Note: Always consult your physician before taking nutritional supplements such as Vitamins D and K, especially those using blood-clotting drugs.
If you are one of the estimated 85% of Americans with an insufficient Vitamin D level (as I was), please read on.
Vitamin D is a real nutritional super star as it’s been linked to preventing many types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, breast, prostate and skin cancer. It’s also been linked to benefiting those with other chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, autism, COPD, IBS, multiple sclerosis and eczema.
Importantly, Vitamin D plays a major role in preventing the risk of heart attacks and stroke because it helps your body absorb calcium. But Vitamin D can’t perform that function without the help of….
While Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, it needs Vitamin K to direct that calcium to the proper areas of your body (i.e., your bones), as well as to prevent calcium build up in the coronary arteries leading to hardening of the arteries and heart disease.
Did you catch the significance of that? Without Vitamin K, Vitamin D could harm you by causing calcium to build up in your arteries (i.e., artherosclerosis)!
Where Can You Find Vitamins D and K?
Your body produces Vitamin D when exposed to the sun. But unless you live in the tropics, you’re probably not getting enough exposure to produce sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. Small amounts of Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish and fish oils, beef liver, egg yolks and mushrooms. However, because food sources do not provide adequate amounts of D3, supplementation is essential for most people.
Vitamin K1 is found in leafy green vegetable such as spinach, kale, broccoli and collard greens, and is essential for blood clotting. Vitamin K2, however, has been found more beneficial in preventing calcium build up in the coronary arteries. To complicate things, K2 comes in different forms. Suffice it to say that the MK-7 form of Vitamin K2 is the most desirable because it stays in your body longer than the other forms. And because K2 (as well as D3) is a fat soluble vitamin, it needs to be taken with fat. Most supplements provide this in the form of olive oil.
MK-7 can be found in sufficient quantities in natto (a Japanese fermented soybean product). It can also be found in fermented vegetables made with a proper starter, and to a lesser degree in some fermented cheese products. But most people will need to supplement in order to get proper amounts of Vitamin K2.
How Much Vitamin D and K Do You Need?
Vitamin D2 versus D3
In the interest of brevity, I won’t delve into the difference between Vitamin D2 and D3. Suffice it to say that there is broad agreement that D3 is the form of Vitamin D that is more readily absorbed by the body. So check the label on your Vitamin D supplement to make sure it contains D3 – not D2!
There is some debate about the proper daily of dosage of Vitamin D3, but given the extent of Vitamin D deficiency, many health experts recommend that adults take 5,000 IU per day.
It appears that natto is the only food product which provides a large amount of K2/MK-7 – 200 mcg in a 1/2 ounce serving. Those who are averse to its taste can obtain it in supplement form.
While research in the area continues, it is generally recommended that adult women take 90 mcg per day and adult males take 120 mcg.
What’s A Normal Vitamin D Level?
To test whether your Vitamin D supplementation program is having the desired effect, it is important to test your blood regularly to monitor your level. Using a VitD-25 Hydroxy test, most health professionals agree the “safe” range is between 30 – 100ng/ml. Below 20 is considered deficient. However, as research in the field continues, some are calling for that range to be increased to a minimum of 50 – 100.
My 2014 Vitamin D Level
As discussed in this post, I have reported the results of my annual blood test results for the past 3 years. In 2014, I was unaware of the need for Vitamin D supplementation, so I wasn’t taking any. Not surprisingly, my Vitamin D blood test that year was 25 – below the minimum desired level of 30. My doctor recommended supplementing with 5,000 IU per day of Vitamin D3.
My 2015 Vitamin D Level
At the beginning of 2015, I was still not aware of the connection between Vitamins D and K. However, after learning of it through my mother-in-law, half-way through the year I started adding Vitamin K2 along with my D3 supplement. When I had my blood tested at the end of 2015, my Vitamin D level was 41.5. Big improvement!
My 2016 Vitamin D Level
I got a bit lazy in 2016. I don’t like swallowing pills. I found a liquid, olive oil-based Vitamin D supplement that also contained K2. It tasted great and I didn’t have to swallow 2 pills. I actually looked forward to taking my supplement every day. Perfect!
So imagine my shock when my annual blood test came back with a Vitamin D level of 26.5! How did that happen??
I Didn’t Read The Supplement Label
I went home to check the dosage on my new liquid D3 supplement. Although the D3 dosage was 2,000 (so I took 2.5 doses to get to 5,000 IU per day), the K2 dose was only 15! Even with more than a double dose, that only gave me 37.5 mcg per day – far below the recommended 90 mcg.
So although I was getting enough Vitamin D3, I wasn’t properly absorbing it due to the lack of enough Vitamin K2.
My bad! Despite my dislike of swallowing pills, I went back to taking my separate 5,000 IU Vitamin D3 pill and a 90 mcg Vitamin K2/MK-7 (from natto) pill.
I actually had a follow up Vitamin D test done about 3 weeks later to see if things were improving. The test came in at 34. That’s barely within range, but it definitely showed me how quickly taking the proper balance of Vitamins D3 to K2 can start working! Hopefully, by the end of 2017, I can get my Vitamin D level near 50 or higher.
If you are not currently taking Vitamin D and K supplements, I urge you to discuss it with your doctor. A vast amount of research is being done showing the wide-ranging benefits of Vitamin D – which can’t be properly absorbed without Vitamin K.
And make sure that your supplements contain sufficient amounts of both vitamins, or you’ll find yourself in the spot I was in – coming up short on the Vitamin D level because the Vitamin K dose was insufficient!
In the meantime, eat well-be happy!
Dr. Cees Vermeer Vitamin K: The Effect On Health Beyond Coagulation – An Overview
Dr. Joel Fuhrman What Is Vitamin K? Do I need Both K1 And K2?
Articles by Dr. Joseph Mercola:
Vitamin D Resource Page
The Amazing Tandem of Vitamins D and K2
More Health Benefits Of Vitamin K
Vitamin K: The Missing Nutrient To Blame For Heart Attacks And Osteoporosis