Want a healthy child: Use more fats

Want a healthy child: Use more fats

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The role of fats and children’s health is nothing less than critical.  Too often when we hear the word fat or fats our brain tells us to run screaming the other direction.  In the case of our discussion on building a strong foundational supplement program for your child, fats (Good ones) are extremely essential.  Granted there are “Bad” fats too, but in our discussion of supporting the health of your growing child we will only discuss the fats that promote health.  Briefly though, bad fats are the saturated ones, which are primarily consumed in beef, pork and chicken.  I am not saying those foods are bad for you, but the fat of those animals is and should be avoided as much as possible. 

In keeping with my foundational health program, there are certain fats and fat-soluble vitamins that are both essential and important for the many aspects of a developing child.  Healthy Fats such as Omega-3s and the vitamins A, D, E and K are the area we will focus in this book.  Each one is unique in its actions and yet we often see a crossover connection too.  As a parent of 2 children, I would make sure that my children always consumed these to help support their growing body’s and prevent illness down the road.

Healthy Fats

Like I mentioned above, this is focusing on the good fats that we need to add to our everyday supplement program.  These fats are called Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs. I consider them to be as important or maybe even more important to health and wellbeing than your vitamin and mineral supplements. These healthy fats are considered essential because our body cannot make them and therefore need to come from our diet or supplements.  EFAs contribute to your health in too many ways to list here. Research with EFAs as supplements have shown to benefit most of the major diseases we face such as:

  • Cardiovascular Health: Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, Arrhythmias
  • Brain development
  • Eye Development
  • Overall Skin Health
  • Eczema/Psoriasis
  • Inflammation
  • Joint Health
  • Immune support
  • Memory
  • Digestive Health
  • Mental Disorders: Depression, ADD, ADHD

EFAs are broken down into two separate classifications: Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA DHA. Omega-6 fatty acids include GLA, LA, and AA.  Let’s take a closer look at what these fats are and what benefits they may possess.


  • Linoleic Acid (LA)     (An Omega-6 Fatty Acid)
    • LA is found in processed foods, margarine, and vegetable oils. LA helps improve skin conditions. It may also be partially converted to GLA in the body. The typical North American diet includes WAY too much LA and therefore I don’t recommend supplementing with this fat.
  • Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) (An Omega-6 Fatty Acid)
    • GLA is found in borage, black currant and evening primrose oils. GLA helps the body fight inflammation, reduce blood clotting, PMS and lower blood pressure. GLA has shown to help with conditions such as arthritis, Heart Disease, Cancer, Eczema and Psoriasis.
  • Arachidonic Acid (AA) (An Omega-6 Fatty Acid)
    • AA is necessary for the infant brain development and small amounts are required for overall fetal development. However, it is not generally deemed a “good” fat, because, in excess, AA may have some harmful effects. It is also found in meat, eggs, and some shellfish.


  • Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA)  (An Omega-3 Fatty Acid)
    • ALA is found primarily in Flaxseed and chia oil. ALA helps those with high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and immune function health challenges such as caner. In some of us, the body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA.
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) (An Omega-3 Fatty Acid)
    • These two are responsible for the beneficial effects of fish oils. Research has shown that fish oils containing EPA and DHA have therapeutic benefits in areas including: rheumatoid arthritis, high blood triglycerides, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, infant brain development, and cancer…the list is endless!

Now that we know more about EFAs and there effects in our body, we need to focus in primarily on Omeg-3s.  Even though EFA deficiency is common in the United States, particularly Omega-3 deficiency. Why? While most of us are deficient in EFAs, the typical American diet tends to get too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3.  The ideal intake ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1. This means for every gram of Omega-6 you need one gram of Omega-3. Regretfully, most Americans have a ratio between 10:1 and 25:1.  The imbalance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is linked to health challenges such as heart attacks, cancer, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Obesity, Diabetes, asthma and more. This imbalance in the ration is the primary reason I recommend the use of Omega-3 fatty acids and not supplements that contain Omega-6

Omega-6s are found primarily in vegetable oils that are commonly found in salad dressings, mayonnaise, fried foods, snack foods like chips (corn and potato), dips, fast foods, fatty meats (chicken, beef pork), butter and most baked goods (cookies, candies, pastries, muffins).  Just reading this list you can see why most Americans consume more Omega-6s by the fact that these foods make up most of our daily food intake.

