Thankfully, the conversation around the importance of vitamin D for optimal immune function has been amplified in recent years. The science is conclusive: we cannot achieve optimal natural immunity without sufficient vitamin D.
Vitamin D is also vital for bone health and other systemic functions.
Vitamin D is critical for bone and mineral metabolism, and it is established that vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets and osteomalacia… Beyond musculoskeletal effects, several studies investigated the potential extra-skeletal actions of vitamin D. Cell culture and animal studies as well as observational data support the hypothesis that vitamin D is critical for a variety of common diseases including, for example, cardiovascular, autoimmune, and neurological diseases, infections, pregnancy complications and cancer… respiratory tract infections, asthma exacerbations, some pregnancy outcomes and mortality… Meta-analyses of RCTs largely report a moderate, yet significant, reduction in cancer mortality by vitamin D supplementation…1
However, what is rarely discussed is the complete codependence of vitamin D on the availability of sufficient vitamin K2-7 within our bodies.
Simply put, without vitamin K2-7 our bodies cannot metabolise vitamin D.
Sadly, doctors are prescribing vitamin D in isolation, without explaining the importance of vitamin K2-7. As many of us are deficient in vitamin K2-7, the use of vitamin D on its own can be very dangerous.
In addition, for vitamin D to be assimilated, we also need healthy levels of cholesterol.
Cholesterol needs to be present in every cell of the body, so the broad use of statin drugs is also a concern.
In This Article…
This article outlines why and how vitamin D and vitamin K are so important at a systemic level, explaining the outcomes of deficiencies in one or both of these vitally important nutrients.
In addition, the key benefits of vitamin D and vitamin K are delineated, alongside the best ways of obtaining optimal levels of both.
Vitamin D & Vitamin K Deficiencies
Vitamin D requires vitamin K2 for proper assimilation. A deficiency in vitamin K, more specifically vitamin K2-7, will result in many potential harms.
Vitamin D & vitamin K2-7 are fat soluble, which means that they are stored in body fat and can bioaccumulate to dangerous levels. This is especially true of vitamin D, when there is insufficient vitamin K2 to counter the negative effects.
A deficiency in vitamin K2 when taking vitamin D supplements will likely result in a build-up of excessive calcium in the body, known as hypercalcaemia. This will weaken bones and teeth, and will damage the kidneys, arteries and heart.
Supplementing with vitamin D in the absence of vitamin K2-7, or over supplementing with vitamin D over time, can also cause the following:
- Immune dysregulation
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Blood pressure dysregulation
- Digestive issues: constipation + nausea + diarrhoea
- Muscle, bone & joint pain
- Muscle weakness
- Increased thirst / dry mouth
- Increased urination
- Brain fog
Vitamin K Deficiencies
Vitamin K uptake occurs in the liver. After absorbing all the vitamin K it needs, the liver releases any excess vitamin K into the extra-hepatic tissue. This simply means that surplus vitamin K is released to the rest of the body beyond the liver.
It’s in the extra-hepatic tissue where vitamin K deficiencies usually occur, leading to bone, artery and cartilage deficiencies. It can also result in high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, a deficiency in vitamin K can also lead to kidney and lung damage, diabetes, stroke, cancer and osteoporosis.
There are vitamin K receptors in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are in every cell of our body, with few exceptions.
Mitochondria are organelles which produce the energy for our body. The fact that vitamin K receptors exist within the mitochondria, means that it is fundamentally important to the overall function of our bodies. Deficiencies in vitamin K may, therefore, lead to chronic fatigue and exhaustion.
Vitamin K1 & Vitamin K2
Vitamin K1 and vitamin K2, (including K2-4 and K2-7), are used for different purposes in the body.
Vitamin K1 is a lot more abundant in our diet than vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 can be converted from the more readily available stores of vitamin K1, however, it’s believed this process doesn’t significantly contribute to our Vitamin K2 stores, as it is excreted out of the body.
The conversion from vitamin K1 to vitamin K2 occurs in the colon, using Escherichia coli bacteria. For this to happen, there needs to be a good amount of Escherichia coli bacteria within the gut.
As a lot of us suffer from diminished gut bacteria, owing to the use of antibiotics, the chlorine in our water and suboptimal dietary habits, etc, conversion rates are often poor.
Two forms of vitamin K can be found in supplements: vitamin K2-4 and vitamin K2-7, also known as MK-4 and MK-7.
