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.


  1. This may partially explain the French Paradox - why European diets high in animal fat actually lower the risk of heart disease. As Rheaume-Bleue puts it in her book "Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox":

    The very same pate de foie gras, Camembert, egg yolks and creamy, buttery sauces that we inaccurately labeled "heart attack on a plate" liberally supply the single most important nutrient to protect heart health.

  2. The best cheeses for K2 are Brie and Gouda. It doesn't matter if the milk is from grass-fed cows as the K2 is made by the bacteria during the cheese production. So the form of K2 will be MK-7 rather than MK-4.