I recently read an excellent medical research paper suggesting that statin medication use, instead of reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, may indirectly increase it.

The reason is because of the interactions of statins with various metabolic pathways involving vitamin K-2. This is important because low levels of vitamin K-2 are associated with an increased risk of not only severe coronary artery disease (CAD) but also type II diabetes and mortality.

Vitamin K is not a single vitamin but is composed of a number of different forms. They are considered to be fat-soluble vitamins and are required by the body for a number of different biochemical reactions including blood clotting, calcium balance, energy production and the creation of powerful antioxidants.

Vitamin K-1 is found primarily in leafy green vegetables and its main function is in the production of blood clotting proteins.

In contrast, there are many different forms of vitamin K-2. Vitamin K-2 can be made from vitamin K-1 by many different organs in the body. It is also made in several different forms by the bacteria in the bowel.

Vitamin K-3 is no longer used to treat vitamin K deficiency because of associated toxicities.

The article was published in the medical journal Pharmacology in 2016. A large group of researchers from several universities in Japan explained that many of the mechanisms associated with the prevention of CAD are vitamin K-2 dependent. That means that low a level of vitamin K-2 may increase the risk of severe coronary artery disease.

They also discussed the fact that statin medications inhibit the production of vitamin K-2. It is well-known that statin medications reduce the production of a very specific compound called coenzyme Q 10. However they also reduce the production of other coenzyme Q 10 look-a-like compounds that are essential for vitamin K-2 to reduce the risk of severe coronary artery disease (CAD).

In addition, statin medications directly inhibit the conversion of vitamin K-1 to vitamin K-2. The end result is a significant increase in the risk of both the development and severity of CAD.

It is also well-known that there is an association between type II diabetes and CAD. According to the FDA, there is increased risk of type II diabetes in patients taking statin medications.

Statin medications also inhibit specific compounds needed for the utilization of insulin by the body.

What was of interest is that the very same coenzyme Q like compounds that are necessary for vitamin K2 are also necessary for the utilization of insulin.

This is not to say that statin medication should be discontinued. Indeed there is substantial data supporting their use for reducing the risk of repeat heart attack or stroke.

This data does indicate however that nutritional supplementation with specifically vitamin K-2 may significantly improve both short-term and long-term health of patients with CAD and/or type II diabetes who are currently taking statin medications.

• Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D., is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village. His website is www.alt-med.org.