Omega-3s on the other hand are found primarily in certain fish (salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, sturgeon, Pollock, whiting) and certain seeds such as flaxseed and chia.  Each source (Fish or Seed) provides unique benefits that will be covered later. It is obvious by looking at the typical American diet that we already over consume Omega-6s and come up short on Omega-3s.  Because the balance seems to be tipped in the wrong direction, I primarily recommend the use of Omega-3 fatty acids and not the use of Omega-6s

I stated that even though Omega-6s are essential and that the average American diet is out of balance with regards to consuming more Omega-6 than Omega-3.  It is for this reason I am focusing primarily on Omega-3s in this book. There are 2 areas we should focus on as parents (and for ourselves) when supplementing: Omega-3s from plant sources like chia seeds and fish sources.  Below you will find out more about both and the impacts they can have on your child as they grow and develop.  

Chia Seeds

In our home, we consume Chia Seeds for our ALA.   We sprinkle them on our salads, beans, in our soups; oatmeal, anywhere and everything we eat can handle a small scoop of chia seeds. These seeds are considered on of my top super foods for cardiovascular health.  The added benefit of not having to grind

The nutritional profile of Chia is amazing. Here are just a few of reasons (I will go into further detail later):

  • ·      High in Omega-3
  • ·      High in Protein
  • ·      High in Fiber
  • ·      Antioxidants
  • ·      B-Vitamins
  • ·      Calcium

High in Omega-3s

The seeds and oil naturally contain more than 60% Omega-3 fatty acid. This is the higher than any other plant we know.  Chia seeds do not have to be ground up prior to consumption like many other seeds high in good fats, which adds a convenience factor. Omega-3s have a direct impact on the health of every cell in your.


It is estimated that between 19-23 percent of the seed by weight is protein. This too is higher than most other seeds and grains.  Combining the good fats with an excellent source of protein make them a dieter’s dream.  A good balance of protein is essential because the amino acids that make up protein are responsible for supporting every function in your body.


Chia can absorb up to 30 times its weight in water.  This also works with other liquids like juices.  This ability can prolong hydration (I call it having time released water) and retain electrolytes in body fluids, especially during exertion or exercise.  A 15-gram serving of Chia seeds can provide you with 4-5grams of fiber.  Fiber is especially good for digestive support, weight control, heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.


Chia contains Vitamin C and Vitamin E but also has something named Cinnamic acids.  It is believed that these three (especially the cinnamic acid), which help preserve the seeds and more importantly, protect the good fats from oxidizing (going bad). This is why chia is a stable product for years. The full benefit of antioxidants will be discussed later in this section of the book.


This one will make you stop in your tracks: Just two ounces of Chia seeds contain 600mg of Calcium, compared with 120mg per the same serving size of Milk.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand drinking milk and most kids don’t like it either unless you doctor it up with something like chocolate.  Following the Herbal Pharmacist® recommendations to find your vitamins and minerals in a food or “food form” make Chia a top suggestion for those looking for more calcium in their diet without having to take more tablets or capsules.  Throw on top if it that Chia also contains Boron-a critical mineral for bones-this also becomes part of your diet for those concerned with bone growth, development and overall bone health.  Calcium is one of the more critical minerals needed for supporting a healthy cardiovascular system.  There is a delicate balance of Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium required for a properly functioning cardiovascular system.  Regretfully, most Americans are mineral deficient in 3 of these minerals.

