Just what is essential to your health?
We all know that we need nutrients to sustain us, but exactly what nutrients would those be? While some may not be thrown off by the question, the answer may surprise you. We’ve probably all seen science fiction movies where future generations consume only synthetic vitamin/mineral supplements. But is that all we need?
Even though I hear some say, “we are all different,” the fact is, we all need the same basic nutrients to thrive. And everyone’s body uses these nutrients and in the same way. We need protein, which comes with amino acids, as well as fats, which contain essential omega fatty acids. We don’t actually need carbs to sustain us, though some prefer them in their diet. But we all need certain basic nutrients, which is our focus in this article.
So what nutrients do we need and what do those nutrients do for our bodies? Let’s take a look.
The term vitamin was derived from “vitamine”, a compound word that was first coined in 1912 by the Polish biochemist Casimir Funk
As a nutritionist, it’s easy for me to get a little complex in this topic since vitamins can be complicated. So I will attempt to keep this as simple as possible.
There are 13 known vitamins. Because they always contain carbon, they are described as being “organic.” There are two basic types of vitamins: Water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water. Most of these tend to need replenishing more often as they are not stored in the body. Then there are fat-soluble vitamins which last longer as they are stored in body tissue and organs. They require fat to be absorbed. This is especially important to keep in mind when taking them as supplements, though more importantly, is to get all the vitamins we can from the foods we eat. Sometimes, this is impossible for some with certain issues with gut health and the ability to absorb nutrients properly. Some vitamins, we make or synthesize in our bodies. Some we cannot, so it is vital to get these as needed.
[Most RDI/AI values are for males/females age 19-70]
- Vitamin B Complex
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the simpler of the two so we’ll tackle it first. Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins we need and one that we don’t make or synthesize ourselves. For the most part, only humans, certain bats, fish, birds, and non-human primates have to obtain vitamin C from outside sources. Vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties that aid in protecting our cells from free radicals that can damage cells and shorten our lives. It is vital for the protection and maintenance of our immune systems, helping to guard against immune deficiencies. It is also critical for fighting against cardiovascular and eye disease. Vitamin C even helps keep our skin from wrinkling as it helps to strengthen collagen which is needed for skin, joints, and many tissues in the body.
But there is a big difference in forms of Vitamin C. While many use the term Ascorbic Acid interchangeably, there is a significant difference between synthetic or even organic Ascorbic Acid and whole Vitamin C. Ascorbic Acid is just one of nine parts of whole Vitamin C. It destroys gut flora and causes thickening of the arteries. (40)(41) There is also a big difference between synthetic Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) and organic. You can learn more about those differences in this article What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C deficiency is noted in the condition known as Scurvy (1) which produces symptoms of weakness, feeling tired and sore arms and legs in the early onset. If not treated can result in decreased red blood cells, gum disease, changes to hair, and bleeding from the skin may occur. As scurvy worsens there can be poor wound healing, personality changes, and finally death from infection or bleeding. (2) Although the RDI for vitamin C is only 90 mg for men ages 19-70 and 75 mg per day for women of the same ages, more can be taken without concern and some experts suggest as much as 500 mg to 1000 mg per day; some even more. Vitamin C is found naturally in many fruits and berries, vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, several herbs, with Moringa oleifera being the highest, citrus, and liver. Kakadu plums are the highest source of food and contain up to 5,300 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams. One last interesting note on vitamin C: Evidence has shown that some have obtained vitamin C from a strict carnivore diet. There are known symptoms of overdose or hypervitaminosis. (2)
Excess/Overdose – none known (1)
Important Note on Vitamin C: Sugar (glucose) is known to prevent the acceptance of Vitamin C by the Granulocytes that use it to engulf and flush toxins by 75% for up to six hours after the ingestion of sugar. (This includes honey and fruit and possibly other foods that quickly convert to glucose in the body, as well dairy containing lactose). (38) (39)
Vitamin B includes a number of individual vitamins of the B complex. We’ll look at these 8 sub-classes individually.
