What Is Vitamin K2
You have probably heard of vitamin K1 especially if you have known someone on blood thinners. Physicians usually advise not eating dark green vegetables, high in vitamin K1 to prevent against blood clotting. Have you heard of vitamin K2? Not many people have and seems to cause some confusion when trying to understand the difference between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 . Let me help you clear up the confusion.
Vitamin K is a group of fat soluble vitamins found mainly in green leaves and include vitamin K1; phylloquinone, vitamin K2 ; menaquinone (subtype of K2 called MK-7, menaquinone-7 and MK-4.1) and vitamin K3; made naturally in our body; and menadione is a synthetic form.2 Phylloquinone (K1) is naturally found in plant foods like leafy greens. Menaquinone (K2 ) is found in animal and poultry foods3 such as raw cheese, yogurt and eggs. Menaquinone is also found in animal organs and fats such as rendered duck fat, and the fat of bison, cow and other animals that graze on grass. Finally, vitamin K2 is found after the fermentation process of vegetables such as sauerkraut and is particularly abundant in a Japanese fermented bean dish called nattō.
Where Does Vitamin K2 Come From?
Vitamin K2, is deficient in the standard North American diet consisting mainly of highly processed foods and conventional meat and poultry. You are probably thinking, Karen, you just said that vitamin K2 is found in dairy and animal fat which, we are eating a ton of. True, but it comes down to the type of foods we are eating and when we are eating them. According to Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal article4
“In general, the typical Western diet contains insufficient amounts of vitamin K2 to activate MGP adequately, which means that approximately 30% of the proteins that can be activated by vitamin K2 remain inactive. The percentage of K deficiency increases with age. Vitamin K, particularly as vitamin K2, is nearly nonexistent in junk food, with little being consumed even in a healthy western diet. Although vitamin K1 is present in green leafy vegetables, only 10% of the total amount is absorbed from that source in the diets of people in industrialized countries. The only exception seems to be the Japanese diet, particularly for the portion of the population consuming high quantities of foods rich in vitamin K2, such as natto.”
What is interesting about vitamin K2 when it comes to animals, especially cattle is how vitamin K2 is produced. Cows do not digest like you and I. Instead, when cattle eat grass which is loaded with chlorophyl and vitamin K1 (remember the dark leafy vegetables?) their bacteria ferments the grass during the digestive process and creates an abundance of vitamin K2.5
Like us, animals take nutrients and use them throughout their body. In the case of cattle, their milk would contain vitamin K2, which we then make butter, cheese and yogurt from. In the case of chickens, their eggs would also be a great source of vitamin K2. We can also see vitamin K2 in the fat of animals which most remove before cooking (not me, I keep all the fat and eat it too).
Here is the catch; there is always a catch right? There are two parts to getting the best vitamin K2 for your health buck. One, conventionally raised cows and chickens that are not raised on grass and weeds will contain less amounts of vitamin K2. Instead they are raised on an unnatural diet of genetically altered silage, corn and soy that is loaded with GMO’s antibiotics and synthetic nutrients. This in turn affects beneficial bacteria that aids in the fermentation process of vitamin K2.
Which leads me to point two. Remember, I said that it is the grass and weeds that are fermented by bacteria that allow for an abundance of vitamin K2? If animals are fed a diet of grass and grain there is very little vitamin K2 production. The same holds true for the time of the year. Grass grows in the summer. In the summer we have beautiful dark green blades of grass full of vitamin K1 and chlorophyl. The animals happily munch and during the digestive process create vitamin K2; therefore in the summer months there will be more vitamin K2 present than during the winter months.
I purchase my meat from Butcherbox because it is sustainable, pasture raised and humane raised beef, pork and poultry.
In the summer I see wonderful yellowish- orange tinted fat and I get excited because that is the vitamin K2. Conventionally raised meat fed GMO grains and silage usually has a thick white fat with no color-tinge at all.
Rendered Duck Fat
I also see this with rendered duck fat; I purchase mine through Thrive Market PlaceI purchase mine through Thrive Market Place, if you are purchasing a jar of rendered duck fat, especially during the summer months, look at the bottom of the jar and you will see a nice layer of orange; that my friends is vitamin K2 yumminess. In the winter months you may not see the lovely orange or as intense of a colour.
Check out the video it shows you what I am talking about.
Nattō beans (なっとう or 納豆 )
In the Japanese culture nattō beans are as a popular as french fries in the western culture. A traditional Japanese food6 made by soaking whole soybeans for a couple of days, then steamed or boiled, cooled, then bacteria Bacillus subtilis culture is added to the beans and allowed to ferment until it becomes a gooey, stringy mass. It is during this fermentation process Bacillus subtilis creates an enzymes called nattokinase which produces high amounts of vitamin K27 (also Menaquinone-7 [MK-7] a highly bioactive homologue of vitamin K2.8 I have not tried fermented nattō however, from those I know who have, say that it has a strong pungent smell (that can stop one from trying it) however, if you get past the smell the dish itself is quite tasty so long as you like slimy texture-stringy type foods. Some day, I will give this a try.