How to use chia

Chia is a seed that does not have to ground up in order to deliver its health benefits (like flaxseeds would).  Dry, they are crunch and impart zero flavor or odor to your foods.  Basically, they taste like whatever you put them in or on.  When they get wet, they form something more like a gel and look like a soft jellybean.  At our house, we add chia to green beans, brown rice, soups, chili, guacamole, sauces of all types, chicken, fish, pork, beef (hamburgers, steaks, etc.) and so much more to list here.  The list is endless.

Can’t my child get enough Omega-3s from my diet?

NO WAY.  I joke that you would need to eat a boatload of fish to get the Omega-3s you get from a supplement. Supplements are safer in my opinion too since they are usually distilled and toxins such as heavy metals are removed.

Then how much should you give your child?  This is a very confusing area that I am determined to clear up here.  Most consumers follow the dosing based on the amount of fish oil in a capsule, teaspoon, and packet.  The real key is the total amount of Omega-3s per serving.  Here is an example: Let’s suppose that I have a condition where the suggested dose was 2000mg (2 grams) of Omega-3s per day.  You need to read the supplement facts information on the back of the bottle because each brand available has a differing amount of Omega-3s per serving (don’t forget to read your serving sizes too).  For example, XYZ brand may contain 1000mg of fish oil per capsule and yield 500mg of total Omega-3s. This concentration means that I would only have to take 4 capsules per day to get the 2000mg of Omega-3s   Taking the wrong dosage will keep one from fully realizing the benefits of fish oil products.   Be aware that not all Omega-3s from Fish Oil products are the same.  You need to read your labels carefully for serving sizes and amounts of Omega-3s in that serving size.

The amounts required for optimum health vary.  Here are the bare minimum amounts that are recommended.  I believe that we need to double these as a baseline, but this is only my opinion.  I base it on the fact that most of us are Omega-3 deficient and that this deficiency is leading to some of our major health issues.

Chart Below is the bare minimum.

Infants (1–18 months)

0–15 lbs.

32 mg/lb. EPA+DHA

Children (1.5–15 yrs.)


15 mg/lb. EPA+DHA

Adults (15–115 yrs.)


650 mg EPA+DHA



220 mg EPA (minimum)



220 mg DHA (minimum)

Lactating Women


300 mg DHA daily


**Dosing may vary depending on your health and health challenge. These are basic guidelines and for exact dosing, please consult your health care provider.  Higher doses for most major health challenges effecting: Heart, Brain, Eyes, Skin, Immune, Digestion and Joint Health. 

How long does it take to work?

It depends on you and your needs. I often see results in the first few days.  Digestion, absorption and dose will all play an important roll in how quickly the responds will be. I would allow at least 90 days to fully experience the benefits of EFAs.

Are there any side effects?

Possibly. The more common reactions are digestive. These are fats and therefore I recommend using a digestive enzyme that contains lipase along with your supplement(s).

What should I look for when purchasing fish oil?

  1. Make sure your product is certified (hopefully 3rd party like NSF or USP) to not contain contaminants like Heavy metals or pesticides.
  2. Smell: If it smells like fish you may not want to take it.
  3. Taste: Same thing as above.
  4. Packaging is important:
    1. Look for UV protected bottles or packets

Vitamin A

 While practicing pharmacy years ago in Virginia, I noticed that most people seemed a bit “freaked out” by vitamin A.  To be honest, I am not sure how or why, but I do know that Vitamin A is another one of those critical nutrients we need to make sure that our child consumes in order to assure proper growth and development.  Let’s dive into Vitamin A a little deeper to see why this fat-soluble vitamin is so important.  

Vitamin A is essential for good vision, a healthy immune system, and cell growth. There are two types of vitamin A. The active form of vitamin A (retinoids) comes from animals.  Plants also provide carotenoids, which have to be converted in the body into the active form.  The body really should get a balance of both plant and animal sources. Here are some common food sources of Vitamin A and Carotenoids:

Fish liver oils, cream, egg yolk, beef liver, cheddar cheese, fortified milk, and butter products are rich sources of Vitamin A. Yellow or orange-colored fruits and vegetables that contain the pigment carotene are also top sources. Be sure to include food items such as sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, spinach, mango, pumpkin, tomato, oatmeal, apricot, peach, peas, papaya and collard greens in your daily diet to ensure a regular supply of carotenoids (vitamin A).

