By David Blyweiss, M.D.
It’s been ignored for decades. So much so that it’s been nicknamed the “forgotten vitamin.” But now doctors are finally realizing this nutrient’s amazing health benefits—from building strong bones to protecting against cancer. It can even reverse atherosclerosis!
And yet, many Americans lack sufficient levels of this critical vitamin.
So what is this mystery nutrient? It’s vitamin K. And if it’s not on your radar, you aren’t alone. It hasn’t gotten the media hype that vitamin D has, and yet I believe that it’s just as important.
This powerful nutrient is the missing link in the prevention of calcium deposits in the arteries. Research shows that vitamin K escorts calcium out of the blood so it can be used to build bone and teeth. But when there’s not enough Vitamin K circulating in the blood, calcium is picked up by soft tissue all through the body.
This is especially risky when it occurs in the delicate endothelial tissue that lines the walls of your arteries. The tissue can calcify, causing the arteries to clog up. This significantly boosts the risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack.
A recent study involving 564 post-menopausal women showed that biologically active vitamin K2 (menaquinone) reverses the buildup of deadly plaque.1 And an earlier study of more than 4,800 men and women confirmed that getting enough vitamin K prevents aortic calcification and coronary heart disease (CHD).2
But vitamin K benefits more than just your arteries.
Low intake of vitamin K interferes with normal bone development. It also increases the risk of broken bones and osteoporosis. Both Dutch and Japanese researchers have used 45 mg of vitamin K daily to treat and successfully reverse osteoporosis in women.3
Vitamin K also reduces bone loss caused by cortisone, blood-thinning drugs, menopause and diabetes.
Researchers are also taking a hard look at evidence suggesting vitamin K can prevent and even treat certain types of cancer. In fact, the nutrient causes leukemia cells to self destruct in a process known as apoptosis.
Vitamin K has also proven effective in lowering the risk of liver cancer. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people at high risk for liver cancer were given supplemental K and compared to a group that didn’t receive the nutrient. Less than 10% of the people receiving K developed liver cancer while 47% of those in the control group developed the devastating disease.4
Since many of us don’t get enough vitamin K in the foods we eat, I think it’s important that everyone take a supplement. But not all vitamin K supplements are created equally.
There are two main forms of vitamin K:
- K1 – phylloquinone, also called phytonadione
- K2 – menaquinone-7
Most of the studies that have been done on the benefits of vitamin K have found it’s vitamin K2, not K1, that really packs a therapeutic punch. And that’s why K2 is my pick for patients in need of this vital nutrient.
For prevention, take 45 to 100 mcg of K2 once a day. If you’re at high risk for arterial disease, I recommend 500 mcg daily. To reverse osteoporosis, you can take 1,000 mcg of vitamin K2 in combination with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D3.
Just be aware that if you take the blood-thinning drug Coumadin, it’s important to ask your physician to prescribe an anticoagulant that doesn’t interfere with vitamin K2.
If that can’t be done, ask if you can safely take a low-dose (45 mcg) vitamin K2 supplement.
- Beulens JW. High dietary menaquinone intake is associated with reduced coronary calcification. Atherosclerosis. 2009;203:489-493.
- Geleijnse JM. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study. Journal of Nutrition. 2004; 134: 3100-3105.
- Koitaya N. Effect of low dose vitamin K2 (MK-4) supplementation on bio-indices in postmenopausal Japanese women. Journal of Nutritional Sciences and Vitaminology (Tokyo). 2009;55:15-21.
- Habu D. Role of Vitamin K2 in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in women with viral cirrhosis of the liver. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004;292:358-361.