Why are vitamins D3 & K2 so important?
Our Sun has supported life on Planet Earth for millions of years, many cultures throughout history have worshipped the Sun, because of its vast healing and therapeutic powers.
But nowadays, many people are actually afraid of being in the sun because it is said to cause skin cancer and premature aging. The effects of excessive sun exposure are widely advertised by the media, who naturally, are in the business of selling us sunscreen, anti-aging creams, and the like. As a result, the Sun, nature’s most powerful life-giving force, has been marked as one of nature’s most harmful elements. And yet, statistics show that almost a million people die or contract serious illnesses every year due to the lack of exposure to sunlight and vitaimin D deficiency! Dont just throw caution to the wind though, balance is the key! Too much exposure to the sun’s rays can cause harmful and dangerous damage to your skin. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to go out and get some sun because the benefits of moderate sun exposure greatly outweigh the risks.
Most of our body’s requirements of vitamin D can be met by the direct action of sunlight on the skin. However, if you dont get outside enough, perhaps with working indoors much of the time, especially during the darker months of the year, lower light exposure can lead to reduced vitamin D levels in your body.
Research has amassed evidence which has linked vitamin D with protection from a variety of illnesses including High Blood Pressure ( Hypertension ) Osteoporosis, Multiple Sclerosis, low mood and several forms of cancer.
Here are some facts about Vitamin D
Vitamin D has known actions in the body that would be expected to help reduce blood pressure. e.g. studies have shown that vitamin D suppresses the activity of the hormone ‘renin’, high levels of which can cause raised blood pressure. Vitamin D also has the capacity to reduce the proliferation of muscle in the walls of blood vessels, something that would also be expected to help protect against blood vessels ‘stiffness’ and high blood pressure. This should help explain why people living the Mediterranean region are found to have a generally reduced risk of heart disease. While the ‘Mediterranean’ diet has always been used to explain this phenomenon, perhaps sunlight is playing an unsung role here.
Another important role that vitamin D plays in your health is to maintain your calcium balance. Maintenance of blood calcium levels within a narrow range is vital for normal functioning of the nervous system, as well as for bone growth, and maintenance of bone density. Vitamin D is essential for the efficient utilization of calcium by the body.
Vitamin D, aids your cell differentiation: Cellular differentiation results in the specialization of cells for specific functions in your body. In general, differentiation of cells leads to a decrease in proliferation. While cellular proliferation is essential for growth and wound healing, uncontrolled proliferation of cells with certain mutations may lead to diseases like cancer. The active form of vitamin D, inhibits proliferation and stimulates the differentiation of cells.
A boost for your immunity: Active vitamin D is a potent immune system modulator. There is much scientific evidence that vitamin D has several different effects on immune system function that may enhance your immunity and inhibit the development of autoimmunity.
Vitamin D also plays a role in insulin secretion: The active form of vitamin D plays a role in insulin secretion under conditions of increased insulin demand. Although limited, data in humans suggests that insufficient vitamin D levels may have an adverse effect on insulin secretion and glucose tolerance in type 2 diabetes, although much more research is needed on the role of vitamin D and Diabetes for this to be conclusive.
In addition to these benefits, Vitamin D is known to play a role in reducing inflammation and infection, supporting the production of estrogen and testosterone in men and women, aiding with PMS, menopause, and infertility, playing a vital role in brain development both pre and post-natally. Supporting the production of important brain chemicals, including dopamine and adrenalin, and assisting in normalizing weight by affecting how/when fat gets stored.
Deficiencies in vitamin D have often been mistaken for Chronic fatigue syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Peripheral Neuropathy.
And what about vitamin K2?
While vitamin D3 (the natural form of vitamin D) is essential for the absorption of minerals in the body, including Calcium, there is new evidence that vitamin K2, actually directs the Calcium to your skeleton, while preventing it from being deposited where you don't want it, for example, your organs or in joint spaces and arteries. Vitamin K2 has been linked to a decrease in Atherosclerosis and Coronary Heart Disease, due to its ability to decrease serum cholesterol and reduce cholesterol deposits and calcification in the Aorta. It is known that a large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (Atherosclerosis, see picture above), commonly termed as Hardening of the Arteries.
A number of clinical trials have shown that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 work in synergistic fashion with each other and together, they are more effective in preventing bone loss than either nutrient alone. Also there is overwhelming evidence that the safety of vitamin D is actually dependent on adequate levels of vitamin K2.
Studies show that Vitamin K2 activates a protein hormone called Osteocalcin, this is produced by osteoblasts, and is necessary to bind Calcium into the matrix of your bones. Osteocalcin also appears to help prevent Calcium from depositing into your arteries. So without the help of vitamin K2, the calcium that your vitamin D so effectively allows in, could be working against you by building up in your coronary arteries rather than your bones.
Research tells us that many people especially those in the Northern Hemisphere are deficient in vitamin D and also in Vitamin K. It's best if you can get outside for moderate exposure to sunlight every day to boost your level of vitamin D. For vitamin K2, cheese and especially cheese curd is an excellent source. The starter ferment for both regular cheese and curd cheese contains bacteria, lactococci and proprionic acids bacteria, which both produce K2. If you are concerned aboout your levels of Vitamin D, (as it can be variable), a simple blood test can be taken to determine your actual level of vitamin D at the time, and should be repeated periodically to allow for seasonal or lifestyle changes.
If you take vitamin D3 as a supplement but are deficient in vitamin K2, you could be worse off than if you were not taking those supplements at all, similarly, as demonstrated by recent meta-analysis linking calcium supplements to heart attacks. These analysis studies show that people taking calcium in isolation may need complementary nutrients like Magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2, which all play a part in helping to keep your body in balance. In the absence of those other important co-factors, calcium can have adverse effects, such as building up deposits in coronary arteries and causing heart attacks, which is what this analysis detected. Always seek advice from your MD before taking supplements.
Important notes about vitamin D and diseases:
Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of Hypercalcemia in response to vitamin D, including primary hyperparathyroidism, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, and lymphoma. People with any of these conditions may develop hypercalcemia in response to any increase in vitamin D nutrition and should always consult a qualified health care provider regarding supplementing your vitamin D intake.
By Zoe Vanderbilt BSc