Vitamin K2 MK-4 from Ancestral Food: Offers Benefits as Nature Intended
Vitamin K2 MK-4 is a nutrient workhorse: helps reduce our risk of heart disease (1), stabilize blood sugar levels (2,3), reduce inflammation (4), preserve joints and muscles (5,), protect the brain (4,6), improve bone health (5), prevent depression (7), helps manufacture hormones (8), improves skin (9), helps fuel mitochondria (10, 11), lowers blood pressure (12), and boosts the immune system (13).
What makes it multi-functional? Vitamin K2 MK-4 is an “Activator” which 17 different Vitamin K Dependent Proteins (VKDP) (14) depend upon to become “active” in the body.
Vitamin K basics
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin and has many members in its family:
Vitamin K1: made from plants and is mainly involved in coagulation
Vitamin K2 MK-4: the most important of the K2 vitamins (MK = menaquinone) from animal sourced foods
Vitamin K2 MK-5 through 13: long chain MKs made from bacterial synthesis
K3: (menadione), water soluble and artificial, banned by FDA for use in humans because of high toxicity
Are the K Vitamins Interchangeable?
For thousands of years our ancestors had their K2 needs met by eating animal sourced foods rich in vitamin K2 MK-4.
Vitamin K2 MK-4, found in food, is quickly absorbed in the body and is stored in the brain, salivary glands, testes, sternum, face, pancreas, eyes, kidneys, bones, arteries and veins (15), where it is utilized for activating vitamin K dependent proteins (VKDP) and possibly for other, as yet, unidentified functions.
Many studies support a theory that the main source of MK-4 is made from K1, green leafy vegetables or vegetable oils, but the body absorbs small amounts (less than 10%) of K1 from food (16, 17), and our needs are greater.
Conversion of K1 to MK-4 in animals that have the digestive systems for it, such as cows, adapted to eating grasses all day long have the ability to extract all their nutrients from that food source. Humans, higher up on the food chain, have a digestive system adapted to getting our K needs met predominantly from those grass eating animals. (17, 18)
Another theory is that we can meet all our MK-4 needs from bacterial synthesis in the gut, but this also has been disproven. Our guts can make short and long chain MK’s (for their own use), but they do not produce MK-4. (19, 20)
MK-4 is the only form of MK not made by bacteria.
Some suggest a theory of conversion from K1, MK-7 or other MK’s to MK-4 via the enzyme UBIAD1, which removes the side chains of the K vitamins producing menadione (K3). K3 travels to the liver where it is detoxified by the liver and is somehow transported in the blood or lymph by an unexplained carrier to tissues where an unknown enzyme(s) adds side chains back to K3 producing vitamin K2 MK-4. (21)
If menadione (K3) is used in this process what happens if K3 exceeds the rate at which the enzyme can add back the side chains. Does the excess K3 cause toxicity and oxidative stress? The research is unclear.
It is known that menadione causes disruption or rupture of red blood cells, toxic reactions in liver cells, depletion of glutathione, weakens the immune system and can cause allergic reactions. (22) The potential for these negative effects is why FDA banned K3 for human use.
Benefits of getting vitamin K2 MK-4 needs met from food sources:
- It is already in the form that the body needs
- The body does not need to convert it
- The organs and cells that need it readily absorb and utilize it
- More efficient: food has other synergists working together to maintain therapeutic aspects
“A Substance that is Not Adequately Provided for in Modern Nutrition”
Dr. Weston Price in the 1930’s traveled the world studying different cultures to see how they maintained their health and vitality. Consistently he found that the foods they ate had 4xs the water-soluble vitamins and 10xs the fat-soluble vitamins than the standard diet of his time.
When these people replaced their traditional diets with white sugar, white flour, and processed foods they experienced what Dr. Price called “loss of immunity” or physical degeneration, negatively impacting their health and the health of their children.
Dr. Price wrote that people of the past obtained a “substance that is not adequately provided for in modern nutrition.” (23) He isolated this nutrient and called it Activator X. Price was able to make a concentrate of Activator X from butter, which he called butter oil. (23)
Activator X is vitamin K2 MK-4. (25)
Dr. Price did not find a culture that was vegetarian, in fact, some cultures had no, or very limited access to vegetables.
Our ancestors obtained their K2 MK-4 from animal sourced foods. (23)
Evolution at Work: Babies give vitamin K2 MK-4 a Big Thumbs Up!
A good example of the body’s preference for MK-4 starts in the womb.
A Japanese study divided pregnant women into two groups, one eating a normal diet and one eating a diet high in natto (the only natural form of MK-7). Even though K1, MK-4, MK-6 and MK-7 were found in the placenta, MK-6 and MK-7 were blocked from entering the fetus. K1 was found in the amniotic fluid, merconium and umbilical cord.
Only vitamin K2 MK-4 was used directly by the fetus. (26)
K2 MK-4 plays a critical role in fetal development, for the brain, vital to proper skull, facial, dentin formation and for mid-face development. (23)
Good Sources of Vitamin K2 MK-4 (24, 27, 28) Ng/g
Walkabout Emu oil is an ancestral food and medicine of the indigenous Australians. Emu oil is a unique synergy of nutrients and the life sustaining fat of the bird.
Walkabout emu oil is the highest naturally occurring whole food source of vitamin K2 MK-4. (28)
The beneficial properties have long been known to the Aborigines as a remedy to reduce pain and inflammation with records dating from 1847. (29) The emu is so revered by them that it is part of their mythology.
Not all emu oils have the same characteristics or benefits. Research starting in the 1990’s show the genotype of the bird, correct feed and a traditional refining method is of the utmost importance. Walkabout emu oil is Australia’s highest quality emu oil.
Two American emu oils were tested and no K2 MK-4 was detected.
Vitamin K Dependent Proteins (VKDP) provide life-giving functions for the brain and body
There are hundreds of actions and benefits of VKDPs, creating a cascade of reactions that are far reaching in the body, ie. moving calcium to where it should be in the body, like teeth and bones. And pulling calcium from where it is not wanted like heart arteries and veins. (30)
Vitamin K2 MK-4 activates transthyretin, the major hormone binding protein. (31)
MK-4 is the most abundant vitamin K in the brain and involved in many cellular processes including cell growth, survival and apoptosis.
- K2 MK-4 prevents oxidative stress and inflammation and has the potential to influence psychomotor behavior and cognition.
- Protection of oligodendrites (a glial cell) which makes up the myelin sheath
- Shows anti-inflammatory role
- Stops neuronal damage to glutathione depletion, including cortical neurons
- Modulates survival and functions of the glia and microglia
- Neuroprotective in stroke
- Cell signaling actions in neurons and glia
- Prevent free radical damage and insulin resistance
- Contributes to production of myelin and sphingolipids (fats essential for brain health)
In regards to MS a recent study showed that people with MS have 3-fold less vitamin K2 MK-4 than the average person. (33)
In mouse studies VKDPs increased oligodendrocyte numbers, stimulated myelination as well as stimulating remyelination after toxic injury and decreased demyelination. It is involved in gene regulation that push the glial cell developmental pathway in a promyelinating direction. And down regulated multiple genes involved in the development of MS. (34 )
The vitamin K2 that we need to nourish our brains and bodies is MK-4 from animal sourced foods, just like our ancestors. The highest whole food source of this essential nutrient is Walkabout emu oil and we invite you to make it part of your daily nutrition.
Nutrition that comes from nature works better and is utilized more easily than anything made by man or science.
- Johanna GM et al. Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 134, Issue 11, November 2004, Pages 3100–3105, Published: 01 November 2004 https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/134.11.3100
- Gancheva SM et al. Vitamin K2 Improves Anxiety and Depression but not Cognition in Rats with Metabolic Syndrome: a Role of Blood Glucose? Folia Med (Plovdiv). 2016 Dec 1;58(4):264-272. doi: 10.1515/folmed-2016-0032.
- Hyung J et al. Vitamin K2 Supplementation Improves Insulin Sensitivity via Osteocalcin Metabolism: A Placebo-Controlled Trial. Diabetes Care 2011 Sep; 34(9): e147-e147. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc11-0551
- Ferland G. Vitamin K, an emerging nutrient in brain function. Biofactors. 2012 Mar-Apr;38(2):151-7. doi: 10.1002/biof.1004. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.111.001784
- Okamoto H. Vitamin K and rheumatoid arthritis. IUBMB Life. 2008 Jun;60(6):355-61. doi: 10.1002/iub.41.
- Sandberg M et al. NRF2-regulation in brain health and disease: implication of cerebral inflammation. Neuropharmacology. 2014 Apr; 0: 298–306. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.11.004
- Schlinsog W. Treatment of CTE using Emu Oil as source of Vitamin K2 MK-4 (Walkabout brand). Case Study, 2012.
- Asagi I et al. Menaquinone-4 enhances testosterone production in rats and testis-derived tumor cells. Lipids Health Dis. 2011; 10: 158. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-10-158
- Peart K. Not Just Skin and Bones: Wrinkles Could Predict Women’s Bone Fracture Risk. YaleNews, 2011 June 6. https://news.yale.edu/2011/06/06/not-just-skin-and-bones-wrinkles-could-predict-women-s-bone-fracture-risk
- Vos M. Vitamin K2 is a mitochondrial electron carrier that rescues pink1 deficiency. Science. 2012 Jun 8; 336(6086):1306-10. doi:10.1126/science.1218632. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/34533525.pdf
- Bhalerao S et al. Vitamin K2 takes Charge. Science Vol 336. 2012 Jun 8;10.1126/science.1223812 https://www.ralf-kollinger.de/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Vitamin-K2-takes-charge.pdf
- Matrix Gla Protein European Molecular Biological Laboratory – European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), 2019 www.ebi.ac.uk
- Moriya M et al. Vitamin K2 ameliorates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in Lewis rats. J Neuroimmunol. 2005 Dec 30;170(1-2):11-20.
- Vitamin K2-Dependent Proteins European Molecular Biological Laboratory – European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), 2019 www.ebi.ac.uk
- Suttie JW. Synthesis of vitamin K dependent proteins. FASEB J. 1993 Mar;7(5):445-52 PMIS 8462786
- Gijsbers BL et al. Effect of food composition on vitamin K absorption in human volunteers. Br J Nutr. 1996 Aug;76(2):223-9.
- Shanahan C. Deep Nutrition: Why your genes need traditional food. Big Box Books, 2009, p. 153, 233.
- Rheuame-Bleue K. Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: how a little known vitamin can save your life. 2012
- Davidson RT et al. Conversion of dietary phylloquinone to tissue menaquinone-4 in rats is not dependent on gut bacteria. J Nutr. 1998 Feb;128(2):220-3.
- Ronden J et al. Intestinal flora is not an intermediate in the phylloquinone- menaquinone-4 conversion in the rat. Biochimca et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – General Subjects. Volume 1379. issue 1, 8 January 1998, p. 69-75.
- Hirota, Y et al. Menadione (Vitamin K-3) Is a Catabolic Product of Oral Phylloquinone (Vitamin K-1) in the Intestine and a Circulating Precursor of Tissue Menaquinone-4 (Vitamin K-2) in Rats. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2013, 288.10.1074/jbc.M113.477356.
- Human Health Effects of Menadione, Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET), 2019, https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/adbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+3354
- Price, WA. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. La Mesa, CA: Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 1939.
- VitaK Laboratories. Form 11.1: Result from Vitamin K measurements (Weston A. Price Foundation, June 2015) minKMeasurements120315-WestonPriceFoundation-foodsamples1
- Masterjohn C. On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved. The Weston A. Price Foundation, Published Online FEBRUARY 14, 2008
- Hiraike H et al. Distribution of K vitamins (phylloquinone and menaquinones) in human placenta and maternal and umbilical cord plasma. Am J Obstet Gyecol. 1988 Mar;158(3 Pt 1):5649. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3348316
- VitaK Laboratories. Form 11.1: Result from Vitamin K measurements (Weston A. Price Foundation, April 2015) minKMeasurements120315-WestonPriceFoundation-foodsamples
- VitaK Laboratories. Form 11.1: Result from Vitamin K measurements (Weston A. Price Foundation, Oct-November 2015) minKMeasurements021015-WestonPriceFoundation-foodsamples
- Leichhardt L. Journal of an overland expedition in Australia –From Moreton Bay to Port Essington, a distance of upwards of 3000 miles, during the years 1844-1845. T. and W. Boone London, 1847. Epub 2002, University of Sydney Library. http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit/pdf/p00050.pdf
- Vitamin K-Dependent Proteins: Biological Processes European Molecular Biological Laboratory – European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), 2019 www.ebi.ac.uk
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- Ray AK et al. Loss of Gas6 and Axl signaling results in extensive axonal damage, motor deficits, prolonged neuro-inflammation, and less remeylination following cuprizone exposure. Glia. 2017 Dec:65(12):2051-2069. doi: 10.1002/glia.23214.
- Lasemi R et al. Vitamin K2 in multiple sclerosis patients. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2018 May;130(9-10):307-313. doi:10.1007/s00508-018-1328-x.
- Dulamea AO. Role of Oligodendrocyte Dysfunction in Demyelination, Remyelination and Neurodegeneration in Multiple Sclerosis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017; 958:91-127. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-47861-6_7.
Dr. Will Schlinsog is a board certified Doctor of Chiropractic in Wisconsin and California. He completed his Pre-Chiropractic education at the University of Wisconsin and went on to attain his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Logan College of Chiropractic now known as Logan University in Chesterfield, MO. He has been in practice for thirty-two years and currently maintains a private practice in Marshfield Wisconsin.
He has had additional training in disability evaluations, functional nutrition, applied kinesiology, and functional neurology. He serves as the CFO of Walkabout Health Products and as a consultant to all of Walkabout’s emu oil users. Dr. Will conducts educational and informational podcasts regarding the clinical studies and trials performed primarily in his private practice.
Dr. Will is starting a campaign to get his patients connected to local Organic Farmers. He can be found at walkabouthealthproducts.com. Dr. Will is married to Elizabeth and shares two grown children with her.