The Importance of Vitamin K2

I recently listened to one of those infomercials that promised to solve every health problem under the sun.  I ended up paying quite a bit to buy their reports because they mentioned one “little” thing that has been causing me quite a lot of problems.  They mentioned calcification.  When I got the reports, I looked through them eagerly to find the answer to what causes calcification to occur where it isn’t supposed to be.  The answer was at the back of one of the smaller books I received.  But when I read that little bit of information, it felt like I had hit the jackpot.  Yes, I had paid quite a lot of money for these reports, but I had paid out quite a bit more over the years for doctor visits relating to these same problems.  If this was the answer, the money was well-spent.

The title of the chapter is “Keep your insides from turning to stone with this proven vitamin secret.”  The little booklet is one from Health Science Institute that they don’t sell by itself.  It was an add-on when I agreed to get a membership to their information service.  The title of the chapter describes a lot of the health problems I have been having such as heel spurs, a calcified tendon in my shoulder, and brittle skin on my feet and fingertips that would easily crack.  (Those of you who have seen me with tape on my feet, that’s why it was there.  The condition has improved enough already that I no longer need to tape my feet.)  I had seen other doctors about these issues, but they had no real answers for me.

It was not until I met up with Dr. Joel Wallach in May that I got any solutions that really helped.  My feet were badly cracked that day and quite painful even though I had them taped, and my fingertips were brittle as well.  I felt that I just had to seek him out at the event we were both at, and I’m glad I did.  I don’t know if he knew what the specific issue was when I described what was going on, but his scattershot approach included the key element that had been missing for me up until then.  And if that report I recently spent so much money on is correct, that missing key element is Vitamin K2.

We have been told for years to supplement with calcium to keep our bones strong.  When supplementing with calcium by itself didn’t solve the problem, the medical industry suggested that we needed to add some cofactors such as Vitamin D and magnesium.  And yet, it was found, not only was the calcium still not going where it was wanted in our bones, but it was going places we did not intend such as our soft tissues and arteries.  As it turns out, one of the main functions of Vitamin K2 is activating the proteins that direct calcium to where it needs to go and remove calcium from places it doesn’t belong.  So if someone is deficient in Vitamin K2, and they are taking calcium, Vitamin D, and magnesium without Vitamin K2, they could actually be doing more harm than good to themselves because the calcium won’t know where to go.

But there’s far more to what Vitamin K2 can affect.  I checked out some overview articles about Vitamin K2 deficiency on Dr. Mercola’s site.  His article, “Vitamin K: The Missing Nutrient to Blame for Heart Attacks and Osteoporosis (Nope – NOT Calcium or Vitamin D),” includes a list of several wide-ranging ailments for which Vitamin K2 deficiency is a factor such as arterial calcification, brain health problems, osteoporosis, cancer, leukemia, and infections.  As it’s put in the article, “Vitamin K prevents you from turning into a walking ‘coral reef.'”  The article goes on to say that calcium deposits where they don’t belong can factor into gum disease, hypothyroidism, obesity, diabetes, eye problems, gallstones, and kidney stones.  Clearly, the ability for the body to direct calcium properly is essential to well-being.

Now I’m going to get personal in this paragraph with the guys out there.  I’m sure that just about everybody is aware that hardening of the arteries affects erectile tissue.  As I was doing my research on Vitamin K2, I found this PubMed article that indicates that calcification plays an important role in prostate problems, too.  As it says in the article, “The hypothesis is that poor prostate health is essentially a vitamin K insufficiency disorder.”  And as if that were not enough to get men running to the vitamin store, Vitamin K2 could possibly boost your testosterone levels as well.  This article shows some of the charts from that study.

For more details on how Vitamin K2 can help you, check out Kate Rheaume-Bleue’s book, Vitamin K2 And The Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life.  Given what can happen if you don’t get adequate amounts of Vitamin K2, the title of this book does not exaggerate!

Now for some important cautions:  If you are under medical care, it is always a good idea to discuss your supplements with your doctor.  Vitamin K2 can interact with some medications, particularly blood thinners and possibly some blood pressure medications as well.  My thought on this is that Vitamin K2 can potentially naturally help fix the conditions that cause the need for these medications in the first place, but care must be taken to minimize interactions until you are healthy enough to do without these types of medications, and your doctor should be part of that process.

