The Overlooked Nutrient for Bone and Heart Health

Most people know that calcium is needed for strong bones and that magnesium is essential to a healthy heart, but few people consider the importance of vitamin K2. Actually, few people have even heard of this essential nutrient that strengthens the bones and heart and plays a critical role in the health of the body.

There are two different types of vitamin K: vitamins K1 and K2. While they sound similar they actually perform different functions in the body. Vitamin K1 helps the body manufacture blood coagulation compounds that ensure we don’t bleed to death if we are wounded. If you are taking the drug warfarin you may have been advised not to take too much vitamin K1. That’s because K1 opposes the drug’s effects.

Vitamin K2 is involved in multiple mechanisms in the body, namely in activating a substance known as glutamic acid which helps to eliminate excess calcium from the blood vessels where it could otherwise clog arteries and move it to the bones where it is needed to ensure that the bones remain strong and healthy. In other words, K2 acts like a shuttle bus that moves calcium from the arteries where it could cause damage to the bones where it adds structure.

While calcium is, of course, imperative to bone health, people are often solely focused on this mineral to build strong bones and completely overlook vitamin K2. Yet without K2 the calcium doesn’t adequately get to where it is needed—the bones. To build strong bones, you primarily need calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2, as well as other nutrients. Vitamin K2 is especially important for people who take statin drugs since these drugs have been shown in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology to increase calcification in the arteries.   Statin drugs are prescribed by doctors to reduce high cholesterol levels to help prevent heart disease but more and more research like the Journal of the American College of Cardiology is showing that they may have a detrimental effect on heart health by depleting vitamin K2. Calcification in the arteries occurs when there is insufficient vitamin K2 to shuttle the calcium to the bones. Calcification can also cause arterial blockage if the process continues over time.

Due to its effects at strengthening bone, it is no surprise that vitamin K2 plays a role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. According to research published in the medical journal Osteoporosis International, vitamin K2 plays a role in the maintenance and improvement of spinal vertebral bone mineral density as well as the prevention of bone fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

Exciting research published in The Journal of Nutrition also found that increased dietary intake of vitamin K2 reduced the incidence of death linked to heart disease, cancer, or other illness.

While the deficiency symptoms of vitamin K1 are well-established and include: excessive bleeding like heavy menstrual bleeding or wound bleeding, the deficiency symptoms of vitamin K2 are less well-established. However, the growing body of research suggests that vitamin K2 insufficiency is a factor in those suffering from heart disease or osteoporosis or other issues of bone demineralization.

Vitamin K1 is primarily found in leafy greens such as spinach, chard, kale, or other deep green vegetable. Vitamin K2 is primarily made by specialized bacteria during the fermentation process of certain fermented foods, such as fermented soy products and natto, in particular. Natto involves the fermentation of whole soybeans. Not all fermented foods contain vitamin K2; yogurt, for example, rarely contains any.

For more information about fermented foods and their nutritional and health benefits consult my book The Probiotic Promise.

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118 comments

Sue H
Sue H2 months ago

Good to know, thanks.

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William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

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W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thanks.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you!

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Viviana Tello
Viviana Tello3 years ago

I'm going to try natto.

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Jeff Floss
Jeff Floss3 years ago

tyfs

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Maggie W.
Maggie D3 years ago

I used to have high cholesterol. When my doctor recommended a statin I said, "No thanks" and started doing my own research. (I think there is a lawsuit now for one of the statins.) Long story short, I found a vitamin and supplement routine with increasing mgs. of niacin standing in for the statin and no more high cholesterol. The information I read mentioned, among other things, that statins are particularly dangerous for women.

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Virgene L.
Virgene L3 years ago

Interesting, thanks! But, given the limited mentioned locations of vitamin K2, we must all be in short supply. Surely there are other sources.

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Amy K.
Amy K3 years ago

Thank you. I have bone health related issues from Avascular Necrosis.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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