Vitamin K2: from a natural fermentation process or from chemical synthesis?

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Vitamin K2 or menaquinones comprises numerous compounds, of which the most superior is menaquinone-7 (MK-7) form. Gnosis by Lesaffre has been a pioneer in the development of vitamin K2 as MK-7. There are two ways to obtain vitamin K2 in the MK-7 form: from a natural fermentation-based process and from synthesis. This position paper describes the differences between both pathways and highlights the specificities of vitamin K2 obtained through natural fermentation-based process from Gnosis by Lesaffre.

Vitamin K2 provides several health benefits, particularly for one’s bones and heart. It activates the K-dependent protein osteocalcin, which binds calcium into the bones, promoting bone mineral density. In addition to supporting healthy bones, vitamin K2 may also lower the risk of cardiovascular damage: by activating another K-dependent protein – matrix Gla protein (MGP) – calcium is inhibited from depositing in arteries and soft tissues, which can lead to stiffening of blood vessels and decreased blood flow.


Dietary sources of this fat-soluble vitamin are scarce, and those that contain K2 offer very little, requiring unfathomable consumption of those foods on a daily basis. Therefore, dietary intake and the natural amount of vitamin K2 found in the body is often low, especially in a modern, low-fat diet. The best and easiest way to get enough vitamin K2 in a modern healthy diet is through dietary supplements. Supplementation of vitamin K2 facilitates getting enough of this nutrient to take advantage of its numerous health benefits.

Vitamin K2 is naturally produced by fermentation in food and in our gut. Like other vitamins, vitamin K2 can be obtained on an industrial scale through means of controlled natural biofermentation or by chemical synthesis.



What is fermentation and why is it natural?

Fermentation is a process that involves the utilization of carbohydrates by bacteria and/or yeast. It produces other compounds like CO2, aromatic molecules, vitamins… Fermentation is used for millennia to make foods like bread, yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto (fermented soybeans) and other foods. Fermentation occurs naturally in nature. 

For instance, many berries break open in late fall when they are overripe and full of sugar. Micro-organisms lodge on the surface of these berries, which then become fermented and alcoholic.


What is vitamin K2 obtained through natural fermentation-based process?

Vitamin K2 as menquinone-7 (MK-7) can be obtained through natural fermentation and is shown to be the most superior form of K2. 

Fermentation is a natural process carried out in a similar way as how yeast is used to make bread rise or by how other microorganisms are used to obtain fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and natto. To obtain this form of vitamin K2, Gnosis by Lesaffre uses a specific strain extracted from natto, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans.

vitaMK7® comes from Gnosis by Lesaffre’s specific strain, Bacillus subtilis natto GN1372, that has been isolated from commercial natto.

 MenaQ7®, the only clinically validated vitamin K2 as MK-7 from NattoPharma now part of Gnosis by Lesaffre, is also available from natural fermentation.


What is the difference between vitamin K2 from fermentation and vitamin K2 from synthesis?

The MK-7 form of vitamin K2 is the most bioavailable form among the 14 isomers of menaquinones. Vitamin K2 as MK-7, when obtained using Gnosis by Lesaffre patented fermentation process, is a molecule that is naturally produced by the Bacillus subtilis found in natto. Natto, a traditional Japanese food, is the richest food source of vitamin K2 as MK-7. The synthetic molecule of MK-7 is not produced through a natural process but by a succession of chemical reactions.



What is the difference between the cis and trans form of the K2 as MK-7 molecule?​

Vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7 exists in two isomers that have the same molecular formula and the same number of atoms of each element, but are distinct in their differing arrangements of atoms in space. These two arrangements consist of the trans isomer (the only bioactive form of vitamin K2) and the cis isomer. The isomeric purity relates to the proportion of trans active isomers in the product versus cis isomers.


The trans isomer is the bioactive form of vitamin MK-7

mk7 isomer

Following the FAO’s opinion in 2008, only the all-trans form of menaquinones, mainly including K2 as MK-7, is important for its biological functions in activating Vitamin K-dependent proteins.


>99% = the isomeric purity of vitamin K2 from Gnosis by Lesaffre

Ex: the average isomeric purity of vitaMK7® is 99.75%


An analysis of 168 production batches shows that isomeric purity of Gnosis by Lesaffre’s vitamin K2 obtained through natural fermentation (vitaMK7®) is extremely high, with an average score of 99.75%.


Why Cis isomers are more prevalent in synthetic vitamin K2 as MK-7?

When manufacturing vitamin K2 through organic synthesis (synthetically derived K2), replicating the natural all–trans form of the vitamin is challenging. This explains why some of the synthetic K2 in the market with cis-form levels not meeting the USP Monograph for vitamin K2 as MK-7.

Gnosis by Lesaffre synthetic K2 line, MenaQ7® PharmaPure, is developed via a multistep process that leads to a all-trans form of Vitamin K2 as menaquinone 7.




Why is purity so important for vitamin K2 as MK-7?

Gnosis by Lesaffre’s natural based fermentation process for vitamin K2 has a very high level of purity (>99% of all trans MK-7, the only active form of vitamin K2). The high level of purity of Gnosis by Lesaffre’s product also means:


  • no contamination from the fermentation process,
  • no bacterial residues,
  • no need for synthetic or other form.

What makes Vitamin K2 from Gnosis by Lesaffre different?

VitaMK7® is the optimal vitamin K2 supplement made through natural biotransformation. It is a naturally derived, allergen-free form of vitamin K2 in the MK-7 form. Gnosis by Lesaffre vitamin K2 obtained through the natural fermentation-based process is produced in its own European manufacturing sites through a patented biofermentation process of Bacillus subtilis natto, a specific strain isolated from commercial natto.

Is Bacillus subtilis natto used to produce vitamin K2 genetically modified?

No. The strain of Bacillus subtilis used in the production of Gnosis by Lesaffre vitamin K2 is not genetically modified.


Does the vitamin K2 produced by Gnosis by Lesaffre through natural fermentation contain any GMOs?

No. The product has not been subjected to and not derived from any technique of genetic modification as defined in Dir. (EC) 18/2001, Reg. (EC) 1829/2003 and Reg. 1830/2003. None of the materials used in preparation and manufacturing have been derived from any technique of genetic modification.



Is Gnosis by Lesaffre vitamin K2 free from use solvents?

Yes. vitaMK7® from Gnosis by Lesaffre is obtained through a natural process of fermentation. The micro-organism is fed by carbohydrates from (non-GMO) corn. To extract the vitamin K2, Gnosis by Lesaffre uses food-grade ethanol from agricultural origin which is removed before packaging. Thus, there is no detectable amount of bioethanol in the final product.



Is the stability of vitamin K2 produced through natural fermentation high?

Yes. The vitamin K2 produced by Gnosis by Lesaffre obtained through the natural fermentation-based process shows a high stability. The vitamin K2 as vitaMK7® active ingredient has 3 years of stability at room temperature.


Are there any allergens in the vitamin K2 obtained through the natural fermentation-based process from Gnosis by Lesaffre?

No. There are no relevant allergens/intolerance components present in the vitamin K2 from natural produced by Gnosis by Lesaffre. As shown below, this vitamin is produced in accordance with Annex II of Regulation 1169/2011/EC and amendments, and the United States’ “Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004”.



Is the vitamin K2 produced through natural fermentation from Gnosis by Lesaffre suitable for vegetarians/vegans?

Yes. The product does not contain any animal product, byproduct, or any animal processed material. The product is therefore suitable for vegans/vegetarians to consume.



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