Vitamin K2 in the Raw Vegan Lifestyle

Vitamin K is important for forming blood clots properly, while Vitamin K2 boosts bone density, reduces calcification of arteries and prevents certain cancers.  K2 acts as chaperone for calcium, directing it to bones and not arteries. According to a 2001 research review published in Nutrition, the authors found that Vitamin K increases bone mineral density and reduces fracture rates in people with osteoporosis. They also point out that Vitamin K may be particularly effective when combined with Vitamin D, which is known to play a critical role in bone metabolism.

One of the most frequent questions I receive about raising healthy children on the raw vegan lifestyle involves Vitamin K2  — so important for growing bones.

Many recent articles attempt to show that Vitamin K2 can be obtained only from animal sources, and many vegans and raw vegans now question whether they can get proper amounts of K2 through their vegan lifestyles.

Because Vitamin K largely aids in the clotting of blood, symptoms of a Vitamin K deficiency include easy bruising, gastrointestinal bleeding, nosebleeds, difficult menstruation, and blood in the urine.

There are no known vegetables that contain Vitamin K2. Natto, a bad-tasting fermented soy product, contains the greatest amount of the vegan form known of K2, but this Vitamin K2 is formed during the processing and isn’t natural.

Interestingly, if the articles are saying this vitamin can only be obtained by eating animals and their products, and those animals are vegan plant-eaters, then where do scientists think these animals are getting the vitamin to give us?

It is not generally known that leafy green vegetables contain high amounts of Vitamin K.  Kale alone contains over 1325% of our daily requirement of Vitamin K, in approximately two cups of this excellent leafy green. Our bodies are able to convert this Vitamin K1 to Vitamin K2.  Spinach, broccoli, asparagus, collard greens, Swiss chard, bok choy, peas, parsley and lentils also contain high amounts of Vitamin K.  Studies show that Vitamin K and its components are incredibly resilient and can withstand both cooking and freezing, although we consume more nutrients intact by eating fruits and vegetables raw.  Bacteria in our intestines convert Vitamin K1 into Vitamin K2.

Many parents are concerned about their children’s Vitamin K requirements being met when they aren’t eating enough leafy green vegetables.  However, there are also significant amounts of Vitamin K in fruits. This information was estimated by nutritiondata.com. The numbers do not match exactly as the charts measure different amounts of the same fruit. Nutritiondata.com measurements use the USDA database, which is based on 100 gram serving sizes, or 200 calorie serving sizes. The different serving sizes below help you to see how easy it is to get Vitamin K from fruits into a child’s diet:

27.8 mcg (micrograms) in 1 kiwi fruit, 28.6 mcg in 1 avocado, 28.5 mcg in 1 cup of fresh blackberries, 46.2 mcg in 1 pomegranate, 22.0 mcg in 1 cup of grapes, 9.6 mcg in 1 cup raspberries, 10.6 mcg in a cup of plums, 11.8 mcg in 5 medium figs,

7.8 mcg in 1 medium pear, 14.1 mcg in 1 mango, 6.9 mcg in 6 apricots, 4.9 mcg
in 1 cup of diced honeydew melon, 3.9 mcg in 1 medium peach, 4.4 mcg in 1
persimmon, 3.9 mcg in 1 cup of cantaloupe, 4 mcg in one medium apple.

There is 48.2 mcg in 1 cup of shredded Romaine lettuce and 11.7 mcg in 1 medium celery stalk. See amounts at:  http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-009104000000000000000-1w.html

Given that the U.S. RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) amounts of Vitamin K for children ages 1-3 is 30 mcg, ages 4-8 is 55 mcg, there does not seem to be any problem for children getting their Vitamin K needs met, even when not eating a lot of leafy green vegetables. The Japanese RDI amounts for Vitamin K for children ages 1-2 is 25 mcg, ages 3-5 is 30 mcg, ages 6-7 is 40 mcg, and 8-9 is 45 mcg.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, adult males 19 years and older should consume 120 micrograms of Vitamin K each day, while adult females 19 years and older should consume 90 micrograms. By including lots of fresh, leafy green vegetables, you should have no problem getting the recommended daily amount of Vitamin K.

