This little-known vitamin plays a key role in your good health and is critical for stopping numerous diseases, including cancer.
However, unless you’re supplementing with vitamin K, you probably aren’t getting enough from your daily diet.
Vitamin K was first discovered in Germany nearly a century ago, when scientists realized it was critical to blood clotting. They named it “Koagulationsvitamin” – which is where the “K” comes from.
In the early 1900s, famous nutritional therapy pioneer Weston Price also spoke of vitamin K, as he traveled the world studying the link between diet, tooth decay, and chronic disease.
Dr. Price (he was a dentist by trade) called this nutrient “Activator X,” which is now vitamin K2.
Today, anyone who knows vitamin K probably knows of it for its blood-clotting ability. Even babies get a vitamin K shot at birth to promote healthy blood clotting.
Not all vitamin K is created equal
Vitamin K (VK) is a fat-soluble vitamin that comes in three forms. The first two are natural types, and the third is synthetic, including:
- Vitamin K1 (VK1) – aka phylloquinone. It’s natural, has the weakest effects, and is present in plant foods (especially leafy greens).
- Vitamin K2 (VK2) – aka menaquinone. It’s natural, has moderate effects, and is present in meats, cheeses, and other fermented foods.VK2 is further divided into sub-types – the key one being MK-4.
- Vitamin K3 (VK3) – aka menadione. It’s synthetic and has potent effects, but also can come with side effects. VK3 is combined with intravenous (IV) vitamin C to help fight cancer in certain holistic clinics. It’s also often used as a livestock supplement.
Low vitamin K?
You’ve got a higher risk of cancer
One prostate cancer study followed 11,000 men over 8.6 years. They found no link between K1 deficiency and prostate cancer, and only a small link between K2 deficiency and risk of prostate cancer.
However, there was a very strong correlation between low levels of K2 and advanced prostate cancer.1 As K2 intake decreased, risk of advanced prostate cancer rose.
Additionally, researchers studied vitamin K2 as a prostate cancer treatment. They found that it suppressed prostate cancer cell lines, whether hormone dependent or not, via apoptosis, which means it caused cancer cells to commit suicide.2
Researchers then enlarged the study to see if vitamin K2 intake would affect other common cancers in addition to prostate cancer, and included cancers of the lung, breast, and colorectum.
Prevented all four cancers
For ten years researchers followed 24,340 people who were cancer-free at enrollment.
The result? The 25 percent of participants with the highest VK2 intake were 28 percent less likely to die of all four cancers studied—prostate, breast, lung and colorectum– when compared to participants with the lowest vitamin K2 intake.3
In fact, those with the lowest K2 intake suffered twice as many cases of prostate cancer as the high-intake group.
But that’s only the beginning of the research showing vitamin K helps the body defend against cancer.
Also stops blood and liver cancers
A Minnesota study also found a correlation between high levels of vitamin K and the prevention of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL), leukemia, and other lymphomas.
Researchers found that higher vitamin K intake dramatically lowered the risk of developing NHL.4
Then, in 2018, a study found that vitamin K2 reduced the size and number of cancer cells.5 The published study states in part, “Clinical trials demonstrated that VK2 has the potential to improve the prognosis of patients with cancer… and the dietary intake of VK2 can decrease the risk of developing cancer.”
There’s also liver cancer. An interesting feature of liver cancer is that patients’ bodies do not process vitamin K. However, supplementing with it helps restore normal clotting, and more importantly, also stops the cancer from growing.6
One reason leafy green vegetables fight cancer
Leafy green vegetables are rich in vitamin K1.
Studies show that vitamin K1 exhibits anticancer activity in cancer cell lines from the stomach, nasopharynx, breast, oral and throat cavity, as well as the blood.
But overall, K1 appears to be far less potent against cancer than K2.
That brings us to the third form of vitamin K, the synthetic form, K3.
A winning combination
against cancer used in Mexico
Intravenous vitamin C combined with an injection of vitamin K3 fights cancer cells, according to holistic cancer clinics in Mexico. The combination has the ability to generate hydrogen peroxide in tumors, these clinics claim, which kills cancer cells.
They point to research at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where scientists have demonstrated the effectiveness of IV vitamin C and vitamin K3 at killing cancer cells in both rodent and human studies.
For example, in 2011, an in vitro study performed in a laboratory cell culture showed this combination of vitamin K3 and vitamin C induced apoptosis in leukemia cells.7
At Mexican cancer clinics, such as Oasis of Hope, doctors inject K3 immediately before IV vitamin C infusions.
Currently, there are no long-term cancer outcome studies or long-term cancer prevention studies on vitamin K. But there is research on Vitamin K offered with chemotherapy. The research suggests that vitamin K3 alone can improve chemotherapy results.
Builds strong bones, protects heart health
As mentioned earlier, one of the sub-types of vitamin K2 is MK-4. It builds strong bones and protects against osteoporosis.
Protecting yourself from osteoporosis could save your life, too. Hip fractures are a serious threat to longevity.
Seven trials found that vitamin K2 cut the risk of hip fractures by a whopping 77 percent, spinal fractures by 60 percent, and all non-spinal fractures by an astounding 81 percent.8
What’s more, vitamin K2 prevents calcification of your blood vessels.
Calcium build-up around your heart is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Reducing it is important. Vitamin K2 helps.
In a ten-year study, those with the highest vitamin K2 intake were 52 percent less likely to show artery calcification. They also had a 57 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease.9
Are you getting enough vitamin K2?
In theory, your body can convert a certain amount of K1 to K2. But that’s only been studied in animals and it’s widely variable. Plus, many drugs inhibit the conversion.
So yes, eat your leafy greens. But also eat foods high in vitamin K2 in their own right including:
- Cheese (especially Jarlsberg and Gouda)
- Egg yolks
- Chicken (dark meat)
- Sour cream and cream cheese
- Natto (fermented soy)
Cheese cultures and other fermented foods vary in VK2 levels. Foods from grass-fed animals contain more K2 than products from conventional animals.
Sorry, vegans. You’re out of luck here, except for natto, which is an acquired taste.
If you don’t (or won’t) eat these foods, consider a natto supplement, or some other K2 supplement, especially if you’re taking a calcium supplement. Your health will thank you.
- Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J. Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition ( EPIC-Heidelberg). Am J ClinNutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):985-92.
- Samykutty A, Shetty AV, Dakshinamoorthy G, Kalyanasunddaram R, Zheng G, Chen A, et al. Vitamin K2, a naturally occurring menaquinone, exerts therapeutic effects on both hormone-dependent and hormone-independent prostate cancer cells. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:287358.
- Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Kaaks R, Linseisen J. Dietary vitamin K intake in relation to cancer incidence and mortality: results from the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg). Am J ClinNutr. 2010 May;91(5):1348-58.
- Cerhan JR, O’Connor HM, Fredericksen ZS, Liebow M, Macon WR, Wang AH. Vitamin K intake and risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Cancer Res. 2010 Apr;70(8):Supp 1.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5958717/ (Retrieved September 21, 2020)
- Carr BI. A phase 1/phase 11 study of high dose vitamin K (VK) to patients with advanced inoperable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC): interim analysis. Hepatology. 1994;20:278A.
- https://cancerci.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2867-11-19 (Retrieved September 21, 2020)
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16801507/ (Retrieved September 21, 2020)
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15514282/ (Retrieved September 21, 2020)