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Your Heart Depends on Selenium, CoQ10 and Vitamin K2

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

best nutrients for heart health

Story at-a-glance -

  • While 48% of adult Americans suffer with some form of cardiovascular disease, optimal levels of vitamin K2 MK-7 may reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke
  • Vitamin K2 also facilitates the movement of calcium from the blood vessels into the bone, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis
  • In one study the combination of selenium and CoQ10 had a positive effect on mortality over a 12-year period and longer
  • While the closely related CoQ10 and ubiquinol support mitochondrial and heart health, those over 30 have a difficult time absorbing and using CoQ10, but do better with the reduced ubiquinol in supplement form

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for many groups in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1 reports that nearly 25% of all deaths are the result of heart disease. Coronary artery disease is the most common type, and every year 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack.

Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity. The annual cost for treating cardiovascular disease has been estimated at $351.2 billion, including direct and indirect costs.2

According to a report released by the American Heart Association3 in early 2019, 48% of all adult Americans experience some form of cardiovascular disease.4 The majority appears to be driven by the rising number who have high blood pressure. In 2016, cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of more than 840,000 in the U.S.

Vitamin K2 MK-7 Form Protects Endothelial Function

Inside your heart and all blood vessels is a thin membrane of cells called the endothelium.5 These are responsible for controlling the relaxation and contraction of the vascular system; a malfunction is a significant predictor for stroke and heart attacks.

Endothelial dysfunction can result from diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure. After testing, some physicians may turn to pharmacological interventions, including lipid-lowering statins and ACE inhibitors or beta blockers for blood pressure management. Another option with fewer side effects is the use of vitamin K2 MK-7.

One group of researchers6 developed an animal study in which atherosclerosis was induced and mice were given a four-week treatment of vitamin K2 MK-7 at low doses. The data revealed an improvement in acetylcholine and flow-induced endothelium dependent vasodilation in the aorta and femoral arteries.

The effect was measured using an MRI and was associated with an increased production of nitric oxide (NO). Higher doses did not demonstrate further improvement. The researchers found the data identified an endothelial profile activity for vitamin K2 that had not been previously described. Hogne Vik, Ph.D., NattoPharma Chief Medical Officer, commented:7

“The study demonstrated that vitamin K2 - MK-7 improved NO-dependent endothelial function in mice, and the results showed that K2 - MK-7 provided a vaso-protective effect independently whether endothelial dysfunction was treated with vitamin K2 - MK-7 prior to or concurrently with the occurrence of atherosclerotic plaques.

This contributes nicely to our already substantial body of research showing MenaQ7 is a cardio-protective nutrient, and reaffirms why the medical community is interested in ongoing study of this important nutrient for the betterment of global health.”

Do You Get Enough Vitamin K Each Day?

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin your body uses for several functions. Since the body stores little of it, you'll experience a rapid depletion without regular intake. Additionally, several common drugs can also reduce your levels of vitamin K. There are two main forms of vitamin K, and two common subtypes.

Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in green leafy vegetables and is best known for a role in blood clotting. Without enough of this, your blood does not clot properly, resulting in potentially life-threatening consequences.

Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) plays a primary role in bone and heart health. Your body can synthesize vitamin K2 in your gut using certain bacteria. There are two common subtypes. The first is menaquinone-4 (MK-4), a short chain vitamin K2 found in animal products. MK-4 has a short half-life, which makes it a poor candidate as a dietary supplement.

Menaquinone-7 (MK-7) is a longer chain found in fermented foods. There are several varieties of long-chain forms of vitamin K2, but the most common is MK-7. This is the form you'll want to look for in supplements.

One of the best ways to get a good source of vitamin K2 is to ferment your own vegetables using a starter culture with bacterial strains that produce K2 and the MK-7 form. MK-7 stays in the body longer, helping to prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of bone fractures as it's more effective at reaching the bone.

Vitamin K2 Plays a Preventive Role in Heart Disease

One of the ways vitamin K2 influences bone and heart health is through the activation of proteins, such as the enzyme matrix GLA-protein, in the vascular system and osteocalcin in the bone. “GLA” stands for glutamic acid, which is responsible for binding calcium found on your arterial walls and facilitating integration into your bone.

