Millions of people take calcium and vitamin D supplements for bone health, but findings released as recently as April 2011 show that this can actually increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, as the added calcium builds up in arteries. Vitamin K2, a nutrient that disappeared from our diet decades ago, works to help our bones absorb the calcium and keep our arteries clear.
"Vitamin K2 used to be a part of our regular diet," says Kate Rhéaume-Bleue, BSc., ND. "We got it mainly through eating grass-fed animals and animal products." When the food industry became industrialized and animals were taken from the pasture to feedlots, "we inadvertently removed vitamin K2 from our diet," explains Rhéaume-Bleue.
Preventing heart disease isn't the only benefit of increased vitamin K2 levels. The nutrient has been found to improve prenatal health and the rate of fertility, contribute to strong bones and cavity-free teeth in children, and help with the absorption of insulin for those with diabetes. It also serves as the ultimate anti-aging nutrient, preventing wrinkles, varicose veins and osteoporosis.
"Even a slight K2 deficiency can have a long-term cost," says Rhéaume-Bleue. "It's the triage theory of aging: your body is taking care of more immediate concerns, while degenerative diseases associated with aging, such as osteoporosis and atherosclerosis, quietly develop."
So how to reverse the deficiency and improve our health?
"Vitamin K2 is available as a supplement in every major health food store," says Rhéaume-Bleue, "but one of the best ways to get it is to simply eat locally - grass-fed eggs in particular are exceptionally high in vitamin K2. Butter, certain types of cheese, and goose liver are also rich in vitamin K2."
Naturopathic Doctor Kate Rhéaume-Bleue, BSc., ND, is a graduate and former faculty member of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and the author of Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life (Wiley, 2012). As a Canadian expert in natural medicine, Dr. Kate lectures across the country on topics related to health and wellness. As an engaging and sought-after speaker, she is a frequent guest on television and radio, a contributor to several health-related publications and a leading authority on vitamin K2.