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Calcium is an important mineral needed to regulate the electrolyte balance in the body. Without calcium, the heart would quickly go into an arrhythmia and cease to function. As calcium is the most crucial mineral to stay alive, the body has an entire gland called the parathyroid which closely regulates how much calcium circulates in the blood. 99% of the body’s calcium stays stored in the bone, where it supports bone health and acts as a reservoir of calcium that the body can call upon at any time.
Dietary calcium, which is escorted out of the gut into the bloodstream by vitamin D, is bound to the bone with the help of a fat-soluble vitamin called vitamin K2. Without adequate amounts of this vitamin, the calcium does not adequately bind to bone and instead circulates and potentially deposits on the arterial walls. (1) Populations with the highest amounts of vitamin K2 have been shown to have better bone health than populations that consume less vitamin K2, (2) and a 2014 study suggested that intake of vitamin K greatly supported bone and heart health and longevity. (3)
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Interestingly, Restless Leg Syndrome, which is a tingling and uncomfortable feeling in the legs at night, is often caused by a lack of calcium available in the blood. At night, the parathyroid gland is actively delivering calcium to the bones. If there are low levels of calcium or vitamin D3 in the blood, the muscles in the legs can become restless.
Humans get most of their vitamin K from green vegetables in the form of vitamin K1. The problem is that K1 is bound to the vegetable fiber, and little of it makes it into the bloodstream. Vitamin K2, which is a more active form of vitamin K, is found in meat, eggs and dairy and is also manufactured by the microbes in the gut – so good gut health, once again, is key!
Human studies have shown that vitamin K2 is significantly more bioavailable than the vegetable-sourced form of vitamin K1. (4-6) Vitamin K1 is cleared by the liver in eight hours, while the MK-7 form of vitamin K2 from meat and dairy has been detected up to 72 hours after digestion, giving it ample time to support optimal bone and cardiovascular health. (7)
To maintain a healthy calcium delivery system in support of bone and heart health as well as longevity, the body needs adequate amounts of vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and calcium. Generally, adults need about 1200mg of calcium from the diet daily. Many folks fall short of this number and may need supplementation. My favorite source of calcium supplementation, if needed, is a source derived from the bone of cows called calcium hydroxyapatite. I prefer this as a calcium source because it has other co-factor minerals as well, instead of solely calcium. Vitamin D3 levels should be maintained between 50-80ng/mL throughout the year. In the winter, in latitudes north of Atlanta, supplementation will be required to maintain these levels. If the diet is limited in red meat and dairy, you may not be getting the required amount of vitamin K and you may want to consider a vitamin K2 (MK-7) supplement as well.
Vitamin K is also manufactured by the microbiome, which is how vegetarians are able to get adequate amounts of vitamin K. (8) This does, however, require a healthy microbiome, and all the details on what is needed in the gut to manufacture vitamin K are still not fully understood.
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Many drugs can interfere with the effects of vitamin K. They include antacids, blood thinners, antibiotics, aspirin, and drugs for cancer, seizures, high cholesterol, and other conditions. You should consult with your healthcare practitioner when considering vitamin K supplements.
Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with vitamin K. Vitamin K is used by the body to help blood clot. Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. By helping the blood clot, vitamin K might decrease the effectiveness of Warfarin (Coumadin). People taking Coumadin (Warfarin) should not use vitamin K supplements unless advised to do so by their healthcare practitioner.