When it comes to cardiovascular health, you don't want to just focus on your heart but your entire circulatory system as well. Your circulatory system is enormous—containing approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels, arteries, and veins and is long enough to circle the Earth twice! It's what delivers nutrients and oxygen to every cell and system in your body, and removes waste. So, it's important to keep your blood vessels healthy, so they dilate as they should, and blood moves freely throughout your body.
My top recommendation for supporting healthy blood vessels is taking vitamin K2. You’re probably most familiar with K1, found in green leafy vegetables, which plays a vital role in the clotting of blood. Vitamin K2 is less abundant and somewhat harder to find, but extremely powerful. Vitamin K2 shuttles calcium into your bones where it belongs and stops calcified plaque from stacking up in your circulatory system.
But to get this powerful heart support, you want to choose the right type of vitamin K2 since there are several subtypes, including MK-4 and MK-7. The "M" stands for menaquinone and indicates how many "side chains" are attached to the main vitamin K molecule. The side chains in vitamin MK-7 are longer, making this form more active and bioavailable for promoting healthy circulation.
I've Watched the Developing Science on MK-7 and I'm Extremely Impressed
Over the last several years, I have closely followed the developing science on MK-7 and I’m excited about its unique ability to help keep excess calcium out of arterial wall tissue while at the same time promoting calcium movement into bone tissue.
It’s a double-barreled shot of healthy effects: You want calcium out of your arteries and in your bones. Animal studies demonstrate that MK-7 achieves this by effectively activating specific enzyme systems in bone and arterial tissue. Vitamin K1 doesn’t offer these benefits.
In fact, several years ago I met with two of the world’s top vitamin K experts, Drs. Cees Vermeer and Leon Schurgers, biochemists at Holland’s Maastricht University who have been researching this nutrient for 30 years. What I learned from them has confirmed my estimate of K2’s importance for promoting heart health.
In a study on whether dietary K2 could help prevent arterial calcification, Drs. Vermeer and Schurgers examined the food intake and aorta scans of 4,800 elderly Dutch men and women. The aorta is the largest artery in the body, and the condition of this artery serves as a good indicator of arterial disease.
Their investigation showed that the people who ingested the most K2 in their diets—mostly obtained from cheese—had the least calcified aortas. The higher the intake of cheese, the less cardiovascular mortality and atherosclerosis the researchers found. The Dutch are big cheese eaters. Gouda and Edam cheeses are named for the Dutch towns that originated them, and the Dutch are the world’s largest exporters of cheese. Apparently, this national tradition serves not only the Dutch economy but the heart health of the Dutch people as well.
The Dutch biochemists also suggested that the French fondness for cheese may be an unsuspected reason for the relatively low level of heart disease in France despite their notoriously high intake of fatty foods. We have long believed that the salvation of French hearts was due to copious consumption of red wine. However, K2 research indicates that there may be more to the story. In such societies as Holland and France, it looks like there are major benefits from all the cheese they eat. Who would have thought?
What’s the Best Way to Get Vitamin K2?
- Cheese: Most cheeses contain between 7.5 and 15 mcg of K2 per ounce. Dutch researchers don’t yet know why the amount of K2 varies, but they’ve found it to be true even within different lots of the same type of cheese produced at the same facility. “It’s the same variation whether the cheese is hard (like Dutch cheeses) or soft (like French cheeses),” says Dr. Vermeer. If your budget allows, go organic to avoid the typical hormones and residues present in commercial cheese. Personally, I like organic cottage cheese.
- Natto: If you compare the K2 content of cheese to that of natto, the Japanese fermented soy dish, you’ll find that natto contains the highest K2 concentration of any food: a whopping 250 mcg per ounce. So to get K2 from food, the number one source is natto. I should point out here that some readers have written in to ask if they’re getting K2 in their nattokinase supplement. The answer is no. Nattokinase is a great supplement (and it contains K1), but it’s made from only the enzyme found in natto. Nattokinase supplements do not include the K2 that is in the actual food.
- Supplements: I recommend 150 mcg daily of K2 derived from MK-7.
To me, vitamin K ranks right up there with CoQ10. Because I wouldn’t practice cardiology without CoQ10, which speaks volumes. When it comes to special missions like bone preservation, energy production, and cardiovascular health, these are two mighty nutrients you don’t want to be without.
But there is one note of caution, if you take any blood-thinning medication such as Coumadin, Heparin, or even Lovonox don’t use any supplemental form of Vitamin K or nattokinase, as it may seriously interfere with the effect of your medications.