Vitamin K: The Key for Bone Health that Most People Don't Know About

Previous Article Next Article
June 13, 2009 | 107,124 views

Vitamin K has been linked to bone, heart and even prostate health, but joint health and cartilage could also be affected by this little-known vitamin. In the podcast linked below, Stephen Daniells talks to Professor Cees Vermeer about raising awareness on vitamin K.

Professor Vermeer said he could imagine vitamin K benefits extending beyond cardiovascular and bone health, to joint health. He stated:
“All diseases of the cartilage -- I could imagine that these would benefit from vitamin K2.”
Awareness of vitamin K from green vegetables, the fermented soy product natto and cheese is increasing, although many are still unaware of the benefits and sources of the vitamin.
Vitamin K is often referred to as the “forgotten vitamin” because it is continually overshadowed by more well known nutrients. Yet, this fat-soluble vitamin is absolutely essential to build strong bones, as it serves as the biological "glue" that helps plug the calcium into your bone matrix.

Some studies have actually shown vitamin K to be equivalent to Fosamax-type osteoporosis drugs.

Vitamin K is also vital in heart disease prevention, because it helps prevent hardening of your arteries -- a common risk factor in coronary artery disease and heart failure. And as the article above pointed out, vitamin K also shows promise for benefiting diseases of cartilage, such as osteoarthritis.
Why Vitamin K is Beneficial for Your Heart, Joints and Bones
Vitamin K is most well known for the important role it plays in blood clotting. However, it also activates a specific protein known as osteocalcin.

The protein osteocalcin acts as a kind of glue that helps to incorporate calcium into your bones, and vitamin K is necessary in order to produce this protein.

In addition to being involved in the formation of osteocalcin, vitamin K is involved in the formation of matrix Gla-protein (MGP). MGP is synthesized in a vitamin K-dependent way in smooth muscle cells of the healthy vessel wall.

According to Professor Vermeer, MGP is a hot topic right now because it is the most powerful inhibitor of soft-tissue calcification presently known, and it needs vitamin K to be active in that way.

Vessel walls have only MGP to defend themselves against calcification, which is the hardening of the arteries that leads to atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease) and heart failure.

In fact, in people who don’t get enough vitamin K, about 30 percent of your body’s potential MGP is not activated, which means your protection against calcification of vessels is 30 percent less than optimal. This can play a major role in your risk of heart disease, especially if you have other risk factors.

Further, vitamin K will likely be emerging as a powerful tool to benefit diseases of your cartilage, such as osteoarthritis. Other beneficial effects of vitamin K include:
• Helpful against Alzheimer’s disease
• Topical vitamin K may help to reduce bruising
• Vitamin K deficiency may interfere with insulin release and blood sugar regulation in ways similar to diabetes
• May have antioxidant properties
• Beneficial in the treatment of cancer, including lung, prostate and liver cancers
Understanding the Difference Between Vitamin K1, K2 and K3
Vitamin K is such an important vitamin that, although I don’t typically recommend adding many extra supplements to your diet, vitamin K is of the few supplements you should seriously consider because many people don’t get nearly enough of it on a daily basis through the foods they eat.

However, understanding the different types is very important.

Much of the research has focused on synthetic vitamin K3 taken at high doses, and it is commonly being used with chemotherapy agents for enhanced effectiveness. However, vitamin K3 is synthetic and is generally regarded as toxic because it generates free radicals, so I strongly advise against using it.

Instead, seek to get your vitamin K from the plant-based vitamin K1 (phylloquinone, a.k.a. phytonadione) and bacterially produced vitamin K2 (menaquinone).

Vitamin K1 is found in dark green leafy vegetables, and makes up about 90 percent of the vitamin K in a typical Western diet. Following are some vegetable sources of K1 that you should consider eating frequently, as long as they correspond to your nutritional type:
• Collard greens
• Spinach
• Salad greens
• Kale
• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage
Vitamin K2, on the other hand, makes up only about 10 percent of Western vitamin K consumption. Vitamin K2 is made by your intestinal bacteria and is absorbed from your distal small bowel.

One of the best natural sources of vitamin K2 is derived from an ancient Japanese food called natto. Natto is made from fermented soybeans and significant amounts of vitamin K2 are produced during the fermentation process.

Fermented foods, such as natto and kefir (fermented raw milk), typically have the highest concentration of vitamin K found in the human diet, and can provide several milligrams of vitamin K2 daily. This level far exceeds the amount found in dark green vegetables.

For example, vitamin K2 concentration after the consumption of natto has been shown to be about 10 times higher than that of vitamin K1 after eating spinach.

Natto is such an amazing superfood that I seek to regularly incorporate it into my diet.

Ideally, you too should strive to include more of these beneficial fermented foods in your diet, along with plenty of dark leafy greens.

It’s important to note that vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that in order for your body to absorb it effectively, you need to eat some fat along with it.

One easy way to do this is by adding some butter, olive oil or coconut oil to your veggies. Alternatively, if you are taking a vitamin K2 supplement in liquid form, you can add the drops wtih your daily krill oil. This will ensure that the vitamin K is well absorbed by your body. Alternatively, if you take vitamin K in pill form, you’ll want to do so along with eating another food that contains fat.
Are You at Risk of Vitamin K Deficiency?
For several years compelling evidence has shown that most people don't get enough vitamin K to protect their health through the foods they eat. If you fall into this category, you may want to consider taking a vitamin K2 supplement.

The following conditions may also put you at an increased risk of vitamin K deficiency:
• Eating a poor or restricted diet
• Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and other conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption
• Liver disease that interferes with vitamin K storage
• Taking drugs such as broad-spectrum antibiotics, cholesterol drugs and aspirin
Further, if you have, or if your family has, a history of osteoporosis or heart disease, I strongly advise you add vitamin K to your diet.

I recommend 3,000 mcg of vitamin K per day. If you are pregnant or nursing, avoid vitamin K supplemental intakes higher than the RDA (65 mcg) unless specifically recommended and monitored by your physician.

If you’ve experienced stroke, cardiac arrest or are prone to blood clotting, don’t take vitamin K without consulting your physician first.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References