Vitamin K2 for your bones and heart

Originally published in the Kingston Whig-Standard.  

Have you heard the media reports about the dangers of calcium supplementation? What’s a person to do when calcium supplements are recommended to everyone to prevent osteoporosis? It turns out that adding a single nutrient is not enough. To bring you the very latest information, I went to naturopathic doctor Kate Rheaume-Bleue, who has literally written the book on the subject.

The following is a transcript of our interview.

Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about Vitamin K2 lately; thank you so much for gathering all the information about it into an easy-to-read book, which is now an important reference in my clinic. Your book is called Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox- what is the calcium paradox?

A: The “Calcium Paradox” refers to the fact that we need calcium to prevent osteoporosis, but studies are showing that calcium supplementation can cause the calcium to build up in our arteries. The degree of calcium in a person’s arteries is actually a better gauge of heart disease than their cholesterol levels, so the calcium we are taking for our bones is negatively impacting our hearts.

Q: What does vitamin K2 have to do with the calcium paradox?

A: Vitamin K2 is the missing link that gets calcium into the bones and out of the arteries. Among other things, it activates osteocalcin, which is the hormone that tells our body to put calcium into bone.

Q: Why K2 specifically? What is the difference between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2?

A: K1 comes from leafy green vegetables and it is essential for blood clotting. It was discovered first, and for a long time, we assumed K1 and K2 were the same molecule. Now we know that K2 is not involved in blood-clotting, but is involved in moving calcium around the body. Furthermore, it’s important to note that K1 and K2 are found in different sources. K2 is not found in leafy green veggies.

Q: What foods are rich in Vitamin K2?

A: K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is found in animal fats such as egg yolk. It used to be abundant in a lot of our foods, when our agricultural animals had grass in their diets and grazed outside in the sun. We have changed the way we raise animals, and now the K2 content of their fats is low. The same goes for the other fat-soluble vitamins. I recommend looking for a source of pastured or grassfed meat and free-range eggs. K2 can also be found in foods that have been made using bacterial fermentation: brie cheese, Gouda cheese, and a Japanese fermented soy dish called natto.

Q: I loved the part of your book when you talked about trying to love natto, which is apparently an acquired taste. It is the only plant-based source of K2. Other sources of K2 are rich in saturated fat, are you worried about that?

A: Not at all. There are cultures with high saturated fat intake and low incidence of heart disease — the French, for example.

Q: Why do you say that Vitamin K2 deficiency is widespread?

A: A 2007 study found that K2 deficiency is common, as is vitamin D deficiency. Also, K2 deficiency is associated with heart disease and osteoporosis — both of which are extremely common.

Q: How can a person find out if he or she is deficient in vitamin K2?

A: There are no tests currently available to us, but as with vitamin D, it is safe to assume deficiency and to supplement accordingly. There is no danger of toxicity from taking K2 — it has been extensively studied.

Q: Do you think it’s a coincidence that two fat soluble vitamins- D3 and K2 are getting so much attention right now?

A: No I don’t. I think we are realizing that fat soluble vitamins are the foundation of health. They dictate what the body does with the rest of the nutrients.

Q: What should a person look for if they are purchasing a K2 supplement?

A: It is important to get the MK-7 form of menaquionone. It will say that it is from a natto source. Other forms of K2 are synthetic and not as effective.

Q: Thanks for answering all my K2 questions; now I have a questions that’s a bit more personal. I like to ask the health leaders that I interview what they eat for breakfast. What’s your favourite breakfast?

A: I usually have eggs — free-range, local eggs, with veggies. Sometimes I go for fruit and yoghurt.

If you would like to learn more about vitamin K2, I highly recommend Kate’s book, which is available through Amazon. Have you ever tried natto? I would love to hear about your take on it, and where you get it in Kingston — get in touch on facebook or Twitter (www.facebook.com/naturalroute and @AndreaHilbornND)

My next article will address osteoporosis, which is a condition that people of every age should be informed about — so stay tuned.

Andrea Hilborn