It is likely that you’ve never heard of vitamin K2.
Some of the early evidence for the beneficial qualities of vitamin K2 came from Japan, where consumption of natto, a naturally fermented soy product replete with K2, is common in Eastern Japan but not in Western Japan. Researchers started to notice that rates of osteoporosis, diabetes, senile dementia and heart disease were much lower in Eastern Japan and certainly far lower than in the US.
These measurements were described in published trials. With over 2000 published studies in the last 10 years, scientists have confirmed that the health benefits experienced by the Eastern Japanese, comes from the crucial nutrient – vitamin K2.
A 2012 study, which aimed to determine the effective dose of K2, tested a dosing range of 10mcg to 360mcg. Study authors found that only the two highest dosages (180 – 360 mcg) were sufficient to obtain all the benefits of vitamin K2 and the highest dose was measurably the most beneficial. The 300+ mcg dose would be the most potent dose on the market, and reflects the average consumption of K2 in the Eastern Japanese populations – a dose that has been shown to be very effective in prevention of disease.
Given the fact that nearly everyone in the Western World is subclinically deficient in K2, as was described in a published study, this deficiency has a wide scope of influence on human health.
Dozens of published clinical studies have shown that vitamin K2 halts bone mineral density loss, which is a huge benefit for people with osteopenia and osteoporosis. In fact, supplemental K2 became a first-tier treatment in Japan for osteoporosis. But how does K2 prevent and treat osteoporosis?
It is an essential cofactor in the activation of Gla proteins in the bone (osteocalcin) and blood vessels (matrix Gla-protein) which means that K2 is responsible for ensuring that calcium in the diet is deposited safely in the bones and not in the blood vessels.
K2 Heart Health
The ten-year, 4800 subject Rotterdam Heart study demonstrated that participants who ingested the greatest quantities of vitamin K2 in their diet experienced a 57% reduction in death from heart disease than people who ingested the least. Even minimal K2 supplementation was found to decrease all-cause mortiality by 25%. Without enough K2, undercarboxylated osteocalcin and MPG lead to increased coronary calcification and cardiovascular disease. Over 25 published studies confirm that vitamin K2 can prevent arterial calcification, and that deficiencies are correlated with increased arterial calcification. Returning K2 levels to normal reverses arterial calcification, especially at prescriptive doses.
Over 40 published studies have demonstrated the important role of vitamin K2 against cancer. Vitamin K2 has been shown to induce apoptosis in vitro with leukemia cells, and lower the risk of prostate and liver cancer. The EPIC-Heidelberg study on K2 supplementation and prostate cancer, with 24,340 subjects, found an inverse association between the intake of menaquinones and prostate cancer. Vitamin K2 was calculated to reduce prostate cancer incidence by 30%. In a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, patients were given a K2 supplement. Less than 10% of those given the supplement developed liver cancer, whereas the placebo group developed cancer at an astonishing rate of 47%.
The rates of diabetes and prediabetes are skyrocketing! You probably aren’t already using vitamin K2 for these patients, but you absolutely should be. Over a dozen published studies have shown that K2 is protective against the development of type 2 diabetes, and what’s more, just four weeks of K2 supplementation increased insulin sensitivity. How does this work? The mechanism is still a little bit of a mystery, but it looks like conversion of undercarboxylated osteocalcin to carboxylated osteocalcin (for which K2 is necessary) regulates glucose metabolism, likely through beta-cell dysfunction.
Research: GELEJINSE J, VERMEER C, GROBBEE D, ET AL. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: The Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. 2004; 134:3100-3105. BEULENS J, BOTS M, ATSMA F, ET AL. High dietary menaquinone intake is associated with reduced coronary calcification. Atherosclerosis. 2009;203:489-493. BOLLAND M, AVENELL A, BARON J, ET AL. Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: Meta-analysis. British Medical Journal. 2010; 341:3691.