Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
9 Signs You May Have Vitamin K2 Deficiency
You may have a vitamin K2 deficiency. Sadly, few people have even heard about this vitamin. In this article, I share the nine signs of vitamin K2 deficiency and what you can do now to reverse a vitamin K2 deficiency.
What is vitamin K1?
Most people have heard of vitamin K. This is vitamin K1. Vitamin K1 is important for blood clotting. Vitamin K1 comes primarily from green leafy vegetables.
How much vitamin K1 do you need?
Many experts feel that the current recommended dose of vitamin K1 is too low to prevent disease. The current government recommendations are for just 90 mcg of vitamin K per day. To put this in perspective, you can easily get 10 times the amount of vitamin K the government recommends from just one cup of cooked kale or spinach.
What is vitamin K2?
Vitamin K2 is different than K1. The main role of vitamin K2 is to put calcium where it belongs in the body, like your teeth and bones, and keep it out of your brain, heart, and other places where it can cause premature aging and an early death.
Do you need to worry about getting enough vitamin K2?
Historically, it was felt that you did not need to worry about a vitamin K2 deficiency. The reasoning was that your body would make all the vitamin K2 it needed from vitamin K1.
New research suggests this may not be the case. Most people eating a Western diet are deficient not only in vitamin K1 but K2 as well.
Unfortunately, there not a good test to see if your have a vitamin K2 deficiency. There are also no government recommendations on how much vitamin K2 you need. To help assess for a possible vitamin K2 deficiency, below are nine signs that you may have a vitamin K2 deficiency.
9 Signs You May Have Vitamin K2 Deficiency
1. You bruise or bleed easily.
Vitamin K was named “K” after the German word “Koagulation” or clotting. If you are deficient in vitamin K1, you will bruise or bleed easily.
As much of the vitamin K2 in your body comes from the body’s conversion of vitamin K1 to K2, if you have a vitamin K1 deficiency you will also have a vitamin K2 deficiency. To ensure enough vitamin K2 for your body, make sure you eat a large serving of green leafy vegetables every day. Kale, spinach, or broccoli are all excellent choices.
2. You have osteoporosis or broken bones.
Many studies have linked low K vitamins to a higher risk of low bone mass, osteoporosis, or fractures. Vitamin K2 is especially important for normal osteocalcin function. Osteocalcin is a protein critical for healthy bones.
As vitamin K2 is critical for good bone health, this could explain why the Japanese and Chinese have much lower rates of osteoporosis or fractures even though few eat calcium-rich dairy. Indeed, the Japanese and Chinese both eat diets very high in green leafy vegetables and fermented soy, such as natto, which has the highest known levels of vitamin K2 of any food.
3. Your mouth is full of cavities.
Vitamin K2, through its effects on osteocalcin, not only strengthens your bones but your teeth as well. In our research of Chinese centenarians, one study of rural Chinese centenarians showed that centenarians eating a diet high in the K vitamins, without any processed carbohydrates, were able to keep all of their teeth at age 100 despite never brushing.
4. You have heart disease.
Vitamin K2 may be one of the most overlooked strategies to decrease your risk of heart disease. Based on the Rotterdam Study of 4,807 people, those with the highest dietary intake of vitamin K2 had a 57% lower risk of heart disease.
5. You have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Through complex mechanisms, vitamin K plays an important role in regulating glucose. Indeed, getting enough of the K vitamins can cut your diabetes risk by 51%.
6. You have an autoimmune disease.
The K vitamins may also play a role in autoimmune diseases. One study showed that vitamin K2 may not only prevent osteoporosis in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, but that it may also help to put rheumatoid arthritis into remission.
7. You are becoming forgetful.
A low vitamin K diet is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. This may be due to calcium plaque build up in the brain from a vitamin K2 deficiency.
8. You have taken a lot of antibiotics.
Antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria but your healthy gut bacteria as well. If you have recently been on antibiotics, probiotics and fermented foods may help you to restore the beneficial vitamin K producing gut bacteria.
9. You take Coumadin (warfarin)
While Coumadin (warfarin) is very effective at preventing blood clots, it can also cause a vitamin K2 deficiency. This medicine works by blocking vitamin K.
If your doctor has prescribed this medication, it is still important to eat green leafy vegetables for optimal health. In order to do so, you will have to work very closely with your healthcare provider. If you eat the exact same amount of vitamin K in your diet each day, then your health care provider can dose your Coumadin (warfarin) appropriately.
How do you get enough vitamin K2?
The very best way to prevent a vitamin K2 deficiency, is to eat a large serving of green leafy vegetables every day. Green leafy vegetables are sky high in vitamin K1. Your body will then convert vitamin K1 to vitamin K2.
Fermented foods, like fermented soybeans, sauerkraut, and some cheeses, such as brie or gouda, can all be good sources of vitamin K2. Even though yogurt and kefir are also fermented foods, the grocery store variety contains the wrong bacteria for vitamin K2.
Other good sources of vitamin K2 include liver and grass fed chicken eggs. Of all these sources, nothing even comes close to the amount of vitamin K2 found in natto or fermented soybeans.
Indeed, one serving of natto has enough vitamin K2 for an entire week. Not only is natto loaded with vitamin K2, but this fermented food may also help your gut flora.
Natto is a delicacy in Japan. Unfortunately, most Westerners cannot tolerate the taste.
While natto certainly isn’t my favorite food, I have learned to tolerate it. I have eaten a spoonful of fresh natto everyday for the last few years. You can find fresh natto at your local Asian food store.
Can you get too much vitamin K?
Fortunately, I could find no reported cases of vitamin K toxicity from eating too many green leafy vegetables. Unlike other fat soluble vitamins, very little vitamin K is stored. Thus, vitamin K toxicity from food isn’t known to develop. On the other hand, it is always possible to overdose on vitamin K from supplements.
Ongoing Vitamin K2 Studies
I have recently learned of a study being done in the Netherlands to test the effect of vitamin K2 in reversing heart disease. This study will be the first high quality study to be done on this important vitamin.
Hopefully, vitamin K2 will be shown to reverse coronary calcification or plaque build up in the arteries of the heart. Any reversal of heart disease will be measured very accurately by CT scans.
This study is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Until that time, I will continue to “enjoy” my spoonful of fresh natto each morning.
Take Home Message
The key message of this article is that vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 deficiency is common in the Western world. This is a very preventable condition.
To prevent or reverse a vitamin K2 deficiency, make sure you have a heaping serving of green leafy vegetables every day. Also, some fermented foods and grass fed dairy may also help you to get enough vitamin K2 in your diet.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.