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Vitamin K2 helps older man stay healthy

Vitamin K2 and Arterial Calcification

Vitamin K helps reduce progression and severity of atherosclerosis. In a 10-year study, adults with highest intakes of vitamin K2 had a 57% lower risk of death from coronary heart disease.

Scientifically reviewed by: Gary Gonzalez, MD, in November 2023. Written by: Eric Blanco.

Atherosclerosis is the thickening and hardening of arteries.

As plaque accumulates inside arteries, blood flows to the heart, brain and other organs are diminished or blocked.

Occlusive atherosclerosis is an underlying cause of many heart attacks and strokes.1

An underlying factor is arterial calcification.

It is a phenomenon tightly associated with cardiovascular events and overall mortality.2

Deposition of calcium crystals into arteries can be impeded.2

Research shows that vitamin K2 activates proteins that keep calcium out of blood vessels.2-6

What Is Vitamin K2?

There are two main forms of vitamin K: K1 and K2.

Vitamin K1 is found in green, leafy vegetables. It is necessary for normal healthy blood clotting.7

Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinones, has long been known to be essential for bone health.8

K2 vitamins are present in small amounts in a few foods, including some types of dairy and cheeses, egg yolk, meats, and occurring at higher concentrations in natto (fermented soybeans).5,6,9

Vitamin K2 plays a crucial role in activating proteins that help keep calcium within the bones, and out of blood vessels where it can cause vascular problems.7,8,10

A large proportion of individuals suffer from vitamin K2 insufficiency, especially among the people consuming a western diet8 and the elderly.8,11,12

Studies over the past several years show that higher vitamin K2 intake is associated with decreased risk for atherosclerosis.2,4-6,8,13

Heart Benefits

Atherosclerosis, an inflammatory process in arteries, is the major driver of cardiovascular disease. If its progression is not prevented, it leads to angina (chest pain), heart attack, and stroke.14

A component of atherosclerosis is the abnormal deposition of calcium in the walls of arteries, known as vascular calcification.14 This is where vitamin K2 plays a pivotal role.

Vitamin K2 activates a specific protein such as osteocalcin. Activated osteocalcin binds to bone minerals, helping to incorporate them into bone structure.8 In an animal model, activated osteocalcin also reduced arterial stiffness.15

In a human study, higher levels of active osteocalcin were associated with a lower progression rate of arterial calcification and a lower rate of mortality.16

Osteocalcin along with another vitamin K dependent protein, Gas 6, acts as an inhibitor of vascular calcification.17 In addition, active Gas 6 protects against endothelial dysfunction, another driver of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.4

Vitamin K2 is also required to activate a protein called matrix Gla protein (MGP).17,18 MGP is a strong inhibitor of calcification in soft tissues, including blood vessels.3-6,17

Like osteocalcin, once activated, MGP binds to calcium and escorts it out of blood vessels.13

The inactive form of MGP is generally regarded as biomarker of vitamin K deficiency and risk of vascular calcification.2 Mice that are missing the gene for MGP die prematurely due to massive amounts of calcification in arteries.19

What You Need to Know

Promote Heart Health with Vitamin K2

  • Vitamin K2 is a form of vitamin K found in most dairy, cheese, meats, and fermented foods. Dietary intake is often low, and insufficiency may get worse with age.
  • Vitamin K2 is required to activate proteins that defend against the deposition of calcium in blood vessels. Vascular calcification is a major part of atherosclerosis, the number one contributor to heart attack and stroke.
  • Low vitamin K2 levels have been tied to higher risk for cardiovascular disease and higher rates of mortality.
  • In observational studies, higher intake of vitamin K2 is associated with reduced rates of cardiovascular disease and as much as a 57% lower risk of death from coronary heart disease.

Human Studies

Low vitamin K2 levels have consistently shown a link to poor cardiovascular health.

Research has associated low levels of vitamin K2 with arterial stiffness, more severe blood vessel calcification, calcification of the heart valves, and heart failure.3-6,13

The end result is a higher rate and faster progression of cardiovascular disease and increased rate of death due to any cause.3-6

On the other hand, increased intake of vitamin K2 is associated with improved cardiovascular health. These are some key findings from the scientific literature:3-6

  • Epidemiological studies suggest that higher intake of vitamin K is linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular-related death,4 and death from any cause.3,6
  • Higher intake of vitamin K2 is associated with reduced calcification in the coronary arteries and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.3,4,6
  • Intake of vitamin K2-rich natto was associated with less cardiovascular-related death in a large Japanese population study.4
  • Increased intake of vitamin K2 may help to improve arterial stiffness4,5,20 and heart function, reduce incidence of type II diabetes,4 and reduce calcification of heart valves.3

A randomized controlled trial in postmenopausal women in Asia found that 1,500 mg of calcium along with 45 mg of vitamin K2 daily resulted in an increase in bone mineral density and a 55.9% reduction in inactive osteocalcin levels.21

Another study showed that 180 mcg of vitamin K2 daily for 3 years, resulted in an increase of activated osteocalcin, and produced significant improvements in bone mineral density and strength.22

In a large prospective cohort study of Danish individuals, vitamin K intake (both K1 and K2) was independently associated with a lower risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease hospitalizations. The combination of both forms was associated with a 21% lower risk, while K2 alone was associated a 14% lower risk.23

In one observational study, women with the highest K2 intake were found to be at a 20% lower risk for coronary artery calcification than women who had the lowest intake.24

In another study, adults 55 and older were followed for up to 10 years. Those with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a 57% lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and a 26% lower risk of death from any cause than those with the lowest K2 intake.10


Scientific research shows that vitamin K2 plays a key role in supporting cardiovascular health.

By activating proteins that protect against calcification, it can help reduce the progression and severity of atherosclerosis.

Studies in animals and humans show that vitamin K2 intake correlates with improved markers of cardiovascular health, reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular causes or any cause.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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