Calcium is one of the most important elements required for our bodies to maintain healthy bones. Healthcare professionals have long advised us to regularly supplement our bodies with calcium to maintain healthy levels of this essential element.
However, what’s good for our bones can be bad for our hearts. A 2016 study by the reputed John Hopkins University makes a connection between calcium supplementation and atherosclerosis. The study observed that in around 22% of supplement users there was an increased likelihood of calcium build-up in their arteries, indicating the development of heart disease.1
There may be a nutrient that allows us to reap the bone-building benefits of calcium without taking on its heart-health risks. This lesser-known vitamin may be able to guide calcium to where it’s needed most and block it from where it’s unwanted.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for calcium is 1000 mg/day for most adults, and it can be easily obtained from food and natural sources.2 But, healthcare professionals still recommend that we supplement with calcium because of the inadequate transport of calcium to the bones. This is one reason calcium supplements are the most abundantly available supplements in the market.
Coronary Artery Calcification is a cardiovascular condition observed when too much calcium gets channeled into our arteries and heart, rather than to our bones. This eventually leads to stiffening of arteries and decreased blood flow to the heart. So, even though you might think that calcium supplementation is the answer to better bone health, your arteries might be accumulating calcium, posing a threat for your cardiovascular health.
The answer to this problem lies in a lesser-known essential nutrient that can direct calcium to your bones and prevent it from being deposited in your arteries - Vitamin K2 MK-7.
Vitamin K2 is a category of fat-soluble vitamin K that has been gaining momentum in the research industry. Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone, is further subdivided into short-chain and long-chain menaquinones. One such long-chain menaquinone is MK-7.
Numerous studies suggest that Vitamin K2 MK-7 plays an important role in maintaining and improving bone mineral density by directing calcium to the bones.3-5 Vitamin K2 MK-7 does this by activating osteocalcin, a protein formed in our bones that helps take calcium from the blood and bind it to the bone matrix. Upon activation, osteocalcin influences bone mineralization, thus making the bone stronger and less prone to fractures. In short, Vitamin K2 MK-7 acts as the factor for directing calcium to where it belongs (bones) and away from areas where it can do damage, such as blood vessels.3
According to a clinical study published in Osteoporosis International, supplementation of Vitamin K2 MK-7 to healthy postmenopausal women led to the successful prevention of age-related decline in bone mineral content and bone mineral density at the lumbar spine and femoral neck.6
Vitamin K2 MK-7 is usually formed by the gut bacteria from Vitamin K1, but the amount of Vitamin K2 MK-7 produced by the gut is far less than the effective amount needed for it to exhibit its functions. Cheese is one of the common external sources of Vitamin K2 MK-7, but it provides a minimal amount of Vitamin K2 MK-7.
Natto, a Japanese food product made from fermented soybean, is a major source of Vitamin K2 MK-7. But the taste of natto is not for everyone, plus it is not easily available in U.S. markets. All these considerations led to the recent availability of Vitamin K2 MK-7 supplements on the market. In line with these findings, a study published in 2006 in The Journal of Nutrition also supports the role of natto in the prevention of postmenopausal bone loss in osteoporotic Japanese women through the effects of menaquinone-7.7 Thus, the intake of natto or Vitamin K2 MK-7 can also be considered as a preventive measure to avoid osteoporosis in the later stages of life. Another important role of Vitamin K2 MK-7 is the protection of heart health from arterial calcification. Not only does it effectively direct calcium to the bones, but it also activates matrix-Gla proteins, which inhibit the deposits of calcium on the walls, thus lowering the risk of vascular damage. In fact, according to a study published in Thrombosis and haemostasis, supplementation with Vitamin K2 MK-7 improved arterial stiffness in women, indicating Vitamin K2 MK-7 is effective in promoting heart health.8 Similarly, another study published in the reputed Atherosclerosis journal specifies the role of high dietary intake of Vitamin K2 MK-7 in reducing coronary calcification.9
It is very important that we keep a check on our calcium levels; however, it is also important to make sure the calcium we intake is reaching the right destination in the body. The internal mechanism of Vitamin K2 MK-7 in managing calcium will prove to be beneficial in the long run for both our bone and cardiovascular health.