Motivation with Kirby Bumpus Health educator Kirby Bumpus teaches progress over perfection and wants you to never forget that there’s NO ONE who’s uniquely you. The post Motivation with Kirby Bumpus appeared first on Under Armour. Health educator Kirby Bumpus teaches progress over perfection and […]
Month: April 2018
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms + 5 Safety Tips to Prevent CO Poisoning
If you’re reading this sentence right now and think you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, please step outside into fresh air and seek emergency medical care right now! You absolutely do not want to go back into your home until you’re sure it’s safe.
Every year, over 20,000 people in the United States go to the emergency room for unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires. Of those 20,000, more than 4,000 are hospitalized and more than 400 people die. (1) It’s very frightening yet factual that death can result from just a few minutes of exposure to higher levels of carbon monoxide in the air or from only an hour of exposure to lower levels. (2)
What do you do if your carbon monoxide detector goes off? How long does it take to get carbon monoxide out of the body? I’m about to discuss the answers to these questions as well as the best ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the first place.
What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Before we get to what is carbon monoxide poisoning, let’s first answer the following question: What is carbon monoxide? Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colorless, odorless gas and a scary source of indoor air pollution. It is often referred to as the “invisible killer.” This gas is produced by burning gas, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. Whenever fuel is burned in an automobile, heater, fireplace, grills, gas ranges, stoves, lanterns or furnaces.
What types of situations can lead to a dangerous accumulation of CO gas indoors? If an appliance or engine is not properly ventilated and is in a tightly sealed or enclosed space then there is strong potential for carbon monoxide to reach unsafe amounts in the air. You can experience carbon monoxide symptoms in house situations (a “house” includes apartments, mobile homes or any other structure in which someone lives). There is also the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning car related incidents, which typically occur in a garage.
It’s scary but very true that it only takes a few minutes of high carbon monoxide exposure to induce major organ damage or even death. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs in a person or pet when carbon monoxide builds up in the bloodstream leading to deprivation of oxygen to vital organs like the heart and brain.
Red blood cells normally transport oxygen from the lungs to the cells of our bodies. When CO poisoning occurs, carbon monoxide is inhaled, passes from the lungs to the blood stream, and then the carbon monoxide attaches to the red blood cells, displacing oxygen from the bloodstream. Since oxygen cannot be transported by hemoglobin that already has carbon monoxide attached to it, as exposure to CO continues, the body is being robbed of oxygen more and more. The carbon monoxide can also mix with bodily proteins leading to tissue damage.
How long does it take to get carbon monoxide poisoning? It can take anywhere from minutes to hours depending on the levels of carbon monoxide. With high levels, it can only take a couple of minutes before major injury or even death occurs. (3)
Signs and Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
How do you know if you have carbon monoxide poisoning? What does it feel like to have carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms that may occur from breathing low levels of CO include: (4)
Breathing in high levels can cause the following carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms:
- Anxiety or depression
- Impaired vision
- Impaired coordination
These are common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning in adults and children. With pets, it’s unclear if they experience headaches as one of the early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. If your dog or cat is acting confused, lethargic or is having trouble breathing, these can be signs of poisoning.
Sometimes carbon monoxide poisoning happens quickly, but other times the poisoning is slow and can occur over the span of weeks or even months when the CO exposure is at low levels. When poisoning is slow like this, carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can be similar to flu symptoms and include fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting. Lengthy exposure to CO at low levels can also lead to physical CO gas leak symptoms including memory issues, numbness, vision disturbances and poor sleep. (2)
Causes and Risk Factors
There are several possible carbon monoxide poisoning causes. The following items are examples of potential causes of CO poisoning if you inhale too much CO from them: (5)
- Fuel-burning space heater
- Gas stove or stovetop
- Idling car or truck in a garage or enclosed space
- Recreational vehicles with gas heaters
- Water heater
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), anyone and everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. They say that infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. (1)
Unborn babies: Unborn babies are at greater risk for harm due to CO poisoning because fetal blood cells are known to take up carbon monoxide more readily than adult blood cells. To be more specific, carbon monoxide is said to attach to fetal hemoglobin at a level 10 percent to 15 percent higher than in the mother.
Children: Young children take breaths more often than the average adult, which may increase their risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Due to their smaller size and the fact that they are still growing and developing, they are also believed to be at greater risk for damage including developmental disorders.
Anemia: People with anemia have a reduced number of healthy red blood cells, which puts them at even greater risk for negative effects of CO poisoning since the carbon monoxide has such a direct effect on red blood cells of the body robbing them of oxygen.
Chronic heart disease: Since carbon monoxide poisoning is known to affect the heart in particular, people with an already weakened heart, such as those with coronary heart disease, are at greater risk for harm from CO poisoning.
