Many of us have heard about the importance of vitamin D3 and certainly now more and more people are beginning to understand vitamin D3’s extensive role in protecting the body against numerous concerns and that its deficiency is very widespread in the adult population.
I now believe that there is another vitamin that is about to explode in popularity as more research is uncovering its amazing health benefits. Often labelled as the ‘forgotten vitamin’, this vitamin is regulated by some governments because of its health benefits and yet, it is estimated that nearly all of us are deficient in vitamin K.
Why is vitamin K important?
Vitamin K has many benefits, including:
- It builds strong and healthy bones.
- Protects the cardiovascular system.
- Prevents haemorrhage in newborn babies.
- Fights premature ageing.
- Enhances memory function.
What causes a vitamin K deficiency?
As mentioned above, it is estimated that 99 out of 100 people are likely to be deficient in vitamin K, so how is this possible? Firstly, vitamin K is fat soluble, so if your diet incorporates very little fat then deficiencies are very likely. Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can have an effect on the liver, which works in an oil environment and hence reduces the storage of vitamin K. Taking antibiotics, which affect the natural friendly bacteria in the gut that help with the absorption of vitamin K can also cause a vitamin K deficiency.
Other possible causes include cholesterol-reducing medications and even aspirin, which can have an impact on the absorption of this vitamin. Certain inflammatory gastrointestinal concerns such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and even coeliac disease can interfere with the absorption of vitamin K.
What are the best vitamin K supplements?
In 1929, Danish scientist Dr Henrik Dam discovered vitamin K. The ‘K’ stands for koagulation, meaning essential for blood clotting. There are three main forms of vitamin K and include:
- K1 – phylloquinone
- K2 – menaquinone
- K3 – menadione synthetic variant.
Vitamin K3 is the synthetic variant that I recommend avoiding. Vitamin K1 makes up over 90 percent of the diet and is found in green leafy vegetables including broccoli, spinach and lettuce. In recent years, there has been a lot of research on vitamin K2, which has been shown to decrease fractures and it has been approved in Japan for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis since 1995. It is interesting to note that Japan has a much lower incidence of osteoporosis than both the US and UK. Vitamin K2 helps to carry calcium into the bones and a deficiency in this vitamin allows the calcium to be deposited onto the arteries and soft tissues of the body causing the hardening of the arteries and other cardiovascular concerns. This is also termed as calcification of the tissues.
What are the best sources of vitamin K2?
The best sources of vitamin K2 are fermented foods including an ancient Japanese food called natto. This is a fermented soya bean food and also provides healthy bacteria to the gut. Several studies have shown that levels of vitamin K2 after consumption of natto are far greater than the concentrations of vitamin K1 after consumption of green leafy vegetables and in fact some ten times higher. Even worse is the fact that the absorption of vitamin K1 through green leafy vegetables is highly inefficient and roughly between 10-15% gets absorbed into the bloodstream. It follows from this that natto would be an ideal source of this vital nutrient but unfortunately most people never acquire a taste for natto since it has a slippery texture and a pungent aroma. Is it a wonder given these facts that we are deficient in vitamin K?
Since natto is derived from soya, many of you will ask the question on whether it really is healthy. Soya products have had controversy as to whether they are truly healthy and many do not recommend unprocessed soya foods such as soya milks, soya cheese and burgers. This is because processing can leave toxic residues behind, possibly affecting thyroid hormones amongst others in the body. Natto is not derived from unfermented soya and in fact it is a healthy fermented soya food with a rich source of vitamin K2.
Other good sources of vitamin K2 are fermented dairy products such as curd cheese, which is often used to spread on crackers or used in cheesecakes. Even though these products contain roughly 30 times less vitamin K2 than natto, they are very palatable in comparison and can be eaten on a daily basis. I recommend curd cheese because it has a lower fat content than regular cheeses.
How does vitamin K work within our bodies?
Nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin D3 play a vital role in maintaining and promoting bone health but increasingly evidence points to the vital role that vitamin K plays in bone metabolism and healthy bone growth.
Vitamin K has been linked to osteoblasts, the cells that generate bone and produce a specific protein called osteocalcin. Osteocalcin acts as a framework holding the calcium in place and osteocalcin cannot perform this role without vitamin K2 since this vitamin converts it into an active bone-building form. Whilst osteoblasts are busy building bone, there are other cells called osteoclasts which break down bone and remove bone tissue. Vitamin K2 is important because it not only enhances osteocalcin production, but it has also been shown to inhibit osteoclasts and helps maintain healthy bones. The evidence is compelling when it comes to vitamin K2 and its positive effects on maintaining healthy bones.
Other benefits of vitamin K include:
- Protecting and supporting skin.
- Promoting a healthy heart.
- Boosting the immune system.
- Providing powerful antioxidant protection.
- Helping to support normal blood sugar levels.
What is the best way of getting vitamin K2?
As mentioned above, the best sources of obtaining natural source vitamin K2 is by using natto. However, for the vast majority, even after acquiring a taste for this, it simply is not the food that very few could enjoy on a daily basis. In my opinion, in order to get this vitamin, one does need to supplement, but even here there are many vitamin K2 supplements on the market.
The supplement to choose must:
Use Vitamin K2 in the formula – There are many varieties of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 produced from natto has proven to be the most bioavailable, stable and beneficial.
Be Allergen-free – The formula must be free from milk, egg, fish, peanuts, wheat, shellfish and numerous other known allergens.
Pure – That is that it should be from a reputable manufacturer with GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) in place
The supplement that I would recommend for correcting deficiencies in the adult population would be Super K by Life Extension.