Most of us know about the importance of getting enough nutrients. But, some of these are more well-known than others.
For example, vitamin D deficiency is widespread, which has made vitamin D supplements an extremely popular topic. In contrast, fewer people know much about vitamin K or about the best vitamin K supplements.
Yet, despite the lack of attention, vitamin K is an essential nutrient.
Most people aren’t actually deficient in vitamin K but may still get considerable health benefits from supplementing it. As with vitamin D, this pattern is an important reminder that the recommended intakes aren’t always accurate.
So then, let’s take a look at why vitamin K is so important and how you can get the most benefits from the nutrient.
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Vitamin K and Health
Vitamin K comes in two forms, each of which has different roles. The first is K1, which is associated with blood clotting (1,2). The recommended daily intake of vitamin K is also designed with this function in mind. So, if you meet this target, you are getting enough vitamin K to ensure your blood clots like it should (3,4).
But, research suggests that this isn’t the full story.
Instead, there are additional benefits of vitamin K that aren’t considered as part of the recommended daily intake. In many cases, you need a higher dose of vitamin K to get those impacts.
Additionally, some are associated with a second form, vitamin K2. This type of vitamin K has a wide range of implications for health and tends to be better absorbed.
- For one thing, vitamin K2 significantly interacts with other vitamins, including vitamin D and vitamin A. This interaction can help promote bone health and sufficient intakes of all three vitamins are needed for that outcome (6,7).
- The pattern also means that people taking high amounts of vitamin D should also be getting enough vitamin K2. This is a topic that Dr. Mercola discusses in detail as well.
- This is significant because vitamin K2 helps to activate calcium-binding functions, promoting the activity of vitamin D (8). This effect is so significant that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 have been suggested as osteoporosis treatments (9).
- Furthermore, some research has shown that vitamin K2 supplements can help to reduce bone loss, partly through the regulation of calcium (10,11).
Vitamin K has also been linked to other benefits. For example, increased intake of vitamin K can help lower calcification (12,13,14), decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome (15,16) and promote heart health (17,18).
The heart health effect is particularly significant and is primarily associated with the K2 form of the vitamin. Of note, the research involved supplements of K2 that are beyond what you would get in the diet (19,20,21,22). This aspect alone is a key reason to consider going beyond the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.
Vitamin K Supplementation
With any supplement, a key consideration is dosage. This is particularly true in the case of vitamin K, as there are multiple forms that you can take.
Generally speaking, most people probably get enough vitamin K1 from their diet, especially if they consume vegetables regularly. As a result, vitamin K2 is typically the form supplemented, especially as most of the health benefits are associated with this form.
Indeed, some sites suggest that you cannot get enough vitamin K2 from food alone, making supplementation essential (23).
As Examine.com highlights, taking a supplement that contains K1 and K2 (ideally the MK-7 form) can be a powerful way to get the best possible health benefits.
Furthermore, the recommended daily intake of vitamin K is simply based on how much you need for adequate blood coagulation. As such, it doesn’t consider the benefits that may come from higher levels of intake.
This is a topic that the site WholeFoods Magazine talks about in more detail.
The interactions between vitamin K and other nutrients are an additional consideration. As a result, vitamin K supplements are particularly relevant for anybody taking high doses of vitamin D and/or calcium. Doing so can offer additional health benefits and helps make the supplementation safer overall (24).
Vitamin K Deficiency and At-Risk Groups
Some people may also be at risk of vitamin K deficiency. This includes those with health issues like irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut syndrome (25).
Indeed, vitamin K is absorbed in the intestinal tract. As a result, problems with the health of your gut bacteria can reduce vitamin K absorption and contribute to health problems (26). This is also why antibiotics can hinder vitamin K levels (27) and fermented foods may help.
The site Healthline offers details about the deficiency and groups who are at particular risk.
Dosage and Safety Considerations
Collectively, these patterns show that there are many reasons to supplement vitamin K, particularly the K2 form. So, what about the dose?
- Well, for vitamin K1, the recommended daily intake is 50 mcg, which you are probably getting in your diet already.
- In contrast, Examine.com states that the maximum is around 1,000 mcg (28). It isn’t clear what dose you need for the most benefits but it would lie somewhere in that range.
For vitamin K2, the situation is slightly more complicated.
- In particular, there are multiple types of this vitamin, based on the chain length of the menaquinones.
- The first of these is short chain menaquinones (MK-4) and the second is longer chain menaquinones, which includes MK-7, MK-8 and MK-9.
- For MK-4, the minimum dose for benefits is around 1,500 mcg and up to 45,000 mcg is considered safe (29). For the other variations, doses of 90 to 360 mcg are considered effective and a maximum safe dose hasn’t been established.
The levels in supplements vary considerably and are typically much lower than these figures.
Realistically, there hasn’t been enough research to know the ideal doses for healthy people who supplement vitamin K2 on a regular basis. As a result, the best approach is to simply follow the recommendations of the manufacturer, along with any advice from your doctor.
You can also look at the site Patient.info for details about risk factors and additional considerations surrounding vitamin K and supplementation. And finally, as Examine.com states, vitamin K supplements should always be taken with a source of fat. The easiest way to do this is simply to take the supplement at meal time.
The Best Vitamin K Supplements
It’s clear that vitamin K is critical for health. Furthermore, there are many reasons why you may need to supplement it, particularly because there are key benefits to higher doses of vitamin K.
