Vitamin K2 and D3 and how they impact your Nutrition, Bones and Heart by Dr. Stephanie King, DC in Pasadena, CAMonday, July 25th, 2011, 3:53 pm
We’ve been blogging about the beneficial roles vitamin D plays in keeping you healthy, but there is new research now focussing on the combination of Vitamin D and K in your nutritional health.
This new research is now focusing on the synergy between vitamin K (specifically, vitamin K2) and vitamin D3, particularly in terms of bone strength and cardiovascular health. Many of you already have benefitted from this combo and are taking our Vitamin K2D3 combo.
So here’s an overview about vitamins D and K and what their roles are.
Vitamin D: A Brief Review
Vitamin D is a key player in your overall health. The name is misleading — it isn’t actually a vitamin at all but a potent neuroregulatory steroidal hormone that influences nearly 3,000 of your 25,000 genes.
It literally turns on and off genes that can exacerbate — or prevent — many diseases. Vitamin D has been shown to influence dozens of conditions, including:
- Diabetes 1 and 2
- Cold and Flu
- Eczema and Psoriasis
- Muscle Pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Signs of aging
- Macular degeneration
- Cystic fibrosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
- Hearing Loss
- Periodontal disease
- Reduced C-section risk
One of the key factors explaining today’s high rates of chronic disease, besides poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. It is estimated that 85 percent of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D. I’ve tested patients from age 11-all the way to seniors low in this crucial vitamin who’s range should be not just out of the red flag zone but in a healthy 40-60 when testing your serum levels.
According to the IOM, the new recommended daily allowance (RDA) for pregnant women and adults up to 70 years of age is the same as that for infants and children — a measly 600 IU’s. This despite the overwhelming evidence showing that vitamin D is extremely important for a wide variety of health conditions besides bone health, and that most people need about 10 times this amount or more.
The best ways to increase your vitamin D levels, in my order of preference, are by:
1. Exposing your skin natural sunlight. Vitamin D from sunlight acts as a pro-hormone, rapidly converting in your skin into 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or vitamin D3.
2. Using a safe home tanning bed like the Sun Splash to achieve similar results as that from natural sunlight exposure.
3. Taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement.
Vitamin K Basics
Vitamin K may very well end up being as important for you as vitamin D, as research continues to illuminate the growing list of its benefits for your health. Vitamin K is probably where vitamin D was 10 years ago, with respect to its appreciation as a vital nutrient that has far more advantages than originally thought.
Most of you get enough K from your diet to maintain adequate blood clotting, but NOT enough to offer protection against the following health problems — and the list continues to grow:
- Arterial calcification, cardiovascular disease and varicose veins
- Prostate cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and leukemia
- Brain health problems, including dementia (the specifics of which are under study)
- Tooth decay
- Infectious diseases such as pneumonia
Vitamin K exists in two basic forms, K1 and K2:
1. Vitamin K1: Found in green vegetables, K1 goes directly to your liver and helps you maintain a healthy blood clotting system. (This is the kind of K that infants need to help prevent a serious bleeding disorder.)
2. Vitamin K2: Bacteria produce this type of vitamin K. It is present in high quantities in your gut, but unfortunately is not absorbed from there and passes out in your stool. K2 goes straight to vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than your liver.
Making a long story even longer, there are several different forms of vitamin K2: MK4, MK7, MK8, and MK9. The form of vitamin K that has the most significance for our purposes here is MK7, a newer and longer acting form with more practical applications.
Now, how do vitamin D and vitamin K play together?
- Vitamins D and K:
One of the undisputed benefits vitamin D provides for you is improved bone development by helping you ABSORB calcium. This is not news — we have known about vitamin D and the absorption of calcium for many decades.
But there is new evidence that it is the vitamin K (specifically, vitamin K2) that directs the calcium to your skeleton, while preventing it from being deposited where you don’t want it — i.e., your organs, joint spaces, and arteries. A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term “hardening of the arteries.”
Vitamin K2 activates a protein hormone called osteocalcin, produced by osteoblasts, which is needed to bind calcium into the matrix of your bone. Osteocalcin also appears to help prevent calcium from depositing into your arteries.
In other words, without the help of vitamin K2, the calcium that your vitamin D so effectively lets in might be working AGAINST you — by building up your coronary arteries rather than your bones.
There is even evidence that the safety of vitamin D is dependent on vitamin K, and that vitamin D toxicity (although very rare with the D3 form) is actually caused by vitamin K2 deficiency.
Vitamin K, Vitamin D, and Cardiovascular Disease
When your body’s soft tissues are damaged, they respond with an inflammatory process that can result in the deposition of calcium into the damaged tissue. When this occurs in your blood vessels, you have the underlying mechanism of coronary artery disease — the buildup of plaque — that can lead you down the path to a heart attack.
Vitamin K and vitamin D work together to increase Matrix GLA Protein (or MGP), the protein responsible for protecting your blood vessels from calcification. In healthy arteries, MGP congregates around the elastic fibers of your tunica media (arterial lining), guarding them against calcium crystal formation.
“MGP is so important that it can be used as a laboratory measure of your vascular and cardiac status.
According to Professor Cees Vermeer:
“The only mechanism for arteries to protect themselves from calcification is via the vitamin K-dependent protein MGP. MPG is the most powerful inhibitor of soft tissue calcification presently known, but non‐supplemented healthy adults are insufficient in vitamin K to a level that 30 per cent of their MGP is synthesized in an inactive form.
So, protection against cardiovascular calcification is only 70 percent in the young, healthy population, and this figure decreases at increasing age.”
As you would predict, scientific studies confirm that increased dietary intake of vitamin K2 does indeed reduce your risk for coronary heart disease:
- In 2004, the Rotterdam study was the first study demonstrating the life-extending effects of vitamin K2. People who had the highest intake of vitamin K2 had 50 percent lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and calcification than people with the lowest intake of vitamin K2.
- In a subsequent study called the Prospect study, 16,000 people were followed for 10 years. Researchers found that each additional 10 mcg of vitamin K2 in the diet resulted in 9 percent fewer cardiac events.
- Animal studies show that vitamin K2 not only prevents hardening of the arteries but can actually reverse calcification of highly calcified arteries, by activating MGP.
- People with severe calcifications have high percentages of inactive osteocalcin, which indicates a general deficiency of vitamin K2.”
Let’s take a look at how calcium supplements play into all of this.
Does Your Calcium Supplement Actually Increase Your Risk of Heart Attack?
If you take calcium and vitamin D but are deficient in vitamin K, you could be worse off than if you were not taking those supplements at all, as demonstrated by a recent meta-analysis linking calcium supplements to heart attacks.
This study did indeed find that people taking calcium supplements were more prone to heart attacks. However, that doesn’t mean that it was the calcium supplements themselves that caused the heart attacks.
Please remember that calcium is only ONE of the players in your bone and heart health.
This meta-analysis looked at studies involving people taking calcium in isolation, without complementary nutrients like magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K, which help keep your body in balance. In the absence of those other important cofactors, calcium CAN have adverse effects, such as building up in coronary arteries and causing heart attacks, which is really what this analysis detected.
And the FORM of calcium you take matters greatly, which I will address in a moment.
You simply can’t take isolated supplements “willy-nilly” and expect to optimize very complicated physiological processes.
Vitamin D itself has been found to protect your heart. A study in the Netherlands provides compelling evidence that a high vitamin D status is associated with improved survival in heart failure patients.
If you are going to take calcium, you need to balance it out with vitamin D and vitamin K, at the very least. It is also important that you get adequate magnesium, silica, omega-3 fatty acids, and weight-bearing exercise, which are all important to the health of your bones.
In order to achieve the best possible health, you have to devise a plan of attack from multiple angles. These suggestions will synergistically help keep your heart, blood vessels, organs and bones healthy.
1. Optimize your vitamin D either from natural sunlight exposure or an oral supplement, as described above. Check your blood levels regularly.
2. Optimize your vitamin K through a combination of dietary sources (leafy green vegetables, fermented foods like natto, raw milk cheeses, etc.) and a K2 supplement as prescribed by your natural care doctor.
3. Make sure you do weight-bearing exercise, which has profound benefits to both your skeletal and cardiovascular systems.
4. Consume a wide variety of fresh, local organic whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, organic meats and eggs, and raw organic unpasteurized dairy if including dairy products. The more of your diet you consume RAW, the better nourished you will be. Minimize sugar and refined grains.
5. Consider a high-quality animal source of omega-3 fatty acid supplement like flax, chia seeds, fish and omega 3 fish oils.
6. Make sure you are getting enough restorative sleep each night.
7. Handle the stress in your life since it has a significant impact on your physical and mental well-being through meditation, yoga, massage, etc…
All the best for continued great health!
Tags: Alternative Health Care, Bone Strength and Cardiovascular health, Health & Diet, Nutrition & Wellness, Vitamin D3, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2, vitamin K and bones, vitamin K Heart health, vitamin K2, Vitamins and Minerals & Bone Health