2019's 10 Best
Vitamin K2 (MK4) Supplements
Vitamin K is a well-known nutrient that plays a critical role in the blood clotting process. It is also highly beneficial for bone and heart health. What you might not know though is that “Vitamin K” is a generic term for a number of different vitamin types.
When you hear about vitamin K, chances are that you are thinking about vitamin K1. But there’s another kind known as vitamin K2. These different forms of vitamin K affect their availability to different tissues in the body, which gives them overlapping and yet diverse effects on the body.
Vitamin K1 is found primarily in leafy green foods in abundance and makes up approximately 90% of a typical person’s total vitamin K intake. But its bioavailability to the body can be less than 20%.
Vitamin K2 is the lesser-known form and consists of several different subtypes. Of these, the two most prominent ones are MK4 and MK7. MK4 is found in animal products such as dairy, eggs, and meat while MK7 can be sourced from fermented foods such as yogurt, cheese, and natto.
History of Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 was discovered in 1929 by a Danish scientist named Henrik Dam and his colleagues. Given its blood clotting properties, the vitamin was called the coagulation vitamin or “Koagulations” in German, from where it got its “K” designation.
Vitamin K plays an important part in blood clotting, metabolizing calcium, and heart health. But the effects of the two types of vitamin K are so different on the body that some parties suggest that the two be classified as different nutrients completely.
For instance, K1 is used for its blood clotting potential while K2 seems more beneficial in the area of bone and heart health. Jump to Our 10 Best Vitamin K2 (MK4) Supplement List
K1 has the potential to stay in the body for hours, but K2 can do so for days. Given its longer circulation time, K2 gets better used in the body. It is also the more biologically active form of vitamin K. Upon further research, it has been established that K2 (especially the MK4 variant) reduces blood vessel calcification whereas K1 does not. Additional studies have shown that vitamin K2 supplements overall enhance bone and heart health whereas K1 hasn’t shown any significant benefits in these areas.
While it’s always recommended to get as many of your vitamins from food as possible, sometimes that just isn’t possible. So to bridge the dietary vitamin K2 gap, you may need to rely on supplements.
Among K2 types, MK4 gets taken up by tissues rapidly after consumption. This makes it more effective at protecting those tissues from calcium deposits and is thus the variant of this vitamin that is most often garnered the most attention.
What is MK4?
Vitamin K occurs in nature in several forms with each form designated by the length of a side chain attached to the main body of the molecule. For instance, MK4 is a short-chain menaquinone with 4 molecules and is typically found in foods of animal origin. Longer-chain menaquinones such as MK5 – MK10 are found in fermented foods. Being a fat-soluble molecule, the longer the menaquinone chain gets, the more fat-soluble the vitamin becomes.
In all, there are 13 molecules in the K2 family of which MK4 and MK7 are the most important.
Most of the benefits associated with this vitamin have to do with calcium — both its accumulation and metabolism. While calcium is associated with improved bone health, too much can increase your risk of heart disease. This is where K2 in the form of MK4 may be the missing link.
REDUCES CALCIFICATION & IMPROVES BONE HEALTH
Normal calcium deposition in the body takes place in either the teeth or the bones. Abnormal deposition happens in the arterial lining, the muscle layer of arteries, and the heart valves.
For bones to take in calcium, they need something called osteocalcin to bind the calcium. But in order for calcium to activate, it needs vitamin K2, and specifically the MK4 variant of it.
When bones don’t take in calcium properly, it gets stuck in the arteries, which causes them to harden and your bones to weaken. This happens over time and mostly gets diagnosed in case of a fall or a fracture. MK4 counters this effect and reduces calcification while maintaining and improving bone mineral density.
This form of vitamin K is also very beneficial for women approaching or undergoing menopause. Considering that women can lose up to 10% of their bone mass during this time, that can sometimes make supplementation critical.
REDUCES THE RISK OF CORONARY HEART DISEASE
There is an association between increased MK4 consumption and lower risk of heart disease. This is because arterial calcification is also a precursor for coronary atherosclerosis.
In this condition, there is a buildup of plaque inside the artery walls. This accumulation causes the inside of the arteries to become narrower and slow down the flow of blood.
The possible role of MK4 in preventing coronary plaque development has become apparent from its effects on several bone proteins. These proteins keep calcium where it belongs.
A nutritional solution to this problem is including more vitamin K2 in the form of MK4 into the diet. Not only will it address calcium metabolism in the body, but it will also promote heart health.
