A few very well publicized studies showed that calcium supplements may be bad for one’s heart. This has lead scores of consumers to abandon their calcium supplements out of fear that they are damaging their cardiovascular systems.
There are two important truths to this scenario: First, this decision is not necessarily protecting one’s heart – rather, it is putting their bone health at risk. Second, people can confidently continue to take their calcium supplements provided they are consuming enough Vitamin K2 and magnesium daily.
Bone health, similar to cardiovascular disease, are not problems reserved for aging populations. Like the heart and the blood vessels, the health of our bones is something we usually do not think about until a problem arises—such as a hip fracture—and just like the cardiovascular system, it may be too late to make any real impact.
The one thing most people will do to support their bone health is take Vit D and calcium supplement, which is a sensible thing to do as our bodies cannot produce calcium on its own, and Vit D and calcium play a major role in many of the body’s systems. But too much calcium in the body left unattended can have a negative effect, such as depositing in the arteries and blood vessels causing calcification or kidney stones to name just a few. This calcification contributes to atherosclerosis – hardening of arteries which can lead to blockages, heart attacks and strokes.
Fortunately there is a solution to this problem – vit K2.This became the motivation for my new book, “Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health,” because I feel it is imporatnt that patients and health care professionals understand how Vitamin K2 can help us achieve optimal cardiovasculatr and bone health, and that there is robust scientific evidence supporting it.
Understanding Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is part of the vitamin K family, a group of fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin K is split into two groups: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. The difference lies on a molecular level. Vitamin K1 has one molecule, so it is a phylloquinone. The K2 group has multiple molecules and known as menaquinones.
Vit K is is split into 2 groups – vitamin K1 which is essential for producing clotting factors in the liver – without K1 we would not stop bleeding- and vit K2.
So why is vitamin K2 so valuable? Simply put, vitamin K2 is the body’s light switch. It activates or “turns on” important proteins in the body such as osteocalcin for strong bones and the matrix Gla protein (MGP) in the arteries and blood vessels. By turning on these vitamin K-dependent proteins, calcium is kept out of the arteries (where it can cause hardening of arteries and blockages) and transported and bound to the bones where it belongs.
Although vitamin K2 is a relative newcomer to the supplement arena, I believe there is now enough scientific evidence to make you take notice and add it to your list of essential nutrients. While I will focus on vitamin K2’s proven cardiovascular benefits, a multitude of studies have also demonstrated vitamin K2’s effectiveness for bone health and children’s health. And more research is being done every day to support its benefits in these crucial areas to the general population.
What’s the Evidence?
Let’s start with the evidence of vitamin K2’s role in calcification.
The landmark Rotterdam population cohort study examined vitamin K2 in a normal human population, and was the first large clinical study to suggest the huge impact vitamin K2 may play in reducing cardiovascular events and mortality. Results among 4,807 healthy individuals (at the start of the study) age 55 and older, suggested a strong protective effect of the highest dietary vitamin K2 intake on arterial calcification. The study showed a reduction in risk for cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular disease-related deaths by as much as 50 percent for subjects who ingested most vitamin K2. High intakes of vitamin K2 also reduced the all-cause mortality by 25 percent.
Dietary vitamin K1, obtained from green vegetables, had no influence on excessive calcium accumulation, even when consumed in much larger quantities than K2.
Another study in Nutrition, Metabolism, & Cardiovascular Diseases looked at the effect of vitamin K2 on arterial function, or the ability to contract and relax blood vessels. A group of 16,057 women (all free of cardiovascular diseases at baseline) aged 49-70 years were followed for eight years. The final results were again really promising: K2 vitamins were shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The risk of coronary heart disease dropped nine percent for every 10 micrograms of vitamin K2 (MK-7, MK- 8, and MK-9) subjects consumed. Vitamin K1 intake had no effect.
Another recent exciting clinical study that was published earlier this year in the journal Thrombosis and Haemostasis, showed a nutritional dose (180 mcg/day ) of a specific vitamin K2 called MenaQ7 taken daily for three years not only inhibited age-related stiffening of the artery walls, but also made significant improvements in artery flexibility – meaning calcification was actually regressed, leaving arteries healthier and more flexible.
This study is a breakthrough because it is the first intervention trial where the results confirm the association made by previous population-based studies: that vitamin K2 intake is linked to cardiovascular risk. According to the researchers, the data demonstrated that a nutritional dose of vitamin K2 can in fact promote cardiovascular health.
The Bigger Picture
The four keys to good health for everyone are nutrition (including supplements), exercise, stress management, and sleep. Pills alone are not the solution, but I agree with Dr Lipman and feel strongly that supplements fill the nutritional gaps our diets are lacking. Vitamin K2 should be taken along with vitamin D,calcium, and magnesium – it is best to look for combination supplements that contain two or three of these ingredients together as this will limit number of capsules/tablets you have to take each day. Remember it is important to get the Vit K2 in the MenaQ7 form as it has longer half life and is the form that has shown most benefit in clinical trials.
In closing, make your doctor an active partner in your pursuit of wellness.Wellness is not the absence of disease! Discuss your health goals and concerns with your physician and his team, and together you can construct a personal roadmap on how to get there. You have to put the work in yourself – trust me, it is worth it !
In good health,
Dr Dennis Goodman