Just like with EFAs and Vitamin D, Vitamin A possesses some of the same health benefits for proper growth and development in our children.  Here is a quick look at what it does and why is should be part of your child’s supplement program.

Improves Immunity: Vitamin A enhances the body’s immunity against infections by increasing the immune systems response time against.  It also keeps mucus membranes moist which helps the body keep unwanted viruses and bacteria from entering the body. Just imagine if the underlying reason your child is always sick is because they are deficient in vitamin A.  Vitamin A is a strong antioxidant and we know that a diet high in antioxidants will boost immune function and be a preventative for many diseases. 

Eye Health: Vitamin A provides many benefits for your child’s eyes.  In fact a nonprofit I am affiliated with (Vitamin Angels) substantiates the benefits of Vitamin A.  Vitamin Angels travels the world to extremely malnourished areas and administers high dose vitamin A to children to help prevent blindness.  Because Vitamin A is a great antioxidant, it helps decrease the chances of cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.  Lastly, it also helps with the prevention of night blindness.

Skin Health: Whether your child is very young or hitting their puberty stage, Vitamin A will help them develop healthy skin cells and in some prevent skin health challenges like acne.  Vitamin A, again because it is a powerful antioxidant can help cut down on skin health issues and even dark spots.  It also helps with moisture retention and can help prevent skin conditions that arise from having dry skin.

Prevents Acne: Vitamin A helps to cut down excess sebum production, thereby reducing the risk of acne. It also reinforces the protective tissues of the skin, thereby enhancing the overall health and vitality of the skin surface. Vitamin A is essential for the proper maintenance of the skin tissues and mucus membranes. It flushes out the toxins from your body and cleanses the system by virtue of its antioxidant properties.

Strong Bones and Teeth: Normally we think of vitamins like D with regards to developing strong teeth and bones, but vitamin A holds its own weight in importance too. This essential vitamin strengthens the bones and teeth. Vitamin A helps in the formation of dentin, the layer of hard material just below the surface of the teeth and thereby enhancing its strength.

Repair and Replacement of Old Tissues: Vitamin A plays an important role in replacing old and worn out tissues with new ones, as well as in keeping your bones and teeth strong.  Normally we don’t think of repair and replacement for our children.  Keep this in mind, they are just like us as adults and constantly need to produce new and healthy cells to replace old ones. Or, if they are very active, perhaps get the benefit from the repair of damaged tissue, bones and more.

Vitamin D

In the past several years I have spent numerous hours researching Vitamin D and the truth behind the correct amounts to take and more. Why? There seems to be a ton of confusion revolving around Vitamin D. What form do I take? How much should I take? Can’t I get enough from being out in the sun? You name it, I get asked about it. The following is my version of the information I gathered on what I believe to be the answers to your questions about vitamin D.

Before we get into the major questions about vitamin D, you need to understand what exactly vitamin D does in your body and why it is so important for your child’s growth and development. I think by now we all know that vitamin D plays an important role in bone health, but this is just the beginning of what vitamin D can do. The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium from the digestive tract. It also plays a key role in many other biological functions in the body. Deficiencies of vitamin D are linked to osteoporosis, rickets, misshapen bones, PMS, skin disorders (psoriasis, vitiligo, etc.), periodontal disease, cancer (especially breast, colon and prostate), heart disease (hypertension, cholesterol), depression, weight gain, autism, diabetes autoimmune conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and scleroderma) and treat the pain associated with the use of statin drugs (a potentially serious side effect of this class of medication).  Vitamin D is critical in helping regulate the immune system and your neuromuscular system (the combination of the nervous system and muscles, working together to permit movement).  Vitamin D also plays a critical role in the life cycle (From the formation to the death) of your cells. That last sentence says it all-without a proper life cycle you would cease to exist.

