How the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 work together to enhance effectiveness and prevent toxicity and why careful supplementation is important to ensure the proper ratios in the diet.
Over the last few years the reputations of both vitamin A and vitamin D have received black eyes for their supposed potential toxicity, but this is largely due to misinformation and misinterpretation.
The studies have been flawed for two main reasons: firstly, for using synthetic forms of these vitamins in the research; and secondly, for isolating them from their fat-soluble counterparts, even though they are completely dependent on them for synergies.
We know now that much of the benefit of consuming natural vitamin A and vitamin D, whether in meals or in supplement form, is dependent on their effects of being taken together and further, being fully activated by vitamin K2.
The Weston A. Price Foundation was the first to identify vitamin K2 as the mysterious X-Factor shown to be so important in synergizing with vitamins A and D in Dr. Price’s research from early in the last century.
Vitamin K2 and Real Vitamin A
When you consume natural vitamin A in your weekly meal of liver and onions (“yeah right!” I hear you say), liver paté, eggs, butter and ghee, daily doses of desiccated liver — all from healthy pasture-raised animals, of course — or from high vitamin cod liver oil, you’re getting a lot of potential health benefits.
Ultimately, you can’t rely on beta carotene even from natural sources like carrots for your Vitamin A because, even if you’re in perfect health, you probably cannot convert enough of it into the real thing.
Consuming natural vitamin A produces special proteins, called matrix gla protein (MGP), in case you’re interested. They form a potential clean-up crew for unwanted calcium deposits in your arteries and heart valves as well as other soft tissue.
If you don’t get the deposits out of these locations, you dramatically increase your risk of heart disease and other inflammation-related conditions such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. And guess what?
These proteins are going to float around in your bloodstream completely useless until they are activated by vitamin K2 — then they can get to work and go about their cleaning duties.
If you don’t get enough natural, fully formed vitamin A and unlock its potential with vitamin K2, you’ll be missing out on so many benefits, including clearing your arteries and heart valves of unwanted plaque, removing calcium buildup from soft tissues to prevent inflammation, proper organ formation during fetal development and mental acuity (particularly for planning and carrying through to completion of tasks).
For some time now scientists have known that in vivo studies indicate that animals with high levels of calcification in their arteries experience up to a fifty percent reduction in that calcification when administered vitamin K2.
Even more exciting, however, is that clinical trials indicate that vitamin K2 reduces arterial stiffness in humans!
Dennis Goodman, MD and noted cardiologist says in his book Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health:
A multitude of studies have been conducted proving Vitamin K2’s effectiveness in three categories: cardiovascular health, bone health, and children’s health.
Bear in mind that it is vitamin K2 activating vitamin A that improves cardiovascular health — vitamin K2 cannot do it alone.
Be careful because too much vitamin A in isolation (“in isolation” being the operative words here — especially if synthetic as in fortified foods or most supplements) can cause a vitamin D deficiency which will result in osteoporosis.
Natural, real vitamin A in proper proportion to vitamin D and vitamin K2 has never been shown to be harmful in any amount — not even to pregnant women.
Negative findings from one study known to have been performed on pregnant women were probably from supplementation using synthetic vitamin A.
Vitamin K2 Unlocks Vitamin D
When you get enough vitamin D in your system, whether that be from your untreated skin’s exposure to direct sunlight or consuming lard, fish roe, or high vitamin cod liver oil (brand I use), it produces another special kind of protein (this one’s called osteocalcin).
This forms a potential maintenance crew that guides calcium into our bones and teeth.
Again, unless there is sufficient vitamin K2, the building crew remains on the sidelines and never gets active strengthening your bones and teeth. In his book, Dr. Goodman says:
Without Vitamin K2, you can’t ‘turn on’ (activate) osteocalcin, which takes calcium where it’s needed — and keeps it there.
If you don’t get enough real vitamin D and unlock its potential with vitamin K2, you’ll be missing out on so many benefits including proper formation of bones and teeth during fetal development and childhood, as well as maintaining strong bones and teeth in adults.