Breathing problems: Carbon monoxide is a known trigger for those with respiratory issues such as people with asthma.
Elderly: Older people may be more likely to develop brain damage from CO poisoning. In addition, people over the age of 65 are more likely to have a respiratory or heart condition that can predispose them to a more severe case of CO poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially dangerous or deadly for people who are asleep or intoxicated due to alcohol and/or drug use. These two categories of potential CO poisoning victims are more likely to experience irreversible brain damage or even be killed by CO before anyone even knows there’s a serious issue at hand. (8)
To confirm whether or not someone has carbon monoxide poisoning, a blood test is performed to look at the levels of oxygen and carboxyhemoglobin (carbon monoxide attached to hemoglobin). More tests may be required if potential carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms warrant them or if the individual is pregnant. A pregnant woman may require fetal monitoring. Other tests can include an electrocardiogram (ECG), a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain.
Depending upon the length and degree of exposure, complications of carbon monoxide poisoning include permanent brain damage, heart damage — which can lead to life-threatening cardiac complications — or death.
So there is no question about it, if you think you’re experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, you need to get out of the area you’re in, get fresh air outdoors and call 911 once you’re outside. There should be no delay in getting outdoors, so call once you are outside.
At the hospital, carbon monoxide poisoning treatment is likely to include breathing in pure oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth. If you are unable to breathe independently, a ventilator may be used.
In some cases, especially severe ones, of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a recommended form of treatment. This oxygen therapy is known for helping to protect heart and brain tissue from major damage. Hyperbaric oxygen is often recommended for pregnant women because unborn children are more susceptible to damage from carbon monoxide poisoning.
How long does carbon monoxide poisoning last? Carbon monoxide gas enters the body through the lungs through breathing, and it exits the body in the same fashion. It is estimated that someone who has been poisoned by CO gas requires four to six hours to exhale roughly 50 percent of the inhaled carbon monoxide that is in their bloodstream once they are removed from the toxic area and getting fresh air. (2)
5 Ways to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can be subtle, but if you have any suspicion that you may have carbon monoxide poisoning you must treat it as a life-threatening medical emergency because it certainly is one. If you think you or someone you’re with may have carbon monoxide poisoning, get outdoors in fresh air immediately and seek emergency medical care.
There is no natural treatment to perform at home for carbon monoxide poisoning, but here are some of the best, expert-recommended ways to prevent it in the first place:
1. Carbon Monoxide Detectors
What does carbon monoxide smell like? The scary fact is that carbon monoxide doesn’t smell like anything! That’s why carbon monoxide detectors are so incredibly necessary and they’re not hard to find. For starters, your local hardware store is very likely to carry a detector if not several detector options. You can also find carbon monoxide detectors online, but always make sure that you are purchasing a detector that is certified by a testing lab.
Detectors should be installed on every level of a home and definitely outside of all bedrooms or sleeping areas. They should also be installed in boats and motor homes. It’s recommended to connect multiple alarms so that if one of them senses a problem, they will all sound the alarm. Test detectors monthly to ensure effectiveness. In case it goes off, make sure you have the correct number to call. If you’re unsure of who to call, ask your local fire department. Remember that you should leave the house first and then call for assistance. (11)
Check batteries in detectors at least twice a year. Most carbon monoxide detectors come with a five to seven year warranty so detectors don’t last forever and need to replaced after several years. Most detectors will begin to chirp or signal when they’re nearing the end of their effective life span. (12)
2. Know What Do When a Detector Goes Off
Having a CO detector is essential to prevention, but it’s also vital to know what to do if a carbon monoxide alarm sounds: (13)
- Never ignore a carbon monoxide alarm and do not try to find the source of the gas.
- Immediately move outside to fresh air.
- Call emergency services, fire department or 911.
- Perform a head count to check that all persons are accounted for.
- Do not reenter the premises until emergency responders have given you permission to do so.
3. Appliance Selection and Inspection
When purchasing new appliances, look for appliance brands that are tested and certified as safe by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the American Gas Association (AGA), or other recognized certifying organizations. Have fuel-burning appliances professionally installed.
To guard against CO poisoning, you want to buy appliances that vent to the outside, this way the CO gas is going outside rather than staying indoors. You also want to have appliances installed by a professional to decrease the likelihood of CO leakage. (2)
Once you have appliances in your home, make sure you have any fuel-burning ones inspected regularly, preferably at the start of each heating season. What are examples of appliances that should be checked so that they don’t potentially cause a CO problem? The list includes:
- Gas water heaters
- Gas ranges and ovens
- Gas dryers
- Gas or kerosene space heaters
- Oil and gas furnaces
- Wood stoves
In addition to appliances, fireplaces, flues and chimneys should also be checked for any cracking or clogging. (14)
4. Automobile Safety
When CO gas builds up in an enclosed space, like a garage, humans and animals can be poisoned. You should never warm up a vehicle in any enclosed space such as a garage. Don’t even leave a car with the door open running in the garage.