I realize that the above paragraph makes it look like Vitamin D is a “cure-all”.  In some cases, D can be something of that magnitude, but the reality is that D is part of a symphony not a soloist.  Yes, it is imperative that your child receives enough Vitamin D on a daily basis, but to think that it is a stand-alone “cure-all” would be selling yourself (your child too) short. 

 Where does Vitamin D come from?

Foods such as eggs, salmon, mackerel, sardines, beef and calf liver, cheese and butter contain trace amounts of this critical nutrient. The majority of vitamin D found and used in the body is actually manufactured by the body when the skin is exposed to the sun.  Adequate amounts of vitamin D3 can be made in the skin after only ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure at least two times per week to the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen. However, season, geographic latitude, time of day, cloud cover, skin cover, skin color, smog and sunscreen affect UV ray absorption and vitamin D synthesis. For example, sunlight exposure in the winter in Detroit would not be enough to produce significant amounts of vitamin D.  A person with darker skin color can have up to a 95 percent reduction in the ability to make vitamin D. Complete cloud cover can decrease the UVB rays by 50 percent which will also impact your ability to manufacture vitamin D.

Suggestions for exposure:  approximately 10-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen or clothing cover. If your skin has a darker pigment, then you need to consider longer periods of exposure (which could be harmful for your skin health) or consider added supplementation.

When discussing the importance of Vitamin D with regards to our children and their growth and development, these areas jump out at me the most:

  • Immune system- we know that by having a strong and developed immune system that we are less likely to be susceptible to viruses, bacteria and other conditions that may make us sick.
  • Muscle function- as our children grow, muscle development and function often gets overlooked.  Most of these 5-Fat (EFAs, A, D, E and K) supplements provide critical components to help muscle function.
  • Cardiovascular function- your child’s cardiovascular system is the primary system to deliver oxygen and the proper nutrients to all of the cells.  Vitamin D helps in the development of a healthy heart and good circulation.
  • Respiratory system- with so many children with breathing issues these days, it makes me wonder if nutritional deficiencies (not just Vitamin D) are responsible or play a role in those conditions.  D is definitely for healthy lungs and airways
  • Brain development- considering the brain is the hub of the electrical network that makes the body function.  From thinking to all of the 5 senses, our brain development is involved in all of them.  Doing what we can to support health brain development should be at the top of our list. (Just like it was with Fish Oil and more specifically DHA)

As parents, we want the best for our children and supplementing with vitamin D can play a primary role in achieving this goal. 

What form of D should I take?

This answer is a simple one. Take the form that your body makes-Vitamin D3.  You may see a label say another form (D2) in some supplements, but since this is not like the one your body manufactures, it is not the suggested form to use as your supplement.

 If you have any major concerns about how much D3 to take or give your child, consult with your health care provider and have some testing done. Why guess when modern medicine can help “dial” you into the correct levels

Vitamin E

 Vitamin E is another one of our fat-soluble vitamins that not only plays a huge role in our health as adults, but in our youth as part of our growth and development.  Vitamin E is key for strong immunity, healthy skin and eyes.  In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.  (Refer to my antioxidant section of this book for more information on Antioxidants and Free radicals.)  Not that we are too concerned about our children developing Alzheimer’s disease yet, but it appears that E can help here as well.  The use of E goes way beyond it just being a great antioxidant and also help in cancer, heart disease, and diabetes and as mentioned above the health of your eyes.  

So far, the only established benefits of vitamin E supplements are in people who have an actual deficiency. Vitamin E deficiencies are rare. They’re more likely in people who have diseases, such as digestive problems and cystic fibrosis. People on very low-fat diets may also have low levels of vitamin E.  Common food sources of Vitamin E are: Vegetable oils, green leafy veggies (most kids may not be a fan of these), fortified foods (which I do not recommend-read the diet section of this book), eggs and nuts. 

