Vitamin K2 & Children’s Health
Today’s children may be challenged as they grow into adulthood. Diets of convenience (and chemicals) may be severely compromising their bone development and cardiovascular health. Such diets are also devoid of adequate vitamin K2, which clinical trials have shown to protect against bone loss/preserve bone density and strength, and to also protect against dangerous arterial calcification, which can lead to compromised heart health.
Bones are most active growing and developing during childhood. But the habits of childhood carry one into adulthood, and it is possible that cardiovascular arteries could begin to stiffen through calcification as early as childhood. The one common denominator is calcium. Children’s diets are high in calcium as many foods are fortified with this mineral. But calcium that is not properly utilized may stray from binding to bones and instead be deposited into arteries, turning into a rigid, cement-like plaque over time.
The ability to bind calcium to healthy bone matrix maximizes bone mineral density in order to maintain bone mass later in life. The ability to ensure that calcium is inhibited from the arteries promotes enduring heart health.
A Necessary Nutrient
Vitamin K2 is one nutrient children need that provides healthy longevity. The function of vitamin K2 is unique among other vitamins. It activates certain proteins in the body, such as osteocalcin in the bones, Matrix Gla Protein (MGP) in the arteries, and clotting factors in the liver. Osteocalcin is responsible for binding calcium to the bone matrix. Without adequate vitamin K2 intake, a significant portion of osteocalcin will stay inactive and unable to bind calcium. At the same time, MGP helps prevent circulating calcium from adhering to and remaining in arterial walls – provided there is enough vitamin K2 in the body.
Without adequate vitamin K2, specifically as menaquinone-7 (MK-7), calcium cannot be adequately processed in the body to build healthy, strong bones. During childhood and adolescence, bones are highly active and osteocalcin levels are 8 to 10 times higher compared to adult bones – therefore, children require much higher levels of vitamin K2. Unfortunately, many children are vitamin K2 deficient, so supplementing with vitamin K2 should be considered.
Studies Demonstrate Need for Vitamin K2
Population-based studies and clinical trials have clearly linked better K-vitamin status in children to the creation of strong and healthy bones. A 2008 published study showed that improving vitamin-K status in children over a 2-year period resulted in stronger and denser bones. One year later, the same group of researchers demonstrated that in healthy, pre-pubertal children, modest supplementation with vitamin K2 as MK-7 increased osteocalcin carboxylation (activating inert osteocalcin).
In a 2013 published study, researchers tested 896 blood samples collected from 110 healthy volunteers, a group composed of 42 children and 68 adults. The researchers took measurements of biomarkers reflecting the volunteers’ vitamin-K2 status by measuring both circulating inactive MGP and inactive osterocalcin – proteins specific to heart and bone health, respectively. The researchers found that those children and adults with the most pronounced vitamin K2 deficiency showed the highest responses to supplementation with MK-7. Children (and adults above the age of 40 years) showed the largest vitamin K2 deficiency, and accordingly may benefit from MK-7 supplementation to improve their vitamin K2 status.
Increasingly, leading medical and nutritional experts strongly recommend that food manufacturers enrich their products with vitamin K2, giving children an alternative to vitamin K2 supplements.
Theuwissen E et al. Vitamin K status in healthy volunteers. Food Funct. 2014 Feb;5(2):229-34.
van Summeren MJ et al. The effect of menaquinone-7 (vitamin K2) supplementation on osteocalcin carboxylation in healthy prepubertal children. Br J Nutr. 2009 Oct;102(8):1171-8.
van Summeren M et al. Pronounced elevation of undercarboxylated osteocalcin in healthy children.Pediatr Res. 2007 Mar;61(3):366-70.