Vitamin K2 is a lesser-known but essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in blood clotting. While most people are familiar with the importance of vitamin K in maintaining bone health, the role of vitamin K2 in blood clotting is often overlooked.
The Basics of Vitamin K2Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins that are essential for blood clotting, bone health, and heart health. There are two main forms of vitamin K: vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone). Vitamin K1 is found in leafy green vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in animal products and fermented foods. Vitamin K2 is further divided into several subtypes, with the most studied being menaquinone-4 (MK-4) and menaquinone-7 (MK-7).
MK-4 is found in animal products, while MK-7 is produced by bacteria during the fermentation process.
The Link Between Vitamin K2 and Blood ClottingOne of the main functions of vitamin K is to activate proteins that are involved in blood clotting. These proteins, known as coagulation factors, are essential for the formation of blood clots to stop bleeding. Vitamin K1 primarily activates coagulation factors in the liver, while vitamin K2 activates coagulation factors in other tissues, including the bones and blood vessels. This means that vitamin K2 plays a more significant role in maintaining overall blood clotting function. Furthermore, studies have shown that vitamin K2 deficiency can lead to an increased risk of bleeding disorders. This is because, without enough vitamin K2, the body cannot produce enough coagulation factors to form blood clots effectively.
The Importance of Vitamin K2 in Cardiovascular HealthIn addition to its role in blood clotting, vitamin K2 also plays a crucial role in cardiovascular health.
It has been found to prevent the calcification of arteries, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Calcification occurs when calcium deposits build up in the arteries, making them stiff and narrow. This can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. Vitamin K2 activates a protein called matrix Gla protein (MGP), which helps prevent calcium from depositing in the arteries. Studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of vitamin K2 have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, one study found that for every 10 mcg increase in vitamin K2 intake, there was a 9% decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease.
The Role of Vitamin K2 in Bone HealthVitamin K2 is also essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones.
It works by activating osteocalcin, a protein that helps bind calcium to the bones. Without enough vitamin K2, calcium cannot be properly utilized by the bones, leading to weaker bones and an increased risk of fractures. Studies have shown that vitamin K2 supplementation can improve bone mineral density and reduce the risk of fractures in postmenopausal women. It has also been found to be beneficial for individuals with osteoporosis.
Food Sources of Vitamin K2The best food sources of vitamin K2 are animal products and fermented foods. Some of the top sources include:
- Grass-fed dairy products: These include butter, cheese, and yogurt from cows that have been fed grass instead of grains.
- Egg yolks: Egg yolks from pasture-raised chickens are a good source of vitamin K2.
- Organ meats: Liver, kidney, and other organ meats are rich in vitamin K2.
- Natto: This fermented soybean product is one of the best sources of vitamin K2, particularly MK-7.
- Sauerkraut: This fermented cabbage dish also contains vitamin K2, although in smaller amounts.
Vitamin K2 SupplementationWhile it is possible to get enough vitamin K2 from food sources, many people may benefit from supplementation.
This is especially true for individuals who do not consume animal products or fermented foods regularly. The recommended daily intake of vitamin K2 is 90-120 mcg for adults. However, some experts suggest higher doses for individuals with specific health conditions, such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease.