January 30, 2012

150 Vitamin K2 Deficiency [30 January 2012]

In last week’s column I wrote that it was only recently that Vitamin K2 deficiency was recognized as widespread. Why are most North Americans deficient in this critical vitamin and why was it only recently recognized?

Only recently have we realized that K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone) are two entirely different nutrients with different physiological functions. K1 is relatively easy to obtain in leafy green vegetables and is recycled in the body, so deficiencies are rare. A deficiency of K1 results in bruising and bleeding from abnormal blood clotting, so is quickly identified. K2 is not as easily obtained, is not recycled, and deficiencies are not as obvious. A K2 deficiency results in osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and dental cavities, which are slower to develop (and usually blamed on something else).

Our gut bacteria produce some K2 for us and we convert a small amount of K1 to K2 in our liver, but we must depend on dietary sources for most of our K2 requirement. K2 is found in natto (a Japanese fermented soybean dish), goose liver, and the fat (egg yolk, butter and lard) of grass-fed animals. The highest food source of K2, natto, is a smelly disgusting food and hardly a staple in our diets. Goose liver is a rare delicacy at best. And what used to be our best source – animal fats – is now almost entirely lacking in K2 because of the diet of commercially raised animals. The animals need the chlorophyll in grass or other green food to convert K1 to K2 for us (hint: yellow animal fat/butter/yolk has more beta-carotene and likely more K2). Need I mention the advocates of the cholesterol theory who have been warning us for years to reduce animal fat for our heart health?

Another reason for K2 deficiency is increased hydrogenated fats in our diet. When oils containing K1 are hydrogenated, the K1 is transformed into DHP, an unnatural form of vitamin K which lacks the ability to regulate calcium. Another of many reasons to avoid hydrogenated fats (read labels of processed foods).

Source: Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Kate Rheaume-Bleue, Bsc. ND, John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Watch a 15minute interview with Dr. Rheaume-Bleue here.

Next week we’ll look at different K supplements and who can safely take them.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 23, 2012

149 The Rediscovery of Vitamin K2 [23 January 2012]

Vitamin K2 was first discovered 70 years ago but it is only in the last few years that its full significance is being appreciated.

In the early 1930s Danish biochemist Henrick Dam discovered a nutrient that was essential for the blood clotting process. He named it Vitamin K for “koagulation”. A decade later an American researcher Edward Doisy isolated this nutrient and identified its structure. The two researchers shared a Nobel Prize in 1943 for their discovery.

Dam and Doisy recognized two forms which they named K1 and K2, but believed them to be variations of the same nutrient with the only known function of blood clotting. It was 30 years after that, in 1975, that the K2-dependent enzyme osteocalcin was discovered. And it was another 20 years, in 1997, before researchers understood that osteocalcin was essential for deposition of calcium in bones and prevention of calcium deposits in arteries. So why haven’t we been hearing about it for the last 15 years?

The reason is that it was assumed that a K2 deficiency was rare. K1 is readily available in leafy green vegetables in sufficient amounts for clotting purposes. It was only 5 years ago, in 2007 that the extent of K2 deficiency became known. Confusion between the two forms continues, though it is now known that they are two different nutrients with entirely different functions, not just different forms of the same vitamin. Research is still coming in showing how important K2 is for our health and its role in preventing atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, dental caries, diabetes, cancer and more.

Ironically the importance of K2 and the significance of its deficiency were first written about in 1939 by dentist and nutritional researcher, Weston A. Price. He discovered that a nutrient he called “Activator X” was deficient in modernized diets, causing changes within a generation of deformed dental arches, dental caries, and other chronic diseases. From his observations we now know Price’s “X” is K2.

Source: Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Kate Rheaume-Bleue, Bsc. ND, John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Watch a 15 minute interview with Dr Rheaume-Bleue here.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 16, 2012

148 The Calcium Paradox [16 January 2012]

I’m reading a new book called “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox” by Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, 2012. The paradox is that while calcium is often deficient in our bones, leading to osteoporosis, at the same time it can be in excess in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Why won’t the calcium go where we want it and not where we don’t? The answer is a little known vitamin, K2 (see my columns #76 August 17, 2010 and #109 April 4, 2011).

Vitamin D3 helps the body to absorb calcium from our food but does not direct where it ends up – that is the role of K2. The failure of calcium alone to reverse or even slow osteoporosis is well known. Heart studies are showing conflicting results – with some indicating that calcium and D are beneficial, others that they actually increase atherosclerosis and heart attacks. The missing key here is vitamin K2.

