Since its discovery in 1930, it has been thought that blood coagulation was the only function, in which vitamin K is involved. During the last decades however, it has been found that vitamin K also plays an important role in bone and vascular health.
What are K vitamins?
K vitamins are a group of fat-soluble vitamins. The two most important forms are Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone). Vitamin K1 is needed for proper blood coagulation whereas Vitamin K2 is essential to build and maintain strong bones as well as to avoid calcium deposits in the arteries. Vitamin K2 exists in several forms and the most common ones are the synthetic menaquinone-4 (MK-4) and the natural menaquinone-7 (MK-7). MenaQ7 is a well documented, safe and effective natural vitamin K2 (MK-7).
Why do we need K vitamins?
The function of K vitamins is unique among other vitamins. It activates certain proteins that are made in different organs in the body such as clotting factors in the liver, osteocalcin in bones and Matrix Gla Protein (MGP) in vasculature. These proteins help coagulate blood, bind calcium to the surface of bones and inhibit calcium deposits in the arteries. Without vitamin K these proteins remain inactivated and therefore not functioning properly.
The majority of healthy people are vitamin K2 deficient
Current daily recommendations for K vitamins are based exclusively on vitamin K1 and the requirement for proper blood clotting which is set to be 1 μg K1 per kg of body weight (daily). This amount is not sufficient for the optimal function of other tissues like bone and vasculature which require K vitamins as well. Hence, the majority of both children and adults stay vitamin K deficient.
The general name of vitamin K comprises not only of one molecule, but also of two classes of molecules. The coagulation vitamin K1 is only one molecular form – phylloquinone – while K2 represents family related molecules – the menaquinones. NattoPharma's product MenaQ7 belongs to the menaquinone family of K2 molecules, which recent year's studies have proven to be the optimal vitamin K2 due to its superb bioavailability and biological activity. MenaQ7 is the brand name for menaquinones-7 or MK-7.
Vitamin K1 is synthesized by plants and algae, and is found in green vegetables, especially spinach, broccoli and kale. Vitamin K2 group is not produced by plants but by various types of bacteria. The K2 variants can thus be found in bacterial fermented food products, however there is very little Vitamin K2 in meat, fish or fresh fruits. The traditional Japanese meal Natto, made of fermenting soybeans by bacteria, is especially rich in Vitamin K2 (especially in MK-7).
Fermented soybean product Natto is a natural source of MK-7. Natto is a Japanese breakfast food that has been traditionally eaten for over 1000 years. Studies in Japan have linked vitamin K2 to a reduction of cardiovascular disease and could explain lower levels of heart diseases in Japan. Additionally, several Japanese studies have been published on the effect of nutritional MK-7 intake and bone health. At a regular intake of nutritional doses of MK-7 from Natto, long half-life of MK-7 leads to an accumulation in extra hepatic tissues that may only be reached with much higher and more frequent doses of synthetic MK-4.
Human cells are not able to synthesize vitamin K2 and present knowledge strongly indicates that western diets do not contain enough Vitamin K2. Even if you eat a lot of green vegetables, you do not get enough vitamin K1 or K2. This is due to several factors, most important of which is that vitamin K1 is not effectively released (only about 5-20%) for absorption in the intestines, and secondly because the amount ingested is rapidly cleared by the liver and excreted. Consequently, vitamin K1 will not stay long enough in the circulation to reach peripheral arteries or bone cells in sufficient amounts for optimal action.
Vitamin K2 and particularly MenaQ7 on the other hand, has a better bioavailability, and studies show that this molecule remains in the body for a longer period and is more effective at lower doses, hence is much more bio-effective.
The Rotterdam Study
The Rotterdam study (4,800 elderly people were followed up for 10 years) demonstrated that when consuming 45μg of vitamin K2 daily one has 50% reduction of arterial calcification, 50% reduction of cardiovascular death and 25% reduction of all cause mortality, compared to low intake of dietary k2
All vitamin K variants at recommended doses are safe in healthy humans. MenaQ7 has been consumed in large doses in the dish Natto – as MK-7 – in Japan for hundreds of years without any reported adverse reactions.
Due to legislation and availability, only synthetic K1, MK-4 and natural MK-7 are available for supplementation. Consequently NattoPharma benefits from having full control of the best known classes of molecules of vitamin K2 and indicates that there are no close synthetic or natural substitute in effectiveness and availability to MK-7 discovered in the entire world.