Vitamin K2 MK-7 is essential at all stages of life, and most western diets are likely deficient. Well-documented bone and heart-health benefits create commercial opportunities targeting all consumer types and multiple market categories. This 5-part blog explores the promising future of vitamin K2.
K2 activates osteocalcin proteins which incorporate calcium into bone, and matrix Gla proteins (MGP) which bind excess calcium to prevent deposit in the arteries and circulatory system. While K2 is important from childhood to early adulthood, it becomes vital for bone and heart-health in late adulthood. K2 also shows promise for additional benefits relevant for the 40-60 age group.
Late adulthood is in many ways the ‘sweet-spot’ for vitamin K2’s bone and heart-health benefits. While K2 is integral to the process that incorporates calcium into the bone matrix all through life, the effects of K2 deficiency become more apparent in late adulthood. Bones undergo a natural cycle of disassembly and regeneration about every 7 years. Specialised cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts build-up and remove old bone. When we are young, new bone is created faster than old bone is taken away. Peak Bone Mass (PBM) is reached around the age of 20, then it levels-off and maintains a more-or-less stable plateau for a while. By about the age of 40, however, the balance tips in favour of the cells that break down bone, and old bone is removed faster than it is replaced. Bone mass begins to decrease. For men, this is a steady decline; for women, the drop off is steeper, accelerated by the hormonal effects of menopause.
Bones become more porous, brittle and weaker. The risk for fractures increases and the body's ability to mend broken bones decreases. Despite this, many of today’s 40 or 50-year-olds strive to be as active as they were in their twenties. Their greater financial security, in fact, provides access to new activities that offer novel ways to fall and break things. And while we love our kids, we’ll still ‘fight the good fight’ against the day when they can beat us, straight up, on the court or field. On the other side of the ledger, a few decades of bad habits like smoking or drinking can also affect bone health. Both cause calcium loss in bones. Finally, the risk of developing bone-weakening diseases like osteopenia and osteoporosis increase during the 40 to 60-year age timeframe.
Vitamin K2 supplementation, along with calcium and vitamin D3, provides ‘bone insurance’ for late adulthood. Clinical studies demonstrate that vitamin K2 supports bone growth1, reduces bone fracture risk2, 3 and increases bone mineral density compared to a control group4. K2 MK-7 in late adulthood is vital to support an active lifestyle and to help prevent the development of more serious bone conditions.
Calcium requires balance and regulation in the body, and vitamin K2 is the ‘mediator of calcium’. Too much calcium in the bloodstream, from diet or supplementation, can be deposited in the cardiovascular system. Arteries and vessels harden and lose flexibility, limiting their ability to expand outward. This forces the heart to work harder to push blood through reduced-diameter vessels, increasing cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks. This calcification builds over decades, affecting as many as 1 in 3 adults5, with the late-adult years marking a period of increased risk.
K2 also activates matrix Gla proteins (MGP) which bind excess calcium in blood to prevent deposit in vessels and arteries. This action plays a preventative role in maintaining heart health. Vitamin K2 can also reverse existing calcification and restore flexibility to vessels and arteries6. K2 regulates calcium by transporting it to where it is needed (bones) and away from where it is harmful (heart and blood vessels), reducing CVD risk factors and helping maintain wellness and quality-of-life in late adulthood.
Other 40-plus K2 Benefits
Vitamin K2 has shown other possible benefits relevant to the 40-plus crowd. K2 deficiency is associated with lower testosterone7, and a study with rats demonstrated a 58 percent testosterone increase in blood, and 88 percent increase in testes, over 5 weeks8. Low testosterone in men is considered a factor in some age-related diseases. An association between prostate cancer risk reduction and K2 has also been reported9. K2 is also under investigation for healthy skin, potentially as an anti-wrinkle agent. MGP activation may protect the skin elastin fibres and the flexibility of small capillaries that supply blood to skin, allowing it to remain supple longer. K2 may also inhibit the mineralization associated with varicose veins10—both a health and a beauty issue for many. Finally, several lines of investigation indicate K2 may play a role in preserving health cognitive abilities and protecting the brain from the damage associated with neurological disease like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
1. Huang, Z.B., et al., Does vitamin K2 play a role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis for postmenopausal women: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporos Int, 2015. 26(3): p. 1175-86.
2. Kaneki, M., et al., Japanese fermented soybean food as the major determinant of the large geographic difference in circulating levels of vitamin K2: possible implications for hip-fracture risk. Nutrition, 2001. 17(4): p. 315-21.
3. Yaegashi, Y., et al., Association of hip fracture incidence and intake of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Eur J Epidemiol, 2008. 23(3): p. 219-25.
4. Knapen, M.H., et al., Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int, 2013. 24(9): p. 2499-507.
5. Rocha-Singh, K.J., T. Zeller, and M.R. Jaff, Peripheral arterial calcification: prevalence, mechanism, detection, and clinical implications. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv, 2014. 83(6): p. E212-20.
6. Knapen, M.H., et al., Menaquinone-7 supplementation improves arterial stiffness in healthy postmenopausal women. A double-blind randomised clinical trial. Thromb Haemost, 2015. 113(5): p. 1135-44.
7. Shirakawa, H., et al., Vitamin K deficiency reduces testosterone production in the testis through down-regulation of the Cyp11a a cholesterol side chain cleavage enzyme in rats. Biochim Biophys Acta, 2006. 1760(10): p. 1482-8.
8. Ito, A., et al., Menaquinone-4 enhances testosterone production in rats and testis-derived tumor cells. Lipids Health Dis, 2011. 10: p. 158.
9. Nimptsch, K., et al., Dietary vitamin K intake in relation to cancer incidence and mortality: results from the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg). Am J Clin Nutr, 2010. 91(5): p. 1348-58.
10. Cario-Toumaniantz, C., et al., Identification of differentially expressed genes in human varicose veins: involvement of matrix gla protein in extracellular matrix remodeling. J Vasc Res, 2007. 44(6): p. 444-59.