For our children and their development here are the key areas I believe that E is the most important: 

Heart disease

Granted most of our children do not have an issue with heart disease, but if you are like me you want to do everything in your power to make sure your children grow up and have a long and healthy life.  I want mine to be disease and discomfort free. Vitamin E supplementation, especially in those children with a poor diet can provide preventative benefits to their cardiovascular system.  Vitamin E also helps in the formation of health cells, which would be an added benefit to developing a healthy heart. 

Cancer and other immune weaknesses

Simply stated, antioxidants go a long way at supporting a healthy immune system.  I know that if my child has a healthy immune system then their body should be able to fight off any bacteria, virus or mutant cell that they come in contact with.  Is Vitamin E the answer? No. But Vitamin E can play a role in the total picture of your child’s immune system function. 

Eye disorders

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), or the loss of central vision in older people, and cataracts are among the most common causes of vision loss in older people.  Again, these are not young person problems, but keep in mind that both of these conditions develop over years of exposure to free radicals and poor nutrition.  In the case of your child’s eyes, vitamin E is not going to make them see better or keep them from needing glasses, but it will -over time- go a long way at helping prevent free radical damage that may negatively affect their eyes as they age.

Vitamin K-Important for our children from Day 1 (hour 1)

As Parents we realize in the delivery room how important Vitamin K is right out of the gate.  One of the first shots your child will ever get is a shot of vitamin K.  Why? Babies are born with a vitamin K deficiency.  This deficiency makes newborns more vulnerable to bleeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns receive an intramuscular dose of vitamin K at birth. Also, those mom’s who are going to nurse their children may notice that they give an additional dose of vitamin K because breast milk contains little to no vitamin K and formulas do. 

Unlike the other fat-soluble vitamins we have discussed, vitamin K is a bit more complicated to describe.  Why? There are 2 natural occurring forms of vitamin K and each one comes from different sources and has different health benefits.  Grouped together as K, they not only play a role in the body’s ability to clot (stop the bleeding from a cut or scrape…and you know our children do a ton of falling), bone building and strength, fight certain types of cancer, and support a healthy cardiovascular system (veins and arteries). Through these diverse actions, vitamin K holds promise in helping to prevent and manage some of the most crippling conditions associated with advancing age, including osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, and blood clots that can induce heart attack or stroke.  Simply put, vitamin K can have an impact on most areas and bodily processes.  In fact, vitamin K is sometimes referred to as “the forgotten vitamin” because its major benefits are often overlooked. 

Like the body’s absorption of other fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, and E), vitamin K absorption depends on healthy liver and gallbladder function. Unlike the other fat-soluble vitamins though, vitamin K is not stored in the body. These two factors are the primary reason that I suggest we focus on both a diet high in vitamin K and to supplement the diet too. The problem with the diet part is that many of the foods are not on our children’s favorites lists.  (We will cover food sources in a bit) 

Another unique quality of Vitamin K is that it is the only vitamin that can be produced within the human body. (But not by the body). Probiotics (yes, like the ones I mentioned earlier in this book) produce about 75% of the vitamin K the body absorbs each day, with the other 25% coming from dietary sources.

Taking a closer look at vitamin K

For the purpose of this section of the book we are going to consider that there are only 2 forms of Vitamin K: Vitamin K1 (Phylloquinone) and Vitamin K2 (Menaquinone).  There is actually a third type K3, but it is synthetic and used the pharmaceutical version (what is injected into newborns and acts like K1).  I would prefer to stick with the naturally occurring forms since this is a natural health and healing book and not about drugs.

 Where do K1 and K2 come in our foods?