Vitamin B1 – (Thiamin) the carb burner helps to obtain energy from the foods we eat, especially carbohydrates, in fact, it takes twice as much thiamin to burn carbs as the other B vitamins are needed to get energy from protein and fats. (3) It enhances the health of the skin, mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and eyes. It also safeguards the nerves, stimulates digestion, and enhances memory, on top of boosting immunity. Thiamine also fights depression and anxiety disorders and boosts mental health. (4) (5)
Thiamin deficiency leads to Beriberi, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (4) causing symptoms of abnormalities of the brain, heart, and nerves. The RDI/AI for B1 is 1.2 mg/1.2 mg. Healthy sources of B1 are asparagus, Brussels sprouts, eggs, heart, kidney, liver, mushrooms, nuts, pork, potatoes, romaine lettuce, seaweed, sunflower seeds, tuna, and some types of yeast.
Excess/Overdose can cause muscle relaxation and drowsiness. (1)
Vitamin B2 – (Riboflavin) according to the NIH, plays a significant role in the production of energy aiding in the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar, though some refer to it as the “fat burner.” (3) It also plays a role in the electron transport system for cellular energy as well as in the processing of amino acids and fats. It also has antioxidant properties that slow aging. It protects healthy skin and hair as well as the digestive tract, promotes the development of fetuses and reproductive organs. It also provides an antioxidant ability. (6)
Riboflavin deficiency causes Ariboflavinosis, Glossitis, and angular stomatitis. The RDI/AI for B2 is 1.3 mg/1.1 mg (though some say we should get as much as 2 – 5 mg per day (3)). Healthy sources of Riboflavin are asparagus, bananas, chard, eggs, fish, green beans, meat, okra, persimmons, and yogurt, as well as cheese but these should be obtained from organic, pasture-raised sources.
Excess/Overdose – none known (1)
Vitamin B3 – (Niacin, Niacinamide, Nicotinamide riboside) is significant in the role of maintaining good blood circulation and aids in reducing the risk of heart disease, it helps with the normal function of the brain, boost memory and mental health, even improving symptoms of schizophrenia; aids the digestive tract, especially to absorb carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and lowers triglycerides and ‘so-called’ bad cholesterol. It improves skin health, treats impotency, and diabetes. (7)
Niacin deficiency leads to Pellagra with symptoms of inflamed skin, diarrhea, dementia, and sores in the mouth. The RDI/AI for Niacin is 16 mg/14 mg. Healthy sources for B3 are organic, pasture-raised meat, turkey, tuna, poultry products, brewer’s yeasts, organic potatoes, organic, pasture-raised eggs and raw cheese, as well as mushrooms and tree nuts. Foods like bread and cereals, curds, legumes, peanuts, brown rice, oats, barley, wheat, dried beans, and milk also contain Niacin.
Excess/Overdose can cause Liver damage at doses above 2 g per day. (1)
Vitamin B5 – (Pantothenic acid) provides the benefits for the alleviation of symptoms of asthma, hair loss, allergies, stress and anxiety, respiratory disorders, and heart problems. It also boosts immunity, reduces osteoarthritis symptoms and signs of aging due to the antioxidant properties which also help the body to resist infections. It stimulates physical growth and helps to manage skin disorders. (8) Pantothenic acid also aids in hormone stimulation, works to keep heart function healthy. It reduces fatigue and provides stamina. It helps the health of the hair and skin and in healing wounds. And it aids in the generation of hemoglobin and in preventing rheumatoid arthritis. (9)
Vitamin B5 Deficiency causes Paresthesia which presents abnormal sensations in the skin. The RDI/AI value for B5 is 5 mg for both men and women. Healthy foods high in Pantothenic Acid are avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, corn (be sure it’s organic), meat (Pasture-raised), mushrooms, salmon, sunflower seeds, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Excess/Overdose can cause Diarrhea; possibly nausea and heartburn.
Vitamin B6 – (Pyridoxine, Pyridoxamine, Pyridoxal) is another vitamin the body can’t produce on its own. It aids in skin health and the health of the blood vessels. It detoxifies the liver, improves cognitive function, balances mood swings, prevents anemia, and diabetes. It’s also good for the eyes. It can relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as well as ease pregnancy-related nausea and it helps with hair loss and restoration. (10) It’s significant to protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism and the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters. (11)
Vitamin B6 deficiency can cause Anemia and Peripheral neuropathy. Although the RDI/AI values for B6 are 1.3–1.7 mg/1.2–1.5 mg per day, doses of 30 mg to 250 mg have been used in research on PMS, morning sickness, and heart disease. (12) Healthy foods that are good for B6 are bananas, Blackstrap molasses, meats such as chicken, grass-fed beef, tuna, and turkey; as well as tree nuts and potatoes. Chickpeas also contain B6. (10)
Excess/Overdose can lead to Impairment of proprioception, nerve damage (doses > 100 mg/day). (1)
Vitamin B7 – (Biotin) which is also known as Vitamin H comes from the ancient Greek word “biotos,” meaning “life” or “sustenance.” Biotin helps keep the skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system healthy. (13) It’s required by the body to metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This vitamin has a positive effect on beta-cells (producers of insulin) which in turn improves insulin function in muscles. Biotin also reduces insulin resistance and boosts the uptake of glucose by cells which helps in improving glycemic control. (14) It also provides relief from heart problems, alopecia, Parkinson’s, Rett Syndrome, and Vaginal Candidiasis in addition to maintaining blood sugar levels. (15)
B7 deficiency leads to dermatitis, enteritis. Other symptoms may include fatigue, pain in the muscles, hair loss, and depression. The RDI/AI for Biotin is 30 mcg (1) but some sources show the UL (upper limit) as high as 100 mcg per day. (13) Healthy foods with Biotin are bananas, cauliflower, egg yolk, mushrooms, nuts, and organ meats. Other foods are whole grains and some legumes.
Excess/Overdose – none known (1)
Vitamin B9 – (Folates, Folic acid ) along with iron and calcium, folate has long been known to be one of the most valuable nutrients for prenatal health. (16) Vitamin B9 prevents serious birth defects in the fetus and newborns such as neural tube disorders and Spina Bifida. It helps produce red blood cells and shields from anemia. It also aids in digestion and strengthening the nervous system aiding in mental and emotional health, preventing depression. Folate is a strong immune booster, enhancing the body’s energy reserves. It also lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, ulcerative colitis, and lung cancer. (17) It has a coenzyme action that aids in the synthesis of DNA, which means it also promotes the development and survival of a fetus. Like vitamins C and E, it has antioxidant properties and works to combat and eradicate free radicals, which also helps prevent cancer. It aids in the building and support of muscle tissue. Folate also protects the liver from toxins and fights kidney disease. It is also important for bone health and B9 deficiency which has been shown to decrease bone density and increase the risk of fractures. In conjunction with a bone-friendly diet, folate suppresses bone resorption. (18)
Vitamin B9 deficiency causes Megaloblastic anemia and deficiency during pregnancy is associated with birth defects, such as neural tube defects. RDI/AI value for Folate is 400 mcg for both men and women. (1)
Excess/Overdose May mask symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency and other effects. (1)
Vitamin B12 – (Cyanocobalamin, Hydroxocobalamin, Methylcobalamin, Adenosylcobalamin) does many things in the body. All the things that Folate does, B12 does them all, and more. It helps prevent “sticky brain” that ruminates on negative thoughts and emotions. It keeps histamine levels low and prevents too many allergies or allergy-like symptoms from appearing. It boosts choline to protect against fatty liver, supports the digestion of fat, and provides for strong muscles, and sustained focused attention. B12 also aids in making creatine to support those strong muscles, healthy digestion, and a positive mood. (3) It helps prevent macular degeneration, loss of neurons, and boosts energy. It improves heart health by decreasing homocysteine and supports healthy hair, skin, and nails. (19) It prevents macrocytic megaloblastic anemia (too few red blood cells that are bigger than they should be. B12 also helps with DNA production and nervous system function. It may help support your bone health. One study in more than 2,500 adults showed that people with a vitamin B12 deficiency also had lower than normal bone mineral density. (3)
B12 deficiency presents symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. Risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency include a decreased ability to absorb this vitamin due to low hydrochloric acid secretion, certain medications, or gastrointestinal disease, and surgeries. The RDI/AI for Cobalamin is 2.4 mg per day for men and women. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and poultry (best if organic, pasture-raised, or wild-caught sources. There is no vitamin B12 in plant foods, so vegans have an increased risk of becoming deficient if they don’t supplement with it.
Excess/Overdose – None proven – However, B12 is one water-soluble vitamin that does get stored which can when taken in excess, cause kidney, liver, and heart conditions, as well as blood clots that could compromise one’s health. See this article for more. (1)
[Some experts say to avoid Cyanocobalamin as it can lead to toxicity but this is not supported by all sources]
There are two other nutrients some consider part of the B complex Vitamins.
Choline is one that helps in the process of methylation, which is used to create DNA, for nerve signaling, and for detoxification. It’s also important for the functioning of a key neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which similarly helps nerves to communicate and muscles to move, acts as an anti-aging neurotransmitter, and performs other basic processes. (20)
Choline deficiency can lead to low energy levels, memory loss, cognitive decline, learning disabilities, muscle aches, nerve damage, and mood changes or disorders. RDI/AI levels are set at 550 mg/ 425-550 mg. Choline can be found naturally in foods including beef, Brussels sprouts, breast milk, cauliflower, eggs, liver, and salmon. Eggs and salmon are often called “brain food” because they supply high amounts of choline. (19)
Excess/Overdose of choline can lead to lightheadedness in some cases since very high doses of choline can lower your blood pressure. In addition, choline overdose can cause excessive sweating and salivation as well as a fishy body odor caused by byproducts of choline metabolism in your body. Choline magnesium trisalicylate, one type of choline-containing supplement, can also lead to diminished liver functioning, though this effect may occur due to compounds in the supplement other than choline. (21)
Amygdalin has been referred to as B17. Amygdalin is said by some to be the natural form of B17 which is found in raw nuts as well as the seeds and kernels of many fruits, especially apricots. It can also be found in Lima beans, clover, sorghum, and other plants. Some have used these substances (mostly apricot kernels) for treating cancer but they contain high levels of cyanide. B17 is the name given this nutrient by Dr. Ernst T. Krebs Jr. who claimed it to be a natural, non-toxic, water-soluble nutrient compatible with human metabolism. Its ingestion is not considered wise by some experts and is not officially considered to be vitamin B17.
