A Gluten-Free Vegan Mom Who Knows

A raw, grain-free, corn-free, soy-free, oil-free, celiac mama raising her two healthy celiac girls.

K2 and Calcium Supplements: The Danger of Taking Calcium Supplements without K2

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Natto picture from Sakura Hostel

Nutrition knowledge is crucial in my life, especially after being diagnosed with osteopenia as a result of the multiple malabsorption issues I suffered from as a result of being an undiagnosed celiac. 
Nevertheless, my doctor has advised me to supplement my plant-based vegan diet: 
  • Calcium citrate
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin B-12
However, after continuing my research regarding supplements and nutrition, I began to question whether or not I needed to add vitamin K2 to our regimen after I kept reading that it is a suggested supplement for both vegetarians and vegans. 
Since most of my research suggested to explore a K2 supplement or to add a vegan source of K2 into our diets, I decided to inquire about this during Syndey’s well visit this past Thursday. I thought that Sydney’s doctor would be able to point me in the right direction, especially since she suggested that both of my girls take a calcium and D3 supplement in addition to a fluoride fortified multivitamin. I left with my questions unanswered.
Sydney’s doctor could not answer my questions, but she did inform me that my baby girl, who has been a vegan her whole life (she suffered from a casein and egg allergy since birth) and has only been taking a D supplement, has a 10.5 calcium level (normal range: 9.2-10.5) and all of her other nutrient levels are also at the top of the normal range while her D level is in the mid range, and after learning the information below, I am glad that Sydney merely tried her calcium supplement on several occasions and refused it after that trial period. 
Nevertheless, I got home from SYdney’s well visit, I kept searching the internet, and I found several sources, including one book that I immediately downloaded to my kindle.  
Even though the question I am asked most often is, “Where do vegans get their calcium?” I simply state that vegans get their calcium straight from the source. Instead of drinking from the cow that ate the grass that contained the calcium, we eat our greens. However, now, cows do not get to eat much grass (even the best organic dairy cows/products) and due to the lack of grass in a dairy cow’s diet, those cows are being supplemented, so wouldn’t it be easier if people who didn’t eat their veggies supplemented too? 
I personally have been on calcium supplements in addition to switching to a strict plant-based (with lots of greens and green juice) diet after learning of my osteopenia and malabsorption issues, but is the calcium from diet as well as my calcium supplements helping me increase my bone density?
I used to think that calcium supplements were safe as I long as I took vitamin D and magnesium too; however, this past week, I have learned that without vitamin K2, the calcium from the supplements does not deposit into my bones, and instead, it is may be ending up in the arteries in my heart.



“[c]alcium plays many key roles in our health, but the latest research clarifies that calcium alone is not the answer. Many leading experts say vitamin K2 is the missing link in the calcium puzzle.

“Calcium belongs in our bones, not in our blood. When our vitamin K2 levels are low, calcium collects in our blood and can lead to calcification in our arteries. The Rotterdam Study, which followed about 4,800 individuals for a 10-year period, showed that individuals who consume the most dietary vitamin K2 experience 50 percent less arterial calcification and cardiovascular death.

“This happens because vitamin K2 prevents calcium build-up in the arteries by activating the vascular protein MGP, which inhibits arterial calcification. Vitamin K2 also activates proteins that work to mineralize bones. These two important qualities help combat two diseases which pose serious risk for millions: heart disease and osteoporosis.




Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life by Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue makes sense of the K2 and calcium paradox too. Here are some excerpts that I highlighted:In April 2011 the British Medical Journal reported a study that concluded:

  • “[w]omen who supplement with calcium to prevent osteoporosis are at a higher risk of atherosclerosis (formation of calcium in the arteries), heart attack and stroke than those who don’t.”
  • According to that research, if 1,000 women take calcium supplements for five years, at the end of that period there will be three fewer bone fractures in that group compared to the group of women who didn’t take calcium supplements. Take that number and times it my the millions of women taking calcium supplements and it adds up to a meaningful benefit.
  • That same group of calcium takers over those five years suffered of six more cardiovascular disease events (heart attack or stroke) than in the nonsupplement group (the occurrence of heart attacks is not found to be dosed-dependent-there is not a great number of heart attacks in women taking a higher dose). Again, times these findings by the millions of women taking calcium supplements and the effects are outstanding.
  • “The ill effect on heart health is not seen with dietary calcium from food.”
  • “The study authors make the staggering declaration that women should abandon calcium supplements”

“‘How can the body guide calcium safety into the bones where it helps us, and keep is away from soft tissues like arteries where it harms us?’ The answer is a long misunderstood fat-soluble vitamin called K2.”

The Function of K2:

  • “K2 funnels calcium into bones to strengthen mineral density and fight fractures while it prevents and even removes dangerous arterial calcification.”
  • It also has other beneficial impacts on our health regarding diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, infertility, tooth decay and growing healthy children (here’s my answer as too if K2 is important in my girls’ vegan diets).


