August 06 2019

Dear Mark: What Are the Differences Between Vitamin K2 MK-4 and MK-7?

By Mark Sisson
24 Comments

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a question about the different forms of vitamin K2. Everyone knows the importance of vitamin K2—at least around these parts—but very few understand the differences between the various forms of vitamin K2. What are the respective benefits of vitamin K1, vitamin K2 MK-4, and vitamin MK-7? Where can we find each one?

Let’s find out:

Hi Mark,

Have you ever done an in-depth look at the differences between vitamin K2 MK-4 and MK-7?

No. I’ll do one now.

For those who don’t know, vitamin K2 comes in many different forms called menaquinones. MK-4 and MK-7 are the most important menaquinones. Pretty much all the vitamin K2 you’ll encounter in foods and in supplements is either MK-7 or MK-4 (or both), so these are the ones we most care about. There are also ones like MK-11 and MK-10, but we don’t know as much about them. What we do know seems to suggest they act a lot like MK-7. Whatever the case, they’re good.

What Are the General Benefits of Vitamin K2?

It directs calcium where to go in the body, sending it to the right places and preventing it from going to the wrong places. You want calcium in your bones and teeth. You don’t want calcium clogging up your arteries or forming kidney stones in your kidneys. Vitamin K2 is the messenger regulating both good and bad calcification.

It improves energy utilization, partially by increasing insulin sensitivity. The more insulin-sensitive you are, the better you can burn glucose without requiring tons of insulin. This allows you to both handle glucose and keep burning body fat.

It’s an important regulator of sex hormone status. Much like it puts calcium in the right places and removes it from the wrong places, vitamin K2 increases testosterone in men and reduces excess testosterone in women.

It protects tissues against cancer, selectively inducing cell death in cancer cells but not in healthy ones.

It’s a powerful inductor of gene expression. In general terms, it turns good genes on and bad genes off.

What About the Benefits Of Vitamin K1?

Found in many unfermented green plant foods, vitamin K1 isn’t useless by any means. It generally heads straight to the liver, where it contributes toward regulation of blood coagulation—the thinning or thickening of blood. People with problems controlling blood coagulation often end up on warfarin, a drug that promotes blood thinning and prevents blood clots. We can convert vitamin K1 to vitamin K2, but this depends on a number of factors, like gut health (much of the conversion occurs in the gut) and usage of certain medicines (statins inhibit conversion).

Back to vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 does what vitamin K1 can do, but more effectively, and then some.

The most-studied is MK-7. The majority of the MK-7 you consume goes to the bones and liver. In the bones, the MK-7 produces osteocalcin—a hormone which regulates bone health, increases testosterone, improves cognitive function and exercise performance, and maintains healthy insulin and glucose levels. Few people know the power of the bones (they’re actually organs) and MK-7 is one of the most important co-factors for realizing that power.

The best sources of MK-7 are fermented plant foods, like natto (fermented soybeans, but natto made with black beans and presumably other legumes will also be high in MK-7).

MK-4 tends to accumulate and act in the peripheral tissues, helping prevent against unwanted and/or unhealthy calcium accumulation. It’s also integral to gene expression and activation.

The best sources of MK-4 are animal foods, like egg yolks, chicken legs and thighs (and chicken dark meat in general—I bet the oysters on a chicken carcass are incredibly high in K2), and goose liver. Pork is also quite high in MK-10 and MK-11, whose biological activities haven’t been elucidated but are likely to be very helpful.

Another good source of a mix of menaquinones is hard cheese, with emmental, jarlsberg, and edam being highest.

Almost everyone should take a vitamin K2 supplement containing both MK-4 and MK-7. Many of the most troublesome and dangerous foods and drugs wreak havoc by inhibiting vitamin K2-dependent processes.

A group of researchers made a strong case that statins, warfarin, canola oil, and hydrogenated soybean oil trigger a host of metabolic and lifestyle diseases by inhibiting vitamin K2-dependent processes in the body:

Statins reduce levels of a necessary co-factor for converting vitamin K1 into vitamin K2 in the brain, testicles, kidney, bone, and other tissues. So if you’re taking statins and want vitamin K2 improving bone health, sexual function, cognition, and lowering the risk of kidney stones, you need to take extra.  You most likely need extra (throw in some CoQ10 while you’re at it, as statins also inhibit its production).

Warfarin—the blood thinning medication—reduces vitamin K recycling in the body, lowering vitamin K2 levels and even inducing arterial calcification. In effect, taking warfarin replaces the body’s need to naturally regulate blood coagulation through vitamin K, and natural processes drop off.

Canola oil and hydrogenated soybean oil both contain compounds that appear to inhibit vitamin K2 production in the body.

If you take statins, warfarin or eat canola oil and hydrogenated soybean oil, you should probably ask your doctor about supplementing with vitamin K2.

Similarly, postmenopausal women should take vitamin K2. In a recent study of postmenopausal women, those with osteoporosis had much lower levels of vitamin K2 (MK-7) than those without.

But to be honest? Supplementation is probably a good idea for everyone.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and if you have any other questions about vitamin K2, drop them down below!

References:

Klapkova E, Cepova J, Dunovska K, Prusa R. Determination of vitamins K, MK-4, and MK-7 in human serum of postmenopausal women by HPLC with fluorescence detection. J Clin Lab Anal. 2018;32(5):e22381.

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24 thoughts on “Dear Mark: What Are the Differences Between Vitamin K2 MK-4 and MK-7?”