If you have a picture of Nattō send it to me and I will post it here.
Vitamin K2 Benefits and Uses
Like other vitamins, Vitamins K1 and K2 work together in the body. Vitamin K1 is mostly used by the liver to activate calcium-binding proteins involved in blood clotting, while K2 is used to activate proteins that regulate where calcium ends up in the body.9
I spent two years on the road talking about gut health and part of my talks included vitamin K2 because bacteria fermentation process creates vitamin K2 ( I am big into talking about the gut microbiota). After reading Weston A. Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and Kate Rheaume-Bleue’s book Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life who cracked the code on Price’s mysterious vitamin-like activator X which is vitamin K2, I was hooked! I felt like vitamin K2 was the final puzzle piece of a 5000 puzzle set. I get excited talking about vitamin K2.
Pick up these books
Vitamin K2 activates the calcium-binding activity of two proteins called Matrix gla protein and osteocalcin, which help to build and maintain bones. Everyone thinks that calcium is the bone builder. True, but requires other nutrients including phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2.
There was a study that came out a few years beck about the potential adverse effects of excessive calcium loading from supplements on arterial calcification and risks of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in older adults.10 In fact, there have been several studies. The studies indicate that it is the over supplementation of calcium exceeding the recommended daily allowance or intake of older adults, that may accelerate arterial calcification and raise the risk of cardiovascular events. There has not been a study indicating a problem with calcium deposition when it comes to whole foods containing vitamin K2 and the deposition in arterial pathways or tissues. This is basically because food can not be over consumed causing wonky cell signaling. That is the power of whole foods, our body recognizes it, utilizes what it can, stores what it needs and releases what it can’t into the toilet.
What the studies neglect to talk about is why this may be happening. I believe it has to do with the fact that the diet is lacking in vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is the messenger that tells calcium where to go which is the bones; after all, that is what calcium does; keeps our bones healthy and strong. Basically, vitamin K2 signals the calcium to go in the bone to keep them strong. When there is not enough vitamin K2 and one is taking supplemental calcium (and probably vitamin D3 and magnesium because studies indicate there is better absorption) the calcium does not know where to go it starts depositing and collecting in the arterial pathways and in the tissues. So this makes sense. When we take into too much of a nutrient, in this case the mineral calcium that is not in its natural state it confuses the body. This is why I believe it is so important that we are getting our nutrients from natural sources and making sure that our digestive process and microbiota can receive, process and absorb properly.
Two observational studies found that those who had the highest intake of Vitamin K2 were 52% less likely to develop calcification of the arteries, and had a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease, over a 7-10 year period.11
Another study of 16,057 women found that participants with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a much lower risk of heart disease. For every 10 micrograms of K2 they consumed per day, the risk of heart disease was reduced by 9 percent.12
Essentially Vitamin K2 plays a role in
What is Vitamin K2 good for?
In studies vitamin K2 has been helpful;
Vitamin K2 Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
The questions I get most often are what is vitamin K2 deficiency? Is there such a thing? And, what happens if you get too little vitamin K2? Let’s get these questions answered.
Deficiency symptoms of vitamin K2 may include those of the cardiovascular system, oral health and joints including osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.24 We now know that calcium is reliant upon vitamin K2 to send it into the bones where it belongs. Think about what happens when calcium is allowed to deposit throughout the body. There may be problems with calcium deposits and an association with
The myelin sheath that protects our nerves also uses vitamin K2 therefore, think of conditions that affect the myelin sheet such as Parkin’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological conditions including, Alzheimers,25 dementia and problems remembering. We can also look at medications such as antibiotics and statin medications and others.
According to an article on Dr. mercola.com, Dr. Hogne Vik, chief medical officer with NattoPharma, a leader in vitamin K2 research and development, says:26
"We are not only finally seeing recognition that vitamin K2 is woefully insufficient in the diet, but there is a growing body of evidence that pharmaceuticals further exacerbate the problem of our limited vitamin K2 status, delivering potentially dangerous consequences for human health."
According to Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal article27
“It appears that suboptimal levels of vitamin K2 in the body may disadvantage the activation of specific proteins that are dependent on vitamin K2. If those proteins cannot perform their function in keeping calcium in the bones and preventing calcium deposits in soft tissues (eg, in arterial walls) during situations of increased calcium intake, then general health, and—in particular—cardiovascular health, may suffer due to an inefficient and misdirected use of calcium in the body.”
Risk Factors for Low Vitamin K2
Risk Factors for Low Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 Side Effects and Precautions
Can too much vitamin K2 be toxic? Through food sources, it is highly unlikely one could get too much vitamin K2. However, in a society that does not eat well and thinks supplementing with an attitude “more could be better” there is a chance of overdosing. With this said, studies using manufactured supplemental vitamin K2 have observed no side effects or signs of poisoning including studies where extremely high doses of vitamin K2 have been given over a period of several years.
