Want Stronger Bones? Get Vitamin K2

Body Atlas, Human pelvic area

When it comes to bone health, calcium and vitamin D3 are considered “must have” vitamins but it appears there is a new kid in town that could be just as essential. Vitamin K2 has been in the spotlight for osteoporosis (i.e. degeneration of bones) research for the last two decades and there is a lot to say about it. Not to be mistaken for its very close relative Vitamin K1, which plays a significant role in blood clotting, vitamin K2 seems to make our bones stronger.

A report from the Nurses Health Study showed that women supplementing with at least 110 mcg of K2 are 30 % LESS likely to break a hip than women who aren’t supplementing[1]. Other studies have shown similar resultsand it appears that vitamin K2 and Vitamin D3 are working as a team. Vitamin D3 helps us absorb calcium from our small intestines (either from food or supplements) but once the calcium is in the blood stream it needs to be further directed where to go. Vitamin K2 seems to take over at that point and direct our blood calcium to our bones and away from the heart. Research around high calcium supplementation (more than 2000 mg a day) and heart disease has been mixed over the past decade. Research has shown a link between high blood calcium levels and thickening of arteries (i.e. atherosclerosis)[2]. More recent studies showed that this higher risk of cardiovascular disease with calcium supplementation occurred in men but not women.[3] It is important to note that in the studies showing a link between calcium supplementation and heart disease vitamin K2 was not given. Since vitamin K2 directs calcium in the blood to the bones it would be reasonable to predict that giving vitamin K2 with calcium supplementation may reduce the calcification of arteries.

 

Although we are awaiting more research, quite a few studies have shown exactly this. When calcium supplements are given with vitamin K2 it seems to prevent calcification of arteries and hence reduces the risk of heart disease[4]. This would make sense as this vitamin helps move calcium away from the arteries and towards the bones. With fewer plaques or “sludge” in the arteries the less likely the chance of a heart attack and the bonus is you get stronger bones. Vitamin K2 has been shown to be helpful in many different conditions that lead to bone loss. Bone loss due to medication, menopause, liver disease and Parkinson’s all seems to improve with K2 supplementation. New research also shows that Vitamin K2 seems reduce mortality in cancer, most notably advanced prostate cancer but we are still waiting to understand the mechanism of this.

 

Although this vitamin is naturally found in fermented foods and grass fed dairy products, it still may be a good idea to supplement if bone health is a concern. Due to it’s mild effect on blood clotting one should always check with their Naturopathic Doctor or Medical Doctor before supplementing, especially if you are on blood thinners. At this point, based on what we know I don’t believe a bone health supplement plan is complete without vitamin K2.

 

 

[1] Feskanich D, Weber P, Willett WC, Rockett H, Booth SL, Colditz GA. Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 69:74–9.

[2] Foley RN, Collins AJ, Ishani A, Kalra PACalcium-phosphate levels and cardiovascular disease in community-dwelling adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study.Am Heart J. 2008 Sep; 156(3):556-63.

[3] Xiao Q, et al. Dietary and supplemental calcium intake and cardiovascular disease mortality: The National Institutes of Health-AARP diet and health study. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2013;173:639.

[4] Katarzyna Maresz, PhD Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015 Feb; 14(1): 34–39.