Vitamin K2: not many people know much about about it. But it may be one of the hidden vitamins that can vastly improve your overall health.
The most substantial benefit may be a decreased risk of developing prostate cancer. (1) This overlooked vitamin also helps to protect against heart disease. (2)
But despite these health benefits, vitamin K2 still remains fairly obscure. In fact, many barely know anything about vitamin K1, let alone K2.
A common misconception about K2 is that it performs the same roles as vitamin K1. In reality, the two could not be more dissimilar.
To start with, vitamin K1 is used mostly by the liver, whereas vitamin K2 is used by other parts of the body.
In fact, low levels of vitamin K2 may even interfere with calcium regulation. (3) This is not the case for vitamin K1.
In fact, two of the most common health issues that plague us — osteoporosis and heart disease — can be worsened by not getting enough vitamin K2. Researchers have found that bone morphogenetic protein-2 also helps to play a role in bone formation. Interestingly, this protein is vitamin K-dependent. (4) Typically, those with low calcium levels in their bones have excess calcification of the arteries. This is not good news for your health.
But in regards to a Paleo diet, it is perhaps most interesting that we seem to require good amounts of preformed vitamin K2 in our diets in order to obtain (and maintain) the highest levels of health. This K2 is then used to put calcium in the right places (like in your teeth) and keeps it from being calcified in your arteries. (5) While most people typically get enough K1 in their diets, most do not get enough K2.
Foods with Vitamin K2
- Organ Meats
- Egg Yolks
When it comes to consuming this vital vitamin, organ meats, egg yolks, and dairy will be your best bets. Those following a stricter Paleo diet will want to avoid the dairy, which means you will really need to load up on the egg yolks and organ meats.
Vitamin K1, by contrast, is found in leafy green vegetables. Like many other vitamins and minerals, the recommended dietary intake of vitamin K is much lower than required, if you’re looking to have optimal arterial and bone health.
What Does The Science Say?
Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case in the scientific community, most of the research has gone to studying vitamin K1. This is despite the fact that K2 is a much more vital part of bone mineralization, which takes place in human osteoblasts (bone-building cells). (6)
However, this is not the case in some foreign cultures, like Japan.
Supplementing with Vitamin K2
Since vitamin K2 is low in most foods, it may make sense to supplement with it. If this is the case, be sure to talk with your doctor first, and find a supplement that is around 1,000 mcg/day, in potency. I personally like Thorne Research’s version, as well as Carlson’s. Remember, some vitamin K2 is better than no K2.
How Much Vitamin K2 Do I Need?
One study found a statistically significant inverse correlation between the incidence of hip fractures and K2 consumption. (7) This means that consuming more vitamin K2 will likely lead to a reduced risk of bone fractures.
There isn’t a set limit for K2 consumption, but increasing consumption of eggs, organ meats, and grass-fed dairy (if you can tolerate it), or supplementing, will help you improve your K2 status. Research has found that higher intake of K2 has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. (8)
Vitamin K2 and Heart Disease
Non-Western diets tend to be high in this nutrient, while Western diets were abysmally low. (9) Vitamin K2 activates the calcium-binding properties of proteins and without it, one can surmise just how many things will subsequently go wrong with our health. (10) Remember, part of what makes vitamin K2 so important is that it helps to distribute where calcium goes in your body.
This is extremely important in helping to prevent heart disease, as buildup of calcium in the arteries around the heart is a huge risk factor for the disease. (11) Higher intakes of vitamin K2 have been found to lower this risk by as much as 50 percent. (12)
Vitamin K2 And Your Teeth
Some studies suggest that higher intakes of vitamin K2 may even help with dental health. How does this work? Well, the main regulating protein in dental health is osteocalcin. Coincidentally, this protein is also very important to bone metabolism and — you guessed it — is activated by vitamin K2. (13)
From here, osteocalcin then starts a mechanism which helps to start the growth of new dentin. What’s dentin? It is the calcified tissue which can be found under the enamel on your teeth. Vitamin K2 is very helpful for this entire process.
Vitamin K2 and Cancer
Perhaps even more important than dental health is vitamin K2’s potential role in helping with cancer. Though the evidence is far from definitive yet, some studies show that vitamin K2 may help with liver cancer as well as prostate cancer. (14)
Since one of the most important K2/prostate cancer studies had an average follow up time of 8 years, long-term benefits of vitamin K2 seem to be fairly well-proven. However, much more research is needed.
What is clear is that supplementing with K2, or starting to include more of it in your regular diet, will help your overall health. If you aren’t already, start to incorporate egg yolks and organ meats in your daily diet. These 2 foods are staples of any great Paleo diet, and are both very nutrient-dense.
The Bottom Line
The benefits of K2 are not dependent on your health, weight, exercise status, or age. It is one of those rare vitamins that will be beneficial for everyone. You can supplement with K2, or you may want to focus on organ meats, grass-fed dairy, and egg yolks, instead. But no matter what you choose to do, make sure you start including some more vitamin K2 in your life — your bones, heart, prostate, and liver will thank you!