The role of vitamin K2 is not yet fully understood, but research suggests that a nutrient deficiency in this vitamin can have far-reaching consequences for your health.
One study revealed that having a higher intake of vitamin K2 can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent. The authors note that the benefits of vitamin K2 were most pronounced for advanced prostate cancer and, even more important, that vitamin K1 offered no benefit for the prostate.
What are the benefits of vitamin K2?
Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the health benefits of vitamin K2. Vitamins K have been underestimated and misunderstood until very recently in both the scientific community and the general public.
It is commonly believed that the benefits of vitamin K are limited to its role in blood clotting. Another popular misconception is that vitamins K1 and K2 are simply different forms of the same vitamin, with the same physiological functions.
However, new evidence has confirmed that the role of vitamin K2 in the body extends well beyond blood clotting. You can help prevent chronic diseases by:
- Prevent cardiovascular diseases.
- Maintain healthy skin.
- Build strong bones and improve bone health.
- Promote brain function.
- Support growth and development.
- Help prevent cancer.
What is your function?
Vitamin K2 has so many functions that are not associated with K1 that many researchers insist that K1 and K2 can be considered as two completely different vitamins.
Differences between vitamins K1 and K2
An epidemiological study carried out in the Netherlands illustrates this point well. The researchers collected data on the participants’ vitamin K intake between 1990 and 1993. They measured the presence of heart disease in each subject, who had died from it, and how this was related to K2 intake and arterial calcification.
They found that calcification of the arteries was the best predictor of heart disease. Those in the highest third of K2 intakes were:
- 52 percent less likely to develop severe calcification of the arteries.
- 41 percent less likely to develop heart disease.
- They were 57 percent less likely to die from it.
However, the intake of vitamin K1 had no effect on the heart health of the participants.
While the liver uses vitamin K1 preferentially to activate blood clotting proteins, other tissues use k2 preferentially to deposit calcium in appropriate places, such as bones and teeth, and prevent it from being deposited in places where it does not belong, like soft tissues.
Do we need vitamin K2 in our diet?
A very common misconception is that humans do not need K2 in their diet as they have the ability to convert vitamin K1 to K2. The amount of K1 in typical diets is generally greater than that of K2, and researchers and clinicians have largely discounted the contribution of K2 to nutritional status, to the point of considering it negligible.
However, although animals can convert vitamin K1 to K2, a significant amount of evidence suggests that humans require preformed K2 in their diet to obtain and maintain optimal health.
The strongest evidence that humans require preformed K2 in their diet is that epidemiological and intervention studies have demonstrated its superiority over K1. According to the epidemiological study from the Netherlands mentioned above, K2 intake is inversely associated with heart disease in humans, while K1 intake is not.
A 2007 study showed that vitamin K2 is at least three times more effective than vitamin K1 in activating proteins related to skeletal metabolism.
Foods rich in vitamin K2
All of this evidence points to the possibility that K2 may be an essential nutrient in the human diet. So where in what foods can we find vitamin K2? The following is a list of the foods richest in this vitamin:
- Natto, a popular soy dish in Japan.
- Hard cheese.
- Soft cheese.
- Egg yolks.
- Chicken’s liver.
- Chicken breast.
- Ground beef.
It was once mistakenly believed that gut bacteria play an important role in supplying this vitamin to the body. However, most of the evidence contradicts this opinion.
Most of the K2 produced in the intestine is embedded within bacterial membranes and is not available for absorption. Therefore, intestinal vitamin K2 production probably only makes a small contribution to vitamin K status.
Fermented foods are a good source of vitamin K2
However, fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, cheese, and natto, contain substantial amounts of vitamin K2. Natto contains the highest measured concentration of K2 of any food; almost everything is present in its MK-7 form, which research has shown to be highly effective.
We are still learning about the health benefits of vitamin K2
New research expanding our understanding of the many important roles of vitamin K2 is being published at a rapid pace. However, it is already clear that vitamin K2 is an important nutrient for human health, and one of the least known to medical authorities and the general public.