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  1. Excellent info Mark thanks! I’ll give you a 9.5 … if you had provided on your silver platter of information a good guideline regarding viable dosage I would have given you a 10. 😉

  2. YAY, I take it and make my husband take it as well. At 65 I think it’s a great idea to supplement with it (MK 7) and take it when I take my Vit D (since we don’t get much sun here in the Pacific NW other than summer – but I spend time indoors mostly working under the horrible office lights) Thanks for this post!
    I’m hoping that taking the D and K2 will help reduce his blood pressure that has risen in the last 6 months even though nothing has changed in his routine and food intake. Normally he has very stable BP and certainly not high.

  3. Isn’t it important to take K2 when supplimenting with oral D3? I’ve been seeing liquid D3 preparations with K2/MK7 added.

    1. I believe this and agree with you. I am taking K2 in MK7/D3 drops that is 100mcg/1000 units per dose. I have started recommending this combination to all of my patients as well and will definitely continue to do so. I think the local health food stores are loving me now that I’ve found MDA! 🙂

  4. Great Post! I would add that vitamins D is important for allowing your body to absorb calcium in the first place, and vitamin A is required by K2 in order to place that calcium where it belongs. If you’re supplementing with any of them (or are getting lots through diet/sun exposure), you absolutely need to make sure you’re getting enough of the other two as well. Otherwise you could be doing more harm than good.

  5. Quelle marquee acheter des cétones en gélule pour une bonne qualité ?

  6. Hi Mark,

    I’m a healthy, athletic male in my 20s. When I took MK7 (Jarrow brand I think), I found it made me extremely fatigued so I stopped.

    Any ideas why?

  7. Yes, please give some ideas on dosage. I’ve heard for a long time that K2 is needed with D3, but have never seen a dosage recommendation. I take a daily K2 pill but have no idea if what I’m taking is in the right ball park or not. Is the K dosage a function of body size, or should it be in some ratio to D3 intake.

  8. I have the Factor V Leiden / had a DVT in L leg at age 24 but was smoking and was on birth control- I’m a nurse also- was the heterogous (sp?)or just came from 1 parent.
    Was placed on Coumadin fir several weeks and then baby asa 81 mg and still taking snd I’m 70 now. My question to you is I want to start taking K2 to clean up my arteries from calcium deposits. I’ve developed osteoporosis at age 40 and been on oral Calcuim up to a few yrs ago when I switched to nonmilk products , but they still contained 450mg of Calcuim per cup. Drink kale smoothies and collagen and amino acids. Can I take K2 with having the Leiden factor? I asked my internist and he said what is Vitamin K? That’s when I knew I needed to find someone else to help me find my answer. Please help!!

    1. Judy, google Sally Norton and read some of the info she’s discovered on oxalates. Oxalate binds to calcium and can cause things like osteoporosis as well as kidney stones because it pulls calcium from your body. Kale (and spinach) and other primal/paleo foods like almonds are very high in oxalates and can cause a lot of problems. She is pioneering a lot of research as well as finding research from decades ago that drew the same conclusions. Hope this helps!

  9. Can you think of any reason why Vitamin K supplements, in the form of MK4 or MK7 would wreck my stomach? It has been a real stumper.

  10. Curious why either form causes me to have migraines. Every time I have tried to take I get a migraine that lasts a couple of days. I always take with D3. Needless to say, I now avoid supplementing but am extremely curious as to why I can’t seem to take it. I am 52, female and have tried taking at various times over the years. Any thoughts?

  11. So, would taking K2 make statins safer? Do you think you could take enough K2 to prevent clogged arteries or reverse clogged arteries?

    1. Anita,
      Ivor Cummins had Patrick Theut on his podcast recently (episode 21, see link in above comment). Patrick reversed calcification of his arteries by taking lots of K2.

  12. Hi Mark:

    Very thorough and succinct article regarding MK-4 and MK7.

    I am hoping you might be able to provide some clarity for me. About 2 years ago I had to undergo heart surgery to replace a heavily calcified bicuspid aortic valve. I opted for a porcine biologic valve for a couple of reasons, one of which was to avoid having to take statins. However, my cardiologist did recommend that I take aspirin as a blood thinner to help prevent or slow down calcification of the new valve. Because of all of the studies showing that aspirin has some really bad side effects when taken regularly, I’ve opted to go with a number of natural blood thinners instead. Among these are garlic oil and Nattokinase. I have stayed away from MK-4 and MK-7 because I’ve read that they are actually coagulants. I understand how they work, but I am concerned they might be counterproductive in my situation.

    I would appreciate any insights you might be willing to share.

    Thanks,

    Mark

  13. Hey Mark!

    Love your newsletter and appreciate you. I had a quick question/comment. While taking a high quality Vitamin K-2 supplement I began bruising very easily and bled a lot if I got even the smallest cut. I have a green drink with baby spinach on most days; do you think I might not have to supplement?

  14. I had read of recommendations of cod liver oil along w K2 which was obtained with grass fed butter. Would grass fed butter be a good source in your opinion

  15. Being allergic to soy, I have a hard time finding K2 that is not derived from natto (soy)
    Any one know of a source or supplement that is not soy-based?
    btw-those in other comments with headaches/stomach issues from K2 – you may be sensitive to soy

    1. Emu oil from Walkabout. Soy free, I imagine! You can also do high vitamin butter oil, but the stuff tastes so foul I can hardly force myself to take it in any way, shape or form.

  16. I am contemplating giving my kids Walkabout Emu Oil for K2. Emu oil?! They can’t/won’t do goat kefir and natto isn’t an option. The foods high in K2 just aren’t that palatable for kids these days!

  17. The ‘strong case’ rat study article would also have us avoid “toxic” olive oil as wellw- maybe not such a strong case after all