Nutrition & bone health

Vitamin k benefits for heart and bone health

Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD on the role of vitamins K1 and K2 in bone healthBy Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

I’m not big on trends, but I’m predicting that vitamin K will be “the new vitamin D.” We’re learning so much lately about benefits of vitamin K — and that many of us need more than we are getting. According to Dr. Cees Vermeer of the Netherlands, one of the world’s leading authorities on vitamin K, vitamin K inadequacy is the rule rather than the exception. This is especially true for the menaquinone-7 (MK-7) form of vitamin K2.

Benefits of vitamin K2: new research

Vitamin K, especially K2 as MK-7, plays an important role in keeping calcium in the bones and out of the arteries. Here’s the latest research about vitamin K and the benefits to your heart:

  • Research shows that people who consumed the most vitamin K2 have a 50% reduced risk of arterial calcification. They also exhibited a 50% reduced risk for cardiovascular events during this 10 year period.
  • High intake of natural vitamin K2, but not vitamin K1, protected from cardiovascular disease. The study reported that for every 10 mcg vitamin K2 consumed, the risk of coronary heart disease was reduced by 9%.
  • A recent animal study showed regression of warfarin-induced arterial calcification when given adequate supplemental doses of vitamin K2. References.
woman heart health

What’s the difference between vitamin K1 and K2?

Vitamin K is not a single nutrient, but the name given to a group of vitamins of similar composition. The two main groups of vitamin K that occur naturally are vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone).

Vitamin K1 and its bone benefits

This vitamin is found in many dark green leafy vegetables and K2 is produced by bacteria in fermented foods. While you probably have enough vitamin K to provide for normal blood clotting, you most likely do not consume enough vitamin K to allow for optimal bone health. For example, for optimization of the bone protein osteocalcin adults need a daily K1 intake of 1000 mcg.

Currently the average K1 intake in this country is only 75 to 125 mcg. What’s more, the absorption of vitamin K1 from vegetables is likely enhanced by the presence of dietary fat in the same meal, just as occurs with two other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins D and E. Unless you are a “greens” lover, you might find it difficult to consume 1000 mcg of vitamin K in foods.

Bone benefits of vitamin K1: The Framingham Heart Study found that those with the highest vitamin K1 intake (250 mcg/day in this study, compared to the recommended intake of about 75 mcg/day) had a threefold reduction in hip fracture risk. Even if your vitamin K1 intake is lower than 250 mcg a day, the 72,327-person Nurses’ Health Study found that those consuming a mere 109 mcg vitamin K1 a day had a lower risk of hip fracture over a ten year period than those consuming less vitamin K1

Vitamin K2 and its bone benefits

Vitamin K2 is the most biologically active form of vitamin K. It is also the most beneficial for bone health maximization. Vitamin K2, however, is produced by bacteria and is mainly found in fermented foods such as ripe cheese, yogurt and a fermented soy food known as natto. Having a very strong odor, natto is often called the “Limburger cheese” of Japan and is by far the best food source for Vitamin K2.

Bone benefits of vitamin K2: K2 as MK-7 significantly reduces bone loss during menopausal transition, which is especially important when you consider the average woman loses up to 10% of her bone mass during this time. Vitamin K2 as MK-7 not only protects bone, but it has been found to reduce the incidence of both heart disease and cancer.

kale for vitamin k

Vitamin K1 and K2: the best food sources

Foods high in vitamin K1
Kale, cooked
Collard greens, cooked
Spinach, cooked
Turnip greens, cooked
Beet greens, cooked
Mustard greens, cooked

Foods high in vitamin K2
Ripe cheese
Fermented foods

See more vitamin K content in some common foods.

Intensive daily support for bones – including vitamin K1 and K2

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Not getting enough K1 and K2 in your diet?

If you suspect your vitamin K intake is low, you can also use vitamin K1 and K2 supplements. Studies suggest that the absorption of K1 from a tablet is considerably higher than the absorption from vegetables.

First, try to determine if your intake of vitamin K1 reaches the optimum level of 1000 mcg a day. If you fall short, consider increasing consumption of foods high in vitamin K1, or discuss vitamin K1 supplementation with your health professional. Vitamin K2 supplements, particularly as MK-7, are highly absorbed and long lasting in the body.

A note of caution: Those taking medications, such as Coumadin, to thin the blood should avoid use of all supplemental vitamin K as it can reverse the effects of this medication. Also, those on this medication should consult with their physician before increasing consumption of foods high in vitamin K.

Read more about vitamin K with Dr. Brown’s blog:


Schurgers, IJ et al., Regressuib if Warffarin-induced medial elastocalcinosis by high intake of vitamin K in rats. Blood, 2007, Spr 1:109(7):2823-31.

Geleijnse, Jm et al., Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease; the Rotterdam Study. J Nutr, 2004, 134, 3100-3105.

Gast, Gc, et al., A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovas Dis, 2009, 19,504-510

Schurgers, IJ et al., Regressuib if Warffarin-induced medial elastocalcinosis by high intake of vitamin K in rats. Blood, 2007, Spr 1:109(7):2823-31.

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Original Publication Date: 01/01/2009
Last Modified: 07/17/2015
Principal Author: Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD