The Many Benefits of Vitamin K

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Dr. Bruce Ames is an expert on aging and nutrition. Dr. Ames’s research from four years ago showed that taking the right amount of vitamin K can help a person live longer.

A study from 2014 found that vitamin K can help you to live a longer life. This study found that those who had the highest intake of vitamin K were 36% less likely to die from any cause compared to those who had the lowest intake.

People who had a low intake of vitamin K but then started taking it in supplement form saw benefits as well, showing that it’s never too late to start gaining the benefits of vitamin K. Increasing intake conferred protection against cardiovascular death as well.

The following is a review of new studies detailing the impact of vitamin K supplementation on the prevention of major age-related diseases.


Vitamin K affects proteins throughout the body, not just the blood-clotting functions. The impact of several different types of vitamin K on the human body is not clear.

Vitamin K1 is the main form of vitamin K in food, but it can be turned into vitamin K2 in animals, including people. There are several subtypes of Vitamin K2 based on molecular structure variations. K1 is modified into MK-4 in the gastrointestinal tract of animals. MK-4 is the predominant subtype in animal tissues.

Although more research is needed, it appears that taking both K1 and K2 supplements may be helpful for maintaining normal vitamin K function. This is especially important for the many tissues in the body (besides blood clotting) that need adequate vitamin K. The subtype of K2, known as MK-7, has been shown to be more bioavailable than MK-4.

The Many Benefits Of Vitamin K

Vitamin K was first discovered in 1935. It was found to be an essential nutrient for preventing abnormal bleeding in chickens. Vitamin K is known as the “coagulation vitamin” because it helps blood clot. The initial “K” in vitamin K comes from the German word “koagulation.” It was determined that vitamin K activates specific proteins in the liver that are essential for normal blood clotting. If you don’t have enough vitamin K, your blood won’t clot, and you’ll start bleeding severely.

Vitamin K helps blood-clotting proteins work by making a small but important change to the proteins’ structure. This change happens on the protein building block called glutamic acid.

As of the early 2000s, researchers had discovered that vitamin K causes similar alterations to glutamic acid molecules in order to activate several other crucial proteins in the human body, all of which are collectively known as Gla proteins. Research from 2014 has identified 16 different proteins that depend on vitamin K to activate them.

Scientists discovered that Gla proteins are vital for much more than just the healthy clotting of blood. The Gla protein is responsible for different things in different parts of the body. For example, the Gla protein in bone is responsible for making sure calcium is deposited in bones, while the Gla protein in arterial walls is responsible for preventing calcium from being deposited in arteries.

It was previously thought that insufficient blood clotting was the main symptom of vitamin K deficiency. Vitamin K is necessary for healthy blood clotting, but scientists have learned that it is not enough on its own to activate the Gla-proteins that help prevent cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and cancer. Fortunately, vitamin K supplementation can significantly increase the amount of activated Gla proteins in tissues without over-activating the clotting proteins.

Vitamin K And Atherosclerosis

As we age, the calcium that is meant to be in our bones starts to appear in other places that we don’t want it, like in the linings of our major arteries. Calcium deposits cause smooth muscle cells in artery walls to transform into bone-like cells over time. This transition turns sections of the artery into bony tissue that is not as flexible or effective in regulating blood flow. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries, which is caused by the buildup of plaque.

Matrix Gla protein is a powerful inhibitor of arterial calcification that is activated by vitamin K. The Gla-protein is only activated when there is enough vitamin K present. If there is not enough vitamin K, then calcification of the arteries can happen unchecked, which leads to atherosclerosis and heart attacks or strokes. In men and women over the age of 65, those with the highest levels of inactive matrix Gla protein were nearly three times as likely to experience cardiovascular disease as those with the lowest levels.

Research has shown for nearly 20 years now that not having enough vitamin K in your diet is related to atherosclerosis in the aorta, which is the body’s largest blood vessel. Since that time, a number of basic science and laboratory studies have suggested that a higher intake of vitamin K is necessary for preventing atherosclerosis in major arteries of all types. Animal studies have found that vitamin K can help to reverse the effects of calcification in arteries caused by drugs that inhibit vitamin K, such as blood thinners.

Another way matrix Gla proteins protect against atherosclerosis is by inhibiting the production of inflammatory signaling molecules, which contribute to plaque formation and calcification. People with a high intake of vitamin K have significantly lower levels of substances that cause inflammation, make you feel hungry, and makes it hard for your body to process insulin. All of these things are important in preventing atherosclerosis. Some of the positive effects of taking vitamin K may be due to the increased levels of another vitamin K-dependent protein, which suppresses inflammation and promotes glucose tolerance.

Vitamin K and Bone Health

Vitamin K2 and its different forms, like K2-7, which is also known as menaquinone-7, helps to activate calcitonin and other proteins that depend on vitamin K. This process is called “carboxylation” for those who are interested in that kind of detail.

