Vitamin K1 vs. Vitamin K2

I’ve written a healthy bit on the enormous benefits of vitamin K2 (MK-4) Menatetrenone. To access those posts, click here.

Via Dr. Eades’ excellent Twitter feed, I just got wind of this study on K1 (Phylloquinone) and its ability to modestly slow the progression of coronary artery calcium (“CAC” – 6% less progression than the control).

Conclusions: Phylloquinone supplementation slows the progression of CAC in healthy older adults with preexisting CAC, independent of its effect on total MGP concentrations.

There’s also a media writeup on the affair. Let’s probe.

Speaking to at the recent Vitafoods show in Geneva, vitamin K expert Professor Cees Vermeer from VitaK at the University of Maastricht explained that matrix Gla protein (MGP) in the vessel walls is a hot topic.

“It is the most powerful inhibitor of soft tissue calcification presently known, and it definitely needs the vitamin K to be active in that way. So, vessel walls have only MGP to defend themselves against calcification,” he said.

So, what’s “MGP,” or, matrix gla protein? Lets close the loop, and Wikipedia will do just fine.

Matrix gla protein (MGP) is a protein found in numerous body tissues that requires vitamin K for its optimum function. It is present in bone (together with the related vitamin K-dependent protein osteocalcin), as well as in heart, kidney and lung. In bone, its production is increased by vitamin D.

Ah, vitamin D, again, eh (click here for my many posts)? So, what, all the experts be dammed, and get your unblocked sunshine and eat plenty of leafy green vegetables? Uh, no problem, but it’s not my approach — although I eat plenty of leafy greens. Let’s continue with the article.

Overall, no significant differences in the groups were observed. However, in people with pre-existing CAC who took at least 85 per cent of the assigned supplements experienced a retardation of CAC progression of 6 per cent, compared to the control group. Such decreases occurred independently of changes in serum MGP, said Booth and her co-workers.

“Vitamin K supplementation reduced the progression of existing CAC in asymptomatic older men and women when taken with recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D. The mechanisms by which vitamin K conferred a protective role are still uncertain,” wrote the researchers.

So, is it really the K1, the vitamin D, or could it perhaps be that just an added bit of K helped the K and D work in better sync (something that happens naturally on a paleo diet with plenty of sunshine, BTW)?

But so now let me get to the far bigger news, something I’ve blogged on before. Though there are no studies in humans I’m aware of, yet, it is well known that in rats, high-dose K2 (MK-4 - Menatetrenone) doesn’t just slow the progression of CAC, it actually reverses it and does so significantly. Stephan at Whole Health Source tracked that down some time ago. This is a must read post, folks. A couple of things to highlight.

In the group fed high K1 but no warfarin, there was about three times more K2 MK-4 in the aortas than K1, suggesting that they had converted it effectively and that vascular tissue selectively accumulates K2 MK-4. A high K1 intake was required for this effect, however, since the normal K1 diet did not reverse calcification. The rats fed high K2 MK-4 had only K2 MK-4 in their aortas, as expected.

[emphasis added]

I just had a brief email exchange with Stephan about this and speculated that emphasized bit before even looking up his posts (that’s not to say he agrees, but he may post on this too, and we’ll know). Essentially, since we’re so bad at converting K1 to K2, perhaps a big enough dose of K1 helps.

But why not just go for the K2, as that’s where the benefit really is? Well, then, instead of recommending people eat leafy greens, you’ve got to recommend they eat things like bone marrow, liver, meat, animal fat, eggs, fish eggs, foie gras and such. Can’t do that, because those things clog arteries; uh, right? So we’re in a sort of bizarre estoppel situation, where they’re now finding important nutritional benefits for preventing and reversing heart disease, and these super nutrients are found primarily in the things we’ve been told will give us heart disease. A perfect storm of modern ignorance.

Now, stop and consider that for a second. Everything ads up, here. The Japanese have been hot on the trail of K2 and its ability to halt and reverse osteoporosis for years. Then there’s the vitamin D. Huh, pretty paleo: sunshine, meat, animal fat, & eggs. Sound a lot like what primitive people experienced and ate for eons. Here’s Stephan from the same post, again.

K2 MK-4 (and perhaps other menaquinones like MK-7) may turn out to be an effective treatment for arterial calcification and cardiovascular disease in general. It’s extremely effective at preventing osteoporosis-related fractures in humans. That’s a highly significant fact. Osteoporosis and arterial calcification often come hand-in-hand. Thus, they are not a result of insufficient or excessive calcium, but of a failure to use the available calcium effectively. In the warfarin-treated rats described above, the serum (blood) calcium concentration was the same in all groups. Osteoporosis and arterial calcification are two sides of the same coin, and the fact that one can be addressed with K2 MK-4 means that the other may be as well. 

In the end, it’s gratifying to see daily confirmation of stuff I’ve blogged over the last couple of years. For me, it’s pretty easy and straightforward: follow the paleo principle.

