Vitamin K Critical for Bones and Arterial Health

May 8, 2023 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Vitamin K Critical for Bones and Arterial Health

Key Points

• Vitamin K is vital for bone mineralization and density
• Vitamin K inhibits calcium from depositing in the wrong places
• Vitamin K helps muscle strength and joint-cartilage integrity
• Many medications interfere with vitamin K absorption
• New supplement: Vitamin K Complex

Vitamin K is a multifunctional vitamin known for its indispensable role in bone and cardiovascular health. It is used in nearly all your body tissues, making this an essential vitamin for health!

We have added a new vitamin K supplement to the Wellness Resources product line, Vitamin K Complex featuring vitamin K1 and two forms of biologically active K2.

Bone Density and Vascular Health

Some of the most important things to know about vitamin K are its vital roles for clotting factors, bone density, and vascular health. Several enzymes and proteins depend upon vitamin K for activation which affects calcium transport, bones, blood vessels, and numerous other functions.

Vitamin K Dependent Enzymes and Proteins

Vitamin K is an essential cofactor for the enzyme carboxylase. This enzyme requires vitamin K for bone building, blood clotting, and several other functions.

The primary function of vitamin K2 is to act as a cofactor or coenzyme for vitamin K dependent enzymes like gamma-glutamyl carboxylase enzyme (GGCX). This carboxylation activity allows for the chelation or clearing of calcium ions in the blood stream and tissues.

There are also proteins called vitamin K-dependent proteins (VKDP) that require vitamin K to function. One of these proteins is called osteocalcin, which affects bone mineralization.

Another protein is matrix GLa protein (MGP) which is found in blood vessels, bone, and cartilage. MGP is a strong inhibitor of blood vessel calcification and connective tissue mineralization.

These proteins regulate the process of how calcium gets laid down in tissues. If vitamin K2 is lacking, then calcium deposits in the wrong places.

Vitamin K-dependent proteins are also essential for blood clotting and maintaining hemostasis. Hemostasis is your body’s natural reaction to prevent and stop bleeding in response to an injury.

Muscles, Joints, and Body Tissues

An expanding body of research shows that vitamin K and vitamin K-dependent proteins affects muscle strength and joint-cartilage integrity. It is also essential for regulation of eye pressure and protection of the lens.

Further research shows that vitamin K is used in nearly all your tissues. This affects biological activities like cellular apoptosis and autophagy, i.e., clean-up of aberrant rogue cells. Vitamin K is involved with the regulation of oxidative stress and steroid and xenobiotic receptors. Vitamin K and Vitamin K-dependent proteins also affect signal transduction, angiogenesis, coagulation and tissue calcification.

Tissue Calcification

Insufficient vitamin K impairs function of vitamin K dependent proteins and processes that may weaken clearance of calcium and increase the risk of tissue calcification. This may affect your aortic valve, heart, blood vessels, skin, cartilage and pulmonary vessels, jointslungs, and kidneys.16

Bone Density

Bones require vitamin K2 to maintain bone density and strength. Osteocalcin is the vitamin K-dependent protein critically involved with bone mineralization. Extensive clinical trials have demonstrated that activation of osteocalcin results in improved bone density.

A recent 2020 meta-analysis review of several randomized controlled trials showed the benefits of vitamin K combined with vitamin D for bone density. Very favorable results were noted with “significantly increased” total bone mineral density and improved osteocalcin levels. Vitamin D works synergistically with vitamin K.

In a 24-month clinical trial, researchers evaluated the safety and results of long-term use of vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 in postmenopausal women for bone density and coagulation. Women experienced improved vertebral bone mass with healthy activity of bone building and breakdown cells. Coagulation function maintained normal healthy ranges and no adverse reactions were observed.

Vitamin K Storage and Absorption

Small amounts of Vitamin K1 are stored in your liver, heart and pancreas. Vitamin K2 is found in the liver, pancreas, brain, and lungs.

Vitamin K1 is absorbed in the small intestine. Vitamin K2 is absorbed in the large intestine. Vitamin K depends upon adequate bile acids, pancreatic enzymes and healthy gut flora.

Vitamin K1 and K2 Forms

Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in plants like natto, leafy greens such as collards, turnip greens, spinach, kale, and broccoli, as well as prunes, peas, and parsley. Much smaller amounts are found in vegetable oils, meats, dairy, grains, fruits and other vegetables.

Vitamin K2 (menaquinones) are made by healthy bacteria in your intestinal tract. It is also found in fermented foods and animal products. Vitamin K2 forms include MK-4, MK-7 and other menaquinones. MK4 and MK-7 have many important roles in physiology. MK-7 has the best bioavailability and stays in your blood stream the longest. Vitamin K as MK-7 is especially vital for bone mineral density and promotes bone strength and quality.

Things That Interfere with Vitamin K Absorption

Individuals with poor absorption from alcoholism, cystic fibrosis, bariatric surgery, pancreatic insufficiency, gallbladder problems or removal, other intestinal surgeries or concerns, or liver concerns may need supplemental vitamin K1 and/or K2.

Low fat diets, use of mineral oil, weight loss foods with Olestra, and the food preservative BHT may affect vitamin K absorption. Medications such as antibiotics, statin drugs and other cholesterol lowering bile acid sequestrants, Coumadin/warfarin, weight loss drugs Orlistat/Xenical, Alli, anti-seizure medications Dilantin, phenytoin, and Phenobarbital, and estrogen drugs affect vitamin K metabolism. Check with your pharmacist for more information.

The medication Warfarin which blocks vitamin K is associated with decreased carboxylation of the MGP protein. This effect causes the aortic valve and arteries to calcify.

Safety of Vitamin K

Vitamin K does not have an upper limit for dietary intake. It has been stated that “no adverse effects associated with vitamin K consumption from food or supplements have been reported in humans or animals.”

Vitamin K levels may be measured with blood tests. Up to 31% of the population has a vitamin K deficiency based on the lab test measuring under-carboxylated protein analysis. This result may be underestimated as vitamin K levels are not regularly tested in a general physical.

Wellness Resources Vitamin K Complex

We are excited to bring you the new Vitamin K Complex. It contains vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) 1000 mcg, K2 (MK-4) 500 mcg, and K2 (K2VITAL® trans MK-7) 100 mcg per capsule. This is a great option for those who desire higher amounts of vitamin K.

We also provide Vitamin K1 and K2 in Bone & Joint Helper, Daily Bone Xcel, Daily Builder, and our children’s Super Mini Multi and vitamin K1 in Daily Prenatal Multiple Vitamin.

Vitamin K Complex may be used as with Vitamin D 1000 IU or 2500 IU, as well as any of our calcium and/or magnesium products – Daily Bone Xcel, Daily Builder, Coral Calcium, TriCal, Calcium AEP, RelaxaMag, MuscleMag, and Calm.

Discovering the benefits of nutrients and how each one affects health is like a treasure hunt. Indeed, vitamin K research identifies the many hidden aspects of cellular function that affects your entire body. Who knew that spinach and kefir did this much for you?

If green vegetables, fermented foods or natto, etc. are not a regular part of your diet, you have compromised digestive health, or use medication that interferes, then vitamin K supplementation may be a boost for your bones, cardiovascular system, and overall health. Be proactive today with your diet and nutrition. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

More information may be found in the article Vitamin K: It Helps More Than Just Bones.

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