Some reports have expressed fear that the conversion of K1 to K2 is insufficient through bacteria in the intestines. It never helps to come from a place of fear. Fear makes us rush to find quick solutions, and in today’s commercial world fear often leads to consumers succumbing to the propaganda of companies that pay for their own research to substantiate those fears in their interest for more profit.

It’s vital for consumers to trace the origin of research projects.  Is the research study coming from a top university, or from an independent lab that can be directed by companies that stand to profit from the results?  Companies even instruct these laboratories to find results in favor of the company but not the consumer.

Do the dairy and meat industries pay for the research that promotes their products?

In Creating Healthy Children, Professor Rosalind Graham states, “Vitamin K is routinely injected into (or orally administered to) newborn babies in an attempt to assist with clotting of the blood should any type of hemorrhage occur. We have learned the chance of a child developing leukemia resulting from this intervention is greater than that of a hemorrhage. For this reason we did not allow our baby to be given Vitamin K – something she created within her own body within a short time after birth, as nature intended.”

The best preventive measure should be our first priority instead of blindly giving a shot and believing it’s enough. If a shot were to be administered, Dr. Timothy Trader believes K1 would be the appropriate shot of choice for children low in Vitamin K, not K2, even when their beneficial bacteria count is low at birth. Dr. Trader points out, “The bottom line is that pregnant and lactating mothers need to have a high amount of green vegetables in their diet to overcome ‘Vitamin K deficiency bleeding’ that is expected to occur relatively soon after birth, usually rectified with a Vitamin K injection. Most average mothers are low in Vitamin K, Vitamin K has a hard time passing through the placenta, and Vitamin K can be low in mother’s milk. However, eating lots of leafy green vegetables can make all the difference.”

To tell if we have a sufficient amount of Vitamin K, we should get blood work done to examine the prothrombin time and the thromboplastin time, or go to a specialty lab such as Genova Labs for a Serum Vitamin K Assay.

Some studies show that Vitamin K2 is made by the intestinal flora, and the conversion to K2 can be difficult for some people if they have insufficient beneficial bacteria. However, it has been shown that most animals (including humans) convert the Vitamin K1 they get from plants (phylloquinone) to Vitamin K2 (menaquinone-4). Dr. Trader believes that when people show up deficient, they aren’t eating enough leafy green vegetables. He says he gets an average of over 1000% of the DRI of Vitamin K and doesn’t have a deficiency of Vitamin K2.

The following study demonstrates proof that Vitamin K becomes Vitamin K2 in our bodies, titled “Menaquinone-4 in breast milk is derived from dietary phylloquinone.” This study with breastfeeding mothers shows that supplementation of Vitamin K, giving phylloquinone supplementation to lactating mothers, raised both phylloquinone ((K1) and menaquinone-4 (K2). http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed/12064330

Vitamin K2 can also be made in the liver, pancreas, and other organs, showing we do convert K1 to K2 and K4 as well as the remaining K vitamins. This is verified in the article titled “Conversion of Dietary Phylloquinone to Tissue Menaquinone-4 in Rats Is Not Dependent on Gut Bacteria.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9446847. The following article verifies the conversion occurs in the liver: http://chemport.cas.org/cgi-bin/sdcgi?APP=ftslink&action=reflink&origin=npg$version=1.0&coi=1:CAS:528:DyaF3MXhtFahuro%3D&pissn=0028-0836&pyear=2010&md5=8bf3a2311d5aec5b2cdb9f28007454b6

Vitamin K is an essential vitamin necessary for protein modification and blood clotting. Studies show that Vitamin K plays a role in treating osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease, and eating foods high in Vitamin K help protect us from cancer and heart disease. Unless you take medications to prevent blood clotting, such as Coumadin (warfarin), there is no risk of Vitamin K toxicity, and we should be eating an abundance of the foods that provide it. The recommended adequate intake of Vitamin K taken in for each age group is listed below from: www.webmd.com:

The recommended adequate intake of Vitamin K you take in, both from food and other sources, follows.  Most people get enough Vitamin K from what they eat.

Group

Adequate Intake

Children 0-6 months

2 micrograms/day

Children 7-12 months

2.5 micrograms/day

Children 1-3

30 micrograms/day

Children 4-8

55 micrograms/day

Children 9-13

60 micrograms/day

Girls 14-18

75 micrograms/day

Women 19 and up

90 micrograms/day

Women, pregnant or breastfeeding

(19-50)

Women, pregnant or breastfeeding

(less than 19)

90 micrograms/day

75 micrograms/day

Boys 15-18

120 micrograms/day

Men 19 and up

120 micrograms/day

In addition to leafy green vegetables, Vitamin K is also present in fruits: plums, avocados, and kiwis are good sources of Vitamin K.

The body may be forced to take in more Vitamin K2 than it needs through supplementation, thus expending more energy to deal with getting rid of the excess Vitamin K2 it doesn’t need. By eating plenty of fresh, leafy green vegetables, you can insure to obtain more than adequate levels of Vitamin K, which enables you to make your needed amount of Vitamin K2.

Ranzi, Karen. Creating Healthy Children: Through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods. Ramsey, NJ: SHC Publishing, 2010.

Tuck, Max. www.therawfoodscientist.com

Dr. Timothy Trader

http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/Vitamin-K.htm

http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/vitamind.htm

http://chemport.cas.org/cgi-bin/sdcgi?APP=ftslink&action=reflink&origin=npg$version=1.0&coi=1:CAS:528:DyaF3MXhtFahuro%3D&pissn=0028-0836&pyear=2010&md5=8bf3a2311d5aec5b2cdb9f28007454b6

http://www.fitonraw.com/2012/02/is-vitamin-k2-really-an-issue-for-raw-foodists/

http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/food-sources-of-vitamin-k.php

jn.nutrition.org/content/137/11/2507S.full

http://learningrawfood.com/2011/01/vitamin-k-does-a-body-much-better-good-than-calcium/

http://www.medicine.wisc.edu/~williams/vitamin_K_review_2008.pdf 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12064330

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9446847 

http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-009104000000000000000-w.html

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-vitamin-k

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=112

 

30 Responses so far.

  1. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this,
    like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a
    bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog. An excellent read.
    I’ll definitely be back.
  2. Karen, thank you so much for this article, I have been looking forward to it! Very well researched and written, I learnt a lot from it. Thank you again!
    • karen says:
      Yulia,
      I’m so glad the Vitamin K and K2 article has been helpful to you. It’s important that vegans understand that these nutrients are readily available in a healthy plant-based diet. After hearing many presenters from the Weston Price Foundation and other organizations emphasize animal products to obtain these nutrients, I think it’s time that we stand up and state that there is current scientific research to show we get these nutrients through a healthy vegan and raw vegan lifestyle.
  3. Angie B says:
    Wonderful article, Karen! Vitamin K2 has been the puzzle in the vegan diet for me for some time so thank you very much for your research into the matter. It’s really reassuring to know that I am easily meeting the required intake.

    Interestingly, there was some research carried out a couple of years ago where non-fish eating vegans and fish eaters had their levels of EFAs measured and it turned out that vegans were ingesting less but creating more (from the conversion of ALA to DHA/EPA). It seemed that the more you supplemented, the more the body relied on that supplementation and your body became less efficient at converting ALAs. I wonder if a similar situation might arise when people supplement with things like K2?

