I’m not a fan of supplements. I take a few (will blog about this at some point) but I prefer to get my nutrients from food.
Vitamin K is the exception.
The main sources of this fat-soluble vitamin are not found in leafy greens. That’s vitamin K1, which is mainly responsible for blood clotting and serves a different function than K2. Interesting to note, a significant amount of the K1 we consume in the form of greens isn’t be used by the body. We aren’t as efficient at extracting nutrients from plants, unlike rudiment animals. But, the percentage is increased when we add fats or oils. Perhaps that’s why leafy greens are always begging for a nice vinaigrette or buttery, garlic sauce. Now, K1 can be converted to K2 by the bacteria in our gut but that’s usually a challenge for us who have taken antibiotics and live in a processed world.
OK, back to K2. While vitamin D3 (another video/post) is a wonderful supplement and important, especially if you’re living in most of North America during the winter, it only helps to increase our absorption of calcium but it doesn’t direct where it’s deposited. As a result, some people who are mega-dosing vitamin D are ending up with kidney stones and stiff arthritic joints because the calcium is being stored in the wrong place. These people are deficient in vitamin K and vitamin D can cause an even further deficiency since they’re somewhat antagonistic.
In enters vitamin K2… Vitamin K2 is a calcium regulator in the body. It puts calcium where it should be (teeth and bones) and takes it out of places it shouldn’t (arteries, kidneys, tissue, etc.) In fact, this was the elusive “X factor” that Dr. Weston A. Price said was present in the diets of healthy cultures around the world, in combination with vitamin A and D.
So how does this calcium regulation help the body?
Well, let’s take a look at heart disease…
In a Dutch study, men with the highest K2 consumption had a whopping 51% lower risk of heart attack mortality and a 26% lower risk of death from all causes compared to men eating the least K2! Woot!
How about osteoporosis?
In fact, the Japanese have approved vitamin K2 for the treatment of this disease! Vitamin K2 treatment has been shown to inhibit the occurrence of new bone fractures and to maintain bone density mass. In a study combining vitamin D3 and vitamin K2, osteoporosis patients experienced an increase in lumbar bone mineral density.
Again, vitamin K2 is putting calcium where it should be… the teeth and bones… which is so vital for those with osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Vitamin K2 is also fantastic for teeth not only for the calcium reason, but because it can reduce plague build up. I know from experience that my teeth are so much smoother since I’ve started supplementing with this nutrient.
Researchers are also examining the potential of K2 in the prevention of prostate cancer and in the complementary treatment of leukemia and lung cancer.
So, how do we get it?
Well, the top sources of vitamin K2 are not well suited to the typical American palate.
Let’s take a look:
- Natto – a humble Japanese food that is essentially fermented soybeans. The smell and taste is so strong and pungent that some restaurants have a “Natto Only” section for those diners that chose to order this dish. It’s slimy; it’s stringy; and it’s stinky. (Stay tuned for a video with me trying natto for the first time next week.)
While I don’t recommend eating soy, fermented soy is safe and this food in particular is wonderfully nutritious. Natto is the highest dietary source of vitamin K2 with a whopping 775 mcg per 100 gram serving. Certain areas of Japan consume natto daily at breakfast and this country has the highest longevity rate in the world. Problem is, most people won’t eat this stuff.
- Foie Gras – otherwise known as goose liver pate, this is another exotic food for the U.S. that has about 100 mcg of K2 per ounce. Interesting to note, the southwest region of France has the lowest coronary heart disease when compared with the rest of the country (which already has a low rate). Guess what? That region is the largest producer of foie gras in the world.
Some people don’t like the taste; some people don’t like the treatment of the geese; and most people don’t consume regularly.
- Aged and curd cheeses – Gouda has the highest content of vitamin K2 than any other cheese with approximately 20 mcg per ounce. Brie, Jarlsberg’s and Edam are also good sources as are traditional curd cheeses. Other aged, hard cheeses have some vitamin K2 as well. Switzerland, with its high dairy and vitamin k2 cheese consumption, has the 2nd highest longevity rate in the world.
If you consume these cheeses regularly, then you probably don’t need to do much more.
- Egg yolks, butter, organ meats, and dark chicken meat – these are other good sources of vitamin K2 but you really need to find the best, pastured-raised, organic and properly fed animals to get enough vitamin K2. You can purchase fermented butter oil but Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, who is a vitamin K2, says that grass-fed ghee is just as effective and much cheaper.
This leads many of us to conclude that supplementing might be a good idea for some people.
If you choose to go that route, here are the top brands I recommend. Of course, I’m not a doctor. Just a health nut that likes to share ideas. Speak to your health care team before taking any supplement.
How about you? Have you ever supplemented with Vitamin K2? Do you eat foods that are high in it?