5 Unusual Health Benefits of Vitamin K
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5 Unusual Health Benefits of Vitamin K

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June 30, 2013
By ANNA LEE, Contributing Columnist

The more we learn about Vitamin K, the more remarkable it seems.  Vitamin K has historically been lost among the grander stories of the better-known vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A and more recently Vitamin D.  Vitamin K is sort of like the little baby brother in a very large family who is easily overlooked because he's shorter and quieter than the rest.  If one day the family discovered that the quiet, overlooked baby brother could speak 5 languages and fly unaided , then you'd come close to understanding the type of growing astonishment among scientists as they uncover the rather remarkable hidden potential of the heretofore "quiet" vitamin K.

What Is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K    is not actually a single vitamin. Rather, Vitamin K is a group of nutrients with various functions.  The best known function of Vitamin K is critical -it keeps you from bleeding to death.  The form of Vitamin K which is needed to stop bleeding is Vitamin K1. 

But Vitamin K has many more uses than stopping bleeding.  A lesser-known form of Vitamin K-- K2 -- is responsible for at least 3 key functions:  preventing fractures as we age, keeping our arteries flexible and healthy, and preventing out-of-control cancerous cell growth.

Vitamin K2 is further broken down into sequences, MK1 through MK10. It is MK7,  which scientists have identified as possessing the properties that help prevent bone fractures, hardened arteries and cancer.

Sources of Vitamin K2

There are only a few foods rich in MK7 on the planet.  Most sources are fermented food. The first and most potent source is a food called "natto", a fermented soybean food eaten mainly in Japan at breakfast which has 1039 micrograms of Vitamin K2 per 3.5 ounces. Not surprisingly, those regions where natto is consumed have remarkably low rates of hip fractures. Other foods high in Vitamin K2 are goose liver pate (369 per 3.5 ounce serving )  and fermented cheese such as Gouda (75 micrograms per 3.5 ounces).

Here are five of the most exciting powers of Vitamin K scientists have discovered:

1. Vitamin K2 Helps Prevent Hip Fractures and Osteoporosis

A study in 2000 from Japan discovered a large geographic difference in the rates of hip fractures. The lowest rate of hip fractures is found in Tokyo and the highest rate of hip fractures in found in the eastern region of Japan, in Hiroshima.  Scientists tested the levels of Vitamin K2 (MK-7) in Japanese women from these regions and in women living in Britain. They discovered that the highest levels of MKP were found in Tokyo.  The levels in Tokyo where natto is eaten as a breakfast meal were over 4 times higher than those in Hiroshima, where the locals do not like the pungent taste of natto and therefore eat much less of it. In Britain, the levels of MK-7 were even lower, about 1/3 of the already low levels fo0und in the women of Hiroshima. Not surprisingly, British women suffer rates of hip fractures nearly three times higher than those of Japanese women.

2. Vitamin K2 Increases Testosterone Levels

In 2012, researchers from Japan's University of Laboratory of Nutrition, Graduate School of Agricultural Science ,Tohoku University  studied the effects of the MK-4 version of Vitamin K on lab rats. The rates were fed 75 mg [er day of MK-4 for  weeks. At the end of the test period, the MK-4 fed rats had significantly higher testosterone levels compared to the control group which had received no MK-4.
3. Vitamin K2 Improves Cardiac Function

4. Vitamin K2 May Help Prevent Cancer

Vitamin K2 has proved particularly effective in helping to prevent recurrence of certain cancers.

The third most deadly form of cancer worldwide is Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a significant global cause of morbidity and mortality. This type of cancer is responsible for over 600,000 deaths worldwide each year. The United States, Europe and Japan are experiencing rising rates of this cancer.

Even after aggressive chemotherapy and radiation, the 5 year survival rate is only 50 to 70%.

However, now it appears that Vitamin K2 may increase survival rates. A 2010 mega-study by Dr. Ibaz Bin Raiz  of the University of Arizona reviewed all other existing studies on the issue and found that certain of the underlying studies had found a link between Vitamin K dosage and cancer recurrence while other studies did not. Although the causal link between Vitamin K2 and cancer reduction was not strong enough to warrant a recommendation to use Vitamin K2 to prevent cancer recurrence,  the research lays the basis for future work in this area.

5. Vitamin K2 Reduces Diabetes Risk

A 2010 study led by Dr. Joline W.J. Beulens of the University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands examined the health records of 38,094 Dutch men and women to find out whether Vitamin K2 affected rates of diabetes. After over 10 years of examination, they discovered that  the risk of diabetes decreased by about 7% for every extra 10 micrograms of Vitamin K2 in your diet.

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Natto is the food highest in Vitamin K2