Keen on K

Dr Suzanne Pearson
October 21, 2016

This just in: low vitamin K2 may be risky when it comes to heart disease.

The recent study published in the journal Cureus looked at intakes of K2 in relation to risk of early death from heart disease.

US researchers Dr David K Cundiff and Dr Paul S Agutter used public sources of food availability data to derive nutrient profiles, including K2, across 168 countries. They then correlated that data with cohort information looking at early death from heart disease in men and women.

What they found was that people in countries with very low intakes of vitamin K2 had about two times the rate of early death from heart disease than those in countries with high intakes.

FYI, other risk factors included smoking, high blood pressure, air pollution, poverty and being a man.

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K-what?

Science lesson alert: vitamin K is actually a group of fat‑soluble compounds, including vitamins K1 and K2.

Vitamin K1 is the one that helps blood clot, preventing excessive bleeding. Green plants (think spinach, broccoli and kale) synthesise vitamin K1, which is why you’ll find it in them. Plus, some animal products like eggs, meat and liver, also contain K1.

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K2, on the other hand, is produced by certain bacteria. Primary food sources are fermented foods like cheese, sauerkraut, miso and natto (a fermented soy product typically sold in Asian grocery stores).

One of the main functions of K2 is to regulate calcium distribution around the body, making this a key nutrient for bone and heart health.

K2 works with vitamin D to help your bones absorb calcium. Where D increases the uptake of calcium into the blood, vitamin K2 helps calcium get from your blood into bone. A serious wonder trio for your bones.

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And the link to heart health? K2 helps prevent calcium deposition and remove existing calcifications from your blood vessel walls, preventing build‑up – a risk factor for heart disease.

 

More research needed

The authors, Cundiff and Agutter, acknowledge the limitations of their study, like measuring food availability data rather than food consumption, and highlight more research is needed to understand the relationship. That being said, the study results contribute to our understanding of heart disease risk factors, and how vitamin K2 may play a part.

As always, enjoy a diet rich in a wide variety of colourful whole foods to reap the nutritional benefits – and remember to including healthy fat sources, which help absorb vitamin K. Make mine the miso salmon and broccoli.

 

Dr Suzanne Pearson PhD, MNutrDiet, APD, BSc (Hons) is the Global Scientific Affairs Manager at Swisse Wellness

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