When you think of getting your vitamins, you usually think of vitamin C and other common nutrients. But there’s one vitamin that should be getting more attention– vitamin K2. This vitamin is crucial for several bodily functions, but unfortunately often overlooked due to its relative obscurity. This three-part guide is designed to help you learn about vitamin K2, its forms and functions, and the best sources of it. We’ll answer questions you might have after, like, how much of it you need and how to make sure you’re getting enough. So buckle up as it’s time for a crash course in vitamin K2!
What Is Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it’s stored in your body’s fatty tissues and it can take a while for your body to get rid of it. There are two forms of vitamin K: K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinones) (22). Both are important for your health, yet they have different functions.
K1 is essential for the blood clotting process, meaning it helps your body form clots when you get a cut (15). Meanwhile, K2 has been linked to bone health, cardiovascular health, and even cancer prevention (25).
While K1 is found in leafy green vegetables and plant oils, K2 can be harder to come by. This is because K2 is mostly made by bacteria in the intestine, and is only found in a few animal products, such as cheese and eggs.
What’s Vitamin K2 Good For?
K2 is essential for several bodily processes, and we’ll take a closer look at each one below:
1. Bone Mineralization
Bone mineralization is a process that helps your bones absorb calcium and other minerals. K2 aids in this process by activating proteins, specifically Matrix GLA Protein (MGP) and Osteocalcin, that help your bones get the nutrition they need to stay strong (19).
Will this process happen without K2? Yes, but not as effectively. Studies have found that people with higher levels of K2 tend to have stronger bones, which can help reduce the risk of fractures and osteoporosis (10).
Who benefits from this the most? K2 is especially important for older people and post-menopausal women, as they’re at a higher risk of bone density loss. This is not to say that young people should skip out on their K2 either; getting enough vitamin K2 from childhood can help build strong bones for life.
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2. Calcification And Heart Health
K2 also helps regulate calcification, which is a process that occurs when calcium and other minerals build up in body tissues and organs. This can cause serious health problems, such as hardened arteries and plaque buildup in the heart (21).
K2 helps keep calcification levels under control by activating proteins that reduce the buildup of calcium and other minerals. This helps keep your heart healthy and can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (24).
It doesn’t just end there! As K2 still does more for heart health. Studies have also found that it can help reduce inflammation and bad cholesterol, both of which are important in maintaining a healthy heart.
3. Cancer Prevention
K2 has been linked to cancer prevention as well. Studies have found that people who get enough K2 have a lower risk of certain forms of cancer, such as prostate, lung, and colorectal (16).
It’s believed to help reduce cancer risk by activating proteins that help break down mutated cells, which can otherwise lead to the development of cancer.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help protect against cell damage, which can further reduce cancer risk.
4. Improved Brain Function
K2 can also help improve brain function. Studies have found that people with higher levels of K2 tend to have better cognitive function and score higher on cognitive tests (20).
This is because it helps produce sphingolipids, which are a type of fat found in the brain (20). Sphingolipids play an important role in cell communication and memory, so getting enough K2 can help enhance your mental clarity and focus (18).
5. Energy Boost
Vitamin K2 plays a role in energy metabolism and helps your body efficiently break down glucose and fatty acids (12). This can help reduce fatigue and keep you feeling energized throughout the day.
Research into defective mitochondria and vitamin K2 also suggests that it may help improve energy production in people with chronic fatigue (9). This offers hope to those struggling with fatigue-related health problems. Although, more research is needed to explore the connection further.
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6. Elastin Production
K2 also helps your body produce elastin, a protein that’s responsible for keeping skin and other organs flexible (1). Elastin is especially important for skin health since it helps keep your skin looking firm and youthful. It combats the effects of aging and helps your skin stay wrinkle-free (4).
7. Female Fertility And Reproductive Health
K2 plays a role in female fertility and reproductive health as well. This vitamin plays a role in hormone production and helps keep your reproductive system in balance. Without enough of it, you may experience hormone imbalance or other fertility issues.
Studies have found that supplementing with K2 can help regulate hormones and reduce the symptoms of PCOS (7).
8. Dental Health
K2 also plays an important role in dental health. It helps strengthen teeth and bones in your jaw, which can reduce the risk of cavities and tooth decay (2).
It also helps produce saliva, which is important for keeping your mouth clean and healthy (23). Saliva helps neutralize acids in the mouth and helps keep bacteria levels under control.
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Where Can You Get Vitamin K2?
Now that you know the benefits of vitamin K2, let’s look at some of the best sources.
First, we should highlight the relationship between gut bacteria and K2. The bacteria in your gut have the ability to convert K1 into MK-4 and MK-7, which are forms of vitamin K2 that your body can use (6).
So say you consume leafy greens, they are a good source of K1 but lack K2. Your gut bacteria can convert some of the K1 into K2, so you still get a bit of the vitamin from eating leafy greens.
Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria is important for your overall health, but it’s especially crucial for getting enough Vitamin K2 (17). This means, eating foods that encourage healthy gut bacteria, such as fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi.
You can also take probiotic supplements to support your gut.
Now, if you’re looking for a good source of Vitamin K2, there are several different forms of the vitamin that you can find in the foods below:
The richest source is natto, which is a fermented soybean dish popular in Japan. It is made by boiling soybeans with a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis, which helps the fermenting process and increases vitamin K2 production (14).
Natto typically contains vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7, which is one of the most bioavailable forms. It also has some MK-4, which is another form of K2.
Not sure how to eat natto? It’s a bit of an acquired taste. Natto is usually served with soy sauce, mustard, and scallions over steamed white rice. You can also add it to a breakfast bowl with eggs or use it as a topping for salads.
