Author: Leo Akin
Vitamin D is also commonly referred to as the "sunshine vitamin." Every year, researchers find new evidence to highlight its importance of this special vitamin. Presently, everyone knows that vitamin D is important for proper bone mineralization. There is also good evidence to indicate that the protective role of vitamin D is enhanced by vitamin K2. Researchers believe that the combination of both vitamins is essential to increasing bone mineral density. In fact, studies show that the actions of these vitamins are complementary. This combination not only improves bone health but may have other far-reaching benefits for your health.
Vitamins D and K2 in Bone Health
Vitamins D improves the absorption of calcium. However, this increased uptake of calcium into the blood must be matched by a corresponding increase in the removal of calcium from the blood to the bones. Vitamin K2 is needed to move calcium from the blood to bone matrix. This bone mineralization proceeds best with the combination of vitamins D and K2. While vitamin D improves the absorption of calcium, vitamin K2 stimulates osteoblasts (bone cells) to produce osteocalcin, a protein that also functions as a hormone.
Osteocalcin is responsible for pulling calcium into the bone. Without its action, increased calcium intake does not translate into stronger or denser bones.Therefore, you need vitamins D and K2 more than calcium to build strong bones. Therefore, taking oral calcium and vitamin D supplements without vitamin K2 can be harmful to your health.
Preventing Stroke and Heart Attack with Vitamin K2 + Vitamin D
In a 2013 study published in the journal, Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, a group of researchers compared the protective effect of vitamin D alone on the thickening of the coronary artery to the protection offered by the combination of vitamin D and vitamin K2. The study results showed that the combination of the two vitamins significantly prevented cardiovascular calcification.
Compared to oral vitamin D alone, the vitamin combination slowed down the progression of calcification of the main artery in the neck responsible for supplying blood to the brain. There was no such benefit for the participants who took only vitamin D. The researchers believed that this difference was due to the central role of vitamin K2 in the redirection of calcium to the skeleton.
When calcium is not safely moved to the bones, it is carried around in the blood. As it is transported around the body, calcium is deposited in organs and joints. The continual deposition of calcium on organs and joints is responsible for a number of chronic and age-related diseases. Specifically, the deposition of calcium on the walls of the arteries not only reduces the diameter of these blood vessels but also thickens their walls. Therefore, the calcification or hardening of the arteries significantly raises the risks of atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
How Vitamin K2 Protects Your Arteries
Besides ensuring that calcium is moved to the bones rather than left in the blood, vitamin K2 can also prevent the calcification of the arteries by increasing the amount of the protein known as MGP. MGP or Matrix GLA Protein prevents the buildup of calcium plaques on soft tissues including the walls of the arteries. MGP is the primary means by which your body protects its soft tissues from the harmful effects of calcium deposition. In the arteries, it coats the lining of the walls of the blood vessel and, therefore, prevents direct buildup of calcium plaques.
However, MGP requires vitamin K for activation. Unfortunately, as much as 30% of the MGP synthesized in the body can be left inactivated. And the proportion of inactivated MGP will only rise as you grow older. To increase the amount of activated MGP available to protect you from atherosclerosis and stroke, you need to increase your vitamin K2 intake through dietary sources and/or supplements.
Taking Vitamin K2 for a Healthy Heart
Just as vitamin K2 is more bioactive than vitamin K1, the different forms of vitamin K2 vary in potency and health applications. Most of these forms of vitamin K2 can be found in fermented foods. For example, cheese contains MK-8 and MK-9 and natto is especially rich in MK-7. The most important sub-types of vitamin K2 are MK-4 and MK-7. MK-7 is the form of the vitamin used in the study discussed above. It is newly discovered and has certain advantages over MK-4. For example, MK-7 has a longer half-life. Therefore, it stays longer in the body and you can easily build up your vitamin K levels with it. While natto is not a common food in the Western diet, there are other ways of getting MK-7 into your body. Fermented vegetables are good sources of vitamin K2 especially MK-7.
In addition, certain varieties of cheese (Edam cheese) are rich in MK-7. If you cannot get vitamin K2 into your diet, supplements are recommended. Look for vitamin K2 supplements containing MK-7. Vitamin supplements containing MK-4 usually use the synthetic version of the vitamin. To improve your cardiovascular health and lower your risk of stroke, take 100 – 150 micrograms of vitamin K2 per day. However, you should not combine vitamin K with anticoagulants. In addition, avoid this supplement if you suffer from a bleeding disorder.
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