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A relatively newly discovered essential vitamin, K2 is proving to be crucial in the fight against some of the deadliest diseases facing humankind today. These include cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, both of which are common killers.

There has been substantial research into the benefits of vitamin K2, especially its role in maintaining cardiovascular and bone health. However, it is not vitamin K2 alone that will be the lifesaver. Instead vitamin K2 works synergistically with other nutrients including calcium that helps strengthen bones, and vitamin D, which is critical for optimal health.

While you will get sufficient vitamin K from a good, balanced diet, there is a general lack of knowledge about the vitamin, particularly the fact that there are different types, each of which plays a different role in the body.

The Discovery Of Vitamin K

Vitamin K was discovered in 1929 by Danish scientist Henrik Dam, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1946 for his work. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that scientists discovered osteocalcin, a vitamin K-dependent protein (VKDP), and began to study the importance of VKDPs. And it is only in the past two decades that the impact of vitamin K on cardiovascular and bone health has been discovered.

Dam was studying the cholesterol metabolism of baby chickens using fat-soluble vitamins in a diet with high cholesterol content when he noticed that some of them developed hemorrhages under the skin and in their organs or muscles. 

While the chicks were able to synthesize the cholesterol, this was not the cause of the bleeding. Several years later he came to the conclusion that the disease was due to something lacking in the chicks’ diet. After studying plant material and animal organs to see what would give protection against the disease, he discovered a new fat-soluble vitamin that he designated as vitamin K.

Something else he had noticed was that the chicks’ blood showed delayed coagulation, which led to later research to see how vitamin K affected blood clotting.

Subsequently it was found that vitamin K has different forms:

  • Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in green vegetables and other plants and it is stored in the liver and plays a vital role in terms of healthy blood clotting.
  • Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is made in the body by the bacteria lining the gastrointestinal tract. From here it moves into the bones, teeth, tissues and blood vessel walls, but not the liver.

Vitamin K And The Calcium Paradox

The so-called calcium paradox is a concept introduced by naturopath physician Dr Kate Rheaume-Bleue in her book, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life. Recognizing that heart disease caused by calcium accumulating in the arteries is the biggest killer in North America, and that osteoporosis is the top cause of death and disability of elderly people, she grappled with the idea of calcium excess (in the arteries) and calcium deficiency (in the skeleton) occurring together. With a growing body of so-called science advising people to stop taking calcium supplements to avoid heart disease, she came up with another answer to the “calcium conundrum” – vitamin K2 that strengthens bones by funneling calcium, at the same time removing arterial calcification. Further, she said, if vitamin K2 is deficient, then calcium will not be metabolized correctly and it can end up in the arteries.

Her concept has been accepted in major scientific fields.

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