(but not the vitamin K that you get from eating spinach!)
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In 2009 an estimated 785,000 Americans had a heart attack, and about 470,000 of those will have a recurrent attack. Even if you are genetically predisposed to heart disease there’s plenty you can do to lower your risk. One way is to take a nutritional supplement containing vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7).
A recent study from the Netherlands concluded that a high intake of menoquinones from vitamin K2 could protect against heart disease. Researchers from the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht used data from the Prospect-EPIC cohort.* The researchers focused on 16,057 women who enrolled in the EPIC cohort between 1993 and 1997. The women were between the ages of 49 and 70, and free of cardiovascular disease at the time of enrollment.
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Their vitamin K and nutritional intake was estimated with a food frequency questionnaire. After a 7-9 year follow-up period, 480 cases of heart disease were discovered. The average vitamin K1 intake was 211 micrograms (plus or minus 110) per day. The average vitamin K2 intake was 29 micrograms (plus or minus 13) per day.
After the researchers adjusted their findings for traditional risk and dietary factors, they observed an inverse association between vitamin K2 intake and heart disease. They found that vitamin K1 intake did not significantly affect cardiovascular health, but that a high intake of menoquinones, especially MK-7, MK-8 and MK-9, could protect against cardiovascular disease.1
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) was established in 1990 in order to investigate the relationship between nutrition and cancer. It involves 10 European countries with various dietary patterns and cancer incidence rates.
There are two main forms of vitamin K: phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinones (vitamins K2). K1 is found in dark green leafy vegetables, and makes up about 90% of the vitamin K in a typical Western diet. It is important for healthy blood clotting and bone formation.
K2 makes up about 10 % of the vitamin K we obtain from food we eat. It can be obtained from meat and fermented foods like cheese and natto (a Japanese condiment made from fermented soy), and is also produced in the human gut from intestinal bacteria.
The studies show that K2 is the form that supports cardiovascular health, and since it’s hard to get enough of it from food it’s best to take a supplement containing vitamin K2 menaquinone-7.
Recommended dosage for optimal health (not recommended for children or pregnant or lactating women)
- Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) — 240 mcg
- Vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7) — 45 mcg
What are menoquinones?
Phylloquinones are the molecular form of vitamin K1 in plants, and menoquinones are the molecular form of vitamin K2. Menoquinones have a more restricted distribution in the diet than phylloquinone, with nutritionally significant amounts occurring in liver and some fermented foods including cheese. MK-7, in particular, is made in large amounts by the bacterium Bacillus subtilis that ferments the Japanese condiment natto.2
About 90 per cent of the human liver content of vitamin k is made up of menoquinones.
For more information about vitamin K and heart health visit:
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Gast GC, de Roos NM, Sluijs I, Bots ML, Beulens JW, Geleijnse JM, Witteman JC, Grobbee DE, Peeters PH, van der Schouw YT. A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Sep;19(7):504-10. Epub 2009 Jan 28.
Guyenet, Stephan. Whole Health Source. Are the MK-4 and MK-7 Forms of Vitamin K2 Equivalent?