I’m often impressed by how much people I talk to know about vitamins and minerals. But there’s one vitamin that seems to be a mystery to almost everyone. And that’s bad news. Because this vitamin can make the difference between spending years on the sidelines, or enjoying an active future.
This “forgotten” vitamin is vitamin K.
Chances are, the only purpose you’ve read about for vitamin K is blood clotting. Vitamin K is essential for making the proteins that cause proper clotting of your blood.
You see, vitamin K can interfere with “blood thinners” –drugs that prevent unwanted blood clots. So many people know to avoid broccoli, kale and other foods high in vitamin K when they’re taking these drugs.
But vitamin K has other functions. And two of them can help you enjoy a more active life for many years to come. So let’s take a look at this forgotten vitamin.
You may know that vitamin E isn’t a single substance – but several closely related chemicals. Vitamin K is the same.
There are two basic forms of vitamin K. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is made by plants. You’ll find it in green, leafy vegetables such as chard, spinach and kale. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) comes in several forms. It’s created by bacteria. Even the bacteria in your gut make vitamin K2.
There are some differences in how your body handles these different forms of vitamin K. But both forms appear to have similar benefits.
One of those benefits is helping to keep your bones healthy.
Your body needs vitamin K to make osteocalcin – a protein that helps with bone formation. Studies show that when vitamin K levels are low, so are osteocalcin levels…. And so is bone mineral density.1
In other words, getting enough vitamin K can help keep your bones stronger.
You may have noticed the “calci” in osteocalcin. Vitamin K is important to calcium binding in several processes. And one of those processes involves your arteries.
“Hardening of the arteries” got its name – in part – from the excess calcium that can build up on arterial plaques. And this calcium makes your arteries stiff… more like copper pipes than rubber tubes.
This calcium build-up is very similar to the process that forms bones. Except it’s happening in the wrong place.
Vitamin K triggers the process that changes the calcium-carrying molecules that can build up on your artery walls into molecules that don’t “stick.”1 This process helps keep your arteries clear and flexible.
And that’s not all that vitamin K can do for you. A large Texas study found that vitamin K levels were linked to other signs of good health, too.
In this study, people who got more vitamin K had higher “good” cholesterol levels and lower “bad” cholesterol levels. They also tended to have healthier blood pressure and lower levels of C-reactive protein – a sign of increased heart-health risk.2
Many researchers say that current guidelines for vitamin K intake are too low.3 No one is sure how much you need, but adding more broccoli, spinach and other green leafy vegetables is a good way to boost your vitamin K.
Vitamin K2 appears to offer stronger benefits than the K1 form.4 so bacterial sources – such as the Japanese food, natto – may add extra benefit. Natto contains vitamin K1 and several forms of vitamin K2.
A Japanese study looked at 1,662 healthy men. Those who ate more natto tended to have stronger bones than those who ate less. The researchers determined it was the vitamin K content of natto that made the difference.5
What this all boils down to is that vitamin K could help you stay more active, years longer. Healthier bones and arteries can keep you “in the game”… while weak bones and stiff arteries can keep you on the sidelines. With plenty of vitamin K, you’re a lot more likely to enjoy an active, fulfilling life.
Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
Best Life Herbals
1 Adams J and Pepping J. Vitamin K in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis and arterial calcification. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2005 Aug 1;62(15):1574-81.
2 Pan Y and Jackson RT. Dietary phylloquinone intakes and metabolic syndrome in US young adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Aug;28(4):369-79.
3 Vermeer C and Theuwissen E. Vitamin K, osteoporosis and degenerative diseases of ageing. Menopause Int. 2011 Mar;17(1):19-23.
4 Schurgers LJ, et al. Vitamin K–containing dietary supplements: comparison of synthetic vitamin K1 and natto-derived menaquinone-7. Blood, 2007, 109: 3279-3283.
5 Fujita Y, et al. Association between vitamin K intake from fermented soybeans, natto, and bone mineral density in elderly Japanese men: the Fujiwara-kyo Osteoporosis Risk in Men (FORMEN) study. Osteoporos Int. 2011 Mar 11. [Epub ahead of print]