The burden of proof is on the others, and more and more, it’s becoming very clear that we have been duped by government, big agra, and big pharma — all bedfellows in a money-making scheme that has already maimed and killed millions unnecessarily.

Later: Uh, that last characteristically inflammatory bit may be a little overstated. While there’s no doubt to me that the state, big agra and big pharma constitute a perfect storm of harm, whereby nutritional and health problems that didn’t exist have been created, with the same villains rushing in to “solve” them, for a price (both individually and societally), it is nonetheless a fact that billions of people — individuals — exist because of agriculture. Wishing that away would be to wish away all those lives, and I can’t do that. Equally, the pharmaceutical industry has presided over miracles.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. jen boda on May 27, 2009 at 09:48

    Great article with some wonderful information. I agree that agriculture is a necessary tool for us to live, I just think that it can be done in ways that benefit us much more than what is going on now. Balance, both in agriculture and pharmaceuticals is what is called for. Thanks.


  2. Marc Feel Good Eating on May 27, 2009 at 06:59

    In response to Justin
    Hi Justin, you commented on my blog a while back when I did a post on Natto. I eat natto frequently. I have to say again that the sense of well being i get after eating it is remarkable.Thanks for sharing the info on the specifics.
    I have found it at the majority of the asian markets I've been to. It's always in the frozen section.


  3. Michael Bender on May 27, 2009 at 11:54

    I've been taking the LifeExtension brand Super K product for 90 days.

    Label says:

    K2-mk7 100 mcg
    K2-mk4 1000 mcg
    K1 1000 mcg

    Is there a concensus or recomendation for dosage of MK4?

  4. Monica on May 27, 2009 at 06:32

    Yeah, I don't think there's any intentional evil conspiracy here. However, most people have been duped. Some of this is just ignorance on the part of people who work in these industries. But some of them know, and they can't be excused forever.

    On agriculture — I don't think there's any way that reverting to a hunter gatherer existence could feed the world. Let's remember what happened to the Paleoliths. We need domestic animals that we can raise in enough numbers, but it can be done. But that does mean agriculture as we know it has to be transformed. A great model would be New Zealand.

    I've written a big long position paper on the incredible number of ways the government in the US prevents just that and has been preventing it for about a century, which I'll reveal soon.

  5. justin owings on May 27, 2009 at 06:40

    Another source of K2 is a Japanese fermented soy food called "Natto." 100 grams on Natto contains "1,000μg of menaquinone 7," which is no small sum, and I don't gather that Natto is particularly expensive. The greatest obstacle to getting any is just finding it (Theoretically, Whole Foods carries it in *some* stores — I've yet to find it though. Next step is to check out a Japanese Grocery Store in Atlanta.

    I learned about it via an interview of a Japanese doctor who has been nicknamed "Dr. Natto:"

    I know what you're thinking — yeah, but it's soy! However, everything I've ever read about the problems of soy pertains to "fresh" soy, which is to say soy that hasn't been fermented. It would seem that fermentation, as is the case with other anti-nutrient rich carbohydrate sources like whole grains, eliminates a great deal of the anti-nutrients and frees up or creates a lot of desireable nutrients. It seems this would be the case with Natto.

    Regardless, that concentration of K2 is monstrous — look at the K2 concentration in fish gonads (got this from Stephan's blog):

    Gonads are one of the richest sources of K2 MK-4 in fish, containing 5-10 micrograms of MK-4 per kilogram of tissue in a few different species (according to this paper). Even that is not really an impressive concentration.

    10 micrograms/1000 gm tissue in fish gonads compared to 1000 micrograms/100 gm tissue in Natto. That's a staggering difference, right?

    As a more general note on fermented foods, I try to incorporate at least one form of fermented food in my daily diet — usually homemade plain yogurt or (Lifeway, store-bought) kefir over mixed berries. It's more enjoyable and satisfying than heavy cream over berries.

    It seems obvious to me the more I think about it that our genetic forbears likely ate most of their food in some state of fermentation. If that is true, it follows that our bodies *need* lots of fermented foods.

  6. Robert M. on May 27, 2009 at 13:47

    It's probably worth pointing out that the majority of K2 in the human diet is supposed to come from bacteria living in our gut, i.e. it is produced in-situ. From that point of view, if you maintain a healthy gut it should not be necessary to supplement continuously with K-2. However, eating a food with live MK-4 producing bacteria in it could be helpful to colonize your intestinal flora.

  7. Rocco Priv. on May 27, 2009 at 08:14

    For commercial K2 in the drops form, is that just consumed or mixed with water and drank, or sub-lingual? the one I just got didn't have any application instructions.

  8. Stephan on May 27, 2009 at 15:42


    Most of the evidence indicates that humans don't derive a significant amount of K2 from intestinal flora. Bacteria also generally don't produce MK-4, they make longer-chain menaquinones like MK-7.

  9. Richard Nikoley on May 27, 2009 at 11:51

    I have the Thorne drops and they're perfectly fine to drop on the tongue, in a glass of liquid, or mix with food.