    • karen says:
      Angie, This was the reason I was so motivated to write this Vitamin K and K2 article. Sadly, so many vegans became concerned with all the emphasis on animal foods as the only way to get K2. I hope this article will provide further insight. The research you point out here about supplementation for EFAs could very well be applied to K2.
  4. namir says:
    Thank you for article.
    The part about research is so true, I’m glad you pointed to that consumer fallacy we often make. It’s like the relatively new “all natural” label on foods in Canada, it’s a way to mask XX% of MSG into a bag chips without having to disclose that to the consumer.
  5. Sharon says:
    Well said! it is commonsensical and logical. Observe nature and we can learn a lot of things. Buffaloes that plough the land, elephants that pull trees and heavy loads, horses made to run races, camels and donkeys cart heavy loads all day long, and herbivorous animals, which eat only plant based foods , they give birth to healthy strong boned babies, how can any one explain that. Their babies has such strong bones, they are able to stand not long after they are born. Their skeletal structure, formed from rich calcium in leafy greens and rich raw nutrients from weeds, grass and leaves, etc. They eat RAW, FRESH GREENS….All animals chew on green grasses to help digest things or clean up their system. Even cats and dogs can be seen chewing grasses…so all these natural greens are full of nutrients….
  6. Sharon says:
    There are communities around the world eg India and other countries, that have always lived off the land, (and still do!) and only eaten plant based foods. And they are healthy hard working, grow crops and eat only vegetables, lentils, fruits and seeds/nuts. They eat fresh food and they do not have the ailments that we in the Developed countries have where processed and junk foods/drink are a big part of our diet! I must add too that a holistic approach is necessary for optimum health. Abusing our bodies with cigarettes, durgs or alcohol while adopting a vegan/vegeatarian lifestyle will not do! If alcohol destroys the liver, it is destroys brain cells and other cells in our bodies too, these destructive “products” do a lot of damage to our bodies in the long term and this plus the poor diet creates more problems for the body (meat, animal products plus alcohol, cigarettes and drugs which create a very acidic gut – which leads to all types of ailments) ….We say if in moderation it’s okay, but really it’s not. We pollute our air with all the smoke, we abuse our body and in long run cause damage to the environment…so there are many things we need to contemplate on….How due to our “poor” or “ignorant” choices billions of dollars are spent in the end trying to fix the damage, be it illnesses or environment! Greens are alkaline, the more alkaline our body the healthier we will be.
    • karen says:
      So true, and welcome to Super Healthy Children. If we can transition from a toxic Western diet to a lifestyle of fresh plant foods, we will see dramatic changes in health and it will have large-scale effects on the entire planet as well.
  7. Jane says:
    Natto… “but this Vitamin K2 is formed during the processing and isn’t natural.”
    That’s incorrect. Vitamin K2 is a bacteria and that is why it is found in fermented foods – natto, sauerkraut, etc. Since consuming kombucha, sauerkraut and drinking daily green smoothies my health has improved dramatically – energy levels, skin tone and elasticity, my eyesight, no longer covered in bruises, the list goes on and on. Green smoothies for vitamins and minerals, alkaline to increase stomach acid production and immune system. Kombucha for B vitamins, probiotics (would possibly have K2) and more. Sauerkraut for probiotics, Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin C, K, B6, Folate, Iron, Potassium and more.
    • Jane says:
      And green smoothies made from leafy greens contain amino acids. Over a period of a few years my muscles atrophied, wasted away. I came upon green smoothies, 2 glasses a day and within 3 months my muscles had returned! The cows people are eating didn’t eat another animal for its ‘protein’ to make it grow…. it ate leafy greens -grass! The original source of muscle growing amino acids! Why eat used amino acids that are not in the right ratios for a human body. Eat new amino acids from leafy greens. The best way it is absorbed is through green smoothies. With my vitamix (use anything as powerful) the leafy greens are smashed small enough to be absorbed. I have it for breakfast every day now. I briefly went back to ‘ conventional’ breakfast and felt awful. It just brought it home how amazing and essential to my diet… to my life, these foods are :))
