For decades this vitamin has been overlooked for its importance in keeping your memory sharp as you age, but now it’s finally getting some of the attention it deserves.
I’m talking about vitamin K.
And if you think you’re getting enough, you might be surprised at the latest research.
Vitamin K was discovered in 1935. It comes in two main forms, K1 and K2, that play slightly different roles in the brain and other parts of the body. And while, in the past, it was thought that one form was probably more important than the other, researchers are now coming around to the idea that they’re both vital for optimal health.
Helping the Fats in the Brain Do What They’re Supposed to Do
Both types of vitamin K are involved in how the brain handles sphingolipids, complex fats that are crucial for the development of new neurons along with neuronal health and survival. Researchers have found that when sphingolipid metabolism goes off the rails, the result is often a memory-robbing disease such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease.1
But there’s another reason vitamin K2 has attracted extra attention lately. It activates certain proteins in the body that are crucial to proper brain function and other aspects of health. For example, vitamin K2 helps in the utilization of osteocalcin, a protein made by the bones that has been linked to better mental abilities in older people.2
As far as Alzheimer’s disease goes, although the exact role of amyloid-beta protein in Alzheimer’s is still controversial, lab tests on vitamin K2 show that it acts as an antioxidant that can keep neurons from dying off in the presence of these toxic substances.3
What’s more, lab tests show that menaquinone-4 (one of the several types of vitamin K2) can restrain inflammation caused by microglia, immune cells that circulate in the brain. It’s believed that this type of microglial inflammation seriously harms neurons and can make the brain more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.4
There’s plenty of other research into how vitamin K2 might help aging brains stay healthier. For instance, vitamin K2 may help the energy-producing mitochondria of the brain function better. Studies show that when mitochondria malfunction they can trigger Alzheimer’s disease as well as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. However, research in Asia demonstrates that K2 can fend off mitochondrial issues while also controlling inflammation.5
In addition, Vitamin K2 may protect heart health in ways that lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, a number of studies show that K2 lowers the risk of calcification in the arteries that feed blood to the brain and probably help neurons retain an adequate supply of nutrients. And it looks like vitamin K2 does this much more effectively than vitamin K1.6
Blood Thinners Can Thin Your Mental Abilities
After vitamin K’s discovery, immediate scientific research focused on the role it plays in blood coagulation. The fact that it’s necessary for forming blood clots then led to the development of what are called “vitamin K antagonists” – essentially blood thinners that lower the risk of clotting. Excessive clotting can be an issue in folks with heart disease or who are at high risk of stroke.
And while these drugs help to thin the blood by interfering with the body’s use of vitamin K, research now shows that taking these pharmaceuticals can increase your risk of memory issues and other problems with brain function.
For instance, a study in France of 267 people in their 70s and 80s, found that blood thinners boost the chances of developing cognitive impairment by 15 percent.7
And another similar study, lasting two years, showed blood thinners were linked to a drop in executive function, or the ability to organize your activities and pay attention to important details.8
Of course, you should never go off of any drugs you’re taking without consulting with your healthcare provider.
Getting Your Share of Vitamin K
The nutrients classified as vitamin K have so many important jobs to do that there’s a long list of functions to sort out. And researchers at Harvard think it’s high time somebody did a big clinical trial to precisely understand how vitamin K affects the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.9 When it happens, I’ll be the first to let you know.
Meanwhile, it’s pretty obvious that both Vitamin K1 and K2 are crucial for brain health and the health of the rest of the body. Vitamin K1 – also called phylloquinone – is contained in leafy green vegetables along with plant oils like olive oil. Vitamin K2 is found in dairy foods, meats, eggs and fermented foods like natto (a soy food popular in Japan) as well as kefir and sauerkraut.
The latest research studies suggest that most of us aren’t getting enough vitamin K in our daily diets. What’s more, most ordinary multi-vitamins fail to supply this critical vitamin. Supplements are almost always a must.
However, it’s important to know that if you take a blood thinner, you should check with your healthcare provider about supplementing with vitamin K. The consensus among doctors we’ve consulted is that folks taking blood-thinning drugs don’t have to limit their vitamin K intake, but should keep their day-to-day consumption stable so as not to suddenly change the body’s vitamin K level.
Our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, developed a formula called Genesis that contains a clinical dose of vitamin K. It’s designed to supply your body not only with K but also with other nutrients to fight the aging process.
Genesis contains vitamin K2 in the highly absorbable form menaquinone-7. In addition, Genesis provides a patented nutrient called Telos95, which was shown in a recent study at Princeton Consumer Research to support telomere health. Telomeres, you may recall, are the strands on DNA that become shorter as you age if you don’t take steps to keep them healthy. The length of telomeres is an important marker of aging.