Now, perhaps you are wondering how to get more Vitamin K2 into your life.  The proven need to consume Vitamin K2 puts it on the list of essential nutrients.  Some have said that Vitamin K1, which is plentiful, can be converted into Vitamin K2.  Unfortunately, recent studies show that not nearly enough Vitamin K1 to meet our needs can be converted to Vitamin K2.  As it happens, common foods that may have K2 in them have been considered unhealthy for decades: cheese, ground beef, egg yolks, butter, and chicken livers.  The best vegan source is nattō, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soy beans.  Vegans may want to consider supplementing Vitamin K2, just as they do with Vitamin B12.  There are some caveats on the list of foods with Vitamin K2.  Not all cheeses have Vitamin K2 in them.  A couple that do are brie and Gruyère.  The beef and eggs should preferably come from pasture-raised animals that have not been treated with antibiotics.  The butter should come from grass-fed cows.  Nattō is a fermented food, but not all fermented foods are created by organisms that make Vitamin K2.  As for supplements, if you choose them, they need to be of pharmaceutical grade.  Vitamin K2 is a very delicate nutrient that can have a very short half-life.  The supplement recommended in that very expensive booklet where I originally found this information is Artery Strong by Terry Naturally Vitamins.  This supplement contains vitamins A, D3, and 45 mcg of K2 as MK-7.  That dose of K2 is close to the maximum deemed safe for those on Warfarin therapy, as mentioned at location 1282 of Kate Rheaume-Bleue’s book.  But of course, anyone on medication should consult their doctor.  Individuals without limitations due to medication may prefer a product with more K2 such as DaVinci Laboratories A-D-K with 500 mcg per dose.  Your gut biome also has the potential to create Vitamin K2 if your gut biome includes the microbes that can create it.  Due to common usage of antibiotics, both as a medicine to treat infection and as residuals remaining in products from animals treated with antibiotics, many people these days do not have the necessary gut bugs to make their own Vitamin K2.

I have a theory (my theory only) about why Vitamin K2 deficiency has become such a problem.  For much of the past century, we have raised animals very differently than we did in the past.  Farm animals today are often fed unnatural diets and kept in crowded quarters.  The unnatural diets make the animals susceptible to disease, and the crowded quarters allow disease to quickly spread among the animals.  Because of this, the use of antibiotics in animal feed has become standard practice.  These antibiotics kill the gut biome microbes that create Vitamin K2 in animals, too, and so animal products from animals raised using modern practices will tend to lack Vitamin K2.

According to Kate Rheaume-Bleue, in her book, animals must have green foods (grass and other leafy stuff) in order to make Vitamin K2.  The more green stuff they eat, the more Vitamin K2 can be found in the meat, eggs, or dairy.  You can tell when meat was truly raised on pasture by the color of the fat.  Because the Vitamin K1 in green plants is accompanied by beta carotene, the fat on grass-fed meat will have a yellow to orange tinge to it.  Likewise, the yolks of pasture-raised eggs will be more orange than those of their factory-raised counterparts.  And butter from grass-fed cows will be brighter as well.  So not only will you be getting Vitamin K2 from these foods, but they will be richer in Vitamin A as well.  And, by the way, the Vitamin K2 is in the fat, so it’s important to eat the fat of the grass-fed animals.  Excess fat from these animals can be rendered for use in cooking other foods later.

Some more notes on the eggs:  The term you are looking for is “pasture-raised.”  No other hens have even nearly the access to green foods that pasture-raised hens do.  “Cage-free” only means that the hens are not confined within cages inside the building where they are kept.  “Free-range” is somewhat of a misnomer because all it means is that the hens have access to the outside with no concern for whether there is anything for them to eat outside or for the duration of the access to the outside.  It could just be five minutes out in a bare dirt yard, if the hen bothers to venture out at all.  Nutritionally, they are likely the same as any other factory-raised egg.  For the best Vitamin K2 content, you want eggs from hens that spend most of their days grazing on grassy fields and perhaps eating some bugs along the way.

In a previous article, I talked about the work of Weston A. Price, DDS, a dentist who studied people with healthy teeth and dental bone structure.  Using his research, he developed a protocol that he claimed reversed dental caries and helped the body remineralize the teeth.  This protocol utilized grass-fed butter oil, which Dr. Price claimed contained a nutrient he called Activator X.  For a while, it was thought that Activator X might be Vitamin A, but nutritionists are beginning to think that perhaps it is actually Vitamin K2.  The latter idea makes more sense to me, given how it works.  But it may also have been the combination of the two, since these vitamins work together and with Vitamin D3.  There’s a synergy in how nutrients work together, which is why Dr. Joel Wallach’s scattershot approach was so effective for me in clearing up my problem with brittle cracking skin in just a few short weeks.  You can buy Youngevity products developed and endorsed by him here.

Another good article about Vitamin K2 is The Ultimate Vitamin K2 Resource by Chris Masterjohn, PhD.  His article has a lot of illustrations to explain some of the technicalities of how Vitamin K2 works.

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