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Company representatives from NattoPharma spoke with Nutritional Outlook about how the company plans to raise consumer and industry awareness about vitamin K2 for cardiovascular health through research initiatives, as well as through a new iHeart device that measures a user’s “internal age,” or aortic stiffness.
Vitamin K2 may be more frequently associated with bone health, but at this month’s Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, CA, NattoPharma (Oslo, Norway) highlighted its growing presence as a heart-health ingredient, as well. At the show, company representatives from NattoPharma spoke with Nutritional Outlook about how the company plans to raise consumer and industry awareness about vitamin K2 for cardiovascular health through research initiatives, as well as through a new iHeart device that measures a user’s “internal age,” or aortic stiffness.
Eric Anderson, senior vice president, global marketing and business development, NattoPharma, explained that vitamin K2 differs from the better-known vitamin K1 in a few ways. For one thing, vitamin K1 is found in leafy green vegetables while K2 comes from fermented foods like natto, or fermented soybean, and fermented cheeses. Because many Western countries don’t widely consume fermented foods, Anderson said, its populations are largely deficient in vitamin K2. Not getting enough vitamin K2 is a problem, he added, because vitamin K2 sufficiency has been shown to improve bone density and strength, as well as to help keep coronary arteries from calcifying, thus reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
While many Americans may be unfamiliar with vitamin K2 as a heart-health ingredient, NattoPharma is hoping to change that. At Expo West, the company invited attendees to measure their aortic stiffness, which the company says signifies a person’s “internal age,” by using a device called iHeart. In mid-2017, NattoPharma partnered with VitalSines, the company that creates and distributes the iHeart device. NattoPharma first introduced the industry to the device at last year’s SupplySide West trade show. Kate Quackenbush, director of communications, NattoPharma USA, explained that because there is “no readily available testing for K2 deficiency (i.e., similar to the test for vitamin D), our interest in the iHeart technology is to provide a somewhat measurable idea of potential K2 deficiency and a benefit for vitamin K2 supplementation.”
Here’s how the iHeart system works: users place the device on their index finger and wait 30 seconds for the device to calculate aortic stiffness using Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity (AoPWV). AoPWV, Quackenbush said, “is the speed a pulse wave travels down the aorta, the body’s largest blood vessel.” She explained that AoPWV has proven to be a good predictor for risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia, “while aortic stiffness has been linked to inadequate dietary intakes, specifically vitamin K2, as substantiated in population and clinical studies.” The aortic stiffness is then translated to indicate what the company calls a person’s figurative “internal age.”
Even if a user’s internal age is calculated to be higher than their chronological age, company representatives administering the tests at Expo West stressed that there are concrete steps to reduce that internal age number. Exercises that lengthen the core-yoga, for example-can help increase aortic flexibility. Likewise, making healthier diet choices can make a big difference, as well. But the most important factor in increasing aortic flexibility and calcification, Anderson said, is getting adequate amounts of vitamin K2-and because most Americans do not eat enough K2-rich foods in their diets, supplementation can help to bridge the gap.
Through its partnership with VitalSines, Quackenbush stated, NattoPharma hopes to “reach out to retailers, giving them exposure to a system [the device] that provides a snapshot of current heart health.”
Currently, NattoPharma offers several natural and synthetic versions of its proprietary MenaQ7 line of vitamin K2 ingredients, including MenaQ7 Natural MK-7, MenaQ7 Natto MK-7, and MenaQ7 PharmaPure MK-7. At last year’s SupplySide West trade show, NattoPharma launched the industry’s first and only full-spectrum vitamin K2, which provides menaquinones (MK) 6, 7, 8, and 9, which the company said are all vital to heart health.
Anderson added that a number of brands “are very excited” about the prospect of formulating with the full-spectrum K2 ingredient.
Anderson also emphasized that it is as important to raise awareness about vitamin K2’s bone- and heart-health potential within the industry as it is to raise awareness among retailers and consumers. To that end, NattoPharma has been active on the research front, sponsoring roughly 20 studies over the years on vitamin K2 for bone and heart health, including three studies on vitamin K2 for cardiovascular health that are currently underway.
In 2015, the company completed a three-year study with healthy, post-menopausal women, that found that supplementation with vitamin K2 helped increase arterial flexibility compared with the control group. In fact, Anderson said, some of the participants even saw a reversal of age-related hardening of their arteries.
The second study on vitamin K2 for heart health-the results of which were announced last month-featured men and women and was conducted over a period of just one year. Results from that study showed that even in a relatively short period of time, vitamin K2 supplementation helped increase arterial flexibility compared with the control group.
Anderson said that the company has three additional studies currently underway. For each of those studies, he said, NattoPharma is “contributing the active MenaQ7 vitamin K2. One [of the studies] is with patients with existing coronary artery calcification, one is with patients with existing aortic calcification, and one is with patients with peripheral heart disease.”
Anderson said that while K2 is undoubtedly still an emerging ingredient, NattoPharma’s research efforts and education initiatives are helping to grow awareness bit by bit. Now that the company has proven K2’s benefits in research, he said, the company is now ramping up efforts to educate the public.