K2, squared: A vision for vascular health

Every so often a natural bioactive comes on the scene with a compelling story for a market segment hot for natural alternatives. In the case of vitamin K2, one demographic in point is post-menopausal women, who want to prevent both osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Enter vitamin K2, which activates proteins that inhibit vascular calcification — arteriosclerosis — while putting calcium in bones where it belongs.

The seminal study that piqued interest in the vitamin is known as the Rotterdam study. Published in 2004, it followed 4,800 healthy people older than 55 for up to 10 years. It demonstrated that, compared to those with a low intake of dietary vitamin K2, those consuming 45mcg/day vitamin K2 experienced a 50 per cent reduction in arterial calcification, a 50 per cent reduction in cardiovascular death and a 25 per cent reduction in all causes of death.

"The study fell into a vacuum because there was no commercial material on the market," says Eric Anderson, brand manager for PL Thomas, which began marketing natural vitamin K2, branded MenaQ-7, from material manufactured by NattoPharma in Norway.

Additional studies have demonstrated that vitamin K2-deficient people taking 1,200mg calcium experienced significantly more heart attacks — strong evidence that vitamin K2 should be a part of every calcium or bone-health (not to mention cardio) supplement formulation.

"I think it's the next vitamin D3," says Anderson. "Very few people outside the industry have heard about it, but the research published is so compelling. The next big hot vitamin is going to be vitamin K2."

A recent competitor to the K2 market is Bergstrom Nutrition, whose MenaquinGold vitamin K2 is being bundled with its legacy MSM ingredient and vitamin K for bone, cardiovascular and inflammation applications.

"There are several patents pending from suppliers, and depending on what the patent office decides there'll be a flurry of activity on the K2 market," says Tony Keller, president of TandemRain Innovations, an offshoot sister company to Bergstrom.

MenaQ-7 is patented for cardiovascular applications in foods and supplements in Europe and patent-pending in the US. Other patents pending include the combination of vitamin K with, among other ingredients, sources of omega-3s including fish oils.

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