It’s also important to always ensure that the tailpipe of any vehicle is clear. Sometimes a tailpipe can become clogged due to debris, including snow or ice. When a tailpipe is clogged, carbon monoxide gas can then leak into the inside of a vehicle. Children as well as adults should never be left inside a running vehicle while clearing snow or ice off the vehicle.
With the invention of keyless vehicle ignitions, it’s vital to make sure that your vehicle is truly turned off. If you have children, don’t leave keys or openers where they can take them and potentially get into the car without you. Also, keep your car locked to prevent children from being inside a car alone.
Children and adults should not stand behind a running car for multiple safety reasons. Of course, because of the possibility of being run over, but also because of the fact that being behind a running car means a high likelihood of breathing in dangerous exhaust fumes. (15)
5. Heating No-No’s
There are a lot of ways to heat spaces as well as heating devices that when used improperly can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms. For starters, never use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors. If you have a generator, it should always be positioned outside of your home. The CDC advises that you should never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent because “fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced in just minutes.”
You should also never use a gas range or oven for heating. This is not safe since using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide inside your home or camper. You should also never ever burn any type of charcoal indoors because it gives off carbon monoxide as it is burning. (1)
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Key Points
- What is carbon monoxide? It’s an odorless, colorless toxic flammable gas, also known as the “invisible killer” that can be deadly to humans and animals.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can vary depending on the level and length of exposure.
- People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they or anyone else realizes they have carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
- Do not attempt carbon monoxide poisoning treatment at home; you need to get outdoors immediately and seek emergency assistance. Do not go back into your home until an expert guarantees it is safe.
- If you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, do not drive yourself to the hospital because you may pass out while driving.
Top 5 Ways to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms include:
- Install CO detectors in all levels of your home, especially near sleeping areas.
- Know what to do if your carbon monoxide detector goes off.
- Buy tested and certified appliances, have them installed by a professional and check them regularly.
- Never leave a vehicle running or warming up in an enclosed space like a garage, not even if the door is open.
- Never use portable flameless chemical heaters or generators indoors. Also, never use a gas range or oven to heat your home.
Read Next: Black Mold Symptoms + 12 Natural Remedies
The post Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms + 5 Safety Tips to Prevent CO Poisoning appeared first on Dr. Axe.
If you’re reading this sentence right now and think you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, please step outside into fresh air and seek emergency medical care right now! You absolutely do not want to go back into your home until you’re sure it’s safe. Every year, over 20,000 people in the United States… Read more »
The post Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms + 5 Safety Tips to Prevent CO Poisoning appeared first on Dr. Axe.
Annie PriceDr. AxeApril 23, 2018
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Mycoprotein: Beneficial Vegan Protein Source or Dangerous Allergen?
by Rachael Link, MS, RD
Do you know what’s hiding in your favorite meat substitutes? Few people realize that mycoprotein, the ingredient often found in popular vegan products like chicken nuggets, cutlets and burgers, is actually a type of single-celled fungus that’s been heavily processed, mixed with other ingredients and texturized to mimic the taste and texture of meat.
But is mycoprotein safe? Or should you skip this controversial ingredient altogether and opt for other meat replacements instead? Here’s what you need to know and why you may want to double check the ingredients labels on some of your go-to products.
What Is Mycoprotein?
So what is mycoprotein made of, and where can it be found?
Mycoprotein is a type of single-cell protein that is derived from fungi and produced for human consumption. The word “myco” actually comes from the Greek word for “fungus.”
It’s made by fermenting a type of microfungus called Fusarium venenatum. The fermented solids are then combined with egg whites, wheat protein and other ingredients, then texturized into meat-like shapes and packaged as meat substitutes.
In fact, it’s often added to mycoprotein vegan products because it’s high in protein and fiber, yet low in calories. However, in spite of the potential health benefits, products containing this protein remain a subject of controversy due to concerns about their safety and possible allergenic effects.
Potential Mycoprotein Benefits
- Promotes Weight Loss
- Supports Digestive Health
- Complete Protein
- Lowers Cholesterol
- Regulates Blood Sugar
1. Promotes Weight Loss
Mycoprotein is rich in protein and fiber yet low in calories, which is the perfect combination if you’re looking to lose a little extra weight.