Because some B vitamins can have interactions with other vitamins (including other B vitamins), one should strive to get their B vitamins separately, rather than in a complex. As they can also interact with other vitamins and minerals, anyone wanting to get the most from their B vitamins may want to look at the following chart:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Vitamin A is a group of unsaturated nutritional organic compounds that include retinol (also known as A1), retinal, retinoic acid, and several provitamin A carotenoids (most notably beta-carotene. For the sake of simplicity, what we get from animal sources is Retinol. In foods of animal origin, the major form of vitamin A is an ester, primarily retinyl palmitate, which is converted to retinol, (as alcohol) in the small intestine. The carotenes – alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, gamma-carotene; and the xanthophyll beta-cryptoxanthin function as provitamin A in herbivores and omnivore animals. Beta Carotene we get mostly from plants but can also be found in non-plant sources. Egg yolks are a source of beta carotene, more of which, tends to be found in pasture-raised eggs from poultry that eats bugs and nutrients found in the soil. Some consider the superior form of Vitamin A to be Retinol.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and helps protect the eyes against night blindness and preserves eyesight. It helps keep the tissue in the body moist; the eyes, for example, helps protect them from infection. (3) It also helps protect against cancer and disease as it supports a healthy immune system. It enhances skin health and guards against acne. It is also beneficial to the bones, helping to build bone tissue and to maintain bone health. And it also aids in reproduction. It’s also used in the treatment of Measles. (22) (23) Vitamin A prevents urinary stones, aids muscle growth, tissue repair, delays aging, and helps lower cholesterol. (23)
Vitamin A deficiency may cause Night blindness, hyperkeratosis, and keratomalacia, an eye disorder that results in a dry cornea. The RDI for vitamin A is 900mcg/700 mcg. Good sources are from animal origins as Vitamin A / all-trans-Retinol: Fish in general, liver, cod liver oil, organic pasture-raised butter and eggs, and organic raw whole milk. From plant origin as provitamin A /all-trans-beta-carotene: orange, ripe yellow fruits, leafy vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, squash, spinach, broccoli, carrots, kale, sweet potato, spinach, pumpkin, collard greens, apricot, and cantaloupe melon. (3)
Excess/Overdose can cause Hypervitaminosis A which can cause altered bone metabolism as well as abnormal metabolism of other fat-soluble vitamins. (1)
Vitamin D – (Cholecalciferol(D3), Ergocalciferol (D2)) is actually a hormone, not a vitamin, and aids the body in a number of areas of our health. As you can see above, there are two forms of Vitamin D. D2, Ergocalciferol and also known as Calciferol is found in food but more commonly in a synthetic form in supplements. “ANY vitamin D that your doctor will give you – whether it is by INJECTION OR ORAL- will be inferior Vitamin D2. If you have to get it from your doctor, then it is Vitamin D2- and you don’t want Vitamin D2.” Injections are considered both unnecessary and painful. (24) The superior form of Vitamin D is D3. It is what you will generally find in supplement form and comes from animal sources, while D2 is from plants. The best source for Vitamin D actually comes from the sun as it converts 7-Dehydrocholesterol (a precursor hormone) in the skin to Vitamin D, which you can learn more about in this article “How Do We Make Vitamin D in Our Body?” As there are few foods with Vitamin D, we need to get as much as we can from exposure to the sun. When we can’t get enough from sunshine, we need to supplement and D3 is the preferred choice.
Vitamin D is necessary for the maintenance of strong bones and healthy teeth. It also provides protection to such diseases as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes as it helps in maintaining healthy insulin levels. Vitamin D offers immune support as well as protection to the nervous system and the brain and it’s essential to lung health and cardiovascular function. It is also beneficial for the skin, healthy muscles, and is an effective preventative against the flu. It also works to fight against heart disease, depression, autoimmune conditions as well as helping to lower cholesterol and triglycerides as found in a 2013 Study in the Journal of Lipids. It’s also said to aid in weight loss. (25) One source says it is an essential nutrient for infants where it was found that babies given 2000 I.U. daily were less prone to arterial wall stiffness compared to those who did not receive any. The same source also said it boosts fertility, fights factors associated with type 2 diabetes, boosts the immune system and, of course, prevents and treats rickets. (26) Vitamin D also aids sleep [though some say not to take it before going to sleep as it can interfere with the release of Melatonin]. It also boosts Testosterone production, lung function, athletic performance, energy, mood, and reduces the risk of preeclampsia in pregnancy. (27)
