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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Calcium Controversy 3 - The role of the traffic cop

As discussed in my previous blogpost, calcium supplements have a tendency to get deposited in the blood vessel walls and thereby predispose to cardiovascular disease.
Now comes a saviour molecule to negate those effects. Not a new discovery. Just an old one with a new role. Would you believe it!! A VITAMIN.
Vitamin K2.

Vit K has always been known to have blood clotting properties. What wasn't well known was that it has 3 subtypes:

  • Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is found naturally in plants, especially green vegetables; K1 goes directly to the liver and helps maintain healthy blood clotting.
  • Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, is made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract; it is found in poultry and dairy products as well as animal based foods. K2 goes straight to blood vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than the liver.
  • Vitamin K3, or menadione, is a synthetic form.

Vitamin K1 exclusively participates in blood clotting. K2 on the other hand comes from a whole different set of food sources, and its biological role is to help move calcium into the proper areas in the body, such as bones and teeth. It also plays a role in removing calcium from areas where it shouldn't be, such as in arteries and soft tissues.

"K2 is really critical for keeping our bones strong and our arteries clear"

How does K2 do the job?

Vitamin K2 helps to activate vitamin K-dependent proteins responsible for healthy tissues. In bone, it activates osteocalcin, a protein required to bind calcium to the mineral matrix, thus strengthening the skeleton. In circulation, Vitamin K2 participates in carboxylation of Matrix Gla Protein (MGP), the most potent inhibitor of arterial calcification known, lowering the risk of vascular damage.


For treatment of osteoporosis, calcium supplements used to be prescribed. To enhance the absorption of these calciums, Vitamin D was supplemented. It is now a proven fact that calcium supplements can increase the incidence of cardiac events.
When we take vitamin D, our body creates more of these vitamin K2-dependent proteins, thereby increasing the demand for K2. If K2 is not supplemented, there is a definite possibility of Vit D toxicity and calcification of the arterial walls. Thus, if we opt for oral vitamin D, we need to also consume in our food or take supplemental vitamin K2.

Summarizing things. The Vitamin D acts as a gatekeeper, facilitating the entry of the traffic - read Calcium. Vitamin K2 is the traffic cop directing the traffic in the right direction.
Lots of traffic -- but no traffic cop -- means clogging, crowding and chaos everywhere!

In other words, without the help of vitamin K2, the calcium that our vitamin D so effectively lets in might be working AGAINST us-- by building up our coronary arteries rather than our bones.


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