Your ability to feel good without turning to support from external substances like alcohol, sugar, cannabis, and cigarettes (due to your lack of ability to form your own endorphins) is also dependent in large part on getting enough vitamin D in your diet and processing it effectively.
Be careful because too much vitamin D in isolation (“in isolation” again being the operative words here) can cause a vitamin A deficiency which can result in heart disease and other inflammation-related conditions such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic keep revising their recommended daily intake levels for vitamin D in an upward direction as they learn more. And their published “safe maximum” appears to be purely arbitrary.
Vitamin K2 has two primarily useful forms. The first is known as short-chain menaquinones — MK-4 being the most important.
Short Chain K2
MK-4 is produced by animals spending their days on pasture and converting the vitamin K1 contained in the lush greens they are eating into vitamin K2.
It is unlikely that humans are able to perform this conversion in the gut. While science is still unclear on this point, the best-case scenario is that the conversion, if it takes place at all, is highly inefficient and certainly not enough to fully meet biological needs.
Products from pasture-fed animals such as egg yolks, tallow, butter and ghee, goose liver pate, and probably schmaltz provide a broader spectrum of vitamin K2.
According to Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, Kate Rheaume-Bleue, MK-4 is unstable in your body once you consume it and needs to be taken multiple times daily to sustain the benefit.
For more information, I recommend the section addressing MK-4 supplements in her excellent book Vitamin K2 And the Calcium Paradox. How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life.
The only MK-4 supplements I know of that are not synthetic are high-vitamin butter oil and emu oil from foraging birds.
You can also use certified pastured A2 ghee, which is simply butter oil that has been heated. Vitamin K2 is not destroyed by heat, which allows pastured ghee to serve as an excellent source of MK-4.
Long Chain K2
The second useful form of Vitamin K2 is long-chain menaquinones — MK-7 being the most important but also including MK-8 and MK-9.
MK-7 is more stable in the body than MK-4 and will benefit us all day. You can take a natural form of MK-7 supplements, but you need to do your due diligence to be sure.
In case you’re wondering whether you need to boost your vitamin K2 intake, in the limited testing that has been done, eighty percent or more of people have been found to be deficient.
So it’s a strong bet that you need more than you’re getting!
In her book, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue recommends a daily intake of 120 mcg.
But she has since revised her recommendation to about 200 mcg per day for anyone in normal health wanting to maintain.
The supplements you can buy in the store seem to range from 20 mcg to 100 mcg. For people with conditions requiring therapeutic amounts, she sometimes recommends much larger quantities.
And since no studies have ever found any amount to cause toxicity, there seems every reason to consume it liberally. As she says in an interview with Dr. Mercola:
We can’t always wait for science to identify the nutrients and test for them before we go ahead and benefit from them.
The best approach is obtaining as much K2 from the diet via natural foods as possible with the addition of natural supplements as needed.
Avoid any synthetic offerings and also consider carefully whether even natural supplements you find are packaged with harmful oils and/or GMO ingredients.
While it hasn’t filtered through to the mass media yet, studies on the benefits of vitamin K2 in relation to many health concerns have been published sporadically since the 1990s.
Epidemiological (population-based) studies have shown a strong correlation between high vitamin K2 intake and reduction in heart disease, death from heart disease, liver cancer, and prostate cancer.
In a similar process to vitamin K2 activating the proteins generated when we consume vitamin A and vitamin D, a third vitamin K2-dependent protein, Growth arrest-specific 6 (Gas6), seems to play an important role in controlling whether cells are differentiating properly or growing out of control, which makes vitamin K2 potentially very important in cancer protection.
Some research has been published implicating vitamin K2 as a protector against prostate, lung, liver, and breast cancers by activating Gas6.
Big Food and Big Pharma likely haven’t figured out how to profit from all this yet because vitamin K2 is freely available in nature.
Giving vitamin K2 its due is an idea whose time has indeed come!
(1) Research progress on the anticancer effects of vitamin K2
(2) Dietary vitamin K intake in relation to cancer incidence and mortality
(3) Vitamin K and Cancer
(4) The effect of menatetrenone, a vitamin K2 analog, on disease recurrence and survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma after curative treatment
(5) Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition
(6) On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved