Monday, January 23, 2012

Vitamin K2: The Missing Link to Perfect Health

Almost a century ago, in the early part of the 20th century, a dentist named Weston A. Price performed some of the most important research in the history of nutrition and health science.  As a dentist, he was concerned about the epidemic of dental deformities, like crooked teeth and cavities, so he set out to find traditional societies all over the globe didn't suffer from such problems.  Sure enough, he found several "primitive" societies isolated from the industrialized world who, despite a complete lack of dental hygiene, had perfectly straight teeth and little to no tooth decay.  And beyond that, chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease were completely absent.  He showed that, like all other animals, humans are healthy and robust when they eat, move, and live the way they're designed.  Then, he watched as these healthy societies became civilized, adopted white flour and sugar, and their health declined. 

Traditional Swiss: ornery because they got all them teeth but no toothbrush
Modernized Swiss: even West Virginia doesn't want them

That is Weston A. Price in a nutshell, but I encourage you to read his book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" for the full story.  Although the societies Price studied ate a variety of diets, he noticed something that they all shared... all of these diets were particularly high in three fat-soluble vitamins:  A, D, and something he called "Activator X".  He determined that these three vitamins were critical and worked in synergy for tooth and bone formation, as well as general health.  After returning to America, Price applied what he had learned on his own patients.  He used a combination of high-vitamin butter oil (Activator X) and cod liver oil (A and D) to successfully prevent and reverse dental cavities in many of his patients.  Pretty amazing huh?  These three vitamins, when used in conjunction, can reverse cavities.  Fast forward to today... has anyone in the medical profession ever heard of this research?  Probably not.  To them, crooked teeth are just genetic, and the only way to fix a cavity is to get a filling.  Oh how wrong they are...

Price never identified this mystery vitamin he called "Activator X".  We've all heard of vitamins A and D, but Activator X seems to have been lost in time.  Until now, that is.  Science has now uncovered its true identity, and research is beginning to confirm what Price learned almost a century ago.  Activator X is... Vitamin K2.

As I explained in my previous post on dairy fat, vitamin K2 is not the vitamin K you've heard of... that's K1.  Vitamin K2 is a whole different animal.  Thankfully, we now have some exciting modern research touting the benefits of K2.  The research generally falls into two categories, let me know if any of this sounds familiar...

Cardiovascular Disease (heart disease and stroke)
There have been observational studies done in humans, and a few controlled, clinical trials in rats.  In humans, high dietary K2 intake is strongly associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk (1, 2, 3).  In one study, men with the highest K2 intake had a whopping 51% lower risk of heart disease and a 26% lower risk of death from all causes than men with the lowest K2 intake.  There is no such association with K1 intake.  

In rats, supplementation of vitamin K2 has been shown to prevent, and even reverse plaque buildup in the coronary arteries (4, 5).  No joke.  Reverse plaque buildup.  Read the articles, the proof is there.  Although this can't quite be extrapolated to humans, it sounds promising doesn't it?  Just imagine the headline... "Lipitor Becomes Obselete in Light of Miracle Vitamin".  All we need is someone to do the research.  And then someone to fight the ensuing big pharma backlash.  But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself...  suffice it to say, at the very least, K2 prevents plaque buildup.

Bone Development and Maintenance
Vitamin K2 is absolutely essential in infancy and childhood for proper skull development (6, 7).  Full skull development allows plenty of space for teeth to grow in straight.  In addition, your full cheekbones and straight set of pearly whites will no doubt make you more physically attractive, and let's not underestimate the importance of that (8).  This is some key information no parent should go without.  

In older adults, several clinical trials have been conducted in which post-menopausal women were given supplemental vitamin K2.  A meta-analysis of this research shows that K2 supplementation reduces bone loss and prevents osteoporosis as we age, as well as significantly reduces the risk of incident fractures (9).  Does anybody know any grandmas and grandpas out there who are taking K2?  I certainly don't.  I think it's time to change that.

The Big Picture
Let's tie these two ideas together, because they are, in fact, two sides to the same coin.  Research shows a clear connection between arterial calcification (plaque buildup) and osteoporosis (10).  The two frequently occur together, and both are rooted in the same issue:  the failure of the body to use calcium effectively.  Allow me to explain...  vitamin K2's main function in the body is to deposit calcium in appropriate locations, such as in the bones and teeth, and prevent it from depositing in locations where it does not belong, such as the coronary arteries.  Double whammy.  Just like Price said.  But K2 doesn't work in isolation; modern science also confirms Price's idea that K2 works in synergy with vitamins A and D.  We now know, for example, that A and D promote cellular production of a protein called osteocalcin, which, with the help of K2, organizes calcium and phosphorous deposition into bones and teeth.  Proper osteocalcin functioning means that your bones and teeth are making the most of the calcium you've got coming in.  Then we also have something called matrix GLA protein (MGP), which has the same relationship with A, D, and K2. This protein, however, actively prevents arterial calcification, directly fighting the process that causes cardiovascular disease.  Given these mechanisms, it should be no surprise that K2 improves the outcomes in both heart disease and osteoporosis.  Looks like Price was on to something eh?

Mother Goose, with a liver full of K2
K2 in the Diet
Okay, let's play a game.  I tell you the food sources of vitamin K2, and you tell me whether or not the average American is getting enough of it.  Ready... set... go! (11,12)
  • Goose liver
  • Grass-fed butter and cream
  • Grass-fed milk and cheese
  • Free-range egg yolks
  • Fish eggs
Okay, I think that's enough.  If you eat any of these foods on the regular, you're lying.  Nobody in America eats this stuff; although it's interesting to note that the French are particularly fond of goose liver and fine cheeses... no doubt this contributes to their low rates of heart disease, but more importantly, it could be the reason why their women are so strikingly beautiful.  But I digress... back to America.  I would venture a guess that nearly 100% of Americans need more K2; it is by far more deficient in our diets than its partners, vitamins A and D, and as you now know, it would go a long way to fighting chronic disease.  So what are you to do?

You could obviously start eating the foods listed above, that will surely help.  Get a hold of some local, pastured eggs, or some grass-fed butter like Kerrygold.  They're high in vitamins A and K2, plus they taste good.  You could also get a K2 supplement (menatetranone, or MK-4, is the one you want).  That would likely help; after all, it worked in the osteoporosis studies.  But remember, since they work in synergy, A, D, and K2 function best when they're in balance with each other...  there must be a way to get all three of them in one place.  And there is!  Remember the butter oil/cod liver oil blend I mentioned that Dr. Price used in his practice?  Well, lucky for us, Green Pasture produces that very same product today.  Sure it's a little expensive, but it's top quality and it makes getting your A, D, and K2 extremely easy.  Now you don't have to choke down goose liver.  You're welcome.

So go out and get your K2, however it is you choose to do it.  Eat goose liver, pig out on fish eggs, whatever you want to do... just do it!  You can't afford not to.  Your arteries and bones will thank you.  And you will thank them.  And you will both live a long, healthy, happy life together, just you and your arteries and bones.  And hopefully a spouse... and her arteries and bones.  And kids with perfect faces and teeth.  Maybe grandkids... okay you get the point.  Get your K2 on!


  1. That was a phenomenal post. I am going to have my father read it and convince him to order a bunch of the butter/cod liver blend.
    Also, I think I am going to break kerrygold consumption records. In the last 5 days, I've nearly finished two tubs of the stuff. I think I'm going to have to contact the company and get on the frequent buyer's list. **wishful thinking**

    check out this video below:

    1. I didn't realize you had that link in there, I just watched it, that's really cool! Never seen Dr. Price on video before