The Importance of Fat Soluble Vitamins
The Natural Foods Diet is really into making sure you have sources for the fat soluble vitamins in your diet. They are what are so many times missing from the processed food diet. These vitamins include A, D, E, and K. So let’s talk about K today. Vitamin K is the fat-soluble vitamin that most clinicians and patients know is related to blood clotting. Now there they are talking about vitamin K1, the K comes from the German word koagulation. Most people also know that the major source of this vitamin is green leafy vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard. Now since the 1980s, studies have shown a correlation between vitamin K intake and the risk of fractures.
More recently studies have begun to correlate vitamin K intake to other diseases and conditions. Now as far as bone density is concerned, it is known that calcium is incorporated into the protein matrix of the bone by an activated osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is activated through a carboxylation process that is catalyzed by vitamin K. Studies have shown that people with the highest percentage of inactivated osteocalcin have a five times higher hip fracture rate than those with the activated osteocalcin. It has also been shown that vitamin K2 (which is different from K1) is much more efficient than vitamin K1 for activating these osteocalcin levels. Vitamin K2 then is sort of the new guy on the block. Exciting initial research is showing it may have a large influence on many body functions.
Now Japanese studies have already shown that supplementation with high levels of vitamin K2 can reverse osteoporosis with no side effects. Does this sound like a safer and saner treatment as opposed to drugs like Fosamax that actually kill the osteoclast cells in the bone. Other side effects of these drugs include damage to the esophagus, death of the jaw bone and can increase bone fragility with spontaneous femur fractures.
What Are Sources of Vitamin K2?
Now vitamin K2 is produced by fermentation. That is why fermented dairy products are a good source for K2. Another source of vitamin K2 in from food includes natto, which is a fermented soy food eaten in Japan. I’ve never tried it but I have heard it is a “developed” taste and smell. Animal fat as well as organ meats are other sources of vitamin K2.
There is evidence linking persons and animals deficient in vitamin K2 to abnormal calcification of soft tissue such as the arteries. Vitamin K2 activates matrix Gla protein which is a major inhibitor of arterial calcification. A large clinical trial done in Europe showed that low vitamin K intake was strongly associated with the risk of developing coronary artery disease and higher blood levels were significantly related to reduced mortality. Studies in animals have shown that supplementing with vitamin K2 can completely prevent calcification of the arteries in certain animal models. In the same studies, vitamin K1 supplementation was shown to have very little effect.
It may be that vitamin K2 is the reason for the French paradox, you know–the fact that French people have low rates of coronary artery disease despite having a high fat diet (all that butter and cheese that contains K2). So now you can stop guzzling all that red wine, it’s doing you no good. Calcium deposition in the artery wall may also affect blood pressure and deficiency of vitamin K2 may be involved in elevation of blood pressure.
The Benefits of Vitamin K2
Research has also shown that vitamin K2 catalyzes an enzyme that produces sulfatides in the brain. Now decreased sulfatides have been associated with aging of the brain and Alzheimer’s disease. Another possible area where vitamin K2 deficiency may be important is as a potential cause of kidney stones, again related to calcium metabolism and calcium oxylate. It could be that increasing vitamin K2 in the diet or with supplements could prevent kidney stones. Recent studies show that higher vitamin K2 levels reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Other studies have shown K2 to be associated preventing varicose veins, reducing skin aging and helping with growth,
There is other evidence that K2 may have important ramifications for immune function. It has also been noted that there are vitamin K2 receptors both in the mitochondria and cell nucleus of many tissues. I get the feeling that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg as far as vitamin K2 effects. So here is early evidence that fortifying the diet with foods rich in vitamin K2 may impact the risk for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, immune dysfunction, kidney stones and cancer.
Again, foods high in vitamin K2 are mostly the animal source foods including hard cheeses, butter from grass-fed cattle (not the factory-farm butter in Safeway by the way), organ meats, egg yolks and curd cheeses. Notice these foods are the ones most of our modern nutritionists tell us to avoid. Vitamin K2 supplements are also available in the form of MK-4 and MK-7 and there is evidence that these may also treat vitamin K2 deficiency. You might argue that your gut flora makes all the vitamin K2 you need. Studies suggest the K2 made by our gut flora is bound to the bacterial cell wall and not bioavailable so it’s a poor source for K2.
Now it’s not that I’m jumping on any bandwagon. The science is just finally catching up to the intelligent design our creator. All we have to do is eat the traditional foods for humans and avoid modern food processing in order to have abundant health. I was eating these before the effects of K2 were known.
If you have any questions or comments please post them below.