Vitamin K has the amazing ability to keep our bones strong and help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease and arterial calcification.
There are two forms of vitamin K
The two forms of vitamin K are known as Phylloquinon (vitamin K1) and Menaquinone (vitamin K2).
Vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli. It goes directly to the liver and helps to maintain a healthy blood clotting system.
Vitamin K2 is synthesized in the gut by microflora but cannot be absorbed from there unfortunately, instead it goes straight into vessel walls and bones. It can be found in fermented foods such as cheese and particularly so in a Japanese fermented soy product called natto.
Body's conversion of K1 to the more beneficial K2 is inefficient therefore many of are deficient
Just about all our dietary intake of vitamin K1 comes from dark, leafy green vegetables. However even if you eat these types of food every day it's unlikely to will get sufficient amounts to reap the benefits. Vitamin K1 is converted by the body into vitamin K2 however the conversion process is not very efficient which is why many of us are vitamin K deficient.
K1 or better, K2 and vitamin D3 reduces fractures and increase survival in postmenopausal women
A study published in Osteoporosis International has concluded that lifetime supplementation with vitamin K1 or, even better, K2, vitamin D3, and calcium is likely to reduce fractures and increase survival in postmenopausal women. Bone loss speeds up most dramatically during the first 10 years after menopause, which is the period when osteoporosis is most likely to develop.
Bone building needs vitamin K2
Peak bone mass occurs in our 20s and 30s and begins to decline for most in our 40s. One of the most important proteins in bone building is called osteocalcin, which needs natural vitamin K2 to function properly. When vitamin K2 is deficient long-term, it can lead to loss of calcium in the bone and reduced quality.
Vitamin K2 directs calcium to where we need it
There is evidence to suggest that K2 directs calcium to the skeleton while preventing it from being deposited in place you don't want it such as organs, joint spaces and arteries. A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term 'hardening of the arteries'.
Ways to protect your bones regardless of age
- Optimise vitamin D3 intake through exposure to natural sunlight or take an oral D3 supplement
- Optimise vitamin K1 intake by eating green leafy vegetables and take a K2 supplement if needed
- Introduce weight bearing exercises into your weekly routine - strength training is well known to have profound benefits for your skeletal system
- And lastly and by no means least make sure you eat a wide variety of fresh whole foods including plenty of veg, nuts and seeds!
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.