Increasing your protein intake can help increase satiety and decrease levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. According to one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, upping protein intake by just 15 percent decreased average daily caloric intake by 441 calories and also produced significant decreases in body weight and body fat. (1) Meanwhile, fiber can also help reduce appetite. It moves slowly through the digestive system, helping keep you feeling fuller for longer to ward off cravings. (2)
Several studies have looked directly at the effects of mycoprotein on weight loss. One study published in the British Journal of Nutrition actually showed that eating a meal containing this protein reduced caloric intake by 10 percent compared to a meal containing chicken. (3) Another study from the University of Leeds in the U.K. had similar findings, noting that mycoprotein worked by increasing satiety and reducing appetite. (4)
2. Supports Digestive Health
Mycoprotein is an excellent source of fiber, containing about six grams of fiber per 100 grams, which is up to 24 percent of the fiber you need over the course of the entire day. (5)
Fiber can have a beneficial effect on several aspects of health but can be especially useful in promoting digestive health. One 2012 review compiled the results of five studies and showed that increasing fiber intake was effective in increasing stool frequency in people with constipation. (6) Dietary fiber may also have a protective effect against conditions that affect the digestive tract, such as intestinal ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease. (7, 8)
3. Complete Protein
One distinct advantage that mycoprotein nutrition has over other types of meat substitutes is that it’s considered a complete protein. This means that it contains all of the essential amino acids that cannot be produced by your body and need to be obtained through dietary sources.
Getting enough protein in your diet is absolutely essential to maintaining your overall health. Not only does protein make up the foundation of your hair, skin, nails, muscles and bones, but it’s also needed to help build and repair tissues, produce important enzymes, and synthesize certain hormones.
A protein deficiency can have deleterious effects on your health, resulting in symptoms like a sluggish metabolism, impaired immune function, slow wound healing and difficulty losing weight. Those on a vegan or vegetarian diet are at an even higher risk of protein deficiency, especially if the diet is not well-planned.
4. Lowers Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found all throughout your body that makes up the membrane of your cells and aids in the synthesis of bile acids and hormones. Excess cholesterol, however, can build up in your blood vessels, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke over time.
Some promising research has found that mycoprotein may be able to help keep your cholesterol levels in check to reduce your risk of heart disease. A study from the University of London actually showed that mycoprotein was able to reduce total cholesterol levels by 13 percent, lower bad LDL cholesterol by 9 percent and increase good HDL cholesterol by 12 percent. (9)
5. Regulates Blood Sugar
High blood sugar can come with some pretty serious side effects. Left unchecked, sustaining high levels of blood sugar long-term can lead to an increased risk of skin conditions, nerve damage and kidney issues.
Mycoprotein is high in fiber, which can slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and keep your blood sugar under control. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effects of mycoprotein on blood sugar and found that consuming a milkshake containing it was actually able to reduce blood sugar by up to 36 percent compared to a control group. (10)
Mycoprotein Dangers and Side Effects
Although it has been associated with a number of potential health benefits, there are some serious mycoprotein side effects that should be considered as well.
In fact, organizations have been pushing for stricter regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help warn consumers of the possible risks of consuming mycoprotein since at least 2002.
Multiple people have suffered severe reactions as a result of a mycoprotein allergy, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hives.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, at least 2,000 reports have been collected from consumers who suffered allergic reactions, and two deaths have even been linked to consumption of productions containing mycoprotein. Mycoprotein allergies may actually be pretty common; one unpublished study even found that 10 percent of participants experienced symptoms like nausea, vomiting or stomach pain as a result of eating mycoprotein products compared to just 5 percent in the control group. (11)
The problem with mycoprotein vs. soy, shellfish, peanuts and wheat is that mycoprotein is not a well-known allergen, meaning that many people are probably not even aware they may be allergic until it’s too late.
Most are also completely unaware of what mycoprotein actually is, and unfortunately, food manufacturers haven’t always been up-front in offering an explanation on the label of their products. After all, fungus is pretty far down the list when it comes to appetizing ingredients. Many consumers also mistakenly believe that mycoprotein may be derived from other nutritious mushroom varieties, such as lion’s mane mushroom, cordyceps or reishi mushrooms.
However, as of 2017, Quorn, the main manufacturer of mycoprotein products, actually agreed to make the ingredients of their products clearer by stating directly on the label: “Mycoprotein is a mold (member of the fungi family). There have been rare cases of allergic reactions to products that contain mycoprotein.”
This comes as a result of a class action settlement that was filed on behalf of anyone who had suffered such allergic reactions to mycoprotein-containing products.
Mycoprotein is most commonly found in Quorn products, a brand of meat substitutes that includes a variety of products ranging from Quorn chicken nuggets to burgers and sausages.
Note that mycoprotein is different than other types of mushrooms, such as psilocybin mushrooms, turkey tail mushrooms and chaga mushrooms. These mushrooms are a type of fungi, but mycoprotein is made of a microscopic fungi that has been paired with a mix of other ingredients. Additionally, although they belong to the same fungi family, Fusarium venenatum looks much different than the common mushrooms that most of us are familiar with.
Mycoprotein vs. Meat
So how does the mycoprotein in popular meat substitutes compare to meat?