Vitamin K1 is found primarily in these foods:

  • ·      Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are two of the best sources of vitamin K1
  • ·      Kale
  • ·      Collard greens
  • ·      Spinach
  • ·      Turnip greens
  • ·      Swiss chard
  • ·      Brussels sprouts
  • ·      Cauliflower
  • ·      Parsley
  • ·      Broccoli
  • ·      Asparagus
  • ·      Lettuce, green leaf

Vitamin K2 Food Sources (keep in mind that the majority of K2 is made in the small and large intestine by probiotics):

Fermented foods (such as natto)- typically have the highest concentration of vitamin K found in the human diet and can provide several milligrams of vitamin K2 on a daily basis. Unfortunately, most Americans do not eat many fermented foods. Adding traditionally fermented foods to your diet is a must, and although not widely known, the health benefits of these foods are tremendous. Other foods high in K2 include raw dairy products such ashard and soft cheeses, raw butter, and kefir, and sauerkraut.

Because the foods that are high in K2 are not normally part of our diet and the amounts of beneficial bacteria may be limited for multiple reasons, I suggest we all supplement (not just our children) our diet.

I will spend the remainder of my discussion on the importance of vitamin K2 since it is my belief that K1 has little to do with the growth and development of your child and more to do with the potential healing from trauma (cuts, scrapes, bruising, etc.) and less to do with how we develop.  I am not saying that K1 is not important for your child and their health, just that it will not have as much of an impact on growth and development (which also means preventative health).

More about Vitamin K2

How does K2 work?

The main function of Vitamin K is modifying proteins to give them the ability to bind calcium.  In this way, it “activates” the calcium-binding properties of proteins. However… the roles of Vitamin K1 and K2 are quite different and I feel that they should be classified as separate nutrients altogether.

 Vitamin K1 is mostly used by the liver to activate calcium-binding proteins involved in blood clotting, while K2 is used to activate proteins that regulate where calcium ends up in the body.

Even within the discussion of Vitamin K2, there are two forms: Menaquinone-4 and Menaquinone-7. Recent studies show that natural vitamin K2 as Menaquinone-7 is consistently found to be much more effective compared to Menaquinone-4. This is mainly due to menaquinone-7 being better absorbed and lasting longer (8-10 times longer) in the body. These two reasons and the fact that Menaquinone-7 is the form with the most credible research showing its benefits are why I use and recommend using Menaquinone-7 as part a daily supplement regimen. The branded ingredient MenaQ7 is the brand of K2 that has the most compelling research that not only will impact the growth and development of our children, but also help us as adults with our health and longevity.  From here on out my reference to K2 will be with regards to MenaQ7 and the science showing its benefits for your child’s growth and development.

How does it affect our child’s growth and development?

There are several areas of interest when it comes to why I highly recommend vitamin K2 (MenaQ7) be a part of your child’s good fats supplement program: Cardiovascular health (heart, vein and artery health), bone development (strength, bone mineral density and overall development), dental health (stimulates the production of dentin) and protect against certain types of cancer.

 If you are like me, one of the biggest concerns I’ve had with regards to my children and their growth and development are in all of these areas.  In fact, other than getting a good education and teaching them right from wrong, these could be the only other areas I would have focused on; Heart health, bone strength and formation, healthy teeth and cancer.  Granted the cancer research is limited to certain types, but just knowing that I am giving them one more thing that “may” help is comforting. 

Let’s take a closer look at K2 and how it helps in these areas.

Cardiovascular Health

Since heart disease runs in my family and with my ex-wife, being proactive for my kid’s sake is at the top of my list.  Luckily, their mother and I do not have any signs of heart disease (we are both in our 50’s) and honestly I do not anticipate any problems because we are both follow my 4 Pillars of Health closely.  Being totally transparent, K2 and more specifically menaquinone-7 (MenaQ7) are relatively new to me and didn’t even make it into my book on heart disease  “4 Pillars of Health: Heart Disease” 3 years ago.  But, over the past 6 months, my own do diligence has leaded me to be a huge fan of MenaQ7 and a prime part of my own supplement program. 