Vitamin K2-4 is a lot less beneficial than vitamin K2-7, as K2-4 is lost within a matter of hours, whereas K2-7 can be stored for three days.
Vitamin D Deficiencies
Vitamin D is required for the proper systemic function of our bodies. It is needed for the following:
- Absorption & regulation of minerals including: calcium, magnesium & phosphate
- Cellular renewal
- Bone & dental health
- Immune function
- Growth & development in children
- Cognitive function / brain health
- Nerve health
- Emotional health
- Digestive health
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Healthy energy levels
Vitamin D is mainly made in the body through sun exposure. Small amounts can be obtained through food sources, such as mushrooms, fish oil, egg yolks, and organ meats, etc.
Seaweed maybe the only excerption, as it may deliver a sufficient daily dose of vitamin D.
Brown seaweed is the only vegetable source of vitamin D, magnesium & calcium. Magnesium, as well as vitamin K2 is required for vitamin D assimilation.
Seaweed contains vitamin D, magnesium and calcium in ionic form, which means that they are optimally bio-available.
One study has analysed the vitamin D3 content of seaweeds, with the following findings:
100 g of dry weight Fucus spiralis contains 0.83 mg of vitamin D
100 g of dry weight Porphyra spp.contains 26 1.05 mg of vitamin D
This equates to 41.5 μg (415% of RNI) and 63.5 μg (635% of RNI) in a 5-g dried portion of Fucus spiralis and Porphyra spp, respectively. Further characterization studies are required to corroborate these findings, which suggest seaweed is a valuable dietary source of vitamin D.5
RNI = Reference Nutrient Intake values for protein, vitamins and minerals. These are set for each age and gender, at a level of intake considered likely to be sufficient to meet the requirements of 97.5% of the population.
It’s estimated that as many as 90% of us are deficient in vitamin D. The reasons for this are mainly due to dietary deficiencies in vitamin K2-7, and an unwillingness to go out in the sun due to perceived cancer risks and accelerated ageing.
An unhealthy reliance on sun creams, in the hopes of avoiding cancer, has also contributed to this statistic, even though sun creams are ironically known to be the leading cause of skin cancer. Learn more in Why Do We Need Sunlight?
From April to October people on the same latitude as the UK can obtain sufficient Vitamin D from the sun.
- White people need 15 minutes of full exposure, especially to parts of the body that rarely see daylight
- Black people need 8 hours sun exposure on the same basis.
We cannot absorb the suns rays through clothing. The skin must be directly exposed to the sun. We also cannot receive the benefits of the sun through glass, but we gain 60% of the benefit when bathing outdoors.
From November through to April the sun is too low in the sky in the UK for us to make vitamin D.
It is possible for us to store some vitamin D, but this will run out long before the sun is high enough in the sky for us to make some more.
As vitamin D is vitally important for immune function, there’s a direct correlation between the winter months and increased sickness and mortality. This is why we have traditionally used immune boosting herbs and spices within our winter meals, as these confer immune-boosting benefits.
These include cinnamon, clove, oregano, thyme and rosemary. The essential oils of these plants can be found in Thieves Oil 2020, which, unsurprisingly, is one of the most popular Wild As The Wind products in winter months.
Vitamin D is necessary for calcium uptake. Without enough vitamin D our bones and teeth will be compromised. As vitamin K2 is required for calcium allocation in the body, vitamin D and vitamin K2 are heavily interdependent. A deficiency in either vitamin D or K2 will lead to calcium issues. More on this later…
The liver and kidneys are both needed to convert vitamin D into its active form in the body. This means that poor liver and kidney function will diminish vitamin D levels.
Differences Between Vitamin K1 & Vitamin K2
It is important to avoid confusing vitamin K2 with vitamin K1. This is because vitamin K2 is the only version of vitamin K that enables the proper absorption of vitamin D.
However, there is some cross-over where the K vitamins are concerned.
For example, both of the K vitamins are vital for bone density. This is because they support the absorption of calcium into the bones.
Vitamin D is specifically reliant on vitamin K2-7 for absorption into the body.
Sadly, vitamin K2-7 is often deficient within our diets. This is especially true for vegetarians and vegans, unless they have discovered the many benefits of Natto, a fermented soybean product.
However, even those of us who consume a more diverse range of foods are often deficient in vitamin K2-7. This is because vitamin K2-7 is chiefly found in foods that are presently unfashionable, such as organ meats, (specifically liver), hard cheeses, egg yolks and animal fats, including butter.
Vitamin K For Bone Density
Calcium is incorporated into the protein matrix of the bone by something known as activated osteocalcin. Simply put, osteocalcin is a calcium binding protein, which is activated by vitamin K.
Osteocalcin can only incorporate calcium into the bone in its activated state. This means that insufficient vitamin K in the diet leads to poor bone density.
Vitamin K2 is much more efficient than vitamin K1 at activating osteocalcin levels. In fact, Japanese studies show that poor bone density can be reduced by increasing vitamin K2 consumption.
Vitamin K2 is produced via a process of fermentation, which make Natto and hard cheeses a good source. However, animal fat, including butter, and organ meats, especially liver, are also great sources of vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 To Avoid Calcification
Vitamin K2 also prevents the calcification of the soft tissues in the body, which may lead to kidney stones and other issues. Vitamin K2 is especially important in terms of arterial health as it activates matrix GLA protein, which is a major inhibitor of arterial calcification.
Arterial calcification is also known as hardening of the arteries. This condition can lead to heart and kidney disease etc.
A quick search for the causes of arterial calcification on Google will implicate other diseases in the formation of calcified arteries. Sadly, however, you will be hard pushed to find any mention of the underlying issue, i.e. of vitamin K2 deficiency.
Worse still, you will find statements, such as this one from The British Heart Foundation, at the top of Google results:
The calcium deposits in your arteries are not related to your diet or any supplements you may be taking. They occur because the cells in your blood vessels are not working as they should. They can be a sign of heart disease, or simply of getting older.
This is patently untrue.
Only when I searched for arterial calcification prevention vitamin k2 science did the results provide the following insights from the British Medical Journal:
Increased vitamin K2 intake may reduce arterial stiffness, slow progression of vascular and valvular calcification, lower the incidence of diabetes and coronary artery disease, and decrease cardiovascular mortality.2
And this, from the National Institute of Health:
Vitamin K2, specifically MK-7, [vitamin K2-7 is also known as MK-7], activates special proteins, allowing the body to properly utilize calcium. Two of these proteins are osteocalcin (OC) and MGP [matrix GLA protein]. The former attracts calcium to where it is needed most, namely into bones and teeth; the latter keeps calcium away from where it is not needed, namely soft tissues.
And this, from the same source:
Optimal Vitamin K2 intake is crucial to avoid the calcium plaque build-up of atherosclerosis, thus keeping the risk and rate of calcification as low as possible. Matrix GLA protein (MGP) — found in the tissues of the heart, kidneys, and lungs — plays a dominant role in vascular calcium metabolism. Its production is stimulated by Vitamin D3, but it requires adequate Vitamin K2 intakes to be activated (similar to the bone-building protein osteocalcin). Once activated by Vitamin K2, MGP can bind calcium and escort it out of the areas where this mineral is destructive, namely arteries and soft tissues. No other productive mechanism for maintaining flexible blood vessels walls has been discovered, which makes MGP the only known and most potent existing inhibitor of cardiovascular calcification. That is why Vitamin K2 is crucial as a cardiovascular health nutrient.
The science is conclusive! So why is the British Heart Foundation spreading misinformation?
And why, only when I specifically search for vitamin K2 in conjunction with arterial calcification, do I find the correct information in Google?
Your guess is as good as mine!
This, of course, means that, unless you know the importance of vitamin K2 in relation to soft tissue calcification, and you search for the two together, will you ever find the right answers.
And, worse still, unless you know the connection between the two, you will be told that your diet has nothing to do with your condition, which will completely throw you off the scent for tracking down the truth, right from the outset.
*Please note, there is a European study4 which states that people with no prior coronary artery disease do not significantly benefit from taking vitamin K2-7, but also illustrates that those with known coronary disease benefitted significantly, which may have been interpreted by the British Heart Foundation to mean that diet is not important:
Patients with no prior coronary disease randomized to vitamin K2 supplementation had a non-significant reduction in CAC [coronary artery calcium] development over a 2-year follow-up period. High-risk patients with CAC ≥400 AU had a significantly lower progression of CAC. Additionally, vitamin K2 supplementation significantly reduced the risk of AMI, [heart attack / myocardial infarction], revascularization, [the need to surgically restore blood flow] and all-cause death.
Vitamin K For Blood Clotting
Vitamin K1 is necessary for blood clotting.
