Discovering the Benefits and Importance of Vitamin K2May 31, 2013 10:43AM ● By John Whitcomb, M.D.
There is no shortage of scientific evidence supporting the importance of vitamin D, and many people have educated themselves about the nutrient’s significance. Yet, most are unaware of the relationship between calcium and vitamin K2, a nutrient that is the first domino in a chain of chemical reactions that take place in our calcium placement system.
Although in the past it was assumed that K1 and K2 functioned identically in the body, recent research suggests important distinctions between them. K1 enables the blood to clot. According to research led by L. J. Schurgers, published in 2004 in the scientific journal Blood, K2 activates matrix GLA protein that takes calcium from coronary arteries (and other places where it should not be) and activates the protein osteocalcin, the binding protein for calcium in our bones that delivers calcium to the proper locations. This means that vitamin D deficiency is only part of the picture that has contributed to the high rate of osteoporosis in the United States. Despite calcium and vitamin D supplementation, many people do not achieve bone health because K2 appears to pick up where D leaves off.
K1 is found in green plants, right next to the chloroplasts that capture UVB radiation and transform it into glucose. Humans also make plenty of K1 in the intestines. K2 is made in the mammary glands of animals when they eat adequate quantities of rapidly growing green plants, especially grass, in the spring. In the past, cows ate grass; however, when factory farming in America relocated cows from pastures onto feedlots, cow feed was switched to corn and beans. Without the grazing, cows and their meat lack K1 and K2, reducing the amount that Americans can get through their diets. People living in countries such as France that continue to raise grazing cattle consume K2 and omega fatty acids in their beef and dairy products, nutrients which offer beneficial effects to the arteries, despite the saturated fat and cholesterol content of those foods.
Osteocalcin also appears to have the systemic effect of helping people become more insulin sensitive. Life Extension Daily News (NewsRx.com) reports that researchers at the University of Navarro, in Spain, found a significant relationship between dietary phylloquinone (K1) intake and an improvement of cytokines and other markers related to insulin resistance and diabetes. Researchers from the Hyogo College of Medicine, in Nisinomiya, Japan, have done several small studies showing that vitamin K may play an important role for the acute insulin response in glucose tolerance. In their studies, overweight men whose diets were supplemented with vitamin K showed rates of insulin production that were reduced by half, which would help them lose weight. Over time, folks with high K2 levels drop their risk of becoming diabetic by half.
Evidence of the benefits of K2 continues to build, so staying on top of the latest information about the vital nutrient behooves health-minded individuals.
Dr. John Whitcomb, Wisconsin’s first physician to also hold a master’s degree in metabolic and nutritional medicine from a major medical school, owns Brookfield Longevity, a private practice located at 17585 W. North Ave., in Brookfield. For more information, call 262-784-5300 or register to receive Brookfield Longevity’s free e-newsletter at LiveLongMD.com.