Vitamin K doesn’t get the attention other vitamins do, so its many benefits often fly below the public’s radar. Vitamin K is best known for its ability to help with blood clotting, and it’s been championed for that for decades. But, recent research indicates that vitamin K functions in a much more complex way than previously thought, and has surprising effects on the circulatory system. It is one of the best nutrients to promote heart health by helping to reduce calcification.
Vitamin D, the “sunshinevitamin,” has been recognized for decades as an essential partner with calcium in promoting bone health. Only 10-15% of the calcium that we ingest is absorbed without it. As a result, our milk is fortified with vitamin D and we havevirtually eliminated rickets—that is, until recently. Cases of this childhood disease—characterized by soft bones prone to fracture and deformity—are again on the rise. Furthermore, other diseases and conditions characterized by vitamin D deficiency (or at least inadequacy) are on the rise in all age groups and in all geographic regions of our country
As the article “Why This Vitamin’s More Important Than We Thought” explains, when calcium is consumed, almost all of it is quickly deposited into bones and teeth. However, a small amount (about one percent) of it remains “free,” and consequently dissolves in the blood. If a person happens to get a health condition that alters the balance of calcium in their body, leading to an excess, it might get deposited in places it shouldn’t be. These places can include the kidneys, the lungs, and the brain. It can also be deposited in the arteries. When calcification happens in the arteries, it can lead to atherosclerosis.
They found that total vitamin K intake was below the recommended level in 50% of the patients. Lower vitamin K intake was associated with less consumption of green vegetables and increased MGP levels. Not surprisingly, MGP levels were elevated in 80% of the patients. The researchers concluded that the high MGP levels may result in an increased risk for arterial calcification.
Seems that researchers are finding that without sufficient vitamin K in your diet, vitamin D supplementation can cause a buildup of calcium in your arteries. No sense in taking vitamin D3 to reduce your chances of getting cancer, if it raises your risk of heart disease. What foods contain vitamin K? Grass feed beef (not the grain fed stuff in the local grocery store), organic grass fed dairy (eggs, butter, etc) natto and fermented vegetables, and two of my favorites, duck pate and brie cheese.
The researchers went on to study the effects of vitamin K deficiency in kidney transplant recipients. They took their research in this direction because in kidney transplant recipients, cardiovascular risk is high. So, the research team investigated vitamin K intake in a cohort of kidney transplant recipients with stable renal function who’d had transplantation about a year and a half before the study.
Make sure you keep your vitamin K levels up. This shouldn’t be too hard, as there are many foods that are good sources of vitamin K. If you are taking antibiotics, have a restricted diet, suffer from Crohn’s disease or colitis, or take cholesterol-lowering drugs, you may need to supplement with vitamin K. Get your doctor’s advice.