When I think about vitamin K2, I think how it’s beneficial for both heart and bone health. K2 helps to get calcium to the places where we want it – bones and teeth, and away from places where we don’t want it – soft tissues and arteries. While it does help shuttle calcium around the body, it has many other functions too. There are several K2 dependent proteins in our bodies. When there is a K2 deficiency, the functions of these proteins are hindered.
- Decrease in energy production – K2 is needed for efficient mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are the little organelles in our cells where we create ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the energy source used by our cells.
- Insulin resistance – Osteocalcin, a K2 dependent protein that helps to shuttle calcium around the body, also facilitates the secretion of insulin from our pancreas. We want our cells to be insulin sensitive. When cells become insulin resistant, blood sugar regulation is challenged, often leading to type two diabetes and weight gain. In a study with 38,000 people, those with the highest K2 dietary consumption were 20% less likely to develop type two diabetes than those with the lowest K2 intake.
- Nerve inflammation – B12 deficiency can result in neuropathy, but K2 also can be a variable. There is a nerve toxin (6-OHDA) that causes mitochondrial damage. K2 can inhibit the nerve cell damage and improve mitochondrial function. This can also facilitate the reduction of neuroinflammation present in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- Muscle cramps and neuropathy – K2 activates a protein complex which suppresses the expression of inflammation that leads to muscle cramps and neuropathy, associated with type two diabetes. One study showed that in as little as four weeks of increased K2 intake, neuropathy symptoms begin to improve. And after 12 weeks, cramps were significantly reduced and neuropathy was no longer significant enough to be diagnosed.
- Limited cardiac output – maximum heart rate and VO2max fluctuate during intense exercise. Over time an increase in max heart rate causes oxidative stress, negatively influencing exercise performance (i.e., the intense level can only be sustained for so long). One study showed an increase in K2 enables mitochondria to consume more oxygen and function more efficiently, increasing both VO2max and the duration of time maximum heart rate can be sustained.
Causes of K2 insufficiency
- Poor diet, (i.e., processed foods lacking nutrients)
- Over prescription of calcium – K2 gets used up trying to shuttle it around the body
- Supplementation of vitamin D3 without K2 – this stimulates osteoblasts (bone building cells) which then pull from the K2 reserves in our bodies
- Dysbiosis – lack of beneficial gut bacteria hinders K2 production and synthesis
- Statins – cholesterol lowering drugs can impair the activation of K2 dependent proteins and inhibit K2 synthesis
Where can we get K2?
- Fermented foods, dairy and organ meats contain vitamin K2. The highest source of K2 food is natto – fermented soybeans.
- A small percentage of K1 (e.g., dark leafy greens), is converted to K2 in the gut, depending upon gut health, and genetics. K1 plays more of a role in blood clotting.
- Supplementation – if opting to supplement with K2, look for MK-7 (menaquinone -7) which is created through fermentation. Avoid MK-4, often synthetic, less absorbable and has a shorter half life.
Interested in K2 supplements? Visit my “K2 Plan” in Fullscript