The elusive K2

It turns out that K2 is an oft used name. I knew it applied to the second highest mountain peak in the world, located between Pakistan and China. And I’m telling the whole truth when I tell you that until just now I didn’t know it is a word whispered between illegal drug users. But did YOU know that it is also a vitamin that your bones must have?

Maybe you’ve heard of vitamin K. Have you wondered how it rated the 11th letter of the alphabet, when the previous vitamins were A-B-C-D-E? Why it isn’t vitamin F? Well, it turns out that the Danish scientist who identified it referred to it as the Koagulationsvitamin because of its role in coagulation, and that starts with a K. Eventually scientists figured out that there are several forms of this vitamin, and this initial variety was renamed K1

Without vitamin K1 we are prone to hemorrhaging because the blood doesn’t clot appropriately. It’s easy to get enough of this, though, because it’s abundant in leafy green vegetables. Kale is an excellent source of K1.

Another member of the family, vitamin K2, has a major effect on bone metabolism by regulating calcium. While directing the calcium to our bones, where it’s needed, it effectively transfers it away from our arteries, preventing arteriosclerosis. So the gain to our bones also benefits our hearts.

But here’s the problem: while some vitamin K2 can be formed in the body from vitamin K1, the most biologically active form can’t, so must be taken from food or a supplement. The best food source of K2 is a traditional Japanese fermented soybean food called natto.

As it happens, my husband and one daughter love natto, so every now and then I make a batch for them, a three-day process that involves soaking, cooking, then fermenting soybeans with a culture hand-carried from Japan. I can tell you more about this if you want to know. But most non-Japanese people have a very hard time eating natto. Whether it’s the smell reminiscent of stinky socks, the mucous-like threads that hang from a spoonful, or the overpowering taste – chances are it would take you some time to acquire the taste for this food.

So in the case of vitamin K2, for the sake of your bones I strongly suggest you buy a supplement. To help absorption, take it with a bit of fat because K is fat-soluble.

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8 thoughts on “The elusive K2

  1. Oh natto, I think that stuff is ghastly. Aged cheese is also supposed to be a good source. I tend to go with liver or salmon roe for my K2; not really everybody’s cup of tea. Either way, K2 seems to be an especially important nutrient, whether from food or supplement.

    Looking forward to your future posts, I’m trying to guess what you might cover next.

    • Morgan, I didn’t know that liver and salmon roe were sources of K2. I like both of them, although salmon roe is definitely harder to find where I live. Thanks for posting!

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