Vitamin K2 is one of the lesser known forms of vitamin K. It helps move calcium deposits from your arteries, where they can harm your body, to your bones, where your body can use them. In the past, doctors and scientists believed that you don't need a lot of K2 in your diet, since your body can synthesize vitamin K2 from vitamin K1. However, new research suggests that you need dietary sources of preformed vitamin K2 in order to remain healthy.
How Vitamin K2 is Different from Vitamin K (or Vitamin K1)
In the past, doctors didn't realize that vitamin K2 has special benefits and functions of its own. They reasoned that since your body can produce its own vitamin K2, it isn't very important to include high levels of this vitamin in your diet. However, recent research suggests that vitamin K2 functions very different from vitamin K1, and that, while your body does produce its own vitamin K2, it doesn't produce adequate amounts. Doctors and scientists now believe that dietary sources of vitamin K2 are important.
Many foods are rich in vitamin K1. Liver, cheese, green leafy vegetables and soy beans are all good sources of vitamin K1. However, only about 10% of the vitamin K1 in your food reaches your bloodstream, and vitamin K1 remains in your body for only a few hours before being secreted. About 80% of the vitamin K in the Western diet is vitamin K1. Dietary sources of vitamin K2 are rare.
However, vitamin K2 can be just as beneficial to the body as vitamin K1, and it's difficult for your body to synthesize adequate amounts of this key vitamin. Your body is able to absorb nearly all of the vitamin K2 you eat, and it remains in your blood for many days after consumption.
Function and Benefits of Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2's biggest function is to prevent the accumulation of calcium deposits in your arteries. When calcium deposits form in your arteries, your risk of heart disease goes up. Vitamin K2 removes calcium from your blood, and moves it to the bones and teeth. Therefore, vitamin K2 is essential for strong, healthy teeth and bones, as well as a strong, healthy cardiovascular system.
Vitamin K2 is also a powerful antioxidant, and as such can prevent a range of health problems, including cancer and obesity. The antioxidants in vitamin K2 can help prevent free radical damage inside your body, to slow the signs of aging.
Sources of Vitamin K2
Recent research has overturned the old notion that humans don't need dietary sources of vitamin K2. In fact, we all need adequate levels of vitamin K2 in our diets. Fermented foods, like cheese, soy tempeh, natto (a traditional Japanese soy food) and sauerkraut are all good sources of vitamin K2. Other sources include chicken breasts and livers, ground beef, egg yolk and butter. Butter made from organic, free range milk is highest in vitamin K2.