K2 is an essential cofactor for an enzyme which activates (by a process called carboxylation) the bone protein osteocalcin. Without being activated, osteocalcin is useless – unable to pick up and carry calcium (sort of like a combine without a header). As a result the calcium is deposited on the sides of the arteries where it restricts blood flow and could ultimately lead to a heart attack, instead of being carried into the bones where it can be used to build new healthy bone tissue.

Anticoagulant (“blood thinning”) medications like Coumadin (Warfarin) work by blocking the recycling of K1, the form of K involved with blood clotting. Unfortunately they also affect K2, the form that regulates calcium. This explains why osteoporosis and atherosclerosis are common side effects of anticoagulants. People on anticoagulants are advised to avoid food sources of K1 (leafy green veggies) and all supplements of vitamin K. Fortunately low doses (up to 50mcg) of MK-7, a particular form of K2 found in the Japanese fermented soybean food natto, can reduce these side effects (by increasing carboxylation of osteocalcin) without interfering with the intended effects of the anticoagulant.

Watch an interview with Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue here.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 9, 2012

147 The Brain – Gut Connection [9 January 2012]

A neurologist trained in Russia, now practicing in the UK, has developed a program to heal the digestive tract, which has greatly benefited her patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders ranging from autism to schizophrenia. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride believes that brain dysfuction is usually connected to problems in the digestive system. She calls her program “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” (or GAPS) and has written a book titled “Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Natural Treatment for Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Depression and Schizophrenia”.

Dr. McBride became interested in nutrition when her son was diagnosed with autism. Her research resulted in her obtaining a master’s degree in human nutrition – and in the full recovery of her son who is now symptom free. In her book McBride explains how the digestive system affects many other areas of our health including the nervous system.

There are three parts to the GAPS program:
1. A special diet to support the regeneration of the enterocytes which line the digestive tract
2. Probiotics and fermented foods to establish healthy bacteria in the gut
3. Gentle detoxification

We produce important neurotransmitters in the gut, including serotonin. This may partially explain the connection between an unhealthy gut and neurological disorders. A healthy gut lining also prevents toxins, microbes and partially digested proteins from entering the bloodstream where they can trigger a wide range of health problems throughout the body including the brain. This situation, called “Leaky Gut Syndrome” would be a good topic for a future column.

You can learn more about Dr. McBride and the GAPS program at www.doctor-natasha.com and www.GAPS.me. On the latter website there is a list of practitioners trained to lead you through the program – the closest are three in Alberta.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 2, 2012

146 Many Benefits of Exercise [2 January 2012]

It’s the beginning of a new year and time to make our New Year’s resolutions. What single change will give you the biggest benefit for improving your health?

I found a video lecture that makes a good pitch for exercise. It’s called “23-1/2 Hours” by Dr Mike Evans, a physician and professor at U of Toronto. Watch it here (it’s fun and only 9 minutes).

Evans shows how exercise can help in so many different aspects of our health. Studies have shown exercise reduces:
• 47% pain & disability with arthritis of the knee
• 58% development of diabetes of those at high risk
• 30-47% symptoms of depression, depending on amount of exercise
• 41% risk of hip fractures in post menopausal women
• 23% risk of death in the large Harvard alumni study.

In a study of 50,000 people, Stephen Blair of U of South Carolina, found that low cardio-respiratory fitness was the single best predictor of death (hypertension was a close second). He also found that exercise “ameliorated much of the negative consequences of obesity” (which means being fat is not so bad if you keep fit).

An Australian study found that people who watch 6 hours of TV a day live, on average, 5 years less than those who watch none (Canadian adults average just over 4 hours). A Japanese study comparing commuting time (walking) and hypertension found that up to 10 minutes made no difference, 11-21 minutes reduced the incidence by 12%, and over 20 minutes reduced it by 29%.

So if exercise is the best medicine, what’s the dose? More is better, but the rate of return delines after 30 minutes per day (60 minutes for children). Evans ends with the challenge to limit our sitting and sleeping to 23+1/2 hours a day.

My paper route gives me an hour of walking 6 days a week, but when the alarm goes off at 6 am I can’t help but wonder if the benefits make up for losing 2 hours of sleep!

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.