What is Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, along with vitamins A, D, and E. Vitamin K’s main claim to fame is coagulation homeostasis and calcium homeostasis. The letter “K” is used because it is derived from the K in the Germanic word Koagulation, meaning the ability to clot blood or prevent hemorrhage.
In the early 20th century, a dentist named Weston Price discovered a mystery nutrient called “Activator X” that was high in butter from cows feeding on fasting growing spring grass. He believed it played a major role in dental health, reproduction, heart disease prevention, and brain health. This mystery nutrient would later be vitamin K2.
What is the Difference Between Vitamin K1 and Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K1 comes from plants, whereas vitamin K2 comes from meat, pastured eggs, cheese, and fermented soy.
What is the Difference Between Vitamin K2 MK-4 and MK-7?
In just the past few years, vitamin K2 has been studied more extensively, with links to osteoporosis, vascular calcification, osteoarthritis, cancer, and cognition.
You will see debates on which K2 form is better, and I think it is better to think of the different forms of K2 forming a synergistic effect on different bodily systems.
MK-4 is found in pastured eggs, grass-fed butter, meat, and numerous cheeses. MK-4 targets sex hormones, the brain, possesses anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activity, and also supports bone health. MK-4 also seems to work at a low-dose level like in food, with a recent 2019 study showing no difference between a 5mg and 45mg dose.
MK-7 is found in natto, certain cheeses, and goose liver. It considered better for reducing arterial calcification, increasing bone density, anti-cancer, improves salivary buffering (minimizes the de-mineralization of enamel and enhances its re-mineralization), and increasing cardiac output (12% increase) in athletes. High volume endurance athletes exercising more than 2,000 minutes per week have also been found to be more prone to arterial calcification, however, they also had more benign plaque.
MK-7 is typically only talked about in regards to natto, a fermented soybean dish mainly consumed in eastern Japan. Any supplements that contain MK-7 will reference the bacteria used to make natto. It always seemed strange that the bacteria that produce MK-7 would be isolated to a small region of the world when MK-7 appears to extremely beneficial for the population at large. As you will see below, MK-7 is not limited to natto.
Is Vitamin K2 Behind the French Paradox?
One interesting note here regarding arterial calcification is the “French Paradox,” and trying to understand how French people have one of the lowest rates of heart disease and one of the diets highest in fat. If you look at the higher intake of foie gras and French cheeses, you also see a higher intake of vitamin K2 MK-7. While this is only one piece of the puzzle, it is a fairly interesting one.
The Best Vitamin K2 Sources of MK-7
Natto by far contains the highest amount of MK-7, containing 775mcg per 100 grams. According to this study, it is found in many kinds of cheese from Greece (feta), Italy (gorgonzola), France (münster), and England (cheddar) due to the bacteria used. Brie is usually the main cheese that is always talked about with vitamin K2, but it only contains MK-4. There is also MK-5, MK-6, MK-8, MK-9, and MK-10, which we know very little about yet. This study alone prompted me to start buying Münster cheese.
As you can see here, the best cheeses for vitamin K2 MK-7 include:
- Gamalost (this is one of the world’s oldest cheeses produced in Norway, and has been called “Viking Viagra“)
One cheese that isn’t mentioned is Jarlsburg from Norway. Jarlsburg does not appear to have any clear, studied amounts of K2 MK-7 in published research, but 72mcg per 100grams is an amount that seems to be an estimation.
From the same study, researchers also provide a chart on gouda.
How Much Vitamin K2 MK-4 and MK-7 Should You Take?
Vitamin K2 is so new to the scene that there still hasn’t been an established recommend amount per day. Like many nutrients, there is likely a genetic connection to requirements, medication-induced deficiency like Statin drugs and antibiotics, and health issues or athletes that may require higher amounts of K2.
What is the Best Vitamin K2 Supplement?
What if you don’t want to eat natto, you are dairy intolerant or you are vegan? Then you should look for a bioidentical vitamin K2 that contains both MK-4 and MK-7.
The synthetic vs. natural supplement argument should really be phrased more towards bioidentical vs non-bioidentical because MK-7 claiming to be natural is synthesized from bacterial fermentation used to make natto, not natto itself. All MK-4 is a bioidentical molecule, while MK-7 can be found as both bioidentical (trans) and non-bioidentical (cis). From the literature I’ve seen, both MK-4 and MK-7 have a very low toxicity profile even at high doses, and I’m not aware of research showing it clears unharmful clots.
My recommendation is to choose a product that includes MK-4 and bioidentical MK-7 like Innovix Labs Full Spectrum Vitamin K2.
This article encouraged me to go down the magical road of homemade cheesemaking. I love being able to make fermented drinks, sourdough bread and cheeses that you can’t buy in stores, and there are many cheeses that are not being made the way they use to for all the health benefits. If you want to make your own K2-rich cheese at home from raw milk, I high recommend the book The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses.