Ask people what they know about vitamin C and some will reply it’s good for preventing common colds. Maybe they’d add heart attack, if they’ve read my column. But ask the same question about K2 and most people will give you a blank stare. Now, Dr. Dennis Goodman, cardiologist and Director of Integrative Medicine at New York University, says ignoring vitamin K2 is dangerous.
In 1929 Danish scientist Dr. Henrik Dam discovered vitamin K. Since then researchers have discovered two types of K, K1 and K2. Leafy green vegetables are rich in K1. It plays a vital role in blood clotting. But K2 isn’t easy to obtain in the diet, placing many at risk of being deficient of this vitamin.
Goodman, in his book “K2, the Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health,” writes of a connection between bone and heart health. He states, “Few are aware of how K2 aids bone health, but even fewer know how it helps cardiovascular health.”
Years ago Japanese researchers discovered that women living in Tokyo where Natto, a centuries-old Japanese food rich in vitamin K2, was consumed, showed increased bone density. But, women in western Japan where Natto is not popular showed lower bone density.
Bones, like other human tissues, are constantly changing. Cells called osteoblasts build up bone and osteoclasts break it down. But after 30 years of age we begin to lose 1 percent of our bone each year. It’s appalling that by age 70 many people have lost 40 percent of bone mass.
Vitamin K2 has been linked to osteoblasts, which produce a protein called osteocalcin. This protein plays a major role in calcium metabolism and acts like glue to incorporate calcium into bone. This increases bone density and decreases the risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones) and bone fractures. Japanese studies show that K2 decreases the risk of vertebral fractures by 60 percent and hip fractures by 80 percent.
But how does vitamin K2 help cardiovascular health? Sir William Osler, Professor of…