If you are looking into vitamin K supplementation, the choosing the right brands is a critical first step. After all, the supplement industry is tricky to navigate and all supplements are not created equal.
The brands highlighted below are all forerunners in their field in terms of safety, reliability and quality. As a result, their supplements are powerful ways to get all the health benefits of vitamin K, especially the vitamin K2 form.
Garden of Life: Vitamin Code
Garden of Life is a great brand that consistently passes independent testing. It is particularly popular because the company focuses on raw ingredients and creates products that are as natural as possible. In particular, the supplement here is verified as non-GMO, while also being vegan and gluten free.
The supplement is considered a vitamin K complex, meaning that it has multiple forms of vitamin K present. In particular, there is 100 mcg of MK-7 vitamin K2, along with an additional 20 mcg of MK-4 vitamin K2 and vitamin K1.
Collectively, this results in 120 mcg of vitamin K. For many people, this brand may be particularly powerful because it offers a vegan source of vitamin K2.
Additionally, the product includes a ‘probiotic and enzyme blend’, along with additional raw ingredients for nutrients. In theory, this combination would offer more health benefits. Finally, the supplement relies on chia and flax seed oil as a base, with the idea that this helps to improve absorption.
Healthy Origins Vitamin K2
The main reason for recommending this supplement is that it passes independent testing. As such, you can be sure that it actually meets the claims on the label.
In this case, there is 100 mcg of MK-7 vitamin K2 and the supplement is in the form of softgels. This style offers the most potential for absorption. Additionally, the oil base used is extra virgin olive oil, which is associated with its own health benefits.
The information from the company specifies that the product is ‘suitable for vegetarians’ and also that it doesn’t contain milk, eggs, fish or soy. However, there is no specific information about whether this particular supplement would be okay for vegans.
Zhou K2 + D3
If you’re planning to use multiple supplements, having them in the same product can make sense. In fact, this is particularly common for vitamin K2, which is often combined with vitamin D and sometimes calcium and/or magnesium as well.
There are many variations and individual products out there but this particular one from the brand Zhou is a good place to start. The company itself is high-quality and is also a popular choice for getting spirulina health benefits.
The supplement here is particularly relevant for getting bone health benefits and offers 90 mcg of MK-7 vitamin K2 and 5,000 IU of vitamin D3. Both doses are fairly typical for the respective vitamins, making the supplement a powerful choice overall.
The vitamin K2 on offer is also vegetarian but it isn’t vegan.
One other point is that this supplement is in powder form, rather than in oil. In theory, this may affect absorbability. However, you should be fine if you are consuming the supplement with fat, which is the best approach anyway.
Jarrow Formulas MK-7
Jarrow Formulas is another reliable brand that tends to produce high-quality products. In this case, the supplement relies entirely on the MK-7 form of vitamin K2 and sources this from natto (a fermented soybean dish). The supplement contains 90mcg of the vitamin and uses softgels.
However, unlike some other brands, there is no specification that the product here is non-GMO. As it comes from soybeans, there is a chance that some of the soy used is GMO. With this in mind, the product may not be suitable for anyone avoiding GMOs or soy.
On a side note, the company does also produce another supplement called Ultra Bone-Up. This is specifically designed to promote bone heath and includes vitamin K along with some other ingredients to promote this outcome. For people concerned about their bones, that supplement could be better than vitamin K on its own.
Sports Research Vitamin K2
This particular vitamin K supplement is especially popular and comes from a reputable company. It offers 100 mcg of MK-7 vitamin K2, which is fairly similar to most other options on the list.
However, there are a few key advantages with the product.
For one thing, it uses coconut oil as a base, which is a healthy ingredient all around. Additionally, the vitamin K2 is sourced from fermented chickpeas, rather than soy. As a result, the supplements don’t contain any soy and are also GMO-free.
The company also relies on third-party testing, allowing you to be sure that the product matches the claims that are made. Although the company doesn’t specify it, the ingredients selection does mean that the supplements should be vegan – particularly as the glycerin used is vegetable-sourced.
Finally, this is an inexpensive vitamin K2 option. Based on that and the clean focus of the company, it’s easy to see why this particular product is so popular.
LifeExtension Super K
This supplement is different than most of the other options because of the amount of vitamin K it contains. In particular, it offers 1,000 mcg of vitamin K1, 1,000 of MK-4 vitamin K2 and 200 mcg of MK-7 vitamin K2. Additionally, the supplement contains vitamin C and uses olive oil as a base.
The sheer amount of vitamin K is generally positive, especially as many research studies have used high doses. For that matter, even the amount of MK-7 provided is higher than most other supplements, despite the fact that it is low compared to the other versions.
In theory, the doses here should offer more health benefits than any of the other options on the list. However, you should check with your healthcare professional before taking this supplement because the levels are so different than most other options.
Getting enough nutrients is critical for health and vitamin K is one that is often overlooked. This is particularly true for the vitamin K2 form, especially for people who don’t consume many animal products.
However, the supplements on this list are all effective options for ensuring that you are able to get the health benefits from vitamin K. Doing so is also extremely relevant if you are taking vitamin D and/or calcium supplements, due to the synergistic interactions between them.
As is always the case, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplement, especially if you have a health condition or are on medication. While supplements are generally safe, they can cause unexpected interactions and it’s always wise to get a doctor’s opinion.
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