If you are taking blood thinners (Coumadin) please consult with your doctor before taking vitamin K2 as it may cause heart-related problems. There are numerous medications that may negatively interact with vitamin K2 therefore discuss wth your physician before supplementing with vitamin K2.
What Foods are High In Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K2 foods include;
What fermented foods have vitamin K2 ?
The beneficial nutrients in fermented vegetables will rely upon the vegetables used. What is important to note is that during the fermentation process the nutrients are more readily available than there non fermented types. Of course during the fermentation process there will be a ton of beneficial bacteria and lactic acid as well as B vitamins and vitamin K2, essential fatty acids and enzymes. Of course, if you use organically grown veggies for your fermentation you will tap into greater nutrition29,,30 than it pesticide/glyphosate counterparts.
Vitamin K2 in Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut made from cabbage and sometimes carrots along with fennel seeds is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, vitamin K2 and B vitamins, iron, copper, calcium, sodium, manganese and magnesium. Go for raw, unpasturized organic sauerkraut as it will be higher in nutrients, bacteria and enzymes.
The second most thought of fermented food are pickles. Pickles are great source of vitamin K, molybdenum, pantothenic act, potassium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, vitamin C, B1, biotin, magnesium and also contains phytonutrients valuable for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.31
Nattō beans a popular Japanese dish that is also popular for breakfast. It is made from nattō soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto.32 Japanese black bean NATTO is made from black soybeans. Nattō is a rich source of vitamin K2 and pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) a vitamin-like compound found in plant foods is an essential nutrient that is well researched as having cofactor properties for a special class of enzymes involved in cellular function including cellular growth, development, differentiation, and survival. It was first recognized as an enzyme cofactor in bacteria.33
Nattō is also a good source of amino acids tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, lyseine, methionine, cystine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, valine, argineine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, blycine, proline and serine. As well as vitamin C, K2, folate, choline, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.34
Vitamin K2 in Raw Cheese
The best source of raw goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheese is coming from pasture raised, grass fed animals as it will also contain more vitamin K2. Look for block cheese over shredded or sliced. There is less manufacturing involved which means less chances of bacterial overgrowth. Also, many shredded cheese will contain anti-caking ingredients that we do not need in our cheese or our body.
Look for raw, unpasteurized, grass fed, pasture raised from cows, sheep, goats Look at purchasing local in the spring/summer months, and imports from countries where it is the opposite season like New Zealand and Australia during North America’s winter months
Vitamin K2 in Eggs and Butter
Again, The best source of raw goat, sheep and cow’s milk butter is coming from pasture raised, grass fed animals as it will also contain more vitamin K2.
Look for raw, unpasteurized, grass fed, pasture raised Look at purchasing local in the spring/summer months, and imports from countries where it is the opposite season like New Zealand and Australia while it is winter in North America. Eggs are the same thing, look for eggs from pasture raised hens, it means they are not cooped up, but are outside eating grass, weeds and insects like they are supposed to do. You will know you have pasture-raised hen’s eggs because the yolk will be a bright deep yellow to orange color. The package must say “from pasture raised” Organic, cage free, free range will not be from hens that are grazing on pastures.
Vitamin K2 Benefits
Clearly you can see that there are a ton of vitamin K2 benefits. Check out this infographic. It pretty much sums up the benefits as well as the benefits of vitamin K2 foods
When it comes to Vitamin K2 you can do something to ensure you are getting enough following these simple guidelines. Please keep in mind, that if you are eating food rich in vitamin K2 you do not have to worry about taking other supplements.
It is always better to get your nutrients from quality food sources like I mentioned in this article.
I use Butcherbox because it comes to my door, and I know I am getting quality, humane raised, grass fed, grass finished, pasture raised animals. Look, I make no excuses for eating animals. I am blood type O and require it. I don't like it, but I can make a choice on the type I do consume. You can check out Butcherbox here. and you can watch my fun 48 second video below (you can spare me 48 seconds right?)
I also use Thrive Market Place to order my pantry items. What I like about it is that I do not have to worry about products with GMOs and they source true organic foods. I like the idea that I do not have to sit and scrutinize a label-it is that simple. You can check out Thrive Market here.
Oh, and they also have started carrying meat, poultry, pork and seafood. I was not too happy with their seafood-I am still testing it to see if I will recommend to others (I just believe in being 100% honest with you all).
If you are going to supplement with Vitamin K2 there are different brands and types on the market such as MK7 and MK4 bottom line, make sure it is sourced from Nattō. If you are interested in ordering please contact me and I can help you source the right one for your needs.
If you feel that you are not getting enough from your diet alone or, perhaps there is something going on with your gut, diet and health I am here to get you back on track and absorbing again. I am a phone call or an email Karen@iamworthit2.com away
How are you going to incorporate more vitamin K2 rich foods into your daily routine? Be sure to comment below.
Looking for the References? They are right here.