Vitamin K2: A Road Map for Calcium
If there ever were a match made in heaven for vitamins and minerals to promote super health, it would have to be vitamin K2 and calcium. They are inseparable like salt and pepper. You probably know that vitamin D is necessary for strong bones and teeth. It does this by signaling to your intestines to release calcium into your blood. Here is the catch: once calcium is released it is pretty clueless on where to go. It would be like driving in downtown Paris or New York without Google maps. Vitamin K2 is that map that guides the calcium by binding onto it and taking it to your bones and teeth. If you are lacking K2 then the calcium gets lost and ends up in your arteries, joints, heart valves and kidneys instead of your bones and teeth. This process results in poor heart function, plaque in the arteries, arthritis, kidney stones, osteoporosis and dental carries. Ouch!
K2 binds to calcium by using a hormone called osteocalcin that is released by vitamins A and D. This hormone binds and carries calcium to your teeth and bone. The catch? Unless osteocalcin is activated (carboxylated) then it won’t deposit calcium onto the bone. What activates it? Vitamin K2. Osteocalcin also plays a big role in helping with insulin secretion from the pancreas, testosterone production, weight loss and developing muscle strength. In addition, K2 helps produce a protein called GLA. This is important if you have issues with plaque in your arteries, especially the arteries feeding your heart. With K2, the GLA is transformed into MGP whose main function is to take the calcium which has been deposited in your arteries and joints, remove it and send it to your teeth and bones. Clearly your body doesn’t want calcium in the wrong places but without K2 it can’t be navigated to the right places.
In addition, K2 is important for brain function. The highest concentration of K2 is found in the brain. K2 is essential for producing lipids called sulfatides (WP article). Upon autopsy of the brains of several Alzheimer’s patients, they were found to be lacking approximately 93% sulfatides compared to those who did not have Alzheimer’s.
Good sources of vitamin K2 are liver, egg yolks, and fermented foods. Probably the best forms are cheeses like gouda and brie and fermented soy beans called natto, a Japanese traditional food that is packed with K2. Unfortunately, many people don’t like the taste or texture of natto and we clearly aren’t eating a lot of liver or fermented foods like our ancestors did. Our gut bacteria, similar to other animals, can convert K1 to K2 but our microbiome is so compromised we lack the ability to convert it.
Other ways to obtain K2 is from butter and concentrated butter oil (Green Pastures Cod liver Oil). Whatever the dairy or animal source, it is absolutely necessary that the animals are raised on grass and not fed corn or soy. It is the vitamin K1 in plants and grass that we are more familiar with (babies get this shot at birth to help with blood clotting) that gets converted to K2 in the animal’s intestines. If fed corn and soy and lots of antibiotics then K2 will be absent.
The easiest way to get K2 is from a supplement that should contain mostly MK-7. MK-4 only lasts about 7 hours in your body but MK-7 lasts for several days. MK-4 in supplement form is often a synthetic version but MK-7 comes directly from natto. I recommend at least 200 mcg of MK-7 a day or even more if you have osteopenia, osteoporosis, kidney stones or plaque in the arteries. For every 1,000 mg of vitamin D taken, you should take approximately 100 mcg of vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 also helps the body in a number of different ways. It acts as an antioxidant and actually takes the oxidized LDL lipid out of the arteries that produces arterial thickening. At Seattle Natural Health we carry multiple kinds of K2. Because it is so important, I have had one specially formulated called Dr. Ramaley’s Vitamin MK-7, that has the bioavailable form of vitamin K2.