Monday, May 14, 2012

Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox

The title of this book piqued my interest while I was browsing through my library's available ebooks.  The cover gave me no clue that the author, Kate Rheaume-Bleue, is a proponent of ancestral eating, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself being blown away by her writing.

She explains that while we are typically encouraged to eat more calcium for bone-strength, and those at risk of osteoporosis may be supplementing their diet with calcium, there is an increasing body of research that shows that this is causing heart attacks.  I did not know that:

the increased risk of death from heart disease associated with calcium supplements outweighed any benefit to bone health.  Based on this research, for every bone fracture calcium supplementation prevents, it precipitates two potentially fatal cardiovascular disease events.

This is because calcium on its own is not able to travel from the arteries into the bones where it is needed.  Vitamin K2 is needed to bring the much needed calcium to the bones.  Without sufficient Vitamin K2, calcium simply ends up in linings of the arteries, where it eventually leads to cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The author links inadequate Vitamin K2 to a plethora of other diseases of modern civilization, including diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and kidney and Alzheimer's disease.  It is also the reason why almost every modern teen ends up at the orthodontist for treatment, and those of us without fillings are few and far between, even though people living in so-called primitive hunter-gatherer societies without access to fluoride toothpaste and floss typically have near-perfect pearly whites.

While you might at first glance think she's simply throwing the book at everything she can think of, she makes a compelling argument.  I have found so much contemporary research suggesting that our diseases of modern civilization are caused by chronic inflammation in the body, and that this in turn is a result of our industrialized and processed food supply, which is stripped of the micronutrients that are needed for optimum health.  The mainstream nutritional authorities advise us to eat more grains and less fat, especially animal fat, which is the exact opposite of what we need to minimize inflammation and to keep our arteries clear of plaque build-up.

According to Rheame-Blue, Vitamin K2 is found in just one vegetarian food*:  natto, a slimy concoction of specially fermented soy beans popular in Tokyo.  You can buy this smelly dish in specialty Japanese stores.  Having tried it a couple of times, I can't say it's quite as unappealing as she claims, but I don't think it will ever be my favourite food.

Vitamin K2 is a fat soluble vitamin that is also found in the fat of pastured animals - in other words, those animals that eat grass.  North Amerian cows and chickens are usually fed more grain than greens, so our SAD typically provides us with very little Vitamin K2.

Luckily for those of us who aren't vegan, the best animal sources of Vitamin K2 are also some of the most delicious ones on the table.   As Rheame-Bleue says, bring on the Brie.

Pastured eggs are one of the richest sources - great news for me, because I eat 2 pastured eggs, on average, every day- as are goose liver, and cheese - Dutch Gouda and Brie are two that deserve especial mention. 

The sad thing for me is thinking about people with a genetic predisposition to heart disease, who dutifully avoid egg yolks and limit their meat intake to specially selected lean cuts, all the while filling themselves up with "healthy whole grains".  I wonder how many health conscious people with heart disease are simply following the wrong advice.  Their health providers, in their ignorance, are sending them along the exact wrong nutritional path.

Please do yourself a favour and read this book.  It's easy to read, but packed with so much detail that I had to read it twice to make sure I didn't miss anything.  I am pretty sure you will find yourself making daily cheese omelettes too, if you aren't doing so already.

*  Edit:  I think she may not be entirely correct on this front, since K2 can also be found in lacto-fermented vegetables, for example, kimchi, sauerkraut and even pickles. 

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