BOOSTS HEALTHY CALCIUM METABOLISM
Vitamin K activates the matrix Gla-protein (MGP). This is a calcification inhibitor that promotes healthy calcium metabolism. This mechanism grabs calcium and shields the body from excess calcium. It takes place in vascular tissue which optimizes vascular elasticity.
Some research indicates that when vitamin K is taken alongside vitamin D, the combination assists in activating MGP, making both vitamins crucial for circulation and heart health. Together, the two improve bone mineralization by keeping calcium from building up in places it shouldn’t. Jump to Our 10 Best Vitamin K2 (MK4) Supplement List
CONTRIBUTES TO ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Since MK4 has been associated with reduced arterial stiffness, it also increases cardiac output. This allows the heart to pump blood more efficiently with every heartbeat and helps improve endurance.
Vitamin K2 MK4 also acts as an electron carrier. This is a mechanism through which the body’s mitochondria produce energy. As such, the mitochondria are the energy-producing components of the cells.
As long as you have healthy mitochondrial function, you will have good energy production at the cellular level. When your heart gets adequate energy, it can output blood better, and you get improved cardiac output. This is important if you are trying to boost your sports or endurance performance.
SUPPORTS BRAIN HEALTH
Vitamin K2 is the primary form of vitamin K used by the brain. Studies show MK4 to claim more than 98% of the total vitamin K in the brain. Supplementation may help with various aspects of brain function.
Supplementing Vitamin K2 MK4
As with many other nutrients, vitamin K is most potent when taken alongside other similar fat-soluble vitamins and cofactors. This vitamin works well in combination with vitamin D for maintaining bone and arterial health. It also works to keep the immune system alert and strong.
In fact, taking too much vitamin D without its K counterpart can be potentially dangerous. When you up your vitamin D dose without adequate vitamin K, there is a chance of increasing calcium deposition in the soft tissues and arteries. And, as mentioned earlier, arterial calcification increases the potential for heart disease.
Research also points out that the collegial effects of all four fat-soluble vitamins imply that complications can occur if you don’t take one or more in ample amounts. So supplementing with one demands supportive amounts of others.
Choosing the Right Vitamin K2 Supplement
If you want your vitamin K2 supplement to deliver as promised, keep the following points in mind:
• Either look for a K2 supplement that includes both MK4 and MK7 on its label, or get both separately.
• Stack with zinc, magnesium, and boron to assist with vitamin K absorption.
• Consider any medications you may be taking, especially blood thinners such as warfarin. Always consult with your medical practitioner before using vitamin K supplementation with medication.
• For optimal absorbability, make it a point to take any fat-soluble vitamins including MK4 alongside a fat source.
• Try to couple vitamins A, D, and K together. Being fat-soluble vitamins that complement each other, these mix well for different aspects of bone, heart, and immune support.
The minimum effective dose or MK4 is 1500 mcg. Doses of up to 45,000 mcg or 45 mg have been used safely. Remember that this is a fat-soluble vitamin though and that taking too much can be dangerous, as excess amounts of the vitamin are stored within your body.
Is Vitamin K2 Dangerous?
Very high doses of vitamin K2 have proven significantly safe during clinical trials over limited periods of time. However, there are safety concerns for anyone taking prescription anticoagulants.
The most common anticoagulants are warfarin and its relatives. These drugs act as vitamin K antagonists and anyone taking them should avoid making changes to the diet or supplements. This can cause a change in vitamin K intake and should be supervised by the physician prescribing the medication.
Best Vitamin K2 (MK4) Supplements
Our top 10 list of vitamin K2 (MK4) supplements is organized to reflect what you most value in your supplements. First and foremost is quality. All of our top ten supplements meet high standards of quality and come from brands with a proven record in excellence and purity. Another important factor in deciding the top ten was cost. You don’t have to pay through the nose to get a high-quality vitamin K2 (MK4) supplement. In addition, all the companies represented on our list have stellar records with customer service and prompt shipping. This ensures that your supplement experience is enjoyable from the first click to your final dose.
- Kamal, Examine Staff Summary of Vitamin K Examine.com
- Iwamoto, J., Takeda, T., Sato Y. Effects of Vitamin K2 on Osteoporosis PubMed.gov
- Joe Leech, MS Vitamin K2: Everything You Need to Know HealthLine.com
- Atli Arnarson, PhD 20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin K HealthLine.com
- Guylaine Ferland Vitamin K and the Nervous System: An Overview of its Actions Oxford Academic
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