I recently had my mind blown reading Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life by Kate Rheaume-Bleue. The concept of the research she goes into boils down to this: much of modern disease is not just due to what we are eating but is due to what we are not eating. Yes, processed sugar and carbohydrates are making us overweight and sick. Our sedentary lifestyles don’t help much either. A bigger issue looms behind those factors.
The problem is that our where our food comes from has changed drastically. Basically all that we eat is made out of corn. This is no joke. Corn is one of the main crops subsidized by the government, meaning we put priority on growing as much as possible, and finding as many ways to put it into food that we can. This includes all processed foods, and our meat. Buy any cut of any animal from the store and you can be sure that it has been fed a steady diet of corn its whole life. While this ensures fatter animals and higher yields, it is completely ruining the nutrition of our food.
One nutrient in particular has all but disappeared from our diet. This is vitamin K2. Up until about 80 years ago with the invention of the combine harvester, K2 was in many things that we ate. Butter, meat, dairy, these were all staples in most Americans diet. The quality of these foods used to be much higher, with the animals feeding mostly on grass. When we figured out how to grow corn as cheaply as possible, we started feeding our livestock corn diets instead of their natural grass diets. The resulting food we get from grain fed animals is basically devoid of K2. Why is this important?
K2 Maintains Teeth and Skeletal Structure
Our skeletons shed calcium in order to keep up with our metabolic needs. This calcium is deposited into the bloodstream so it can go where it is needed. This can be any part of the body that needs repair, like our teeth. Cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts are responsible for breaking down and building up our bone structure. In this process osteoblasts produce what is called osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is what makes the process of calcium binding to bone work. When calcium is correctly bound to bone it makes bones much less prone to fracture (picture our teeth).
The problem is that osteocalcin is inactive in its raw form. Vitamin K2 needs to be present in order for the re-calcification process of bones to occur. This makes vitamin K2 absolutly essential in the building of strong bones and the prevention of osteoporosis and tooth decay
K2 Keeps Calcium Out of Our Blood Vessels
When we ingest K2, it activates a protein called MGP. This protein makes sure that calcium is not deposited onto the walls of our blood vessels. This allows the calcium to be available for other parts of the body, which leaves the vessels flexible and healthy.
When we do not ingest K2, the activation of the MGP protein is greatly impaired. This leaves our vessel walls open to calculation and thickening of the walls. Calcification of the blood vessels increases our risk of heart disease many times over. A study was done in which 4807 men and women over the age of 55 were assessed for all cause mortality and heart disease in relation to their intake of K2. An intake of 32 mcg a day lowered the risk for heart disease by 50% and all cause mortality by 25%.
K2 Drastically Improves Insulin Sensitivity
K2 is now being shown to be vital in maintaining insulin sensitivity. It just so happens that the same substance necessary for calcium transport, osteocalcin, is needed to properly dispose of glucose at the skeletal and adipose tissue levels. We need to be insulin sensitive so that insulin can come into the bloodstream, dispose of glucose and other fuels, and get out. When we are not sensitive to insulin our pancreas can tire over time trying to keep up with increasing demands for more and more insulin. This eventually results in type-2 diabetes.
This study on healthy young men showed that insulin sensitivity improved with intake of vitamin K2 as compared to the placebo group. K2 increases hormones that lower inflammation and increase insulin sensativity.
Where Do We Get K2?
Like I said earlier, K2 used to be in all of the animal foods we ate. If gotten from the right sources that is still the best place to get this crucial nutrient.
- Eat grass-fed butter. This is one of the cheapest ways to get K2 into your diet. Melt it over steamed or roasted veggies, have it with steak, cook with it, there is no wrong way to eat butter. Kerrygold is the classic grass-fed brand.
- Pasture raised eggs. The darker orange the yolk, the greater the K2 content.
- Pasture-raised animal liver. Goose liver has the highest amount.
- Aged gouda cheese.
- Fermented soy, like natto.
- Pasture-raised meat.
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Elliot Steele is a Primal Health Coach based in Chelan WA. He strives to empower those looking to regain their health after a lifetime of misinformed practices. This is the essence of Steele Back Your Health, to truly learn how to be healthy with sustainable habits. Check out the coaching and blog page for more info!