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Nutrient - Vitamin K2 - The Natural Bone Builder

The exciting news about vitamin K2

By Holly Taylor

As long ago as the 1930s, scientists knew the importance of vitamin K in healthy blood clotting. However, during the last few decades, new research has started to point to its importance for healthy bone, skin and blood vessels too.

There are actually a number of different types of vitamin K and not all of them are equal! Vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, broccoli and spinach, and makes up about 90% of the vitamin K we eat in our typical Western diet. It is the most common form used in food supplements, but it is produced synthetically.

Vitamin-K2However, more recently, scientists have become interested in natural vitamin K2, or menaquinone, from natto. The average Western diet contains just 10% of its vitamin K as menaquinone.

Natto, a traditional Japanese food from fermented soya beans is rich in vitamin K2 but an uncommon choice for Western diets. Cheese, curd and animal meat are also good sources but the recommendation for people following a heart-healthy diet is to reduce these foods to avoid excess saturated fats.

While all the different forms of vitamin K have a similar function in the body, vitamin K2 is much better absorbed and tends to stay within the body for longer. This means even relatively low doses of vitamin K2 can be an effective aid to health. The low dose allows people on warfarin to also benefit from taking vitamin K2 safely.

Vitamin K works in a unique way within the body. It is needed to help activate special proteins in the body called Gla-proteins. These are found in high concentrations in the bones, cartilage, skin and blood vessel walls.

Most of our bone growth and development occurs during the early years of life. Peak bone mass is thought to be reached at 30 and then we progressively lose bone density through the course of our lives. Bone loss is further accelerated in women around the menopause, when levels of bone-protective oestrogen start to decline.

What has sparked the recent scientific interest is the observation that vitamin K (especially the K2 form) can help maintain healthy bone strength in menopausal women. This is thought to be due to its effect on a Gla-protein in the bone called osteocalcin. When osteocalcin is activated, calcium and other minerals important for bone strength are deposited where they are needed in the bones.

In addition to its role in bone health, vitamin K is also important for the activation of a second Gla-protein called MGP. MGP is found in cartilage, skin and blood vessel walls where it works to prevent calcium being deposited. When MGP is not properly activated there is an increased risk of the blood vessels becoming hardened by an accumulation of calcium. A study in Holland showed that increased vitamin K2 intake was associated with improved heart health.

The combined effect of vitamin K2’s actions on osteocalcin and MGP is that calcium is properly distributed in the body in the places where it is beneficial. It is directed into the bones where it is needed to maintain bone density and strength, rather than being deposited in the blood vessels where it could lead to hardening of the arteries and veins.

As an added bonus, recent studies into vitamin K2’s role in skin health also suggest its effects on MGP may play a role in protecting the elastic fibres in the skin from calcium deposits building up – one of the many processes that can lead to wrinkles! 

Key attributes

  • For healthy heart and bones
  • Better absorbed - natural source
  • Can be taken with warfarin
  • Keeps wrinkles at bay 

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