Healthy ageing is not a concern strictly for our senior years. Ensuring we can enjoy an independent, good-quality life means laying a strong, healthy foundation, and this must start as early as possible.
Two of the major health issues that impact ageing are cardiovascular events and weakened bone health. But what is not widely known is that adding a vitamin to our daily routines can work to support both: vitamin K2.
Unfortunately, Western populations are woefully deficient of this nutritional powerhouse.
The calcium paradox
One thing most people do to support their bone health is take a calcium supplement, which is important because our bodies cannot product calcium on their own, and calcium plays a role in many body systems. But too much calcium left unattended in the body can have a negative effect, such as depositing in the arteries and blood vessels causing calcification. This calcification causes stiffening that puts a strain on the cardiovascular system.
Vitamin K2 is the key to ensuring calcium is utilised properly in the body. Simply put, vitamin K2 is the body’s light switch. It activates, or ‘turns on’, important proteins already present in the body:
- Osteocalcin for strong bones
- Matrix Gla protein (MGP) for protecting arteries and blood vessels
By activating these K-dependent proteins, calcium is kept out of the arteries and directed to the bones.
Selecting the right vitamin K2
A common misconception is that Vitamin K or Vitamin K1 are the same as Vitamin K2. The Vitamin K family actually consists of two groups: Vitamins K1 and K2. Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is found in leafy green vegetables. The Vitamin K2, or menaquinones, is mostly found in fermented foods like cheese, sauerkraut, and the Japanese soy food called natto.
There are even different varieties of Vitamin K2. The one shown in clinical studies to be the most bioavailable (it stays in the body longer and is available to more systems) is Vitamin K2 as MK-7 (or menaquinone-7). And the Vitamin K2 as MK-7 used in clinical studies confirming its bone and cardiovascular benefit is called MenaQ7® from NattoPharma. Thanks to a long-standing partnership with renowned Vitamin K researchers, NattoPharma has sponsored important clinical studies, providing its MenaQ7® as the source material for these studies.
For example, a ground-breaking double-blind, randomised, clinical trial evaluated the results of a three-year regular intake of MK-7 in a 180mcg daily dose by a group of 244 healthy post-menopausal women, 55 to 65 years old, randomly assigned to receive daily either MenaQ7® or placebo capsules:
- Improvements in both bone mineral content, bone mineral density, and bone strength were statistically significant in the MenaQ7® group.1
- MenaQ7® not only inhibited age-related arterial stiffening; it also resulted in an unprecedented statistically significant improvement of vascular elasticity.2
Unfortunately, most Western populations are deficient in Vitamin K2, because it is difficult to obtain enough from our daily diets alone. For example, the most popular food source in the West is cheese, but in order to obtain just 45mcg from the diet, one has to consume 80g of soft cheese daily.
Rectifying this deficiency is especially important for children, whose bones are most actively taking shape.
A 2014 study revealed that healthy children have the largest tissue-specific Vitamin K deficiency – eight to ten times more inactive osteocalcin – followed by adults 40 years and older.3 A 2009 published study indicated that improving vitamin K status in children over a two-year period resulted in stronger, denser bones. A year later, the same group demonstrated that in healthy pre-pubertal children, modest supplementation with MenaQ7® Vitamin K2 as MK-7 (45mcg/day) increased osteocalcin activation.4
Making Vitamin K2 as MK-7 part of one’s daily routine has been clinically shown to support bone and cardiovascular health. Those trials used a specific K2 called MenaQ7®. Obtaining enough K2 from diet alone is difficult, resulting in a global Vitamin K2 deficiency that is most pronounced in children. To lay the foundation for bone and heart health in adulthood means correcting this deficiency as early as possible.
1 Knapen MH et al. Three-year low-dose menaquinone- 7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2013 Sep;24(9):2499-507.
2 Knapen MH et al. Menaquinone-7 supplementation improves arterial stiffness in healthy postmenopausal women: double-blind randomised clinical trial. Thrombosis and Haemostasis. Published online ahead of print February 19, 2015.
3 Theuwissen E et al. Vitamin K status in healthy volunteers. Food & Function 2014 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
4 van Summeren MJH et al. The effect of menaquinone-7 (vitamin K2) supplementation on osteocalcin carboxylation in healthy prepubertal children. Br J Nutr. 2009; 102(8):1171-8.
By Dr. Hogne Vik, Chief Medical Officer of NattoPharma
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