Study links better vitamin K status with improved COVID-19 outcomes
28 Apr 2020 --- Better vitamin K status in patients with COVID-19 has been linked to improved health outcomes, compared to patients with poor vitamin K status. The research, published in the journal Preprints, suggests a connection between low levels of vitamin K and the accelerated breakdown of tissue fibers, including elastin, which is involved with pulmonary disease. Patients with severe COVID-19 are more likely to have comorbidities such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases (CVD), which are also associated with reduced vitamin K status. The findings suggest that improved vitamin K levels may play a role in improving the body’s natural ability to cope with the novel virus. However, researchers warn that more studies are warranted before any real conclusions can be drawn.
“While we do not suggest vitamin K2 is a treatment for COVID-19, this study illustrates that a poor vitamin K status is linked to a poor prognosis. Thus, we are hypothesizing that improving vitamin K2 status is linked to better health outcomes including cardiovascular, and perhaps even lung health,” explains Leon Schurgers, Professor of Biochemistry of Vascular Calcification and Vice Chair of Biochemistry at the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), Maastricht University, and co-author of the study.
Researchers measured vitamin K status in participants by determining their amount of “inactive” vitamin K-dependent protein, Matrix Gla Protein (MGP). It is a recognized indicator related to vitamin K status and a protein that is generally accepted as an inhibitor of vascular calcification. Scientific leads suggest that MGP also plays a role in the pathogenesis of lung fibrosis, which may be present in lungs of patients with severe COVID-19.
Vitamin K status was evaluated in 123 patients with COVID-19 and 184 controls. Measurements showed that dp-ucMGP was significantly lower in COVID-19 patients compared to controls, and dp-ucMGP levels were significantly lower in COVID-19 patients with unfavorable outcomes compared to those with less severe disease – all pointing toward a link between vitamin K deficiency and disease severity. Also, low dp-ucMGP levels were significantly correlated with desmosine levels, a measure of the breakdown of elastin.
A “cautious and eager” outlook
The news has been welcomed by vitamin K2 company NattoPharma, which has promoted research on the benefits of supplemental vitamin K2 activating vitamin K-dependent proteins, including MGP, and validating these benefits for cardiovascular and bone health for more than 16 years.
According to NattoPharma Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hogne Vik, supplementation of vitamin K increases the vitamin K status in the body as measured by the level of active vitamin K-dependent proteins.
“MGP is the most potent known inhibitor of vascular calcification to date. MGP is a K-dependent protein already present in the body, but it needs adequate vitamin K2 to be activated to perform its function. Our three-year clinical study of healthy postmenopausal women showed that 180 mcg of MenaQ7 Vitamin K2 as MK-7 daily resulted in not only cessation, but remarkably regression in arterial stiffness, meaning their arteries became more flexible, in the MenaQ7 group through MGP activation,” he adds.
COVID-19 may progress beyond the lungs, leading to coagulopathy, a condition in which the blood’s ability to coagulate (form clots) is impaired, and thromboembolism, an obstruction of a blood vessel by a blood clot that has become dislodged from another site in the circulation. Coagulation is an intricate balance between clot promoting and dissolving processes in which vitamin K plays a well-known role. Further, it has been previously suggested for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that accelerated use of vitamin K stores in the body may also be a potential reason for vitamin K deficiency in patients with severe COVID-19.
While inspired by the results, the study authors remain cautious and eager for next steps. “It might be tempting to speculate that vitamin K administration has an improving effect on vitamin K status in severe COVID-19 patients; however, this has never been studied in this patient group. Additionally, whether improving vitamin K status would correlate with better prognosis in SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals has to be tested,” they write. “Preliminary evidence was provided suggesting a potential mechanistic link between reduced vitamin K status and accelerated tissue degradation. An intervention trial is now needed to assess whether vitamin K administration improves outcome in patients with COVID-19.”
The study was conducted by researchers from the Canisius-Wilhelmina Hospital in Nijmegen, The Netherlands and Maastricht University Medical Center+ and Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM) in the Netherlands. NattoPharma has maintained a long-time relationship with Maastricht University conducting and participating in many studies on vitamin K2 as well as with other institutions.Vitamin K2 is the most bioactive form of vitamin K in the activation of MGP and vitamin K-dependent proteins, according to NattoPharma.
Further action in the vitamin K2 space
Vitamin K2 has been identified as a key vitamin in bone health, particularly for infants and children. Recent studies have also examined the link between early vascular aging in chronic kidney disease, with a focus on the role of NattoPharma’s MenaQ7 vitamin K in counteracting oxidative stress and the aging process.
In business news, supplier of vitamin K2 MK-7 (MK-7), Kappa Bioscience, was recently awarded a new patent in the US entitled “Process for the Preparation of Vitamin K2” for critical intermediaries in the MK-7 synthesis process.
The new patent is a significant milestone on Kappa’s journey to promoting heart and bone health by making the K2 MK-7 vitamin available to a broader population.
The original patent protects the synthetic process of vitamin K2 as menaquinone-7 (MK-7). The new patent broadens the protection of intermediates within the vitamin K2 synthetic process. It also extends protection to finished products and import of products to the US that include these intermediates via a synthesized ingredient.
“Effective synthesis production drives scalability, price reduction, purity, documentation and a secure supply chain,” notes Jim Beakey, Communications Lead at Kappa Bioscience. “Synthetic Vitamin K2 MK-7 accounts for over 50 percent of the market and is growing rapidly in the market that was once dominated by fermentation.”
Edited by Missy Green
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