I see matrix GLA proteins as “mini-machines” that are turned on by vitamin K. Once turned on, matrix Gla protein grabs calcium. Vitamin K essentially provides the body with protection against excess calcium. Otherwise, the calcium can deposit in the wrong places.

Calcitonin is a protein that is also vitamin K-dependent. When vitamin K is present, calcitonin prevents calcium from being absorbed from the bones, which leads to bone growth and mineralization.

I remember the function of calcitonin by repeating the saying: “Calcitonin helps to put the bone in.” Vitamin K helps improve bone mineralization by activating calcitonin and matrix Gla protein. This also prevents calcium from building up in arteries, which can be harmful.

The activation of calcitonin increases as you increase the dose of Vitamin K2. The action of calcitonin helps to increase bone health, which is important for many groups of Americans, including the elderly, post-menopausal women, and people with eating disorders and gut problems.

Is calcium intake still important?

Yes and No.

You need to make sure that you have enough calcium intake. Adequate intake is easy to acquire. Americans consume a lot of dairy, which gives them high levels of calcium, even though they have relatively high rates of fractures. Some reports suggest that taking calcium supplements may do more harm than good.

If you want to learn more about the topic, I recommend reading The Calcium Paradox by Kate Rheume-Bleue. There are over 385 positive reviews on Amazon.

I believe that most Americans consume enough calcium, but the problem lies in the absorption of it (Vitamin D3) and the body’s ability to use it (Vitamin K).

When I learned more about Vitamin K2, I realized that the story on calcium health is MUCH deeper than just focusing on calcium intake and Vitamin D. Vitamin K2 is essential for keeping calcium in the bones and out of the arteries. Once calcium is properly absorbed from our food with the help of Vitamin D, Vitamin K ensures that it ends up in the right place.

Athletic Performance and Vitamin K2

K2 has been associated with decreased arterial stiffness, which means that the heart can pump blood more efficiently with each heartbeat. This can help improve your endurance and is generally associated with better oxygen delivery to your heart, brain, and body.

If Vitamin K2 is confirmed to be able to slow or reverse calcium deposits in the arteries, that would physically clean the vessels out, improve blood flow, and reduce the risk of arterial tears and strokes.

Vitamin K2 helps you create energy from your mitochondria. Mitochondria are small powerhouses that are found throughout your body, but they are especially prevalent in muscle and nerve cells. Vitamin K helps prevent damage to your cells and may help them regenerate faster.

Vitamin K2 and Cancer

An article from 2014 showed that people who took in Vitamin K1 and K2 had a lower risk of cancer, cardio disease, and all other causes of death. Vitamin K may play a role in reducing the risk of prostate cancer by up to 35%.

Other researchers have suggested that anti-cancer mechanisms are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in nature, as well as helping to trigger the death of cancer cells.

Protecting your mitochondria may also reduce cancer risk. Vitamin K2 is essential for energy production and protecting cells from oxidative stress damage.

Vitamin K2 and Diabetes – Insulin Resistance

Cases of diabetes often go hand-in-hand with inflammation of the blood vessel walls, which can then lead to further complications such as the formation of plaque, inadequate blood flow, and tissue injury.

Vitamin K2 also increases insulin sensitivity by improving calcium metabolism and reducing inflammation. The mechanism by which calcitonin improves insulin resistance is not yet fully understood.

Calcitonin doesn’t just promote healthy bones—it does a lot more. The most effective form of vitamin K for activating calcitonin is K2-7. If you don’t have enough vitamin K, your calcitonin won’t work properly. When you have enough vitamin K, the calcitonin hormone is free to provide metabolic benefits that improve how the body handles sugar.

Vitamin K2 and Kidney Health

Insulin resistance has a negative effect on the kidneys because too much sugar is flushed out of the body in the urine, causing damage to tissues along its path.

The most common cause of death among people with kidney disease is heart-related. By reducing cardiovascular risk, kidney health improves.

The kidneys filter the blood largely through specialized arteries. If the arteries supplying the kidneys calcify or stiffen, kidney function can be altered. K2 has various benefits for the kidneys, including improving blood flow, decreasing arterial calcification, and improving insulin resistance.

Vitamin K2 and Brain Health

The brain has a lot of blood flow. Many neurodegenerative changes in the brain can be linked to changes in blood flow and how nutrients and waste are delivered through the vessels.

In addition to its benefits for circulation and inflammation, vitamin K also promotes healthy membrane structure in the brain. It may help protect the brain by reducing oxidative stress. Vitamin K is important for energy production in the brain.

Cardiovascular disease can cause fatal strokes when clots, calcifications, or tears occur in the direct blood supply to the brain. Reduce the risk of all by consuming sufficient vitamin K2.


A study that was done recently shows that people who have high amounts of Vitamin K are less likely to die than those who have low amounts of it.

Vitamin K2 is now thought to have many functions, not just blood coagulation. If you want a longer and healthier life, you should supplement your diet with this often-overlooked nutrient.

Before taking a blood-thinning drug, speak to your doctor about coordinating doses and follow-up testing.


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