More specifically, vitamin K1 is needed in the liver to create the clotting cascade within the body. This means that when we are wounded we don’t bleed to death.
(The K in vitamin K comes from the German word coagulation.) The main source of vitamin K1 is from green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, Swiss chard and kale.
However, it is important to cook things like Swiss chard, spinach and beet greens really well. This is because they contain high amounts of oxalates, aka oxalic acid.
Oxalates promote the production of kidney stones, and are also known as anti-nutrients. An anti-nutrient is something that leaches vital nutrients, such as minerals, from the body.
Thoroughly cooking leafy greens that are high in oxaltes removes about 60% of the oxalic acid.
Kale and bok choy are nutrient-rich greens, containing a good amount of minerals, which have much lower amounts of oxalic acid:
Kale contains 2 mg of oxalates per cup, and bok choy contains 1 mg of oxalates per cup.
Conversely, Swiss chard is absolutely loaded with oxalates. A single cup of white stalk Swiss chard, even after steaming / cooking, has about 1g of oxalate, and a cup of steamed red stemmed Swiss chard has over 1.8 g of oxalic acid.
Steamed spinach contains c. 1.4 g of oxalates per cup.
1g = 1,000 mg
*Nuts and chocolate are also high in oxalic acid.
Vitamin K2 For Brain Health
Vitamin K2 also catalyses an enzyme that produces sulfatides in the brain. Reduced sulfatides have been associated with brain ageing and cerebral deterioration in the form of dementia and Alzheimer’s etc.
Vitamin K2 Additional Benefits
Studies show that vitamin K2 in our diet also:
- Greatly reduces prostate cancer in men
- Reduces varicose veins in men and women
- Reduces skin ageing
- Supports growth in children
- Supports immune function
Resolving The Vitamin K2 & Vitamin D3 Issue
One of the best ways of resolving Vitamin K2 deficiencies is to eat less processed carbohydrates and replace them with healthy fats.
Eating a variety of foods that are high in short, medium and long-chain fatty acids is vital for health.
For example, organic butter contains 14.5mcg of K2 per 100g serving as well as vitamins A and D. However, we need around 50mgs of vitamin K2 per day, which would require us to eat over a block of butter per day!
*Butter contains very little calcium.
Liver pate is one of the best ways of obtaining sufficient vitamin K2 in our diet
Cheese is another fatty food containing vitamin K2, but it’s full of calcium, which isn’t ideal. The more calcium we consume, the more vitamin D and vitamin K we need to process it.
*Calcium from dairy products actually robs calcium from the bones in order for it to be processed.
Vitamin D is easy to fix in the summertime, but impossibly hard in the winter. I take a Biocare vitamin D supplement with K2-7, which comes in a 15 Ml bottle with pipette. The supplement is in oil form, with a recommended dosage of 6 drops per day.
There are many other vitamin D supplements available, some in oil form, others in pill form. However, very few of these contain the all important vitamin K2-7. Biocare are a good supplement brand, and I trust them. Seeing as their vitamin D supplement contains vitamin K2-7, this is all I need to know about how good it is.
The vitamin D is also in the form of vitamin D3, which means that it’s from a natural source and not synthetic. I don’t advise anyone to take synthetic supplements.
However, vitamin D3 is from animal sources, so it isn’t suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
We Also Need Magnesium For Vitamin D3 Absorption
Most of us are deficient in Magnesium, but this trace mineral is vitally important for all of the major functions of the body.
Magnesium is also vitally important for Vitamin D3 absorption as well as Vitamin K2-7 assimilation.
Learn more about the importance of Magnesium in Sleep Issues & The Mineral Connection.
1. Vitamin D testing and treatment: a narrative review of current evidence: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6365669/
2. Vitamin K2—a neglected player in cardiovascular health: a narrative review: https://openheart.bmj.com/content/8/2/e001715
3. National Instutue Of Health (US) research entitled: Highlighting The Substantial Body Of Evidence Confirming The Importance Of Vitamin K2 As A Cardio-Support Nutrient, And How The Right K2 Makes All The Difference
4. The effect of vitamin K2 supplementation on coronary artery disease in a randomized multicenter trial: https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/43/Supplement_2/ehac544.1227/6745061
As this information is so difficult to find online, and because it is so vitally important for the health of us all, especially as we move into winter, please consider sharing this article with friends and loved ones. Thank you.
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