Vitamin D deficiency is detected in Rickets and osteomalacia. The RDI/AI for Vitamin D is 15 mcg (600 I.U.) per day ages 51-70; 20 mcg (800 I.U.) ages 71+ for both men and women. The UL (upper limit) is set at 40 mcg (4000 I.U.). Healthy food sources for Vitamin D are Lichen, eggs, liver, certain fish species such as sardines, certain mushroom species such as shiitake. Another extremely rich source is pasture-raised lard and bacon (uncured is best) providing as much as 2800 I.U. in 100 grams. Again, the best source is from the sun. In the time it takes just before beginning to burn, it is said one can get 25,000 I.U. from sunshine. (28)
Excess/Overdose causes Hypervitaminosis D causing toxicity. The normal range given for blood levels varies @ 20-100 mg/ml or 30 ng./ml-70 ng./ml, depending on the source. (1)
Vitamin E – (Tocopherols, Tocotrienols) is also a fat-soluble vitamin that is especially important as it fights free radicals in the body because of its antioxidant properties that boost the immune system and help to combat viral and bacterial infection. Vitamin E is possibly best known for its ability to repair skin damage, being used to heal wounds, clear skin rashes, and prevent wrinkles as well as protect from sun damage, even giving relief from sunburn. But it does much more than that. It helps keep hormones balanced and eases symptoms of PMS. It aids in hair growth and the health of hair and nails. It is an effective remedy for cold sores and fever blisters. Another one of its well-known abilities is the prevention of macular degeneration of the eyes as well as cataracts. (Keep in mind to be effective for vision it needs to be consumed with adequate intakes of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and zinc.) It can also reduce the risk of blood clots. (29) Because of its antioxidant properties, it is effective for preventing cognitive decline and boosting mental function. It’s also good for cardiovascular health and for treating osteoarthritis. (30)
Vitamin E deficiency is quite rare but is presented mostly as milk hemolytic anemia in newborn infants. The RDI/AI for Vitamin E is 15 mg for both men and women, though the upper limit (UL) is 1000 mg. Vitamin E is found primarily in plant foods like almonds, avocados, butternut squash, dark leafy greens, and some fruits like mango and kiwi fruit, as well as in nuts, seeds, and oils from nuts and seeds. Some, however, can also be found in non-plant food sources such as abalone, Atlantic salmon, crayfish, fish roe, Rainbow trout, octopus, lobster, cod, and cod liver oil, and even snails.
Excess/Overdose may be seen in increased evidence of congestive heart failure. (1)
Vitamin K – (Phylloquinone, Menaquinones) is the last of our fat-soluble vitamins and comes in several forms. K1, K2, and then K3 which is mostly synthetic. K2 alone comes in 13 forms. The many forms all provide benefits to the body, some similar and others differently. Vitamin K1 is often referred to as just Vitamin K and while some don’t make much distinction between forms, there are plenty in how they function in the body as well as their various sources. Vitamin K is best known as the ‘clotting’ vitamin. Its discovery in 1929, by Dr. Henrik Dam, a Danish scientist called it Vitamin K as he made the connection with blood in baby chickens experiencing blood loss and in his language, ‘coagulation’ begins with a “k”. (34) While it does give greater ability in the clotting process, it doesn’t actually make your blood clot. In fact, it also prevents over-clotting as it helps regulate blood circulation and reaction to protein ‘Z’ in the blood. It also helps make insulin and for you to remain sensitive to insulin which is important for those with diabetes or anyone, really. Vitamin K helps in reproduction and the production of sex hormones helping to build testosterone and aiding fertility in men while bringing high testosterone in women down to normal. This helps with the healing or prevention of conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It also helps relieve symptoms of nausea during pregnancy. It is known to aid those with biliary obstruction, celiac disease, regional enteritis, and ulcerative colitis. It also protects the immune system and helps to regulate blood sugar. (32) Some other functions of Vitamin K are heart health, prevention of osteoporosis, relief from menstrual pain, reduced risk of cancer, protection from internal bleeding, as well as reduced menstrual flow. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone)must be processed by the liver before it can begin work.
