Fat-soluble vitamin D has become somewhat of a superstar vitamin in the media lately. But the benefits of its fat-soluble cousin, vitamin K2 have, for the most part, been ignored by doctors and the press. But the fact is, that if you supplement with vitamin D your body then needs extra vitamin K2.
It is time to shed the spotlight on vitamin K2 supplements for just a moment (and then we can talk about the darling D vitamin.)
Vitamin K2 Benefits
Did you know vitamin K2 plays a critical role in preventing osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, dental cavities, varicose veins and even wrinkles? (yes, that’s right, vitamin K2 can actually help keep your skin smooth, youthful and wrinkle-free!)
Very few foods naturally contain ample amounts of fat-soluble vitamins K2 or D, but both are extremely important and both work synergistically, along with fat-soluble vitamin A (which you should already be getting from your food and from your multivitamin) to optimize health. In addition to what typically comes in a multivitamin, almost everyone needs to supplement their diets with extra vitamins K2 and D to get optimal amounts.
What Foods Contain Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K2 is not easy to come by in your everyday diet.
It is found in small amounts in certain pastured animal foods (including egg yolks) and is especially bountiful in natto, a vegan stinky slimy fermented superfood popular in Japan. Unfortunately natto tastes so darn terrible we just can’t bring ourselves to eat it regardless of how healthful we know it is.
Is There a Difference Between Vitamin K1 and K2?
It’s important to note that vitamin K2 is not the same as the vitamin K1 you get in abundance from eating green leafy vegetables; K1 is primarily responsible for blood clotting but K2 is responsible for driving calcium into bones and keeping calcium out of arteries, veins, and soft tissue where it can cause damage.
Vitamin K2 is so important for heart health that the Rotterdam Study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that this single vitamin reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by an incredible 50 percent and was associated with a reduced risk of dying from all causes. (1) In this study vitamin K1 had no effect. Another study conducted in 2009 showed similar results. (2)
NOTE: atherosclerosis is a buildup of calcium-laden plaque that clogs the coronary arteries, or any artery in the body for that matter.
Chances are High You Do Not Get Enough Vitamin K2
Unfortunately, because K2 is found in so few foods, it is very likely to be missing from your diet.
Not only is K2 important for bone health, including osteoporosis prevention and heart health, it also has numerous other benefits too.
Vitamin K2 Supplements
Because optimal amounts of vitamin K2 are so difficult to get from food, we feel vitamin K2 supplements are very important. Supplementing with 60 to 100 micrograms of vitamin K2 derived from natto in the form of MK-7 is an optimal amount so long as you also get adequate vitamin A and vitamin D. As mentioned earlier, all three of these fat-soluble vitamins work together.
There are plenty of vitamin K2 supplements on the market, but we prefer GMO-free and solvent-free NutriGold, which comes in a base of organic olive oil for better bioavailability.
**It is important to note that although the vast majority of multi-vitamins contain vitamin D and vitamin K1, very, very few contain vitamin K2, so be sure to read the labels and supplement with extra vitamin K2 if your multi-vitamin does not have this important nutrient.
If You Supplement with Vitamin K2 You Also Need to Take Vitamin D (and Vice Versa)
Like vitamin K2, vitamin D is also limited in the food supply and found in relatively few sources—fatty fish, egg yolks, and certain mushrooms are about the only natural sources.
It is important to note that the current recommended intake for vitamin D is insufficient for optimal health (3) and that taking vitamin D will increase your need for vitamin K2 (and vice versa), so it is important to supplement with both vitamin D (in the form of vitamin D3) and vitamin K2 and not just cherry pick one or the other.
Although it is certainly true your skin cells can manufacture vitamin D when they are exposed directly to the sun, vitamin D deficiency is estimated to affect more than 70 percent of us. This is a big problem because vitamin D is a super vitamin that fights aging, reduces inflammation, and decreases risk of disease on many different levels. Knowing that vitamin D has important anti-inflammatory benefits, it’s also not surprising that studies have shown higher intake of vitamin D can decrease the risk for developing multiple sclerosis. (4)
NOTE: Dairy foods do not naturally contain Vitamin D; they are artificially fortified.
Vitamin D even helps fight pain, including back pain. Although vitamin D, as synthesized by the skin from sunlight or taken as a supplement, is indeed a nutrient, once it is in your bloodstream it is further activated by your kidneys into a potent hormone that then works throughout your body in many tissues and organs, including muscles, nerves, and even your brain. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in supporting a healthy immune system, building and maintaining strong bones, protecting against heart disease and cancer, and even providing protection against the common cold.
And, although calcium often gets all the credit for building strong bones, your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium from foods, and then you also need vitamin K2 to guide the calcium into your bones where it is needed and away from your arteries where you don’t want it! When it comes to preventing osteoporosis and keeping bones strong, we can’t stress enough the importance of having a balance of vitamins K2 and D.
Vitamin D is especially important for controlling the release of stress hormones, improving mood, and maintaining a positive mental outlook. Maybe that’s why all those vitamin D–drenched surfers at the beach always seem so relaxed and happy!
Oh and did you also know having enough vitamin D circulating in your system is associated with increased fat burning? But there’s a catch; the fat-burning effects of vitamin D are not as effective if you are overweight because fat cells lock up vitamin D and sort of hold the vitamin captive so it can’t do its good work. This means if you are overweight, it is very likely you are actually vitamin D deficient. The higher your body fat percentage, the less circulating vitamin D you are likely to have; in fact, obese people can require significantly more vitamin D than lean people.
Ideally you would get a blood test to determine your vitamin D level, and ideally you want your levels to be above 60 nanograms per liter (this is consistent with studies of lifeguards and of farmers in equatorial regions who spend a great deal of time outdoors). However, if you don’t know your level you can supplement with 20 International Units of vitamin D3 (the most bioavailable form) per pound of body weight. Your multivitamin may contain some vitamin D3, but you will most likely need to take more to meet your optimal levels.
The bottom line here is that fat-soluble vitamins D and K2 are both very important for health and these nutrients are not easy to get from diet alone. And they both work together like a team, so if you supplement with one your body will need more of the other. We recommend just about everybody (including kids) supplement with vitamins K2 and D (in the form of vitamin D3) for optimal health.
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- J. M. Geleijnse, C. Vermeer, D. E. Grobbee, et al., “Dietary Intake of Menaquinone Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study,” Journal of Nutrition 134, no. 11 (2004): 3100–05.
- G. C. Gast, N. M. de Roos, I. Sluijs, et al., “A High Menaquinone Intake Reduces the Incidence of Coronary Heart Disease,” Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases 19, no. 7 (2009): 504–10.
- B. W. Hollis, “Circulating 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels Indicative of Vitamin D Sufficiency: Implications for Establishing a New Effective Dietary Intake Recommendation for Vitamin D,” Journal of Nutrition 1235, no. 2 (2005): 317–22.
- K. L. Munger, S. M. Zhang, E. O’Reilly, et al., “Vitamin D Intake and Incidence of Multiple Sclerosis,” Neurology 62, no. 1 (2004): 60–65.