The role of menaquinones (vitamin K₂) in human health.Br J Nutr 2013; 110(8):1357-68BJ
Recent reports have attributed the potential health benefits of vitamin K beyond its function to activate hepatic coagulation factors. Moreover, several studies have suggested that menaquinones, also known as vitamin K2, may be more effective in activating extra-hepatic vitamin K-dependent proteins than phylloquinone, also known as vitamin K1. Nevertheless, present dietary reference values (DRV) for vitamin K are exclusively based on phylloquinone, and its function in coagulation. The present review describes the current knowledge on menaquinones based on the following criteria for setting DRV: optimal dietary intake; nutrient amount required to prevent deficiency, maintain optimal body stores and/or prevent chronic disease; factors influencing requirements such as absorption, metabolism, age and sex. Dietary intake of menaquinones accounts for up to 25% of total vitamin K intake and contributes to the biological functions of vitamin K. However, menaquinones are different from phylloquinone with respect to their chemical structure and pharmacokinetics, which affects bioavailability, metabolism and perhaps impact on health outcomes. There are significant gaps in the current knowledge on menaquinones based on the criteria for setting DRV. Therefore, we conclude that further investigations are needed to establish how differences among the vitamin K forms may influence tissue specificities and their role in human health. However, there is merit for considering both menaquinones and phylloquinone when developing future recommendations for vitamin K intake.