As mentioned above, K2 (menaquinone) has 13 forms, the most notable are MK-4 (also referred to as Menatetrenone) and MK-7. MK4 is what is found most commonly in mammals, though some foods as well. MK-4 has a short half-life, lasting only an hour or two. MK-4 does not have to be processed by the liver and therefore goes directly to work. One of its jobs is to direct the cells as to which action to take. (3) So it is effective at keeping calcium out of the kidneys where it could create kidney stones. It also works to prevent cancer. But one of the most important jobs performed only by MK-4 is to give instructions to the cells, helping the cell decide what to make. This role is how vitamin K protects against cancer, making cancer protection a specific effect of MK-4. And, although protein activation within bone helps support hormonal health MK-4 also acts directly within our sex organs to help boost hormone production by supporting cellular decision-making. MK-4 is so important to have in our bodies that we, and all other animals, will convert any other form of vitamin K into it. (3)
MK-7 is the other commonly used and supplemented form of Vitamin K. MK-7 is much more effective than K1 at reaching the bone. This doesn’t just make it good for bones: our bones use vitamin K to produce a hormone known as osteocalcin, which improves metabolic and hormonal health and increases exercise performance. So MK-7 better supports these health benefits than K1. Even though MK-7 has to be processed through the liver first, unlike MK-4, it stays active in the liver much longer than K1 before being broken down; as a result, MK-7 is even better than K1 at supporting blood clotting. (3) MK-7 is the best-studied but two things are well known regarding it. It’s great for heart health and the cardiovascular system, and it’s great for bone health. It’s effective at preventing calcium from being deposited in your arteries and heart. (35) And in one study out of Rotterdam, spanning 7-10 years, people with the highest intake of K2 were 52% less likely to develop artery calcification and had a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Mk-7 activates the calcium-binding actions of two proteins – matrix GLA protein and osteocalcin, which help t build and maintain bone tissue. (36)
K2 plays a role in preventing fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. An analysis of the results of 19 different studies showed improvement in vertebral bone mineral density. (37)
Deficiency in Vitamin K is indicated by symptoms of Bleeding diathesis, (1) osteoporosis, and calcification in the arteries, heart, and other organs. The Institute of Medicine set an AI (adequate intake) of Vitamin K at 120 mcg/90 mcg per day in 2001. (3) The RDI/AI for K2 MK4 is 45 mg per day. The RDI/AI for K2 MK7 varies from a minimum of 90 mcg to
200 mcg with some sources giving an upper limit at 300 mcg. Foods that contain K1 are especially found in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and green vegetables as well as carrot juice, canned pumpkin, pomegranate juice, pine nuts, okra, blueberries, and iceberg lettuce. Healthy sources of MK4 are Emu Oil, chicken, duck, or goose liver pate and goose meat, pasture-raised egg yolks, grass-fed ghee, pasture-raised beef, especially calf liver, as well as chicken meat, salmon, and mackerel. It’s also found in pasture-raised whole milk. Preferred foods that contain MK7 are fermented foods. Healthy choices would be pasture-raised, raw, hard cheese, soft cheese like brie, as well as curd cheese, cheddar cheese, and sauerkraut. Other ‘less healthy’ choices would be fermented soy such as natto. In supplements, MK4 and MK7 are also found Geraniol, made from Orange Jasmine Leaf Extract, as well as Farnesol, made from Acacia flowers, and both from Geranium flowers.
Excess/Overdose is exhibited in the decreased anticoagulation effect of warfarin. (1)
This concludes part one of the series of Vitamins, Minerals, & Omegas, Oh My! Part 1 – Vitamins. You may find part 2 here: Vitamins, Minerals, & Omegas, Oh My! Part 2 – Major Minerals
Written by Douglas K. Johnson – Life, Health and Wellness Coach, Herbalist, Nutritionist, and Author.
(3) Vitamins and Minerals 101 by Chris Masterjohn
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