact, I am willing to bet that the majority of people have never heard of it or have very limited understanding concerning it. But if you desire to avoid osteoporosis and brain related issues such as Alzheimer and Parkinson’s, then optimizing your Vit. K levels are essential.
What is Vit. K?
Vit. K can be broken down into two main types, K1 (phylloquinone ) and K2 (menaquinones) .
K1 is better known because it is associated with the clotting mechanism of our blood. In fact, Vit. K is often referred to as the “clotting vitamin” and is the Vitamin that is administered to newborns to help with their clotting capability shortly after birth. Vitamin K1 is primarily derived from eating green leafy vegetables and can be obtained through plants such as kale, spinach, beet greens, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin K2 is mainly involved in bone and brain health and is mostly found in animal foods such as eggs, cheese, butter, beef, and is also found in natto. There are two main types of vitamin K2, which include menaquinone-4 (MK-4), and menaquinone-7 (MK-7).
MK-4 is what’s mostly found in animal foods, while natto is a source of MK-7. Both of these can be excellent sources of vitamin K2, although with regards to MK-4, the quality of the animal product is important, as eating eggs from pasture-raised chickens, and meat and dairy from grass-fed animals will contain higher levels of MK-4 than grain-fed animals.
Vit K and Bone Health
When it comes to bone health, there are three Vitamin K2 dependent proteins that are synthesized in the bone. These are known as osteocalcin (OC), matrix Gla protein (MGP), and protein S.
Osteocalcin is used to help guide calcium into the bones. This is very important protein must be present to allow bones to strengthen and to prevent calcium deposits in your arteries. You may be aware of the need to take calcium supplements to improve bones strength, but without proper levels of Vit. K, you run the risk of low calcium absorption and increase calcium deposits in your arteries!
To make matters worse, if you are not making matrix Gla protein (MGP) in proper amounts, the likelihood of arterial calcification increases further as MGP inhibits arterial calcification. So, as you can see, Vit. K is necessary for proper bone strengthening and arterial health.
This is even more important if you are someone who is supplementing with calcium and Vit. D. Because of the increase in calcium in your blood, you must have adequate Vit. K levels to push the calcium into your bones.
Vit. K and Brain Health
Vit. K also plays an important role in brain health. It has been shown in research that Sphingolipids, a group of complex lipids found in the central and peripheral nervous system, are important in neurological function and a alteration in their metabolism can cause neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Vit. K is very important in the Shingolipid metabolism and a deficiency in Vit. K will result in these metabolic alterations. In other words, low Vit. K levels can lead to greater increase in neurodegenerative conditions.
Deficiencies and Supplementing
There are numerous prescription drugs which can interact with vitamin K. For example, since intestinal bacteria synthesize vitamin K, if someone takes antibiotics then this can potentially cause a vitamin K deficiency.
Warfarin is one of the main drugs that can interact with vitamin K. Warfarin inhibits certain clotting factors which are vitamin K-dependent. If someone is taking Warfarin and also takes a supplement consisting of vitamin K1, or eats large amounts of foods rich in vitamin K1, then this can inhibit the action of warfarin. This is why many medical doctors will tell their patients to minimize their consumption of green leafy vegetables when taking warfarin. Eating foods rich in vitamin K2 shouldn’t cause a problem when taking warfarin since vitamin K2 has a minimal influence on blood clotting mechanisms.
When it comes to supplementing, most people aren’t deficient in vitamin K1 and there is rarely a need for it. The exception might be if someone has frequent bleeding, which might indicate a deficiency in vitamin K since this is involved in the clotting mechanisms.
K2 supplementation, however, typically is not a bad idea especially if you are supplementing with Vit. D or calcium. In fact, some of the “better” Vit. D supplements have a ratio of Vit. K in them. With regards to vitamin K2 supplements, you can usually get this in the MK-4 form, or the MK-7 form. Both seem to raise vitamin K2 levels in an experimental setting, but lower doses of MK-7 typically are required when compared to MK-4. When taking these supplements you want to take them with food, and ideally with a meal that contains fat.
Its always better to receive the bulk of your vitamins and nutrients from whole nutritious foods. So a diet rich in green leafy vegetables with clean sources of eggs and grass fed beef will go a long way in ensuring your Vit. K levels are ideal and your bone and brain health are optimal.