Vitamins are an indispensable part of our diet and we can simply not survive without the intake of right vitamins in right amounts. Vitamin K is one of such essential nutrients that we need for the coagulation of blood in our body. While there are two main forms of vitamin K i.e. Vitamin K1 and vitamin K2, it is only the first one that has always been the topic of discussion. Vitamin K2, which was named as ‘Activator X’ during the time of discovery, is mostly ignored as a mainstream vitamin. However, latest studies have found that it is quite a powerful vitamin with potential disease-preventing qualities. Conversely, it has also been blamed to cause significant hair loss. So, what is the truth? Let’s explore vitamin K2:
About Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone, is basically a member of the ‘Menaquinone’ family, which is nothing but a group of lipophilic vitamins. Menaquinones (MK-n, where ‘n’ signifies the number of ) are mostly characterized by the ‘number of isoprenoid residues present in side chains’ and based on it, they are typically subdivided into the following two types:
- Short-chain menaquinones (MK-4, etc.)
- Long-chain menaquinones (MK-7, MK-8, MK-9, and so on)
Likewise, vitamin K2 also has several subtypes and they are different from each other based on their isoprenoid chain length. But, it has been found that MK-4 or menatetrenone is the most common homologues among them. It is synthesized from vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), but available only in animal products. However, the enzyme functions of vitamin K2 are significantly different from those of vitamin K1.
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Sources Of Vitamin K2
The most reliable food source of vitamin K2 is ‘natto’, a traditional dish of Japan. It is essentially a bacterial fermented food in which soybeans are fermented by Bacillus Subtills to provide huge amount of vitamin K2 as MK-7. It is also sold in the form of capsule as ‘natto extract’. Some other similar bacterial fermented foods rich in vitamin K2 are curd, mature or aged cheese, other fermented vegetables like kefir, sauerkraut, etc. It is found in egg (mainly in yolk) and meat (mostly in the organs and fats of chicken and beef) in lesser amounts in the form of MK-4. Some other foods which contain vitamin K2 are butter, whole milk, skimmed milk, raw salmon, hotdogs, and so forth.
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How Are Vitamin K2 And Hair Loss Linked?
Let’s start with the truth. Vitamin K doesn’t cause hair loss at all. Rather, it helps in regeneration as well as regrowth of our hair strands, which is totally opposite the myth. In acute cases of hair loss, especially pattern baldness, the high amount of dihydrotestosterone or DHT is known to be the main culprit. While the hormone testosterone and its derivative DHT are dominant in male bodies, they are also present in women to some extent and lead to alopecia, which can be treated with a nutrient-rich diet that includes vitamin K2.
DHT or dihydrotestosterone, in essence, is an androgen that is synthesized from its pre-cursor testosterone with the help of certain enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. It is quite stronger than testosterone and becomes dominant in our body when the levels of its pre-cursor go high. However, it was an experiment conducted in the year 1942 by Dr. James B. Hamilton that revealed a connection between androgen therapy and balding. Since then, quite a few researches have been carried out on this topic and all of them concluded that high testosterone in our body can result into pattern baldness.
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There are three other ‘bad factors’ that are responsible for balding. These are hormones like ‘estrogen’, ‘cortisol’ and ‘prolactin’, which act as ‘testosterone blockers’ and lead to ‘scalp calcification’. In other words, these hormones form calcium deposits in the bone structure of our skull, thereby decreasing the flow of blood through the ‘diploic veins (the veins running throughout the scalp). As the blood circulation in scalp gets affected, the hair follicles shrink greatly, which causes hair loss over time.
Here comes the importance of vitamin K2. It is necessary for us to control our calcium intake in order to prevent skull calcification. But calcium, being a vital mineral for our physical system and its functionalities, needs to be consumed through dietary means. It has also been seen that having right dosage of calcium along with synergistic nutrients is actually effective in managing our testosterone levels. However, vitamin K2 can stimulate Matrix GLA Protein or MGP in our body, which is known to inhibit the calcification of skull in a very efficient manner. Hence, it is important to increase the intake of vitamin K2 in order to counteract skull calcification while keeping the intake of dietary calcium intact.
While consuming vitamin K2 in large amounts, one must be aware of its potential interference with anticoagulant medications. So before you start giving yourself a vitamin K2 treatment for your hair loss, consult with your doctor for sure.