When calcium in the lining of your vessels is not removed the deposits become atherosclerosis, responsible for the hardening and narrowing of the arteries slowly blocking blood flow. This is a common trigger for heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

In the Rotterdam study, participants who had the highest amount of K2 were 52% less likely to experience severe calcification of their arteries and 57% less likely to die from heart disease in a seven- to 10-year period. The researchers also found that those who consumed 45 micrograms (mcg) of K2 everyday lived an average of seven years longer than those who consumed just 12 mcg each day.

Vitamin K2 improves arterial flexibility and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis. The synergistic relationship between vitamin K2, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium improves your bone and heart health.

Combination of Selenium and CoQ10 Reduces Mortality Risk

Optimal cell functioning depends on several factors, including the amounts of selenium and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) that are consumed. Researchers have written about the low intake of selenium in Europe and the production of CoQ10 that decreases with age. One interventional trial,8 involving selenium and CoQ10 as a dietary supplement, took place over a four-year period.

Participants from a rural area in Sweden showed a reduction in cardiovascular mortality as a result of the study’s intervention. Twelve years later, the researchers sought to determine if this reduction in mortality would persist after the study was completed.

After evaluating data from the original participants, they found a continued reduction in cardiovascular mortality among those who had used the selenium and CoQ10 supplements. The active treatment group experienced a mortality rate of 28.1%, while the placebo group had a mortality rate of 38.7% after 12 years.

The researchers also found a significant reduction in risk in those who suffered from ischemic heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and impaired functional heart capacity. The protective action was not confined to just the interventional period; it persisted during the follow-up as well. The study leaders cautioned this small study should be used to generate hypotheses and not conclusions.

The Difference Between CoQ10 and Ubiquinol

CoQ10 and the reduced version, ubiquinol, are popular supplements people use for heart health and mitochondrial health. The rapid growth in sales of these products suggest more people are becoming familiar with the importance of mitochondrial health.

A poll also revealed CoQ10 is the number one supplement recommended by cardiologists to their patients. CoQ10 is a fat-soluble antioxidant used to mop up potentially harmful byproducts of metabolism. Heart disease appears to be rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction, which means CoQ10 plays a unique and important role.

Researchers have found CoQ10 may improve recovery after bypass and heart valve surgeries and may help reduce effects from congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. CoQ10 and ubiquinol also help combat the negative effects of many drugs including antiarrhythmic drugs, statins, antibiotics, ACE inhibitors and diuretics.

Ubiquinol is the reduced version of CoQ10. The conversion from CoQ10 to ubiquinol occurs thousands of times inside the mitochondria, as it flips back and forth between the two molecular forms transforming food into energy. Your body begins increasing production of ubiquinol in early childhood, but by the time you reach 30 it begins to decline.

Those younger than 30 may effectively absorb CoQ10 supplements, but those who are older do better with ubiquinol because it's more readily absorbed and used. You may also improve your body's ability to convert CoQ10 to ubiquinol through sensible sun exposure and eating green leafy vegetables, which loaded with chlorophyll.

Micronutrient Selenium Important for Heart Health

Micronutrients9 are used by your body in energy production, immune function, blood clotting, bone health and other processes. These dietary components are only required in small amounts, yet they are vital to well-being and disease prevention. Micronutrients cannot be produced by the body so they have to be consumed in your diet.

Selenium is a micronutrient and trace element discovered nearly 200 years ago. Scientists from our time have recognized it is essential because of its potent anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-cancer activities.

At the cellular level, selenium is an active element of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme responsible for converting hydrogen peroxide to water and serving as a first line of defense against harmful free radicals.

Researchers have found that those with higher levels of selenium experience lower rates of cancer. The best food source is Brazil nuts, which average 70 to 90 mcg of selenium per nut. Just two or three each day meet your daily requirement. Other food sources include sardines, pastured organic eggs, wild caught salmon and sunflower seeds.

While vitamin K2 MK-7, CoQ10 and selenium are all available as supplements, the nutrients are often more bioavailable when consumed from whole food. If you do choose to use a supplement, take care to use a quality product from a source you trust.