Our Guide to Vitamin K2

Our Guide to Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2, not to be confused with the mountain of the same name, is a mighty nutrient that is less well known than other vitamins. It plays a vital role in a variety of bodily functions, especially supporting bone health. Yet, unlike for Vitamin K1 which is more readily found in food, many people are deficient in Vitamin K2 and this appears to have a link to COVID-19. So, let’s explore the benefits and sources of this lesser spotted vitamin.  

Technically known as menaquinone, Vitamin K2 helps proteins in the body to bind calcium, which in turn is vital in blood clotting, strengthening of bones and other processes. But enough of the heavy science, what does it mean for our everyday health, especially for people living with chronic illness?

The evidence supporting Vitamin K2’s importance in bone health is very strong and strong bones are fundamental to our wellbeing. Just as a house cannot survive without strong foundations, we rely on our bones to, literally, support our every movement. Arguably the most rigorous examination of nutrient claims is conducted by the EU and they unequivocally state that “Vitamin K2 contributes to maintenance of normal bones.”

A boost for arthritis?

People living with osteoarthritis and osteoporosis can potentially derive further benefits specific to their condition. Arthritis Digest UK report that Vitamin K2 shows promise in the treatment of osteoarthritis, with evidence it may be a useful adjunct for the treatment of osteoporosis, along with vitamin D3 and calcium, rivaling bisphosphonate therapy without the toxicity.

Vitamin K2 may also offer help for people living with rheumatoid arthritis, a common type of inflammatory arthritis. Studies suggest, as covered in an Arthritis Foundation article, vitamin K destroys inflammatory cells that contribute to rheumatoid arthritis.

Tricky to source

Sourcing Vitamin K2 from your diet is a little tricky compared with other vitamins, especially for vegetarians and vegans. The richest, most widely available sources come from animals, due to the unique way they process plant material. Offal, such as liver or kidneys, contain the highest levels of Vitamin K2, with beef, chicken, egg yolks and hard cheeses also good sources. Plant-based sources are limited to certain fermented foods, such as natto, the Japanese soy bean dish. The body can produce K2 from K1, through intestinal bacterial synthesis, especially when helped by specific pro-biotics. But it is generally felt this alone is insufficient to avoid a deficit.

Worth noting is the strong evidence that Vitamin K2’s health impact is greater when paired with Vitamin D3. Studies show that in combination they have more effective health outcomes than when taken alone, especially for bone and heart health.

Deficit linked to coronavirus

On a topical note, as reported in The Guardian this month, a trial in the Netherlands has shown that people admitted to hospital with coronavirus have a high incidence of Vitamin K2 deficiency. A Dutch scientist working on the project, Dr Rob Janssen, says “We are in a terrible, horrible situation in the world. We do have an intervention which does not have any side effects, even less than a placebo (…) My advice would be to take those vitamin K supplements. Even if it does not help against severe Covid-19, it is good for your blood vessels, bones and probably also for the lungs.”

So it’s time to whip up a bowl of liver pate, dive into a Japanese bean dish or, perhaps more easily for many, grab a supplement containing Vitamin K2. Your bones will thank you.

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