Why is MenaQ7 (K2) so important for heart health?  One of the key functions of vitamin K2 is to make sure the calcium in your body ends up in you bones and not in your arteries (hardening of the arteries).  A recent study gave more light to this showing that people with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a much lower risk of heart disease.  Another study using specifically MenaQ7 showed that supplementing with vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7) not only inhibited age-related stiffening of artery walls, but also made a significant improvement in the elasticity. (Thrombosis and Haemostasis May 2015) Please keep in mind that hardening of the arteries, heart disease and other related issues are not usually in the forefront of a parents mind with regards to their children.  What you should keep in mind that it is a lifetime of poor lifestyle choices (Diet, Exercise, Spirituality and Supplements) that will add up over time, not in an instant.  Using vitamin K2 as part of a child’s supplement program would be a great addition for any child, but especially those with a family history of heart disease.

Bone Health, development and strength

Ever noticed how a baby’s bones are very small and fragile compared to adult bones? The fingers and toes on a baby are so very much smaller than ours yet they become quite huge over time. How do bones get so much bigger over time?  For us to understand how important vitamin K2 is for our child’s growth and development in bone health, let’s take a quick “How bones grow 101” class. 

Bones are made of a network of calcium laid down by cells. As kids grow, special cells at the end of bones add new calcium to the network of bone. Children have layers of these cells in the shape of plates at the ends of their bones. These are called “growth plates,” and they close up when kids reach their full adult height. This bone lengthening and thickening stops around the age of 25.  From that point on “we are just trying to hang onto what we have”, as a dear friend and Naturopath would say.

In order for this process of bone growth to occur I believe we all know that the mineral calcium is important, but there are more “players” than just calcium.  Minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and trace minerals boron, silicon, strontium, vanadium, etc. are all involved in the mix.  Throw in a nice dose of Vitamin D3 and A like we mentioned earlier and now Vitamin K2 and we are well on our way to building strong bones for the long-haul.

Recent research has shown that most children are vitamin K deficient, which is likely attributable to the consumption of more processed food, and generally less that is naturally rich in K vitamins (keeping in mind that vitamin K2 should be considered the “bone-health” form of K you need to focus on). With the average dietary vitamin K2 intake dropping significantly over the last 50 years, today’s intake is insufficient for optimal bone development.  It is for this reason that I don’t see irony in the fact that the number of forearm fractures in children has increased over a similar 30-year period.

Avoiding the dentist

If your child is anything like both of mine, a trip to the dentist can be a nightmare.  Anything I can do to cut down on unwanted visits is important for not only the reason above, but I also want my children to have healthy teeth their whole life.  Similarly to our discussion of vitamin K2 above in our bone health discussion, vitamin K2 looks to be helpful in teeth formation too.  The same “osteocalcin” that is activated by vitamin K2 to help with bone formation and strength also plays a role in the formation of dentin (the calcified tissue underneath the enamel on your teeth.  As with bone health, Vitamin A and D work synergistically with K2 and the health of our teeth. 

The last area of K2 and its impact on health would be in the area of cancer.  I am only mentioning it here as a possible help due to the lack of good studies and not because I am sold on the idea of vitamin K2 being a huge player in this area.  It does appear that certain types of cancer (Liver and prostate) that vitamin K2 may reduce the chances of recurrence of liver cancer and lower the risk of advanced prostate cancer.  I realize that both of these are for older people and not necessarily our children and their development, but I do find it compelling for the prevention part of a supplement program at any age.  I choose to get a head start on preventing disease and hope you have the same feelings.

We just finished discussing 4 fat-soluble vitamins and their benefits on your child’s growth and development.  I feel it is important to point out that when you take a fat-soluble vitamin, it is a good idea to take it with another fat.  For me, I take my A, D, E and (K) MenaQ7 with my fish oil each day.  This is the best way to take care of everything at one time.  Doing this type of combination helps with digestion and absorption of your fat-soluble nutrients.