Vitamin K & Health

Vitamin K plays an important in bodily processes primarily helping blood clotting, cellular growth, building strong bones and preventing heart disease. Vitamin K is stored in fat tissue and the liver as it is a fat-soluble vitamin. While about half of the 16 known proteins that depend on vitamin K are necessary for blood coagulation, other vitamin K-dependent proteins are involved in a variety of different functions involving the skeletal, arterial, and immune systems.

Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in dark green plants and vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is found in animal liver, curd and cheese, and fermented foods. Because vitamin K is synthesized by intestinal bacteria, and absorbed from the distal small bowel, antibiotics have been shown to reduce vitamin K2 from this source. Health problems such as gallbladder or biliary disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and liver disease can also prevent your body from absorbing vitamin K. Secondary deficiency of vitamin K can often results from impaired absorption of the vitamin due to lack of bile salts in patients with obstructive jaundice, external biliary fistulas or other gastrointestinal conditions. Deficiency of vitamin K causes hypoprothombinemia manifested by defective coagulation of the blood and hemorrhage.

Osteoporosis & Osteoarthritis
Vitamin K2 is one of the most important nutritional interventions for improving your bone density. It serves as the biological "glue" that helps accumilate calcium and other important minerals into your bone matrix. Vitamin K is essential for making a bone protein called osteocalcin fully functional. This protein is part of the bone structure when it is "carboxylated" (a chemical modification of the protein that binds to calcium) in the presence of sufficient vitamin K. Vitamin K is an integral part of carboxylation of the bone protein osteocalcin, which, when bound to calcium, helps bone mineralization.

Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) & Coronary Heart Disease
There is a direct relationship between excess calcium in the blood and inadequate calcium in the bones. Because vitamin K2 is an excellent calcium regulator it is able to move excessive arterial calcium into bone tissue where it belongs, while removing it from arteries. vitamin K not only blocks new arterial calcium buildup but can also reduce existing levels of calcification by 37 percent. The Rotterdam Study, a long-term study of risk factors for chronic disease in old age, found that over a 10-year period people who consumed the most vitamin K2 had 50 percent less arterial calcification and cardiovascular death than average. People with high intakes of vitamin K2 are 52 percent less likely to develop severe calcification of the arteries, 41 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and 57 percent less likely to die from it. (Geleijnse et al., 2004, pp. 3100-3105)

Chronic Inflammation
In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers had found that higher blood levels and dietary intake of K1 was correlated with lower levels of 14 different inflammation biomarkers.

- A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that those individuals with the highest intakes of vitamin K2 had the lowest risk of developing cancer and a 30% reduction in cancer mortality.

- A study recently published by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has revealed that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent.

- Vitamin K2 benefits were also found to reduce viral induced liver cancer in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

- Consuming a lot of vitamin K was associated with a lower risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma according to scientists at the Mayo Comprehensive Cancer Center in Minnesota. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas belong to a large group of immune system cancers involving lymphocytes (white blood cells).

- According to a study conducted by researchers from University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands and published in the journal Diabetes Care, people with a higher dietary intake of vitamin K are 20 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Study participants with the highest intake were consuming between 250 and 360 micrograms per day.

- Researchers publishing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have determined that individuals with the highest circulating levels of vitamin K1 have a total diabetes risk reduction of 51 percent as compared to those with the lowest levels.

Age Related Mental Decline
Vitamin K2 benefits also include protecting nerve cells from oxidative stress and possibly reducing neuronal damage. Vitamin K is a fat soluble nutrient that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier to provide antioxidant support to the critical organ composed primarily of omega-3 fats. Animal studies published in the Journal of Nutrition show that animals with the lowest supplemental vitamin K levels display the highest degree of cognitive decline as they grew older, compared with the highest vitamin K group.

Recommended daily vitamin K intake is of 120 micrograms for men and 90 micrograms for women. Vitamin K is also an important adjunct to vitamin D, and if you are deficient in one, neither works optimally in your body. Dietary fat is necessary for the absorption of this Vitamin K. Natural forms of vitamin K has caused no symptoms of toxicity, even when supplemented in large amounts.

Foods Sources of vitamin K2
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, broccoli, spinach, mustard greens, lettuce, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, green peas, romaine lettuce and Swiss chard
- Natto
- Fermented cheeses
- Sauerkraut
- Egg yolk
- Butter
- Organ meats
- Chicken breast
- Ground beef
- Vegetable Oils such as cottonseed oil, olive oil and soybean oil

Anyone considering vitamin K supplements should consult with their medical adviser first; people on blood thinners should not be taking vitamin K.