You’ve probably heard that vitamin D is an essential nutrient, but what about vitamin K2? This often-overlooked vitamin is also essential for your health and well-being. So, what exactly are the benefits – and why do vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 go so well together?
- Vitamin D boosts bone health by aiding in calcium absorption and is primarily obtained from sunlight exposure, fatty fish, and fortified dairy products
- Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health and is found in leafy green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, as well as in certain fruits and dairy products.
- Combining Vitamin D and K synergistically enhances bone and cardiovascular health by improving calcium absorption and directing it to the proper areas in the body
Here I will explore the best vitamin D3 and K2 benefits, as well as reveal where you can find the best sources of both.
What is Vitamin D3?
There are two main types of vitamin D – one is vitamin D3 and the other is known as Vitamin D2.
Vitamin D3 is the type of vitamin D found in animal products and produced in the skin via natural sunlight. When your skin is exposed to the sun, ultraviolet radiation triggers the formation of vitamin D3. This is the best and most reliable way of meeting your vitamin D needs. And, the good news is that when exposing your skin to the sun to top up your vitamin D levels – your body will only take the amount required.
In other words, you can’t overdose on vitamin D from the sun. However, it is important to consider how much you’re taking in dietary supplement form as it is possible to take too much of this fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin D3 is sometimes called cholecalciferol. Its main role is to help the body absorb calcium and maintain strong bones and teeth. However, there is good evidence that vitamin D has a role in many other areas of our health. These include our mood and energy, our vulnerability to respiratory infections, our inflammatory processes, and our risk of autoimmune disease to name a few.
Because vitamin D is such an essential nutrient – your doctor will likely offer you a blood test to check your levels if you are showing signs of deficiency. Deficiency symptoms can include an increased sensitivity to pain particularly in the muscles and bones, feelings of pins and needles in our hands or feet, muscle weakness, and weakened immune response.
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin and good dietary sources include oily fish such as salmon or sardines, fish oil supplements including cod liver oil, egg yolks, liver, and cow’s milk butter. As these foods are nutrient-dense and offer a wide range of health benefits it’s important to include them regularly where possible.
How can I get enough Vitamin D?
Whilst you can find vitamin D in the diet, the best source of vitamin D is found following sun exposure via ultraviolet light. When considering sun exposure we need to ensure we are being safe and that we are not taking any unnecessary risks. That being said, many people now feel very cautious about exposing their skin to the sun for any amount of time which can result in vitamin D deficiencies in certain populations.
To get enough vitamin D from the sun we need to expose areas of our skin such as our arms and legs for about 20-30 minutes a day, ideally around the middle of the day when the sunlight is strongest. For some people, such as those with fair skin, only 15-20 minutes is needed, however, if you have darker skin you may need the full 30 minutes.
Many people don’t get this daily sun exposure either because their jobs keep them indoors or because they are afraid of the sun and prefer to cover up or wear sun cream when outdoors. This can contribute to vitamin D deficiency which is worsened by a poor dietary intake of vitamin D too.
Of course, there is the issue that in the Northern Hemisphere, from October to March, we simply don’t generate enough sunlight to get our vitamin D intake daily. So for people living in this situation, it’s essential to supplement with vitamin D between these months. For those who fail to get the requisite amount of sun exposure year-round, have darker skin, or are spending a lot of time indoors it may be helpful to supplement daily to prevent deficiency.
Vitamin D2 is a plant-based form of vitamin D meaning it is suitable for those adhering to a strict plant-based diet.
Vitamin D2 can be found in fortified foods including some plant-based cereals and milk, it can also be found in special mushrooms that have been grown under ultraviolet lights. It is also included in supplements that use the vegan-friendly D2 version of this nutrient.
You might also be able to find a source of vitamin D2 in some super greens blends. A high-quality product such as Human Tonik’s super greens tonik incorporates vitamin D2 to ensure that people following a plant-based diet can easily stay stocked up on this essential nutrient.
What is Vitamin K2?
You might not have heard of vitamin K2 before, but it is such a great team player – it works together with vitamin D3 to ensure your calcium absorption is integrated into great bone health.
But vitamin K has benefits of its own too – it helps your blood to clot, which is essential for reducing unnecessary blood loss. And, it also plays a role in your heart health too. Despite this most people don’t know about this key nutrient, and unfortunately, a lot of processed modern diets are deficient in K2.
There are two forms of vitamin K – vitamin K1 is found in plant-based foods including dark green leafy veg, which most of us don’t consume enough of. Vitamin K2 is found in animal-based products, but also, interestingly in fermented foods.
Your gut is also clever enough to manufacture its own vitamin K2, providing it has a healthy range of the right gut bacteria. Of course, you can often find K2 in various health supplements too, especially those containing calcium that are designed to support bone health.
What are the benefits of K2?
K2 helps to guide calcium into the bones where it can form and maintain bone strength and density. This is important for everyone but has particular relevance for post-menopausal women who are at an increased risk of osteoporosis. So, ensuring an adequate K2 intake has been shown to increase bone mineralization and strength, reducing fracture risk as a result.
But, getting calcium into the bones isn’t only good news for our muscular-skeletal health. This is because an excess of calcium in the bloodstream can lead to arterial congestion and an increased risk of heart issues. So, by getting sufficient intakes of vitamin K, you can ensure that calcium is channeled into the bones where it’s required, instead of clogging up the arteries which risks heart concerns.
K2 is also involved in the maintenance of strong teeth, and there is even some preliminary evidence to suggest K2 may be involved in cancer prevention, although more evidence is needed.
But overall, it’s clear that vitamin K2 is of the utmost importance, as the benefits of K2 rival those of D3.
Benefits of Combining Vitamin D3 and K2 Together
In terms of Vitamin d3 and k2 benefits, we can see they work well together to produce the best overall health outcomes. D3 and K2 benefits are different, but because D3 relies on K2 to integrate calcium into the bone – they are a helpful team, and best consumed together.
This is because vitamin D3 is the first step in promoting calcium absorption from our diet. But then K2 is needed for the activation of a special protein known as osteocalcin, which then, in turn, transports the absorbed calcium into the bone.
So, one cannot do its role without the aid of the other – they work synergistically, like many nutrients, to initiate key physiological functions.
Julia is a health content editor and nutritionist from Norwich, UK. She has worked as a health coach in private practice and for the national health service. She undertook an MSc in nutritional medicine to deepen her knowledge.
She enjoys producing evidence-based content which inspires people to become healthier and happier.