So far on our Is Butter Healthy? quest we've talked about the benefits of butyric acid and the benefits of vitamin A. Butter is a rich source of both of these important nutrients, but they aren't all butter has to offer. Also found within every bite of creamy, golden grass fed butter is vitamin K2. The benefits of vitamin K2 have only recently begun to receive the attention they deserve.
Vitamin K2 is the mysterious "Activator X" in grass fed butter that Weston A. Price valued so highly for its ability to promote the health of bones and teeth, as well as for treating a variety of chronic ailments. It is the synergistic element in high vitamin butter oil that was combined with the vitamin A and D in cod liver oil to provide nothing less than miraculous results in Weston Price's work.
Vitamin K1 Benefits vs Vitamin K2 Benefits
Vitamin K1 comes from plant sources (like spinach), while vitamin K2 comes from animal sources (like grass fed butter and liver). Conventional health information doesn't make much of a distinction between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2, but their functions in the body are quite different. Vitamin K1 plays the role most of us associate with vitamin K: supporting healthy blood clotting mechanisms. Vitamin K2, however, is in another league entirely. Its role in bone health, dental health and heart health appears to be completely separate from vitamin K1:
"A study recently published by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has revealed that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent. The authors point out that the benefits of K2 were most pronounced for advanced prostate cancer, and, importantly, that vitamin K1 did not offer any prostate benefits." From The Healthy Skeptic blog
"A recent study examined the relationship between K2 (MK-4 through 10) consumption and heart attack risk in 4,600 Dutch men. They found a strong inverse association between K2 consumption and heart attack mortality risk. Men with the highest K2 consumption had a whopping 51% lower risk of heart attack mortality and a 26% lower risk of death from all causes compared to men eating the least K2! Their sources of K2 MK-4 were eggs, meats and dairy. They obtained MK-5 through MK-10 from fermented foods and fish. The investigators found no association with K1, the form found in plants." From the Whole Health Source blog
A common misconception is that if we get plenty of vitamin K1 from plant sources, then our bodies will convert it to K2 (therefore getting vitamin K2 from animal sources is deemed unnessecary). In reality, this doesn't seem to work so well. I imagine this to be similar to the beta-carotene issue: while converting it to a usable source of vitamin A is possible, it simply doesn't work for many people and leaves the majority of us deficient if we're relying on carrots for our vitamin A. The simple fact is that these vitamins are in a more bioavailable state when they come from animal sources like grass fed butter. So using butter to reap the benefits of vitamin K2 is going to much more effective than, say, eating a bowl of leafy greens.