Soft cheeses such as Brie and Gouda are good sources of vitamin K2. They are major sources of MK-4, as are other animal-based foods like egg yolks and the organs of animals (3).
It is important to note, however, that the vitamin K2 content of animal products depends on how the animals were fed. Animals that are grass-fed instead of grain-fed tend to have higher levels of vitamin K2.
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Milk And Yogurt
Milk and yogurt are also good sources of vitamin K2, though the levels vary between brands (13). The best way to get enough vitamin K2 in your diet is to look for brands that use grass-fed milk and yogurt, as they tend to have higher levels of the vitamin.
Note that full-fat milk and yogurt are usually higher in vitamin K2 than low-fat or nonfat versions, so look for those if you’re looking to get an extra boost.
Sauerkraut And Kimchi
Fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, are also good sources of vitamin K2 (11). Both of these are made by fermenting vegetables with beneficial bacteria, which increases the vitamin K2 content.
It helps that they are fiber-rich, so they are great for supporting your gut health, which in turn supports your vitamin K2 levels. You can eat these as a side dish with meals, a hearty stew, or eaten in a spoonful every now and then.
Vitamin K2 Supplements
It’s best to get your vitamin K2 from whole foods whenever possible. If you do decide to take a supplement, make sure to get one that is high-quality. Many vitamin K2 supplements are synthetic, meaning they don’t come from real food sources. Look for one that uses natural forms of vitamin K2, such as MK-4 or MK-7.
How Often Should You Take Vitamin K2?
Research suggests that getting some form of vitamin K2 through food every day is beneficial for your health (9). That’s partly because these foods, in addition to having vitamin K2, are usually packed with other nutrients and beneficial compounds.
How much of these foods you need in order to get your daily dose of vitamin K2 depends on the amount that is already in your diet. For instance, if you eat a lot of soft cheeses, you may need to include fewer other food sources in order to get a healthy daily amount.
At the moment, there is no recommended daily amount for vitamin K2. Based on the recommended amount for vitamin K1, which is 90 to 120 mcg per day, some experts suggest that we should be getting around 30 to 45 mcg of vitamin K2 per day (25).
Is There A Best Time To Take Vitamin K2?
There is no scientific evidence that suggests taking vitamin K2 at a certain time of day is more beneficial than another. However, if you are taking vitamin K2 as a supplement, it’s best to take it with food to help ensure better absorption.
Is There Proof Of Vitamin K2 For Weight Loss?
Vitamin K2 plays a role in fat metabolism, and some studies suggest that it can help people lose weight.
One study found that taking a vitamin K2 supplement for 12 weeks resulted in significant reductions in body fat percentage and waist circumference. Furthermore, it also improved markers of metabolic health, such as cholesterol and insulin levels (8).
The role this vitamin plays in gut health can further support weight loss efforts. It helps maintain the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can help improve digestion and absorption of nutrients. This in turn can help regulate appetite, leading to healthier eating habits and weight loss (5).
More research is needed to understand the exact role vitamin K2 plays in weight loss, but it definitely appears to be worth exploring.
When it comes to getting enough vitamin K2, the best approach is to get creative with your diet. Eating a variety of fermented foods, such as natto, sauerkraut, and kimchi, is a great way to get them.
Soft cheeses and other animal-based foods can also be good sources of the vitamin, depending on how they were raised. And if you do decide to take a supplement, make sure it’s high-quality and uses natural forms of the vitamin.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- [Elastin metabolic indices in various body allowances of vitamin K] (1983, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A hypothetical role for vitamin K2 in the endocrine and exocrine aspects of dental caries (2015, sciencedirect.com)
- A narrative review of vitamin K forms in cheese and their potential role in cardiovascular disease (2022, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Clinical Relevance of Elastin in the Structure and Function of Skin (2021, academic.oup.com)
- Dietary Alteration of the Gut Microbiome and Its Impact on Weight and Fat Mass: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2018, mdpi.com)
- Dietary vitamin K is remodeled by gut microbiota and influences community composition (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of vitamin K2 administration on depression status in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized clinical trial (2022, biomedcentral.com)
- Effects of MK-7 Supplementation on Glycemic Status, Anthropometric Indices and Lipid Profile in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Growing Evidence of a Proven Mechanism Shows Vitamin K2 Can Impact Health Conditions Beyond Bone and Cardiovascular (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Influence of Vitamin K on Bone Mineral Density and Osteoporosis (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Menaquinones, Bacteria, and Foods: Vitamin K2 in the Diet (2016, intechopen.com)
- Molecular Pathways and Roles for Vitamin K2-7 as a Health-Beneficial Nutraceutical: Challenges and Opportunities (2022, frontiersin.org)
- Multiple Vitamin K Forms Exist in Dairy Foods (2017, sciencedirect.com)
- Nutritional Health Perspective of Natto: A Critical Review (2022, hindawi.com)
- Phytonadione (Vitamin K1) (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Research progress on the anticancer effects of vitamin K2 (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Role of Vitamin K in Intestinal Health (2022, frontiersin.org)
- Sphingolipids: membrane microdomains in brain development, function and neurological diseases (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Dual Role of Vitamin K2 in “Bone-Vascular Crosstalk”: Opposite Effects on Bone Loss and Vascular Calcification (2021, mdpi.com)
- The Relationships Between Vitamin K and Cognition: A Review of Current Evidence (2019, frontiersin.org)
- Vascular Calcification: Pathophysiology and Risk Factors (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vitamin K (2023, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vitamin K2 and its Impact on Tooth Epigenetics (2016, intechopen.com)
- Vitamin K Dependent Proteins and the Role of Vitamin K2 in the Modulation of Vascular Calcification: A Review (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vitamins K1 and K2: The Emerging Group of Vitamins Required for Human Health (2017, hindawi.com)