Vitamin K2 is a newly discovered nutrient that is vital for health. New research suggests that children and adults are often very low in this protective nutrient. Find out why vitamin K2 supplements may help your child’s health.
Note that while I am sponsored by Nattopharma for this post, all views are my own and backed by clinical research.
Are Vitamins Good For Kids?
The term vitamin literally means “vital amine.” Without adequate vitamins or other essential nutrients, children’s health can suffer. We need to pay attention to dietary gaps in nutrition so that kids reach their best potential health.
For this blog, I am going to focus on a vitamin that is critical for kid’s growth and strength: vitamin K2.
What is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K was discovered in 1929 when scientists, including Dr. Henrik Dam, were learning about cholesterol. They stumbled upon the fact that when they deprived the animals of fat, they began bleeding uncontrollably. They named this factor vitamin K for Koagulation (German term for clotting).
Scientists knew that vitamin K was essential for clotting properly. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that a scientist named Dr. Schurgers and his colleagues discovered that vitamin K played a strong role in calcification within the body.
In 2006, Dr.Tsugawa and colleagues found out that vitamin K2 was the important form of vitamin K to help with bone strength and was associated with a reduced risk of bone fractures.
Differences Between Vitamin K1 and K2
We now understand that the roles of vitamin K2 (menaquinone) are overlapping, but distinct from vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) in the body.
Vitamin K1 does not stay in the body for long: it has a short half-life.
Vitamin K2 as MK7 has a much longer and more stable effect in the blood
Vitamin K1 function:
- Proper clotting
A small amount of vitamin K1 can be converted in the body into vitamin K2. This process relies on the health of the bacteria in the digestive tract.
Vitamin K2 functions:
- Proper clotting
- Calcification of bone
- Inhibiting excess calcification in arteries
- Bone strength
- Bone density
How Does Vitamin K2 Help Bone Health?
This may come as a surprise to you that bone tissue is not just about calcium and vitamin D for strength and density. The bone is a dynamic tissue that makes and uses proteins, blood cells, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and antioxidants to protect it.
Bone growth in childhood and adolescence is very rapid. A very important protein that helps build and maintain the structure of the bone are called osteocalcin. One way of thinking about osteocalcin is that it helps “knit” the bone together by binding the calcium to the bone structure.
Osteocalcin requires a nutrient to be active. This nutrient is called vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone. Without enough vitamin K2, osteocalcin cannot function to strengthen the bone for children and adults alike (ref).
Reasons Your Child May Need More Vitamin K2
1. Poor Diet
Children and teens are lacking important nutrients to keep them healthy. Vitamin K2 or MK7 vitamin is no exception. It may be the MOST common nutrient that is lacking in this age group. Research shows that children eat less vitamin K now than they did in the 1950’s.
Why are teens lacking this nutrient in their diets? Food trends towards processed and packaged foods have made this a growing problem.
2. Bone Markers of Vitamin K2 Deficiency in Children
Active osteocalcin itself is a marker of vitamin K2 in the blood. Inactive (uncarboxylated) osteocalcin due to vitamin K2 deficiency is related to osteoporosis risk, and is the most discriminative test for the disease.
Further, a 2014 study in healthy volunteers revealed that children have 8-10 times more inactive osteocalcin than adults. In fact, children had the worst vitamin K2 deficiency by this measure, followed by adults over the age of 40.
The researchers indicated that children are the most appropriate for K supplementation, and gave the largest response when given MK-7 (as MenaQ7).
3. Improved Bone Health in Kids and Teens with Vitamin K2 Supplement
Bone mineral content in girls aged 3-16 years of age is strongly related to markers of vitamin K2 status (uncarboxylated osteocalcin).
Children in adolescent years also have improved bone mineral content if their vitamin K status improves in their blood (carboxylated oxteocalcin).
Children with a disease called beta thalassemia have poor bone strength and density, making this condition life-threatening. In a pilot study of 20 children with beta thalassemia, those receiving a vitamin K2 supplement (MenaQ7) at 50 micrograms and a prescription form of vitamin D3 had less osteoporosis and osteopenia at the end of the 1-year study.
4. Vitamin K2 Supplements as MenaQ7 Improves a Marker of Bone Density in Kids
In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial, vitamin K2 supplements (MenaQ7) at 45 micrograms per day for 8 weeks in children improved blood levels of MK7 and significantly improved osteocalcin ratiossafely.
5. May Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is often silent, but contributes to the root cause of many diseases today. Inflammation is related to a reduction in bone mass in children.
It is very important to learn ways to reduce excess inflammation in the body. New research found that pure vitamin K2 (MenaQ7) reduced inflammation markers, including TNF-a, IL-1a, and IL-1b gene expression and protein production in a cell study.
The effects of vitamin K2 on inflammation were dose-dependent. Keep in mind, this was a very preliminary cell study, so human clinical studies will need to be conducted to determine if vitamin K2 reduces inflammation in children.
Healthy Bone Cofactors for Children
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin K2
Of these cofactors, the most common ones that children run low are vitamin K2, vitamin D3, magnesium, zinc, and antioxidants.
Vitamin K2 Supplement Facts for Kids
Keep in mind, getting any vitamin K2 from food can be challenging, let alone enough to provide bone support. Consider the amount one has to consume of typical Western foods as reviewed in my recent blog.
The way to find the best vitamin K2 supplement is to look for the patented kind used most often in research. Why? Some forms of vitamin K2 may be mostly inactive or have unknown effects in the body.
- Vitamin K2 from MenaQ7 is a natural, patented form of vitamin K2 that is used in clinical studies. This form of vitamin K2 is safe and proven effective in kids and adults.
