Many of us who care about our health take an active role in ensuring we’re getting the vitamins and nutrients that keep our bodies strong. So why is it that vitamin K2 always seems to slip through the cracks?
This nutrient plays an essential role in the functioning of our body, yet vitamin K2 deficiencies are incredibly common. To understand why we need to sit through a brief history lesson about the elusive vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 deficiencies are very common in the western diet due to the lack of research and understanding regarding how beneficial this vitamin can be to our health.
In this article, we’ll take a close look at the history of vitamin K2 in an effort to understand why most of us are missing out on its many benefits. The story of vitamin K2 begins with an important explanation of how the vitamin K family, in general, came to be recognized as an important part of our diets.
The Discovery of Vitamin K
Have you ever wondered what the K in vitamin K stands for? The answer lies in the Danish word ‘koagulation,’ or coagulation to English speakers.
That’s right - vitamin K plays an important role in blood coagulation and was originally studied by Dr. Henrik Dam in the early 1900s.
While studying the effects of cholesterol using chickens as test subjects, Dam noticed that switching chickens to a fat-free diet resulted in dangerous amounts of bleeding and bruising.
He concluded that there must be some fat-soluble vitamin we need in our diets to assist in blood clotting and preventing excessive bleeding. After performing research to find the nutrient responsible alongside his colleague Edward Doisey, he identified vitamin K.
So where does vitamin K2 come into play?
It doesn’t yet - and that’s exactly the point.
Dam and Doisey studied the molecular structure known as vitamin K1 and even won the Nobel Prize in medicine for their discovery of this coagulating vitamin.
But they overlooked another important molecular structure within the vitamin K family - any guesses?
Yup - Vitamin K2.
Damn and Doisey assumed incorrectly that K1 and K2 were offering essentially the same nutrients. The image below shows the similarities of the components of these vitamins, which helps to explain how their differences could be initially overlooked.
But Damn and Doisey’s mistake of lumping vitamin K2 in with vitamin K1 meant nobody was taking the time to research the separate and impressive effects that vitamin K2 has to offer.
This lack of research from way back in the day explains the blind spots and misconceptions that people still have about this vitamin today.
When did we start to learn more about K2?
In the early 20th century, dentist Weston Price was traveling the world studying the relationship between diet and disease.
Price noticed that non-western diets resulted in a lesser amount of tooth decay and chronic disease within the population. He concluded that there must be some mystery vitamin responsible for this discrepancy - and he was right.
Vitamin K2 is the rare nutrient that Dam overlooked and Price hypothesized about.
Because of the time, it took to properly identify K2 as its own individual vitamin capable of producing unique benefits, there is still research being conducted to fully understand the effects of vitamin K2.
How do I know if I have a vitamin K2 deficiency?
Those of us living in the western hemisphere are more susceptible to a deficiency in vitamin K2.
Being that vitamin K2 tests are not widely available, it’s important we keep an eye out for some of the symptoms of a deficiency. These include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Excessive bruising
- Poor dental health
How to incorporate vitamin K2 into a western diet
Because vitamin K2 is particularly rare in the western diet, it’s important we know of sources from which we can derive this nutrient. Food sources of vitamin K2 include:
- Natto (Japanese dish consisting of fermented soybeans)
- Beef liver
- Egg yolk
But even with a healthy and balanced western diet, most of us aren’t eating these foods regularly enough to give our bodies the needed amount of vitamin K2 (2). This is why taking vitamin K supplements is a useful way to make sure we aren’t suffering from a deficiency and missing out on all of the health benefits this nutrient has to offer.
For more information regarding the benefits of vitamin K2 as well as where to find vitamin K2 supplements, click here to check out our guide.
Final thoughts on vitamin K2
The rarity and lack of knowledge regarding vitamin K2 can be attributed to both its history and geography. Early research focusing only on compound K1 resulted in compound K2 having a stunted growth in its distribution to the masses. When we add in the fact that vitamin K2 barely exists naturally at all in the western diet, it’s easy to see how it’s gone unnoticed for so long.
But it’s time for that to change - we can all use our newfound knowledge of vitamin K2 to make sure it becomes a staple part of our lives and diets.
In fact, FuelOrganics offers a high-quality vegan vitamin K2 supplement designed to support heart health and bone health.
- Newman, P, J. Shearer, M. Vitamin k metabolism. Subcellular Biochemistry.
- Maresz K. (2015). Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 14(1), 34–39.