Even if you think you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, Dr. Joseph Mercola says you are probably missing out on one: Vitamin K. Called the “forgotten vitamin,” it is one of the least-appreciated nutrients today despite its immense value to your optimal health.
The Benefits of Vitamin K
Top vitamin K researcher Dr. Cees Vermeer warns that almost everyone is deficient in vitamin K. An average person gets just enough vitamin K from his diet to ensure proper blood clotting. However, this amount of vitamin K does not provide protection against other health problems.
If you get the optimal amount of vitamin K, you can avoid potential health problems like:
- Different types of cancer (leukemia, prostate, lung, and liver cancer)
- Arterial calcification, cardiovascular disease, and varicose veins
- Tooth decay
- Pneumonia and other infectious diseases
- Brain health problems, including dementia
Vitamin K Improves Your Insulin Sensitivity
One of the best benefits of vitamin K is its ability to enhance your insulin sensitivity. According to recent research, young men who supplemented with vitamin K2 had increased insulin sensitivity, due to increased carboxylatedosteocalcin levels (link).
Previous studies have also revealed that vitamin K slowed down the development of insulin resistance among elderly men, supporting claims that vitamin K potentially benefits insulin metabolism (link).
If you can control your insulin levels, you can reduce your risk of chronic diseases. Dr. Mercola explains that having enhanced insulin sensitivity allows your body to absorb sugar from your bloodstream. On the other hand, impaired insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance occurs when you cannot properly use insulin, causing your blood sugar levels to become too high. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.
Vitamin K Improves Your Calcium Absorption
Dr. Mercola says that another amazing benefit of vitamin K (vitamin K2, to be specific) is directing calcium to your bones while preventing it from being deposited in unwanted areas, like your arteries, joint spaces, and organs. Osteocalcin, a protein hormone created by osteoblasts, is activated by vitamin K2.
Osteocalcin is needed to bind calcium into your bone’s matrix while preventing it from being deposited into your arteries. This is important once you realize that arterial plaque is usually made up of calcium deposits.
The Link Between Vitamin K and Vitamin D
Vitamin K2 is also beneficial if you take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. Dr. Mercola says vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 synergistically work together to help improve your bone health. Combining these two nutrients can help:
- Increase your bone formation
- Enhance osteocalcin accumulation in your cells
- Amplify bone mineral density
How Can You Get Enough Vitamin K?
You must remember that you must get the right form of vitamin K so that you will obtain all of its benefits. Vitamin K comes in two basic forms:
- Vitamin K1 is found in green vegetables. It goes straight to your liver to help you maintain a healthy blood clotting system. Dr. Mercola says infants need this to help prevent a serious bleeding disorder.
- Vitamin K2 is made from bacteria and is present in high quantities in your gut. Unfortunately, it is not absorbed from there and just goes out in your stool. Vitamin K2 goes directly to your bones, vessel walls, and tissues. MK4, MK7, MK8, and MK9 are different forms of vitamin K2. MK7 is the most beneficial form and offers numerous health advantages. It is extracted from natto, a Japanese fermented soy product. Some vitamin K2 supplements also come in MK7 form.
Dr. Vermeer and his team have developed and patented a laboratory test to assess vitamin K levels indirectly through Matrix GLA Protein (MGP) measurement. Hopefully, this test will be available to the public in the coming years. For now, the best way to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin K is to optimize your diet and take a K2 supplement, says Dr. Mercola.
Ideal dietary sources of vitamin K include leafy green vegetables, raw milk cheeses, and fermented foods. As for supplementation, Dr. Vermeer recommends up to 185 micrograms daily for adults. People who take anticoagulants are not advised to take high amounts of vitamin K and must consult their doctor before supplementation.