In terms of taste, the two are pretty comparable. Mycoprotein foods are designed specifically to mimic the taste and texture of real meat, and they manage to come closer than some other meat substitutes, such as tempeh or seitan.
Nutritionally, both are considered complete proteins, but mycoprotein products are actually lower in protein than meat. A 100-gram serving of chicken, for example, contains approximately 31 grams of protein while a 100-gram serving of a meatless chicken product made with mycoprotein contains less than half, with just 13.8 grams of protein. (12, 13)
However, while meat is lacking in fiber, mycoprotein contains a pretty hefty chunk in every serving. Not only can this benefit your digestive health, but it can also help support satiety and keep your appetite under control.
Where to Find and How to Use Mycoprotein
Mycoprotein is found primarily in Quorn products, which are available in many forms, including vegan chicken cutlets, meatless sausages and vegetarian burgers. This brand is widely available in most major grocery stores, typically found along with other vegetarian products in the freezer section.
If you’re able to tolerate mycoprotein without any adverse effects, you can easily swap these foods into your diet in place of meat to increase the protein and fiber content of your meals.
You can also incorporate them into your favorite recipes, including salads, tacos, stews, kebabs, pasta dishes and curries for a meat-free entrée.
Mycoprotein Recipes and Alternatives
If you’d rather skip the mycoprotein, there are plenty of meatless alternatives that you can start incorporating into your diet instead.
Mushrooms make an excellent meat substitute in most recipes due to their rich flavor and meaty texture. The protein in mushrooms and unique nutritional properties also make a healthy and nutritious addition to your favorite meat-free recipes.
In addition to mushrooms, other healthy meat substitutes that you can start incorporating into your daily diet include tempeh, natto, jackfruit, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Here are a few simple recipes that you can use in place of mycoprotein to deliver a hearty dose of meat-free protein:
- Mushroom Meatloaf
- Vegetarian Ceviche with Mushrooms
- Korean BBQ Jackfruit Tacos
- Black Bean Burger
- Vegan Chicken Wings
Mycoprotein was originally discovered in the 1960s by Rank Hovis McDougall, an English food company that’s been around since 1875.
Over 3,000 species of fungi were screened during the search for a cheap, sustainable, nutritious and palatable source of protein for human consumption, eventually leading to the identification of mycoprotein, a fungi that managed to fit all of the criteria.
However, after its discovery, there was significant concern over the potential negative health effects of this protein, and it went through a 12-year testing process until it was actually able to be sold on the market.
Today, although it has been subject of a good amount of controversy, products containing it have become popular meat replacements because of their versatility, protein content and flavor.
Many people have reported adverse effects to mycoprotein, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hives. Most people who try mycoprotein products are also unaware that they are allergic, and it’s believed that an allergy may even develop over time, although more studies are needed on the potential allergenic effects.
If you do decide to consume food products containing mycoprotein, consume a small amount first to assess your tolerance and be sure to report any food allergy symptoms to your doctor immediately.
- Mycoprotein is an ingredient found in many vegan meat substitute products.
- It is made by fermenting a type of microscopic fungi and then combining the solids with egg whites, wheat protein and other ingredients before texturizing it into meat-like shapes.
- It is low in calories but high in fiber and considered a complete protein. It may help improve digestive health, promote weight loss, lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.
- One of the main its disadvantages is that it’s been shown to cause adverse reactions in many individuals who may not have realized they were allergic.
- Because of the protein in mushrooms, mushrooms make a great meat substitute. Other healthy meat substitutes include natto, tempeh, natto, nuts and seeds.
- If you do decide to give mycoprotein a try, be sure to pay close attention to any adverse symptoms and consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.
The post Mycoprotein: Beneficial Vegan Protein Source or Dangerous Allergen? appeared first on Dr. Axe.
by Rachael Link, MS, RD Do you know what’s hiding in your favorite meat substitutes? Few people realize that mycoprotein, the ingredient often found in popular vegan products like chicken nuggets, cutlets and burgers, is actually a type of single-celled fungus that’s been heavily processed, mixed with other ingredients and texturized to mimic the taste… Read more »
The post Mycoprotein: Beneficial Vegan Protein Source or Dangerous Allergen? appeared first on Dr. Axe.
Rachael LinkDr. AxeApril 23, 2018
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Full-fat cheeses, eggs and beef liver might not be the types of foods that come to mind when you think about eating a heart-healthy diet, but you’d probably be surprised to know that in recent years, one of the most researched nutrients in the field of cardiovascular health has been vitamin K2, found in these very foods.
What are the benefits of vitamin K2? While vitamin K1 has the important role of preventing blood clots and bleeding disorders, vitamin K2 works differently. Vitamin K2 benefits include helping with nutrient assimilation, growth and development in infants and children, fertility, brain function, and dental health. Unfortunately many people don’t get enough of it from their diets.
Something that makes vitamin K unique (both types: K1 and K2) is that it’s not usually taken in supplement form. Vitamin K2 seems to be much more beneficial when obtained naturally from vitamin K foods. What foods are high in K2? Unlike vitamin K1, which is mostly found in plant foods like leafy green vegetables, you get K2 from animal-derived foods. Some of the healthiest vitamin K2 foods include grass-fed meats, raw/fermented cheeses and eggs. It’s also produced by the beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome.
What Is Vitamin K2?
While we hear the most about vitamin K1 and K2, there are actually a bunch of different compounds that fall into the vitamin K category. (1) Vitamin K1 is also known as phylloquinone, while vitamin K2 is known as menaquinone.
Compared to many other vitamins, vitamin K2 was only recently discovered. What does vitamin K2 help with? It has many roles in the body, but the most important is helping with calcium metabolism and preventing calcification of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease.
If there’s one thing that we need vitamin K2 for, it’s preventing calcium from building up in the wrong locations, specifically in soft tissues. Low intake of vitamin K2 can contribute to plaque building in the arteries, tartar forming on the teeth, and hardening of tissues that causes arthritis symptoms, bursitis, reduced flexibility, stiffness and pain. Some evidence also suggests that K2 has anti-inflammatory properties and may offer some protection against cancer, as research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. (2)
What the difference between vitamin k2 and MK7? Vitamin K2 is a group of menaquinones compounds, which are abbreviated as “MK.” MK7 is one type of menaquinones that is responsible for many of the benefits attributed to vitamin K2. MK7 has been the focus of many vitamin K2 studies, but other types like MK4 and MK8 also have unique abilities.
Vitamin K2 Benefits and Uses
What is vitamin K2 good for? Here are some of the major benefits associated with this vitamin:
- Helps Regulate Use of Calcium
- Protects the Cardiovascular System
- Supports Bone and Dental Health
- Helps with Nutrient Assimilation
- Supports Growth and Development
- Improves Hormonal Balance
- Helps Prevent Kidney Stones
1. Helps Regulate Use of Calcium
One of the most important jobs that vitamin K2 has is controlling where calcium accumulates in the body. Vitamin K2 benefits the skeleton, heart, teeth and nervous system by helping regulate use of calcium, especially in the bones, arteries and teeth. For example, K2 facilitates calcium use in the bones and prevents it from building in dangerous locations, such as the arteries.
Vitamin K2 is also essential for the function of several proteins, which is why it helps with growth and development. K2 is involved in the maintenance of structures of the arterial walls, osteoarticular system, teeth and the regulation of cell growth. (3)
2. Protects the Cardiovascular System
Vitamin K2 is one of the best vitamins for men because it offers protection against heart-related problems, including atherosclerosis (stiffening of the arteries), which are the leading cause of death in many developed countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year more than half of deaths due to heart disease are in men. (4)
A 2015 report published in the Integrative Medicine Clinician’s Journal explains that “Vitamin K2 is associated with the inhibition of arterial calcification and arterial stiffening. An adequate intake of vitamin K2 has been shown to lower the risk of vascular damage because it activates matrix GLA protein (MGP), which inhibits the deposits of calcium on the walls.” (5)
The Rotterdam Study, a very large study done in the Netherlands that followed more than 4,800 adult men, found that the highest intake of vitamin K2 was associated with the lowest chances of suffering from aortic calcification. Men who consumed the most K2 were found to have a 52 percent lower risk of severe aortic calcification and a 41 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. (6)
Vitamin K2 even seems to have life-saving abilities: The men in the Rotterdam study with the highest K2 intake benefited from a 51 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 26 percent lower risk of dying from any cause (total mortality).
3. Supports Bone and Dental Health
K2 benefits the skeletal system by taking calcium and helping usher it into bones and teeth to make them solid and strong. A number of studies have investigated whether or not vitamin K2 can be useful for helping prevent or treat fractures, osteoporosis and bone loss. Certain clinical studies have found that K2 slows the rate of bone loss in adults and even helps increase bone mass. (7) K2 can enhance osteocalcin accumulation in the extracellular matrix of osteoblasts inside bones, meaning it promotes bone mineralization.
While there’s some strong evidence that vitamin K2 has benefits for bone health, overall the research has been somewhat conflicting as whether or not it can actually prevent or reverse osteoporosis. At this time health authorities still say that there is not enough existing evidence available to use vitamin K2 to treat osteoporosis, although studies suggest consuming more is a smart preventative measure.
K2 also helps maintain the structure of the teeth and jaws. Many traditional cultures included vitamin K2 foods in their diets because they believed it could help prevent cavities, tooth decay and plaque formation.
