I had wanted to do another installment of held over questions from readers this morning (sorry, folks), but I just have to get this out now. Actually, I caught wind of this a few weeks back, set it aside, forgot about it, and reader Ankit brought it to my attention in email last night.
Before I get into it, let's address something. This applies to my blog and a number of others out there. This is leading edge stuff. That is, you are learning of strong associations with resultant likely benefits now, all the while most of your friends, family, and acquaintances will scoff, dismiss, or otherwise ignore you if you bring it up; and yet, in 3-5 year's time they will think they've made a big discovery once the material is distilled and dumbed down sufficiently that the regurgitators in the news media can even begin to get it right.
Vitamin D is an example. Exploding in the news, but as yet, woefully mis-reported most of the time. I've shown through a lot of posts on D over the months that it's about the level of 25 (OH) D in ng/ml in your blood that counts, and it's not so much about sunshine or foods you eat. Yet, while the news is awash in study after study, the ignoramuses continue to talk about 200-400 IU supplementation per day, drinking your fortified milk, and getting that "15 minutes in the sun." It's useless garbage, and it's giving people false hope and security. Listen: if your level of 25 (OH) D is under 30 ng/ml, as it is for about a third of people, then you are at twice the risk of cancer as a smoker. Moreover, to really achieve benefits, you need to be over 60 ng/ml (only about 7.5% of people are) and it's very unlikely you're going to get there without significant supplementation >2,000 IU per day, minimum (I take 6k; so does my dad, and his level just came back at 73 — sweet spot).
It is a different world, folks. I have no qualms saying it: you get far better, more accurate, more cutting edge health and fitness information here (and other blogs — see the left sidebar) than you can get in every single mainstream news outlet in the word: put together. Let me be frank: they are useless, ignorant, know-nothings and the few exceptions that exist are attributable exclusively to individuals (Gary Taubes, as the world's best science journalist, for example).
If you are relying on the local paper, Newsweek, the local and national network news, or Oprah, for valid health and fitness information, you might as well just go read Mother Goose. It is that bad. What's the difference? Well, for one, I and my fellow bloggers resect your intelligence. Second, we actually dig up the actual studies, read them, interpret them, know bullshit manipulation of statistics when we see it, know conflicts of interest when we see them, can track related things coming together, synergies, integrations, and we can distill it all for our intelligent individual readers because we don't consider them to be collective herds of stupid cattle and sheep, as the mainstream does.
Finally, compare the results of the people who email results that I highlight here, and who comment (many of them highly educated; some PhDs, MDs, and so on), and compare that to the explosion of diabetes and obesity in America and worldwide. That's because those people are getting their information from the health / fitness veridic equivalent of Dr. Seuss.
So, here's the deal: A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease. (Press releases here, here, here). Well, there are significant questions, but the bottom line?
For every increase of 10 micrograms in the amount of vitamin K2 consumed daily, the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) drops by 9 percent. This somewhat stunning statistic was noted as a result of a recent cohort study from the Netherlands evaluating the dietary vitamin K intakes of 16,057 post-menopausal women and their association with the incidence of CHD.
The chief question stems from the finding that it was the longer chain menaquinones (K2; MK-n) 7, 8, and 9 that provided the benefit. Readers know that I've been blogging about menatetrenone (K2; MK-4) for quite a while. However, it should be noted that this was a study that gaged the coronary heart disease incidence of women over eight years while analyzing their diets specifically for K2 content, coming up with the finding that more K2 was associated with (not caused — that must be determined by intervention study where K2 supplementation is set up against placebo) less coronary heart disease. In other words, this is plenty to justify more research — like an intervention trial — but it does not tell us whether other variables may have been in play, i.e., the same people who eat lots of stuff high in K2 also tend to do x, y, and z, and it turns out that those are the more causal factors. Unlikely, in my view, but that's how science is done.
Now, with reference to the soapbox I just stepped down from, let me show you a real world example of the crap reporting that goes on, and even by means of quotes from lead authors of studies. This, my dear readers, is a perfect storm of illogic. Go ahead and test yourself and read it before continuing. Let's see if you catch it.
Did you? Well, here, let me give you a hint: other than natto — which I doubt is consumed by post-menopausal Dutch women in great quantity, if at all — the chief dietary source of the longer chain K2 vitamins is hard & soft fermented cheeses (high in "artery clogging" saturated fats). Now do you get it? These researchers may have unwittingly done us a big favor, because if it turns out that long-chain K2s are actually causal for massive (9% per 10 micrograms) reduction coronary heart disease, then they will have shown that those who eat the most "artery clogging" cheese have less clogged arteries.
So, how did the article put it?
“Our findings may have important practical implications on CVD prevention, it is important to mention that in order to increase the intake of vitamin K2, increasing the portion vitamin K2 rich foods in daily life might not be a good idea,” wrote lead author Gerrie-Cor Gast from the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care at the University Medical Center Utrecht.
“Vitamin K2 might be, for instance more relevant in the form of a supplement or in low-fat dairy.”
As Dr. Eades would say, "Jesus wept." So, what that idiotic quote means is that, while K2 intake was largely a function of cheese intake (you don't get it much place else, except natto, as noted), and while those who ate the most cheese had the least coronary heart disease, don't eat the stuff. It should also be noted that the K2 they are talking about, every microgram of it, is contained in the fat. So, of course, get it from low-fat dairy. Unbelievable.
Yea, well, here's what the study did do, and you can take it to the bank: it once again falsified the hypothesis that saturated fats have anything to do with heart disease. Even better: it likely showed (I'm guessing, as I don't know the diets of those who had more heart disease, but it's safe to assume that people with high saturated fat intake get lots of it from cheese) that the more saturated fat, the less heart disease. Another thought: they may have actually discovered the real source of "The French Paradox." I lived in France. Gorged on the world's best cheeses daily. So did lots of people.
Here's why I suspect this is exactly the case: they made no mention in general of macronutrient ratios or saturated fat in particular (at least in the press releases) and, even more compelling: had the protective benefit come from a low fat & low saturated-fat diet, it would have been screamed across every newspaper headline in the world.
Alright, so what about MK-4, the stuff I supplement with? Well, I suspect (guessing again, as we don't have the text of the study) that there was simply not enough MK-4 in the makeup of their diets to claim any statistical significance. It's tough to get Mk-4. There's a bit in egg yolks and trace in meats, but most is to be found in organ meats, marrow, brain, and fish eggs. It's also in the butter fat of ruminators, but only when grass fed. These are all foods that have gone out of vogue for modern industrial populations.
But there are clues. Read my post from back in November where I called attention to Stephan's work concerning the prevention of cardiovascular disease. But that's not all. MK-4 has also been found to reverse cardiovascular disease in rats.
So, my personal approach would be to supplement with MK-4 (unless you eat a lot of organ meats or have good sources for grass fed butter and trust it) and to get in some good French cheeses now and then. MK-4 doesn't hang around in your blood very long, but the longer chains do.
Later: Stephan now has a review of the full text up, which is naturally essential reading.