      • karen says:
        I love what you’re saying here about the extreme benefits of green smoothies. And raw plant vegetarians, such as cows, elephants, horses, bison, rhino, gorillas and others,have big beautiful muscles from the highly nutritious plants they eat. Thank you for posting! :))
    • karen says:
      This may work for you but there are others who don’t do well with fermented foods which can cause histaminosis. If you google it you will see some of these fermented foods listed. Be careful with drinking too much Kombucha. Dr. Michael Greger of nutritionfacts.org, in his 600 page book “How Not to Die” spoke of a woman who went into a coma after drinking Kombucha daily.
  8. ruby persaud says:
    My 5 yrs old son has few cavities and I think lack of Vitamin K. Is there Vitamin K2 drops vegan for my son? or not necessary? I give him 400 IU vegan vitamin D3, maybe 400 IU is not enough. What do you think?
    • karen says:
      If your son is eating Vitamin K foods then he may not be lacking Vitamin K2. Where do you live and do you get sunshine every day or whenever the sun is out? Depending on where you live and how much you are outdoors will depend on whether or not you need supplementation of vitamin D3. There are some people who still don’t absorb vitamin D from the sun and so it may be helpful to supplement anyway. I will soon have an article on the vitamin D3 topic on my Blog at http://www.superhealthychildren.com
    • fox says:
      Supplementing with vitamin K2 healed my cavities.
      • karen says:
        Hi Ruby, How are you sure that it was the supplement that did the healing? There are many who I know healed through changing their diet to include significantly more leafy green vegetables. If the supplement was helpful, then it’s possible you didn’t have enough vitamin K1 foods in your diet or that the conversion of it wasn’t successful. Thank you for your comment as some people may need to supplement.
  9. james w benefiel says:
    My understanding, mostly from reading “Vitamin K and the Calcium Paradox” is that the amount of K2 that can be made from K1 in the human body is very minuscule.
    Insufficient for our needs for K2.
    • karen says:
      This is not the case with leafy greens. Eating an abundance of leafy greens such as kale should easily convert from K1 to K2. The problem is that many people today have absorption problems because of their poor diet choices.
  10. Eileen says:
    So what should I eat to get my vitamin B 12 and vitamin k2?
    • karen says:
      Some people get B12 from the bacteria in the soil when eating locally grown plant food, but many do not. Even though I garden and buy locally grown produce from a local organic farmer, my B12 was slightly low so I supplement with Pure Vegan B12 Spray every couple of days. If you are eating enough leafy greens to get vitamin K1 then it should convert to K2 in the intestines, pancreas or liver. Some people do have absorption issues but most can convert it. I was tested and converted K1 to K2 quite well. Take a look at my blog article on vitamin K2. If you’d like to do a free half hour strategy session to see how I can help you get on track with your nutrition needs, you can email me at karen@superhealthychildren.com.
  11. Uzyer Razin says:
    Hi! karen. Thaks for your helpful post regarding Vitamin K2. The article helped me a lot.
  12. Matthew says:
    I am worried that you have to rely on healthy gut flora to convert the K1 to K2. So many people these days have deficient gut flora from antibiotics/orgegano oil/naturally so I may take the K2 supplement just in case. The other way to go would be to take a probiotic. Do you know which probiotic strains of bacteria convert K1 to K2?
    • karen says:
      What you are saying is true, but if one is eating a raw food diet of fiber-rich fresh fruits and vegetables then the good bacteria are being fed. You could take a high quality probiotic but many are based on dairy so be careful. I’m not aware of which probiotic strains of bacteria convert K1 to K2 but this would make for more good research. Thank you.
  13. Molly Healy says:
    Very nice article. As a long time vegan (40 years) I’d like to add that in order for the body to covert K1 to K2 some fat must accompany to food (say broccoli) to aid the transition and assimilation. I also found that juicing wheat grass (or getting a raw powder) was spectacular for K2.
    • karen says:
      Thank you Molly. Wonderful additions. It makes sense that adding more alkalizing and mineral-rich greens would increase absorption of K2.

LEAVE A COMMENT