Vitamin K2 is sparking a growing interest worldwide. “The vitamin K2 market is expected to have grown by more than 15% year-on-year over the last five years”, explained Xavier Berger, Global Market Manager at Gnosis by Lesaffre, our Business Unit specialising in nutrition and human health. The reason behind such interest stems from the recent discovery of the vitamin’s health benefits in the last few years. “Today, more than 20 clinical trials have shown the beneficial role of vitamin K2 in supporting strong bones and a healthy heart”, added Xavier Berger. “The trials have used MenaQ7®. It’s a trademark of NattoPharma, which has been part of the Gnosis by Lesaffre family since 2021.”
Often age-related, the risk for cardiovascular and bone disease increases as life expectancy rises. Vitamin K2 could therefore help to tackle an important challenge in global health, that is to live a longer and healthier life.
A form of vitamin not typically found in western diets
Discovered in 1929, vitamin K first became of interest to the scientific community when researchers found out about its important role in blood clotting. But vitamin K has two main forms, K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables—such as kale and spinach—and helps with blood clotting, while vitamin K2—known as menaquinone—regulates calcium in the body to ensure it is deposited where it needs to be in the bones and to prevent arterial calcification. K2 is present in animal-based foods but also in fermented foods which are not commonly found in modern Western diets. Like nattō, for instance, this traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans which is rich in K2. Vitamin K2 is also synthesized by bacteria in the gut flora. It can be further divided into several different subtypes, the most biologically active form being menaquinone-7 (MK-7).
The need for proper vitamin K2 intake
We used to think that vitamin K deficiency was non-existent. Now, we know this is only true for vitamin K1. There is a lack of vitamin K2 in our diet and not enough of it is produced by our gut bacteria. As a result, a great majority (97%) of the Western population appears to be deficient in vitamin K21. Studies therefore suggest that a higher intake of vitamin K2 is essential for our body. Current recommendations from the health authorities are based exclusively on the adequate intake of vitamin K1 to regulate blood clotting. However, present studies have shown the importance of K2 in supporting strong bones and a healthy heart. In 2001, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board established the recommended daily intake for vitamin K at 120 µg for adult men and 90 µg for adult women. But the latest research on vitamin K2 has shown that a daily intake of 180 µg for all adults would be more adequate.
Benefits for all age groups
Vitamin K2 supplementation provides health benefits across all age groups. A trial conducted on postmenopausal women has shown that vitamin K2 intake in the form of MK-7 (180 μg of MenaQ7® daily) could significantly increase bone strength and density within three years3. This is a significant finding given that one in three women over the age of 50 will suffer an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime4. Today, vitamin K2 is often combined with vitamin D3 and marketed in the form of food supplements. The two vitamins work in synergy: vitamin D3 promotes calcium absorption and vitamin K2 ensures that calcium is deposited where it needs to be.
Now we have another example showing the benefits of K2, this time on cardiovascular health. Vitamin K2 helps to prevent calcification (or hardening) of the arteries. It activates a protein that removes excess calcium and prevents it from building up in artery walls. A nine-year trial conducted on 4,800 individuals has shown that the daily vitamin K2 intake could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and was inversely associated with all-cause mortality risk as well as cases of severe aortic valve calcification5.
Vitamin K2 also has benefits for children and plays a significant role in their overall health, promoting bone mineralisation and the development of a healthy cardiovascular system.
A breadth of potential applications
Vitamin K2 is available today in the form of food supplements. It is also found in functional foods and functional beverages such as sports nutrition supplements in protein powder, formula milk, fizzy drinks, and chocolate bars. “We strive to constantly innovate and adapt to new consumer habits”, added Xavier Berger. A pioneer in the development of vitamin K2, Gnosis by Lesaffre now offers the most complete product range in the market. The business unit of the Lesaffre Group will continue to research and promote the benefits of this nutrient essential to good health.
1 Rennenberg RJ, van Varik BJ, Schurgers LJ, Hamulyak K, Ten Cate H, Leiner T, et al. Chronic coumarin treatment is associated with increased extracoronary arterial calcification in humans. Blood. 2010; 115: 5121-5123.
2 Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Vitamin K, Chapter 5, in Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.
3 Knapen MH, Drummen NE, Smit E, Vermeer C, Theuwissen E. Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2013; 24: 37. 2499-2507.
5 Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, Schurgers LJ, Knapen MH, van der Meer IM, et al. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. 2004; 134: 3100-3105.