Osteoporosis:

  • “The loss of bone mineral density (osteopenia is the precursor to osteoporosis) and thinning of bone tissue that causes bones to become more porous and prone to fracture.”
  • It can alter your posture as well as your height – as much as six inches.
  • Osteoporosis is ultimately a product of how much peak bone mass you can accumulate by age 20 and how much of it you can keep after menopause.
  • Menopause: declining estrogen levels negatively impact bone density in three different ways; however, “K2 counteracts each of those pathological mechanisms. K2 even affects estrogen metabolism itself.”

Conditions associated with K2 deficiency:

  • osteoporosis
  • atherosclerosis
  • increased risk of cancer (breast, prostate, liver)
  • diabetes
  • varicose veins
  • wrinkles
  • dental cavities
  • Crohn’s disease
  • kidney disease
  • narrow, crowded dental arch
  • adolescence

K1 and K2 have completely different sources and completely different functions within the body.

K1′s function in the body: ”The role os K1, also known as phylloquinone, is to activate special proteins, called clotting factors, which allow the blood to form clots.” Phylloquinone is present in all photosynthetic plants: all green plants that derive energy from the sun. Chlorophyll, the pigment that imparts the green color to plants, contains essential phylloquinone.

Signs of deficiency: bruising and bleeding.

K1 Sources(in order from the highest to the lower levels):

  • kale
  • collards
  • spinach
  • turnip greens
  • beet greens
  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • parsley
  • green leaf lettuce
  • blueberries
  • celery
  • kiwifruit
  • avocado
  • most fruit, vegetables, and nuts contain some phylloquinone (K1)

K2 (menaquinone) has very little to do with blood clotting. Its job is to move calcium around the body.

Our menaquinone intake comes from two sources: diet and bacterial synthesis. However, a very small amount of K2 is made in the intestinal tract from dietary K1 by the healthy bacteria that are normally present there. However, this amount of menaquinone is not nearly enough to prevent a K2 deficiency is there are no dietary sources. Also, there is likely to be no bacterial synthesis within persons who have a history of antibiotic use or disruptions in natural gut flora.

Unlike humans, cows and goats (and other animals that are primarily herbivores) the conversion from K1 to K2 seems to happen readily.

Also, unlike K1, K2 is not recycled within the body. Humans can develop a deficiency in as little as seven days without K2 in their diet.

Signs of deficiency: dental cavities, crooked teeth requiring braces, cavities, waning bone density, and a (possibly fatal) heart attack.

K2 sources (vegan sources are in bold):

  • Natto (fermented soybeans): has the highest amount of K2 (3.5 oz: 1,103.4 micrograms)
  • goose liver (3.5 oz: 369.0 micrograms)
  • hard cheeses – Dutch Gouda (3.5 oz: 76.3 micrograms)
  • soft cheeses – French Brie (3.5 oz: 56.5 micrograms)
  • animal fat such as egg yolk – Netherlands (3.5 oz: 32.1 micrograms)
  • egg yolk – US (3.5 oz: 15.5 micrograms)
  • butter and lard of grass-fed animals (3.5 oz: 15.0 micrograms)
  • chicken liver (3.5 oz: 12.6 micrograms)
  • sauerkraut: (3.5 oz: 4.8 micrograms)
  • whole milk (3.5 oz: 1.0 micrograms)
  • skim milk (3.5 oz: 0.0 micrograms)

K2 Supplements:

Web MD’s recommend dosage as of 27 October 2008: “Numerous peer-reviewed studies have shown that vitamin K2 – given either as the synthetic form MK-4 (a short-chain version called menatetrenone) at a dosage of 45 mg/day, or as the natural form, MK-7 (a long-chain menaquinone derived from natto) at a dosage of 45 mcg/day – is a highly effective activator of osteocalcin, the Gla-containing protein integral to calcium deposition in bone. This body of research conclusively demonstrates that vitamin K2 not only lessens fracture incidence and improves bone density but also, via the carboxylation of another Gla protein (matrix Gla protein), inhibits arterial calcification.”


However, as Dr. Rheaume-Bleue asserts the following in regards to K2:

  • Researchers see a reduction in arterial calcication and cardiovascular mortality with as little as 45 micrograms of vitamin K2 daily.
  • Frequent natto eaters may be getting more than 300 micrograms of menaquinone every day.
  • An optimal dose of K2 will depend on your intake of vitamins A and D.
  • The target dose depends on the type of menaquinone you consider.
MK-4 supplements:
  • Although MK-4 is the natural form of K2 found in animal foods, this is NOT the source of K2 supplement.
  • MK-4 in supplement form is synthetic – typically made from an extract of the plant Nicotiana tabacum, or common tobacco.
  • MK-4 has a relatively short half-life (the time required for a substance to decrease its concentration in the body by half – it is a measure of how long a given substance stays in the body). MK-4 stays in circulation for only a few hours, so to maintain useful levels of synthetic MK-4, it must be taken throughout the day.
MK-7 supplements (the only K2 supplement I will buy)
  • MK-7 has a longer half-life in the body, so a single daily dose provides continual K2 protection.
  • MK-7 is extracted from a natural source: Natto. Make sure your MK-7 supplement is extracted from non-GMO soy.
  • MK-7 supplements provide higher and more stable menaquinone blood levels than MK-4 products.
Gluten-Free Facility Updates: 
Jarrow supplements state that they are GF on the product label and website; however, here is their response after I emailed them:All Jarrow products are gluten-free (with the exception of Skin Optimizer) as certified by our suppliers. However, they do not provide documentation/guarantees regarding use of other ingredients in their facilities. MK7 is derived from nonGMO soy.”

Unfortunately, I took their K2 MK-7 supplement before receiving their email and got gluten sick. I am still in the process of finding a K2 MK-7 supplement that is manufactured in a GF facility.

Other Tips:
  • Studies show that menopausal and postmenopausal women have a higher need for K2, so taking 240 or more micrograms of MK-4 is a good idea for women who are facing the big change.
  • Since menaquinone is a fat-soluble nutrient, look for a product that comes in a soft gelatin capsule or an oil-based, liquid suspension, instead of a hard capsule or tablet.
  • Taking your K2 supplement with food will boost absorption.
Antiaging Vitamin:
K2 helps delay or even reverse osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, varicose veins and wrinkles.
  • The first nutrient researchers focused on to assess the validity of the triage theory of aging was vitamin K.
  • 50% of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease, high cholesterol is merely one risk factor that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
  • A lack of vitamin K2 is the single biggest dietary factor for cardiovascular disease risk.
  • (Rotterdam Study): Men with the highest intake of K2 had a 52% lower risk of coronary artery disease, a 51% lower risk of dying of coronary artery disease, and a 26% reduced risk of total mortality.
  • Researchers determined that adequate K2 intake reduces both coronary artery calcification and the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Laboratory research also shows that vitamin K2 is the strongest inhibitor of tissue calcification that we know of, and if you aren’t getting enough, your heart health will suffer.
  • Adding menaquinone to the diet will activate MGP to reduce arterial calcium content by 50 percent over just a six-week period.
  • Osteoporosis afflicts more than half of North Americans aged 50 and older.
  • Taking K2 and D together improves bone density and reduces fracture risk more than either nutrient alone – the widely publicized benefits of vitamin D on our bones are really dependent on vitamin K2.

I will be sharing many more little nuggets as I add more from my notes to this post…


That’s all for now!

Good Night and Sleep Well!


Much Love!
Priscilla

Sources:

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7 Comments

  1. my grandpa was on blood thinners because of a bypass he had in the past….well he was also a HUGE lover of artichokes which are LOADED with vitamin K. He ate them all the time and the doc finally had to ban him from them because they were reversing the affects of his blood thinners. So even thuogh vit K is good,,, just like with all things moderation is best.

  2. Very true, but the vitamin K in green vegetables is K1, which, like you stated, effects the blood. K1 actually allows our blood to clot and also prevents easy bruising.

    K2 has a completely different function. K2 is not found in vegetables unless they are Natto (fermented soy beans) or sauerkraut – Natto contains the highest levels (over all animal foods) while sauerkraut contains very low levels of K2 (but higher than many animal foods).

    Nevertheless, K2 deposits calcium within our bones of which is why I am focusing on it while dealing with severe osteopenia caused by decades of being an undiagnosed celiac. I’ve been taking calcium supplements for the past three years, but have no K2 in my diet and/or in my supplement regimen and as research is now showing, that calcium from my supplements is most likely ending up in the arteries in my heart rather than in my bones as intended.

    The research behind the true impact behind K2 is just surfacing, and K2 is also being separated from its twin, K1. I still have much to learn, but this research has brought me much piece of mind as I readjust my game plan while reversing my bone loss.

    Much Love!
    Priscilla

  3. Thank you so much for this information, I just emailed New Chapter Vitamins to find out about their gluten free bone health vitamins, They add vitamin k2. I too, have osteopenia and it’s only getting worse. Hopefully they have a designated gluten free facility! Fingers crossed.

  4. The person commenting on their grandpa was foolish enough to not read this article because they missed the whole point.
    Anyways, I cannot even begin to thank you for sharing this information. It is incredible how differently vitamins affect us depending on their type and with what they are combined with.
    Thank you again, I was just ignorantly taking a calcium supplement today not knowing anything about K2.

  5. Thank you for posting… had been drawn to eating everything on that K2 list. lol… now i know why. and now i can justify some of my habits with my husband who is helping me on my road to recovery. Looking forward to finding a g-free supplement to add to my regime…

  6. Great info, thanks! Just started taking a K2 supplement derived from natto, organic, gluten-free. The brand is Nature’s Plus, “Source of Life Garden, Organic Gold Standard Whole Food K2 (m7)” as it states on the label. Provides 120 mcg. K2 per capsule. I take it together with vitamin D.

  7. Thank you so much for this information! Very good and thorough!

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