Vitamin K2 – an important piece in the heart health puzzle
Written By Dr Ross Walker
Go Vita talks to expert cardiologist Dr Ross Walker, about vitamin K2s role in heart disease prevention.
The main form of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis – this is where there is a progressive build-up of fat, inflammatory tissue and calcification in the walls of all major arteries. This typically affects the heart, the brain and the peripheral arteries. As the disease progresses over decades, to a very advanced stage, calcification or hardening and stiffening of the arteries is a prominent feature. As the arteries become progressively calcified, the heart has to work harder, which leads to a subsequent increase in systolic blood pressure. Over the age of 50, increased blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Dr Walker explains, “up until now, there has been little treatment directed at vascular calcification but a large body of recent work shows that vitamin K2 may be the answer. The important facts to consider here are firstly, vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is intricately involved in the clotting process but also protects against vascular calcification.
There is a particular protein known as matrix-gla-protein (MGP) which is one of the proteins that reduces vascular calcification. It has been shown that vitamin K2 is a vital factor in the normal functioning of MGP. Laboratory studies have clearly demonstrated that MGP deficiency leads to heavy calcification of the aorta, leading to early death.
Secondly, long term treatment with warfarin, which is a vitamin K antagonist, promotes vascular calcification.
Thirdly, a recent large study known as the Rotterdam Study looked at just over 4,800 elderly subjects and found that those who had the lowest intake of dietary vitamin K2 had the highest rates of cardiovascular death and aortic calcification.
Finally, patients with chronic kidney disease typically have heavily calcified blood vessels and preliminary studies in patients with this condition have shown improvement in the progression of atherosclerosis with the use of vitamin K2. There are now a number of trials underway to study the benefits of K2 in people with advanced vascular disease and calcification and the results of these trials should be published over the next few years. The studies to date show that vitamin K2 is extremely safe and thankfully does not promote abnormal blood clotting.”
Increasingly it appears that vitamin K2 will be an important factor to be considered in the management and prevention of atherosclerosis.
Australian cardiovascular disease (CD) facts
It’s the leading cause of death in Australia
Over 44,000 deaths every year are due to CD
Every 12 minutes someone dies from CD
CD is main reason for hospital admissions
Over half a million people are admitted annually due to CD