What Makes Vitamin K Supplements Special

What Makes Vitamin K Supplements Special

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Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD


As far as vitamins go, vitamin K isn't nearly as popular as the cool kids on the block, vitamin D and vitamin C. But vitamin K is just as important—especially if you're worried about supporting your heart health or maintaining strong, healthy bones. But what is vitamin K, and where does it come from? Can't we get vitamin K from food?

As it turns out, the answer is yes… and no at the same time. There are actually two groups of vitamin K: K1 (phylloquinones) and vitamin K2 (menaquinones) respectively, and each helps your body in different ways. As to where they come from… that's where things get really interesting.

Vitamin K1: Lean, mean, leafy green cardiovascular health machine

Spinach and kale sources of vitamin K1
Vitamin K1 is primarily produced by plants such as spinach and kale

Dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale naturally contain vitamin K1. And there's no denying that eating plenty of dark, leafy green vegetables is good for you. The problem is getting to that vitamin K1, specifically: K1 is tightly bound to plant fibers your digestive system has a hard time with.1

So even if you are eating these veggies, it's still possible you won't get enough vitamin K1. Which leads us to the next problem: to get the dose used in some clinical studies for heart health (2,000 mcg of K1), you'd have to consume roughly 14 cups of spinach every day.2 Some people like spinach; but for most of us, this kind of commitment isn't happening.

K1, calcium and your arteries

So why is getting enough K1 a big deal? Calcium is essential for life. But there's a time and a place for calcium. Without sufficient vitamin K1, this vital nutrient can accumulate in your arteries. To maintain cardiovascular health, you want to keep calcium out of your arteries and inside your bone matrix—where it belongs.

There are two forms of K2 that are also good for keeping calcium on the right track inside your body: K2 MK-7 and MK-9—which you can get from food sources like cheddar cheese (more on that later).

Vitamin K2: For strong bones, say "cheese"

Vitamin K2 from cheddar cheese
Vitamin K2 can be found in high fat dairy products like cheddar cheese

That brings us to the other form(s) of vitamin K: menaquinones. There's a few of these, and to make it (somewhat) simple, they have numerical names like MK-4, MK-7, and MK-9. And as far as dietary sources go, the vitamin K siblings couldn't be more different. K2 comes from high-fat dairy products like cheese, as well as from fermented foods like natto (a traditional dish made from soy). You can also get K2 from fish, liver, meats, eggs and cereals—although in much lower amounts.

Before you go high-fiving everyone on your healthy victory lap to the cheese aisle, remember why we're not wolfing down eggs and cheese and the like on a regular basis: high-fat animal-based foods aren't good for you in large amounts. Which presents a problem: you won't believe how much cheese you're going to need here.

Good news: the amount of K2 you need is mostly measured in micrograms (that's mcg). Bad news: there's only trace amounts of these nutrients in even the food considered to be "rich" in vitamin K2: to get the clinically studied 1500 mcg of vitamin K2 MK-4 you would need to put away over 32 pounds of hard cheddar cheese.2

Vitamin K2 MK-7 is a little better (and we want to stress "a little" here): to get the clinically studied 180 mcg of vitamin K2 MK-7, you only have to eat 17 pounds of cheese.2

K2, calcium, and the bone matrix

MK-4 encourages osteoblasts—the specialized cells that bind calcium into your bone matrix (read: builds bones and makes them stronger). This helps maintain healthy bone density, a key part of bone health as you age. But several clinical studies show that the optimal dose of vitamin K2 MK-4 for bone health is 45,000 mcg a day—that... that is a lot of cheese.

Vitamin K supplements

This ridiculous ratio of food-to-vitamin is why you never hear anyone walking around telling you to eat your cheese for health reasons: the necessary amounts of "vitamin K2 rich foods" you'd have to eat would itself be a health risk. But it is also why vitamin K supplements can be a huge boon to your daily health regimen: all the heart health and bone strength goodness of a spinach-and-cheddar-cheese-eating-contest, none of the risk.

Mega Vitamin K2 High Potency for Strong Bones

One of our newest vitamin K supplements, Mega Vitamin K2 delivers the above 45,000 mcg of K2 in convenient supplement form. If you're trying to keep your bones healthy and strong, this is the K2 supplement for you.

Super K Elite

Our flagship vitamin K supplement, Super K Elite goes even further, providing 2,000 mcg of vitamin K1 to support healthy calcium balance, as well as four forms of vitamin K2: 1,500 mcg of vitamin K2 MK-4, as well as trace amounts of MK-6, MK-7 and MK-9: hard to find K2 variants that are beneficial to your body in small doses.

 

References

  1. Booth SL, Mayer J. Micronutrient Information Center, Vitamin K. Linus Pauling Institute. 2014; https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-K. Accessed July 2, 2020.
  2. Available at: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2. Accessed March 8, 2019