There is a lot of interest in vitamin K2 at the moment; it has been shown to reverse the symptomatic effects of one of the genetic defects that causes Parkinson’s. In fruit flies.
It’s a long way from fruit flies to human beings, but, as it happens, these popular research insects share the PINK1 gene with us humans, and defects in the fruit fly version have a similar effect on the insects as they do on people.
The neuroscientist responsible for this research, Patrik Verstreken, is based at VIB, a research institute in Flanders, Belgium. According to a statement issued by VIB, “Malfunctioning power plants are at the basis of Parkinson’s.” They are referring to the mitochondria that generate energy for our cells:
In Parkinson’s patients, the activity of mitochondria and the transport of electrons have been disrupted, resulting in the mitochondria no longer producing sufficient energy for the cell. This has major consequences as the cells in certain parts of the brain will start dying off, disrupting communication between neurons.
Patrik Verstreken and his team used fruitflies with a genetic defect in PINK1 or Parkin that is similar to the one associated with Parkinson’s. They found that the flies with a PINK1 or Parkin mutation lost their ability to fly.
[…] When the flies were given vitamin K2, the energy production in their mitochondria was restored and the insects’ ability to fly improved. The researchers were also able to determine that the energy production was restored because the vitamin K2 had improved electron transport in the mitochondria.
It sounds quite exciting, despite the early nature of the research. Vitamin K2 occurs naturally and is, according to Wikipedia, nontoxic. The K group of vitamins are needed to promote blood coagulation and “in metabolic pathways in bone and other tissue.” While vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables, vitamin K2 is “synthesized by animal tissues and is found in meat, eggs, and dairy products.”
(Wikipedia also notes that “in the elderly there is a reduction in vitamin K2 production”; might this be a contributory factor to the fact that Parkinson’s is more prevalent in the elderly?)
I imagine that the dose of vitamin K2 required to reverse the effect of Parkinson’s (assuming that the researcher’s theory is correct) is large. However, it does seem prudent for us Parkies to try to eat more foods that contain vitamin K2.