Vitamin K2’s growing awareness for immune, bone, and cardiovascular health

By Emily Jarecki

- Last updated on GMT

© andriano_cz / Getty Images
© andriano_cz / Getty Images

Related tags: Vitamin k2

NattoPharma’s sales of vitamin K2 increased by over 60% in the last year, with combination formulas featuring vitamins K2 and D3 the strongest, says the vitamin K2 supplier.

“We attribute that lift to COVID,”​ Elise Kaiser, Vice President of Sales, Americas, NattoPharma, told NutraIngredients-USA.

As reported previously by NutraIngredients-USA, a study from Denmark indicated that a low vitamin K2 status was associated with a higher COVID-19 mortality risk.

Eric Anderson, Senior Vice President of New Business Development at NattoPharma, added:  “With COVID, [vitamin] D3 saw a strong lift due to its immune-support benefits, but it also shone a light on the fact that D3 formulations are most effective when they are paired with K2, as they are synergistic ingredients. 

“So even though K2 is not known as an immune-support ingredient, it is an essential complementary nutrient for formulations utilizing D3 for immune support.” 

Mia Syn, MS, RDN also told us that considering heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US for men and women, vitamin K2 supplementation is beneficial because it reduces arterial stiffness and slows the progression of calcification.

Vitamin K2

There are two main forms of vitamin K: phylloquinone, also known as phytonadione, (vitamin K1) which is found in green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli and spinach, and makes up about 90% of the vitamin K in a typical Western diet; and menaquinones (vitamins K2), which make up about 10% of Western vitamin K consumption and can be synthesized in the gut by microflora.

Menaquinones (MK-n: with the n determined by the number of prenyl side chains) can also be found in the diet; MK-4 can be found in animal meat, MK-7, MK-8, and MK-9 are found in fermented food products like cheese, and natto is a rich source of MK-7.

The potential health benefits of the vitamin include cardiovascular​ and bone health​, with data also supporting a role in prostate health​ and cognitive benefits​.

The wider benefits of vitamin K were also highlighted in a 2009 study by Joyce McCann, PhD, and Bruce Ames, PhD, from Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute​.

According to Syn, it is estimated that most people don’t meet the dietary recommended intakes for vitamin K2 mostly because vitamin K2 is insufficiently present in Western diets.

Growing Consumer Awareness

Despite vitamin K2’s incredible growth over the past year, its awareness has actually been steadily increasing over the last couple of years, according to NattoPharma.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of citations of vitamin K in PubMed, and this can be linked to researchers seeing increased benefits in vitamin K2. We have also seen a significant increase in the number of Google searchers worldwide over the last few years – potentially indicating growing practitioner and consumer awareness,”​ said Kaiser.

Despite a growing awareness, the healthcare practitioner interest in vitamin K2 is still minimal compared to interest with vitamin D or omega-3s. Therefore, vitamin K2 suppliers like NattoPharma have been actively taking steps to grow consumer awareness around vitamin K2 benefits.

“NattoPharma has also been driving the effort to get a K2-specific recommended daily intake (RDI) established, which is a necessary step for correcting the state of K2 deficiency. Our research partners have published four papers since 2019 (with more in process) to call attention to the specific health benefits of K2 over K1, solidifying the argument that K2 requires its own RDI,” ​said Kaiser.

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