- Vitamin K1 from green vegetables isn’t reliably converted into MK 7 vitamin by the body either.Vitamin K2 supplements can be safely and effectively given to children, teens, and adults to help improve their health.
- Vitamin K2 is a better choice for bone health than vitamin K1 because it more effectively increases active osteocalcin levels in the body.
- Doses for children of vitamin K2 supplements at 45 microgram are effective for healthy children and 180 microgram for healthy adults.
Best Vitamin K2 Supplements for Kids
Finding high-quality supplements for kids is challenging and vitamin K2 is no exception. My clients are always asking me which brands to use. The marketplace is very confusing. I did some of the homework for you here in this blog.
Vitamin K2 Supplement Options for Children
Three types of liquid vitamin for kids with vitamin K2 as MenaQ7 are available on the market right now in the United States. They are Carlson’s Kids Super Daily D3 & K2, Now Liquid D-3 & MK7, and Wiley’s Alaskan Beginner’s DHA. All have ideal ratios of vitamin K2 and D3 for children’s health.
Wiley’s Beginner’s DHA
Make SURE to look for Beginner’s DHA in the title to get the one with vitamin K2 in it. Other Wiley’s products do not.
I really like that Wiley’s uses a great combination of wild-caught fish, which supplies omega 3’s as well as a small amount vitamin D3, a nutrient deficient in many children. It also has vitamin K2 (MenaQ7) dose that is in the optimal range for children. Wiley’s is a natural source of a moderate amount of vitamin A (32% Daily Value for children 2-4 years and 16% for children older than 4).
Pros: The ingredients for Wiley’s are Purified & Concentrated Alaska Pollock (Fish) Oil as triglycerides and Natural Strawberry and Watermelon Flavors. It also contains Identity Preserved Non-GMO Vitamin E (Sunflower). Identity preserved essentially means that it comes from certified seed. Its Vitamin K2 (MenaQ7®) is from chickpeas, and Vitamin D3 is in medium chain triglycerides, a type of fat from coconut oil.
Cons: Cost per serving is higher than other brands for vitamin K2, but you also get great omega 3’s, vitamin A, AND vitamin D3. You may still need additional minerals for supplementing if your child’s is a picky eater
Carlson’s Kids Super Daily D3 & K2
Pros: Cost-per-serving is low for both of these much-needed nutrients. One tiny drop of Carlson’s Super Daily D3 & K2 has 1000 IU of vitamin D3 and 22 micrograms of K2 (MenaQ7).
I really like that supplement companies are now combining D3 and K2 vitamins for bone health. The drops are super convenient too. When my kids were small, drops were very useful to deliver vitamins because they have little to no taste and were so easy to give to them.
The only ingredients are these vitamins and medium-chain triglycerides, which is an easy-to-absorb fat from coconut
Cons: You may still need additional minerals for supplementing if your child is a picky eater.
Now Liquid D-3 & MK7
Another great liquid vitamin D3 and MK7 combination is the Now Liquid D-3 & MK7.
Pros: Now brand is really easy to find and is a very reasonable price. There are only 3 ingredients: vitamin D3 as cholecalciferol from lanolin, vitamin K2 as menaquinone-7 (MenaQ7), and fat from coconut oil or palm kernel oil.
The dose of vitamin K2 recommended on the label for 5 drops is a bit high at 100 micrograms of vitamin K2, but you could easily give your child 2-3 drops for 40-60 micrograms.
Cons: You need to carefully read the dosing instructions on the label to get the desired amount of vitamin K2 for your child. You may still need additional minerals for supplementing if your child is a picky eater.
Vitamin K2 Capsule Option
There is one capsule form of vitamin K2 that is good for teens and older children that can swallow a capsule: Doctor’s Best Natural Vitamin K2 MK7.
Doctor’s Best Natural Vitamin K2 MK7
Pros: If you are looking for JUST vitamin K2, this may be your choice of supplement. Doctor’s Best is really easy to find in many health food stores and online. It contains 45 micrograms of vitamin K2 MK7 (MenaQ7). It does have some ingredients that I thought I should clarify. It has some cellulose, which is a plant-based fiber. It has an emulsifier called glycerol monostearate, magnesium stearate (vegetable source) which is generally recognized as safe. It is derived from a type of fat called stearic acid and magnesium. It contains ascorbyl palmitate, which is a form of vitamin C, and rosemary extract.
Cons: Not suitable for children that can’t take in capsule form. However, parents could get creative and empty the capsule out into food if they wanted. You may still need additional minerals for supplementing if your child is a picky eater.
Vitamin K2 has a good safety profile. No known side effects of supplementation were seen with very high doses in animal study
A medication that interacts with vitamin K2 are some anticoagulants. Make sure to discuss with your healthcare provider before adding any supplement to your regimen.
Other Factors About Vitamin K2 and Health To Consider
In a robust 3-year study, vitamin K2 supplement as MenaQ7 at 180 micrograms per day reduced the loss of bone throughout menopause. It also significantly improved bone strength, bone mineral content, and bone mineral density at the lumbar spine and femoral neck, but not at the total hip.
Bone strength was also favorably affected by MK-7 vitamin. Vitamin K2 supplement also significantly decreased the loss in spinal height of the lower and middle parts of the spine.
Vitamin K2 safely benefits the blood vessels and heart in adults as I reviewed in a previous blog here.
Refer to this blog to find out why vitamin K2 is important for overall heart health and why it is so difficult to get through the diet.
- Children have very low intakes of vitamin K2, a nutrient critical for bone health.
- Supplements of vitamin K2 as MenaQ7 are safe and may effectively improve their bone strength and bone mineral content.
- Consider cofactors such as vitamin D3 and and overall adequate intake of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus as well to assure adequate bone health. Read my blog here about magnesium and how to get enough.
- Make sure your kid’s diet contains lots of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.