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Vitamin D deficiency is a current epidemic in our society today affecting 90% of our world`s population. According to Vitamin D expert Michael Holick, `We estimate that vitamin D deficiency is the most common medical condition in the world (1).` It is clear that most people are not getting enough healthy sun exposure.
As a clinician, I see very serious health problems associated with long-term vitamin D3 deficiencies. Vitamin D3 deficiency will impact the development and stability of the immune system, the nervous system and the endocrine system.
Vitamin D is more Hormone than Vitamin:
Vitamin D more resembles a hormone than vitamin by function. Hormones are chemical messengers that interact with cell receptors to produce specific biological responses. Calcitriol, the active form of Vitamin D, is arguably the most powerful hormone in the body. It has the ability to activate over 1,000 genes (2) which is roughly 5-10% of the human genome.
There are vitamin D receptors throughout the central nervous system and critical regions of the brain including the hippocampus. Researchers have concluded that vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid that are involved in nerve growth, synaptic density and neurotransmitter synthesis (3).
Vitamin D3 is also shown to boost glutathione production in the neuronal cells protecting them from damage inflicted by oxidative stress. Vitamin D also helps to modulate the immune system to reduce inflammation throughout the body (4).
Vitamin D3 levels are most often understated. In the medical world, levels below 32 ng/ml are considered sufficient. However, much research has shown this level is only sufficient to prevent the development of rickets but not sufficient enough for optimal function (5). Functional medicine doctors use the following ranges for optimal vitamin D3 levels.
Vitamin K has Unique Benefits:
Vitamin K1 is necessary for blood coagulation and is produced by green leafy vegetables. The best sources include kale, spinach & collard greens. This form of vitamin K is required for the formation of anticoagulant factors protein C & S.
Vitamin K2 is necessary to convert a critical bone-building protein called osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is a necessary protein that helps maintain calcium homeostasis in bone tissue. It works with osteoblast cells to build healthy bone tissue. Inadequate K2 inhibits osteocalcin production and reduces calcium flow into bone tissue. This leads to reduced bone mass and a weakened bone matrix (6).
Vitamin K2 is found in fermented grass-fed dairy, fermented soy (natto) and some fermented veggies. Additionally, if one has leaky gut syndrome or bad microbial balance in their gut (dysbiosis) they will be unable to synthesize enough vitamin K2 (7). Most people are not are not getting adequate vitamin K2 levels due to a diet deficient in fermented foods and the above mentioned digestive challenges.
D3 and K2 are Critical for Calcium Metabolism:Vitamin D3 and K2 play an essential role in calcium uptake into skeletal bone tissue. Several studies have shown a synergistic effect of vitamin K2 and D3 (8). These studies show that this combination enhanced osteocalcin accumulation in bone cells greater than any one of these nutrients alone. This increased osteocalcin formation significantly improved bone mineral density (9).
Vitamin K and vitamin D work to increase a substance called Matrix GLA protein (MGP). This protein protects the blood vessels from calcification by congregating around the elastic fibers of the arterial lining and guarding against calcium crystal deposition (10). Some researchers believe that MGP is the most powerful inhibitor of soft tissue calcification presently known.
Cardiovascular and Joint Health:
Vitamin K and Vitamin D also play a very important role in cardiovascular and joint health. When soft tissues such as the arterioles are damaged due to oxidative stress the body responds with an inflammatory process. This process results in a deposition of calcium into the damaged tissues. This creates plaque buildup in arterioles and degenerative bone spurs in joints.
Combining vitamins D and K may provide even better protection of these systems. One study in postmenopausal women found a combination of minerals with vitamins D and K maintained healthy artery elasticity, compared to two other groups of women who received either minerals with vitamin D but not K, or placebo (11).
Animal studies have shown that vitamin K2 not only prevents arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis but actually has the potential to reverse arterial calcification by activating MGP (12). The Rotterdam study in 2004 demonstrated that people with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a 50% lower risk of death from heart disease than people with the lowest rates of K2 (13).
Vitamin K has specific receptor binding sites that allow it to regulate gene activity(14). Besides its gene-mediating effects upon critical proteins, the vitamin can also bind with the steroid and xenobiotic receptors and influence their expression (15).
In addition, vitamin K also demonstrates antioxidant activity and has a positive effect on reducing tumor cell growth (16). Research shows that K2 reduces levels of certain markers, such as acute phase reactants (e.g., C-reactive protein)(17); and participates in the induction of cancer cell apoptosis*(18).
Ratio Between Vitamin D3 and K2:
Too much vitamin D3 without the right amount of vitamin K2 has been shown to be hazardous. Vitamin D3 increases the demand for K2 as well as the potential to benefit through the bone building proteins osteocalcin and Matrix GLA protein (MGP). These proteins activate calcium channels to pull calcium into the bone and out of soft tissue structures. Be sure to consume these vitamin D3 and K2 together for optimal bone and cardiovascular health.
Organ transplants create a stress response within the body that lead to significant decreases in bone mineral density. Individuals who have had organ transplants have a 34 time greater risk for fractures. Vitamin K2 has been shown to prevent this bone loss in organ transplantees (14)
Why I Love This Vitamin D3 & K2 combination:
It is essential to maintain healthy vitamin D3 and K2 levels throughout all stages of life, from fetal development to old age. These nutrients help protect a number of important systems in the body, including healthy bones, immunity and cardiovascular function.
It is important to have the ideal ratio between these two nutrients. I no longer recommend vitamin D3 supplementation without supportive K2 supplementation with it. If these nutrients are out of proportion to each other it can cause possible health problems.
Absorption of K1 from food can be limited due to its membrane-bound nature and the individual consumer’s digestive and absorptive variability. Moreover, adequate consumption of foods high in K2 can be challenging. Therefore, dietary supplementation is an important option.
In addition, research suggests that higher levels of menaquinones are needed than were previously thought. Supplementary vitamin K can be found in three forms: synthetic K1; MK-4, which is structurally similar to K1; and natural, long-chain MK-7.
We have formulated MK-7 as Vitamk7™, a naturally derived and solvent-free vitamin K2 that has been obtained through a patent-granted biofermentation process of Bacillus subtilis natto cultures.
This product is a 2-6 month supply of Vitamin D3 and K2. If you are severely deficient (less than 30 ng/ml) than take 1 capsule per day for 2 months or as directed by your health care practicioner. If you are using for maintenance purposes than I recommend 1 capsule every 2-3 days or as directed by your health care practitioner.
“MK-7 supplements containing more than 50 mcg/d may interfere with oral anticoagulant treatment (blood thinners), whereas doses of at least 50 mcg are not likely to affect the INR value in a relevant way. (20)” Nonetheless, practitioners should closely monitor patients taking anticoagulants.*