When people think of nutrients needed for strong, healthy bones and teeth they often think of calcium and vitamin D. New research is unveiling the importance vitamin K2 has on bone health. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in two natural forms. Plants synthesize phylloquinone, which is also known as vitamin K1. Animal tissues, including mammary glands, and bacteria in the gut synthesize menaquinone, which is also known as vitamin K2. For years, it was believed that the bacteria in the gut produced enough vitamin K2 to meet our daily needs. It is becoming clear that we are deficient in vitamin K2, and the scariest part is the deficiency symptoms are silent.
As mentioned above, most people think of calcium and vitamin D when it comes to bone and teeth health. This is true, but another critical nutrient is vitamin K2. Calcium is the most abundant nutrient found in bones in teeth. It combines with phosphorus to make a hard substance called hydroxyapatite. Vitamin D acts as a hormone (a chemical messenger) that tells the body to increase absorption of calcium in the gut (through digested food), and it also tells the kidney to stop filtering calcium out of the body. The next important step is to get the calcium out of the blood and into the bone and teeth. This is where vitamin K2 comes into play.
Vitamin K2 has several functions in the body, but specifically when it comes to bone and teeth health it works in two ways. Both actions are in the form of activating enzymes that, in turn, activate proteins found in the body. First, vitamin K2 will activate a protein called matrix gla protein (MGP) which will travel through the blood and remove calcium from soft tissues like arteries and veins. Second, it will activate a protein called osteocalcin which moves the calcium into the bones and teeth. Without the role of vitamin K2, calcium would be traveling through our blood, depositing itself on soft tissue, and not being utilized properly.
The dangers of vitamin K2 deficiency take years to show itself which makes it a silent killer. When calcium deposits itself onto soft tissue, this causes the tissue to become hard. Hardening of the arteries is a deadly risk factor for heart disease which can lead to heart attack and stroke. When it comes to bone and teeth health, calcium that is not shuttled into the bone and teeth will cause a decrease in bone density and an increase in osteoporosis risk and tooth decay.
Food sources of vitamin K2 are found in the butterfat of mammalian milk, organs and fats of animals, eggs, and natto (fermented soybeans). Pasture raised and grass-fed choices are essential in obtaining vitamin K2. Animals raised on pasture are a better source for vitamin K2 because they eat the vitamin K1-rich grass that is converted to vitamin K2. Even a small amount of grain feeding drastically reduces the levels of vitamin K2. Something you will notice, especially with egg yolks and butter, is the rich yellow-orange color grass-fed butter and pasture raised eggs will have. This is from the beta-carotene found in the nutrient rich grasses. Vitamin K2 hitches a ride with the beta-carotene so the rich color is an indicator for high levels of vitamin K2, also.
Source: Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Dr. Kate Rhéaume-Bleue, BSc., ND, Wiley Publishing, 2012