Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is stored in fatty tissue in the body. Good sources of vitamin K include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, and vegetable oils, soybeans and cereals. Vitamin K is also produced in our bodies by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract.
There are two main forms of this vitamin; vitamin K1 (also known as phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (or menaquinone), which is produced by bacteria in the intestines. Synthetic forms of vitamin K are also available- vitamin K3- but this is not suitable for human consumption.
Health Benefits of Vitamin K
"In this nested case-control study including 250 prostate cancer cases and 494 matched controls, we aimed to confirm this cancer-protective effect using serum undercarboxylated osteocalcin (ucOC), a biomarker of vitamin K status inversely associated with vitamin K intake."
Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Nieters A, Linseisen J. Serum undercarboxylated osteocalcin as biomarker of vitamin K intake and risk of prostate cancer: a nested case-control study in the Heidelberg cohort of the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2009, Volume 18, Number 1, Pages 49-56
Last year, the same researchers reported that increased intakes of vitamin K2, but not K1, were associated with a 35 per cent reduction in prostate cancer risk. The potential benefits of K2 were more pronounced for advanced prostate cancer.
Vitamin K also helps the body to absorb the beneficial mineral calcium. Recent studies have suggested that vitamin K can help prevent or treat osteoporosis and the loss of bone density. Several human trials have shown that vitamin K also has preventive and treatment benefits for cancer.
A further study found that increased intake of vitamin K1, and to a lesser extend vitamin D, was associated with protecting against inflammation, and positively effected chronic disease risk, as the lead author explained:
"Our findings provide one potential alternative mechanism for a putative protective effect of vitamin K in the progression of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, since both diseases are characterized by inflammation."
Shea MK, et al. Vitamin K and vitamin D Status: Associations with Inflammatory Markers in the Framingham Offspring Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Feb 1;167(3):313-20. Epub 2007 Nov 15.
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