  10. Richard Nikoley on May 27, 2009 at 12:01

    I take Carlson's MK4 product and I take 5 mg per day, or 5000 mcg. Stephan has mentioned using the Thorne drops at 1 mg each and using one drop in food he'll consume over a few days. Scott Miller, a commenter here, told me he takes 15 mg per day and has been doing so for a number of years.


  11. justin owings on May 27, 2009 at 20:59

    Marc –

    I was able to find some this evening at a Japanese Grocery Store in Atlanta. Tried a serving tonight — very slimy and different taste/texture. Going to have to eat it a few more times to see if I get more used to it — and also to see if I notice any positive effects.

  12. Don Matesz on May 27, 2009 at 15:42

    @ Robert

    Vitamin K is absorbed primarily in the small intestine (jejunum and ileum). It requires presence of lipids as it is fat soluble.

    Gut flora inhabit the large intestine. It appears that bacteria do not synthesize significant amounts of MK-4. "Until recently it was thought that up to 50% of the human vitamin K requirement might be met by bacterial synthesis. However, research indicates that the contribution of bacterial synthesis is much less than previously thought, although the exact contribution remains unclear." (

    "Numerous case reports of antibiotic-induced, vitamin K-responsive hypothrombinemias have been taken as evidence that menaquinones contribute importantly to satisfying the human vitamin K requirement. However, more recent production of symptoms of vitamin K insufficiency in normal human subjects by dietary restriction of vitamin K argues against their nutritional significance."

    The large intestine does not provide optimal conditions for absorption of VT-K, and VT-K produced in the large intestine will not go upstream to the ileum (where conditions are optimal) for absorption. I believe the idea that flora in the colon supply adequate amounts of VT-K is incorrect.

    Don't rely on your flora for VT-K. Eat real foods rich in K, like liver, egg yolks, and greens. Like Richard, I also take a supplement of VT-K2 because I have good reason to believe modern foods do not have the levels found in ancestral diets.


  13. StephenB on May 28, 2009 at 14:54

    Another big benefit of K2-MK4 that it gets from its ability to extract calcium is the ability to break up biofilms.

    Calcium chelators break up biofilms. Take EDTA, for example. It will break up biofilms by itself. Add calcium to EDTA and it will not (PMID 16517655). Conclusion: calcium hungry molecules break up biofilms. Biofilms can be an issue in gut dysbiosis and Lyme.


  14. StephenB on May 29, 2009 at 11:32

    I've noticed the same thing too. My last dental cleaning went very quickly.

    I don't know how much of it is the K2 removing calcium from tartar and plaque, leading to the smoothness, or the K2 having an impact on biofilms in the mouth. I'd guess more of the former.


  15. Richard Nikoley on May 29, 2009 at 08:30


    Would that apply to "biofilms" in the mouth as well. Since taking K2-MK4, I have noticed my teeth are always smooth.

  16. Richard Nikoley on May 29, 2009 at 11:56

    There is this:

    "The Activator X concentrate also reduced the bacterial count of their saliva. In a group of six patients, administration of the concentrate reduced the Lactobacillus acidophiluscount from 323,000 to 15,000. In one individual, the combination of cod liver oil and Activator X concentrate reduced the L. acidophilus count from 680,000 to 0."

  17. Nige on December 11, 2009 at 11:00

    I use Vitamin Research Products Ultra K2 (15mg MK-4), available in the UK from Seek Natural and take 15mg/week.

  18. Sharon on December 11, 2009 at 09:06

    Sorry for posting on this old entry but I was hoping either you or your readers could point me to where I could get K2. I am in Canada and it doesn’t appear to be sold here. But maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places? I get to the Seattle Washington area every couple of months. I looked in a couple of vitamin stores on my last trip but couldn’t find it. Maybe another Canadian or Seattle area person could offer some suggestions?

    • Andrew S on December 11, 2009 at 10:35

      I’m not in Canada or Seattle, but I had a hard time finding K2 at a local store. One of the Whole Foods nearby (and not the other three I stopped at) has it; none of the other grocery chains do. A vitamin-only store might be a place to check, but I didn’t find it at three of the GNCs that I checked.

      So: if you want to find a local store that carries them, either call around or do a lot of driving.


      • Sharon on December 11, 2009 at 13:37

        Thanks for the hint to check Whole Foods. There is one very close to my destination in Seattle and a couple not far off the I5 on my way down. Hopefully I will find it in one those stores on my next trip.

        Re. the online sources – from what I have seen, they will not ship supplements to Canada. Perhaps there is a Canadian reader that has found other wise?

  19. Marilyn on February 15, 2010 at 09:11

    Please someone help me. i have a problem with brusing and was told vit. k would help. my blood is very thin. but now i dont know if k oe k2 would help???? Someone please answerr this for me

    • Richard Nikoley on February 15, 2010 at 09:21


      Sorry, but I don’t know. Perhaps someone else has an idea.

      • Marilyn on February 16, 2010 at 03:34

        thanks anyway richard…i cant seem to find any info on this. maybe someone will chime in here and know. have a good day and thanks

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