Vitamin K2 referred to as menaquinone-7 (MK-7} is a somewhat new vitamin on the market however it is a vitamin which has exciting and worthwhile benefits. There are now several studies indicating Vitamin K2 may be beneficial for our heart health as well as our bone health.
Vitamin K2 has been found to help protect against vascular calcification which is a build up of calcium in the blood vessels. The foremost cause of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which is the build up of fat, inflammatory tissue and calcification in the walls of arteries. As we know this condition can unfortunately then lead to a heart attack.
There is a specific protein known as matrix-gla-protein (MGP) which has been found to be one of the proteins to help reduce calcification of the arteries. This protein, MGP is effective because it binds the calcium, which not only prevents calcification of the arteries but also allows the calcium to undertake its other important roles such as bone building.
There is a catch however, for MGP to be effective, it needs to be activated. This is where Vitamin K2 comes into play, as Vitamin K2 has been found to activate MGP in our bodies allowing it to carry out its important role of binding the calcium and preventing calcification of the arteries.
An interesting population based study in Rotterdam over 10 years, analysed 4807 healthy men and women aged 55 and older and found those who had the lowest intake of dietary Vitamin K2 had the highest rates of cardiovascular death and aortic calcification. Those participants who had a high intake of dietary Vitamin K2 reduced arterial calcification by 50%, cardiovascular risk by 50% and all-cause mortality by 25%.(1)
A further Dutch population based study in 2008 indicated Vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of problematic coronary incidents by 9% for every 10mcg of Vitamin K2 consumed.(2)
Another study by Maastricht University in the Netherlands studied 244 healthy menopausal women over a period of 3 years. These women were unsystematically given a nutritional dose of MenaQ7 Vitamin K2 or a placebo capsule for 3 years. At the end of the trial it was found stiffness of their arteries in the women taking Vitamin K2 had decreased significantly whereas the placebo group had a slight increase. (3)
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, with over 44,000 deaths per year. Every 12 minutes someone in Australia dies from cardiovascular disease and a half a million Australians will be admitted to hospital due to cardiovascular disease.
Atherosclerosis can happen over time, slowly increasing over decades with our arteries gradually becoming calcified and hardened. Our heart needs to work harder, which means there will be an inevitable increase in systolic blood pressure and before you know it, we are at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Obviously if our bodies are low in Vitamin K2 this may result in inadequate activation of MGP, thwarting calcium removal from our arteries and increasing the risk of calcification.
Unfortunately, our western diet does not generally include foods which are high in Vitamin K2. We all know the benefits of fermented foods when it comes to our gut health and interestingly fermented foods also contain Vitamin K2 as bacteria generates Vitamin K2. Some examples of fermented foods are sauerkraut, kefirs and kombucha which are also fabulous for gut health.
The good news is, Vitamin K2 MenaQ however is now available in a capsule.
I1) Geleijnse JM et al “Dietary Intake of Menanquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease" – The Rotterdam Study
(2) Gast GC et al “A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease” Nutr Metab Cardiovas Dis 2009:1950:504-10
(3) MHJ Kanpen, et al “Menaquinone-7 Supplementation Improves Arterial Stiffness in Healthy Post Menopausal Women" – Double Blind Randomised Clinical Trial