I recently had the pleasure of attending a phenomenal lecture at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium (IHS) co-presented by Drs. Jeffrey Bland and Leon Schurgers. Dr. Bland is widely acknowledged as the “Godfather of Functional Medicine”; Dr. Schurgers is a Dutch researcher who specializes in the relationship between vitamin K and coronary artery calcification (CAC).
Measurement of CAC is an accepted way of assessing risk for heart attack. Regardless of cholesterol, some people are highly prone—or resistant—to coronary artery disease. I use the “EBT heart scan” to more reliably predict which of my patients needs aggressive prevention versus those who can be reassured that they’re at low risk.
For example, because my cholesterol is a little high (around 210), and I’m a 65 year old male with a family history of heart disease, I’m told I’m an ideal candidate for a statin. But a recent heart scan revealed I had zero plaque—a virtual guarantee of an additional 15 years of trouble-free mileage. I have a patient with a cholesterol of 345 who paradoxically has no plaque; another, with a cholesterol of 190 has a high-risk plaque score of over 800.
So clearly there are factors beyond cholesterol, HDL, and LDL that determine risk.
One of those factors might be vitamin K.
Dr. Schurgers grew up in the Netherlands, a country renowned for its high-quality aged cheeses. Among Western countries, Holland is relatively low in incidence of heart disease, despite high consumption of full-fat dairy. This has led Schurgers to speculate that something in aged dairy products might be protective.
The Japanese have long touted the benefits of natto—fermented soy beans—a decidedly acquired taste for Western palates. Natto is the richest dietary source of menaquinone (MK7), a form of vitamin K2.
For those who can’t abide the pungent taste of natto, aged cheese is the second most potent source of MK7. It’s also available in supplements, and for years has been a mainstay in my preventive protocols for cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Why does MK7 have beneficial effects in such seemingly diverse conditions as atherosclerosis and bone loss? The answer, a bit simplistically, is that it acts kind of like a crossing guard for calcium: it keeps calcium away from places it shouldn’t be, and helps deposit it where it should be. The key to vitamin K’s actions in this regard is something called Matrix Gla protein (MGP).
So where does Coumadin fit in to this picture? Read the rest of the article here.