4. Helps with Nutrient Assimilation
Vitamin K2 can help improve the use of other fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin A and vitamin D. This is why you might hear vitamin K2 be called an “activator.” It also gives proteins the ability to bind to calcium and helps with proper use of minerals, such as phosphorus.
5. Supports Growth and Development
Fat-soluble vitamins, including A and D, are important for growth and development because they stimulate growth factors and promote absorption of essential minerals. Vitamin K2 also plays a role in development because it prevents calcification of bones and teeth until they reach their peak potential. This means that bones, teeth and dental structure can continue growing and have the chance to fully mature before they harden, as noted in the research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism mentioned above.
6. Improves Hormonal Balance
Inside our bones, vitamin K2 can be used to produce osteocalcin hormone, which has positive metabolic and hormonal effects. Fat-soluble vitamins are important for the production of reproductive/sex hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. Because of its hormonal-balancing effects, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can benefit from getting more vitamin K2 in their diets. (8)
K2 can also helps promote blood sugar balance and insulin sensitivity, which can reduce the risk for metabolic problems like diabetes and obesity. (9) Some research suggests that K2 helps regulate glucose metabolism by modulating osteocalcin and/or proinflammatory pathways.
7. Helps Prevent Kidney Stones
Vitamin K2 may benefit the kidneys by helping prevent the formation of calcium accumulation in the wrong places, the underlying cause of kidney stones. It may also do the same for other organs too, including the gallbladder. (10)
Vitamin K2 Foods and Sources
The best vitamin K2 foods include:
- Fermented cheeses (both soft and hard cheeses that have aged, such as raw cheddar, blue cheese, goat cheese, etc.)
- Liver (such as goose, chicken or beef liver)
- Dark meat poultry and chicken breast
- Free-range eggs
- Grass-fed butter
- Fermented, full-fat yogurt, kefir or amasi
- Grass-fed beef
- Natto (made from fermented soybeans)
Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s naturally found in animal foods that also contain fat, specifically saturated fat and cholesterol. For example, butterfat, cheese, organ meats, eggs and meat from animals that consume green grasses are all good sources of vitamin K2.
Animals can make vitamin K2 inside their bodies by converting vitamin K1, which is found in green plant foods. The more vitamin K1 an animal consumes from its diet, the higher the level of K2 that will be stored in the tissues. This is the reason that “grass-fed” and “pastured-raised” animal products are superior to products that come from factory farm raised animals. Going back to the fact that vitamin K2 comes in several forms (MK7, MK4, MK8 and MK9, for example), MK4 is found in the highest concentration in animal foods, while the other types are found in mostly fermented foods.
Vitamin K2 vs. Vitamin K1
- A growing body of research now demonstrates that vitamins K1 and K2 are not only different forms of the same vitamin, but basically operate like different vitamins all together due to how they are used in the body.
- Vitamin K1 is more abundant in foods but less bioactive than the vitamin K2. When we eat foods with K1, vitamin K1 mostly makes it to the liver and then the bloodstream once converted. K2, on the other hand, gets distributed to bones and other tissues more easily. Vitamin K1 is very important for supporting blood clotting but not as good at protecting the bones and teeth as K2.
- There’s some evidence that people tend to get about 10 times more vitamin K1 from their diets than vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is found in mostly green vegetables, while K2 is found in mostly animal products or fermented foods.
- When it comes to how the human body uses vitamin K, vitamin K and vitamin A have certain things in common. Just like the active form of vitamin A (retinol) has unique benefits and is considered superior than the inactive form of vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin K is the same.
- Vitamin K2 from animal foods is more active in humans than the plant form, vitamin K1. This doesn’t mean that foods that provide K1 are unhealthy, like broccoli or spinach, just that they are not the best dietary sources of bioavailable vitamin K.
- Animals help transform vitamin K1 into K2, so humans do not have to do this. This is why we benefit from getting K2 directly from animal-derived foods.
Vitamin K2 Dosage
How much vitamin K2 should you take in a day? The minimum daily requirement of K2 in adults is between 90–120 micrograms per day. I recommend aiming to get about 150 to 400 micrograms daily, ideally from vitamin K2 foods as opposed to supplements. People with a higher risk of heart disease or bone loss may benefit from getting a dose on the higher end of the spectrum (200 micrograms or more) while those looking to maintain their health can get a bit less.
Is it beneficial to take vitamin K supplements? If you take a supplement that contains vitamin K, the chances are very likely that it’s vitamin K1 but not K2. While some newer vitamin K2 supplements are now available, some research suggests that in supplement form K2 doesn’t offer as many benefits. If you are going to take a vitamin K2 supplement, have it with some dietary fat (such as eggs or coconut oil). Some people claim that taking K2 in the morning is best because this allows you to absorb the vitamin better throughout the day.
