Getting enough vitamin K2 is essential, but unfortunately most Americans do not have a steady source of it in their diet.
K2 can be made by some gut bacteria, but otherwise is only found in foods like natto - a fermented soybean product consumed widely in Japan.
If you’re not eating natto, and your gut bacteria are out of whack, you likely have suboptimal K2 levels and could benefit from supplementation. K2 benefits are experienced in proportion to the supplement dose, benefits start at 100mcg per day and start to max out at about 320mcg per day.
While a number of brands carry K2 supplements, I use Megaquinone K2-7, which provides 320ug of K2 per dose as well as some other micronutrients important to bone health. This maximizes K2 benefits across the entire body.
For those taking blood thinners, Megaquinone is not appropriate as it contains a little bit of K1 (involved in blood clotting), and, instead, you may be interested in Myomax - a K2 supplement that does not contain K1. Myomax is the next best option to get K2 support - but you still need to have your INR monitored by your doctor if you’re taking a blood thinner.
So let's talk about some of these new uses of vitamin K2 when it comes to energy production in the body.
Vitamin K2 and Energy Metabolism Benefits:
K2 acts as an electron carrier. As we age, body production of coenzyme Q10 declines, yet K2 status is determined by intake (1).
Oxidative stress is mopped up by electron carriers like K2. Oxidative stress is a buzzword but I don't think that many people really appreciate what "oxidative stress" and "antioxidants" really mean.
Think of oxidative stress as a fancy way of saying that there are little ricocheting bullets of electrons flying around your body. Failing to mop up this oxidative stress is a central tenet of understanding how we age (2).
You can deal with oxidative stress in two ways:
1.) Poduce less electrons in the mitochondria when turning food into energy
2.) when free electrons are produced, grab them more efficiently - leaving less available to contribute to aging.
As K2 acts as an electron carrier it offers benefits for both.
K2’s ability to act as an electron carrier may be helpful in debilitating conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Guerig’s disease) (3).
Individuals with Parkinson’s disease often carry a mutated form of a gene called pink1 that affects mitochondrial function. In a landmark study published in Science, researchers found that K2 supplementation could rescue mitochondrial function in those carrying the mutation - restoring proper energy creation (4).
The study suggests that even if you do not carry that specific mutation - it proved that K2 possesses meaningful electron carrier functions in the body.
Other mutations, as well as exposures to environmental toxins, metals, and pesticides can also invoke damage to your mitochondria.
Add in some alcohol intake, any medications you might be taking, that scoop of ice cream, etc, and it is easy to see the importance of protecting your mitochondria.
Normally, we think of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 or Ubiquinol) as providing some of these functions. Vitamin K2 may also be able to offer mitochondrial protection.
When it comes to the dietary and environmental factors that can damage your mitochondria, a number of genes can affect your ability to clear your body of these exposures, as well as how well you produce CoQ10 in the body.
As I mentioned above, you ability to produce CoQ10 tends to fall as you age. On the other hand, K2 status is always dependent on intake and something you can control with supplementation independent of age.
To protect myself from these exposures and factors that I cannot control, I personally supplement with vitamin K2 (320mcg) daily along with a high dose of CoQ10 (500mg, while 100-300mg may be suitable for you).
Energy Efficiency as an Anti-Aging Strategy
Vitamin K2 works as an electron carrier independently from CoQ10 to protect you from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a normal byproduct of any metabolism - even if you're eating healthy foods.
When you consume excess calories, your body can become inefficient at processing them into energy. This creates an energy imbalance (more calories coming in that the body can process)- which results in more (and unnecessary) oxidative stress.
Vitamin K2 improves your mitochondrial efficiency, helps you extract energy from food more efficiently, and reduces the aging effects of oxidative stress.
A 2015 report published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism discussed a correlation between Vitamin K status and metabolic syndrome. Those with higher levels of vitamin K2 (but not K1) had reduced waist circumference and triglycerides, (5). The mechanisms of action are still being figured out.
This is why I regard vitamin K2 as a powerful anti-aging supplement. Vitamin K has uses for bone and cardiovascular health too - important factors of aging on their own.
Vitamin K2 and Cancer Development
Any time you talk about the efficiency of energy metabolism (how well we turn food into energy and mop up oxidative stress), the topic of cancer comes up.
Cancer is, in part, the body’s response to energy excess as well as to the chronic inflammatory insult from oxidative stress.
A cancer cell irreversibly changes the way it metabolizes energy. This could arguably be viewed as a "last resort" protective mechanism against chronic inflammation and oxidative load.
One general method of protecting yourself against cancer is to maintain and promote healthy energy efficiency.
You can support efficient energy metabolism by controlling your calorie intake with strategies like intermittent fasting and not bingeing on ice cream or alcohol. It can also mean optimizing your energy metabolism with supplements like K2 so that energy inefficiencies are less likely to develop in the first place.
K2 helps promote normal cell development and may actually help trigger the death of cancer cells including cancer types such as bladder, leukemia, lung, ovarian, prostate, myeloma, bile ducts, colon, stomach, and liver (6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11).
These benefits as an electron carrier may be the missing link in understanding it's benefits for energy production, energy efficiency, and antioxidant potential.