Remember that vitamin K works with other fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A and D, so the best way to obtain these nutrients is to eat foods that provide many different vitamins — like eggs and raw, full-fat dairy products.
Vitamin K2 Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
What happens if you get too little vitamin K? Symptoms of vitamin K2 deficiency can include:
- Heart-related problems like arterial calcification and high blood pressure
- Kidney stones
- Cavities and other dental issues tied to tooth decay
- Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, like bloody stool, indigestion and diarrhea
- Poor blood sugar balance and higher risk for blood sugar issues and diabetes
- Metabolic problems
- Higher chance of having morning sickness in pregnant women
- Spider veins/varicose veins
Among adults living in industrialized nations, vitamin K deficiency is considered to be rare. However, newborn babies and infants are much more susceptible to vitamin K2 deficiency due to how their digestive systems lack the ability to produce K2.
Adults are at a greater risk of developing vitamin K2 deficiency if they suffer from any of these health conditions:
- Diseases that affect the digestive tract, including types of inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease , ulcerative colitis or celiac disease
- Malnutrition, due to calorie restriction or poverty
- Excessive alcohol consumption/alcoholism
- Use of drugs that block vitamin K2 absorption, which can include antacids, blood thinners, antibiotics, aspirin, cancer treatment drugs, seizure medication and high cholesterol drugs — cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and certain osteoporosis drugs inhibit the conversion of K2, which can greatly lower levels
- Prolonged vomiting and/or diarrhea
Vitamin K2 Recipes
In order to naturally add more K2 to your diet, try making some of these vitamin K2 recipes rich in fat-soluble vitamins:
- Eggs Benefit with Asparagus
- Chicken Liver Pate
- Cheesy Dark Meat Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
- Goat Cheese And Artichoke Dip
For decades, vitamin K was known to be important for blood coagulation — but only recently have studies uncovered how vitamin K2 can help treat bone and vascular diseases too. In 1928, a researcher named Carl Peter Henrik Dam from the Biochemical Institute of the University of Copenhagen first identified vitamin K. (11) He found that when chickens were fed a cholesterol- and fat-free diet, they developed coagulation disorders that did not improve when vitamins A, C and D were added to the diet.
The chickens only recovered when given green vegetables and liver, leading to the conclusion that these foods contained a special nutrient that helped regulate blood clotting. This new vitamin was named “vitamin K” after “Koagulation,” or coagulation as it’s now spelled. After decades of more work, Dam and another researcher named Doisy were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering the chemical structure of vitamin K.
It was not until the 1970s that researchers uncovered much more about the precise biochemical properties of vitamin K, including how vitamin K interacts with at least 14 different types of proteins, plus calcium and other minerals.
Today, K2 is mostly being researched for its ability to prevent bone and vascular diseases. It’s now known that certain medications, including antagonists such as phenprocoumon and warfarin, can interfere with vitamin K2’s actions in the body. In the years to come, we should see much more research about how K2 affects blood flow (haemostasis), calcium metabolism, control of cell growth, apoptosis, signal transduction and the matrix of bones.
Vitamin K2 Side Effects and Precautions
Can too much vitamin k2 be toxic? While it’s rare to experience side effects from getting high amounts of K2 from food alone, you might develop symptoms if you take high doses of vitamin K supplements. However, for most people even high doses of vitamin K2, such as 15 milligrams three times a day, have been shown to generally be safe. If you’re someone who takes the drug Coumadin, a potential side effect associated with taking too much vitamin K is increasing your risk for heart-related problems. Too much vitamin K can also contribute to complications in people with blood clotting disorders.
While food is the best way to increase your intake of K2, look for a supplement that specifically lists vitamin K2 (menaquinone) if you plan to supplement. Because vitamin K supplements can interact with many medications, talk to your doctor if you plan to take a vitamin K supplement and are taking any daily medications.
- Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps with calcium metabolism, bone and dental health, heart health, and hormone balance.
- Vitamin K1 is found in mostly green vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in mostly animal products or fermented foods.
- Benefits of getting more vitamin K2 from your diet include helping to reduce your risk for calcification of the arteries, atherosclerosis, cavities, tooth decay, kidney stones and hormonal imbalances.
- Vitamin K2 seems to be much more beneficial when obtained naturally from vitamin K foods rather than supplements. I recommend consuming raw, fermented cheese and other full-fat dairy products to get vitamin K2. Eggs, liver and dark meats are other good vitamin K2 foods.
Read Next: The Best Vitamins for Men
Full-fat cheeses, eggs and beef liver might not be the types of foods that come to mind when you think about eating a heart-healthy diet, but you’d probably be surprised to know that in recent years, one of the most researched nutrients in the field of cardiovascular health has been vitamin K2, found in these… Read more »
Jillian BabcockDr. AxeApril 21, 2018
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