Natural Health Tips

Vitamin K Is Essential for Blood Clotting, Healing and Bone Health

This little known, but important nutrient has many important functions in the body. Vitamin K is essential for the production of blood clotting proteins, it helps wounds to heal properly, and plays important roles in bone metabolism and heart health. Evidence also suggests that increased levels of vitamin K2 are associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is stored in fatty tissue in the body. Three types of compound have vitamin K activity: K1, K2 and K3. Most of our dietary intake is in the form of vitamin K1, from vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. However, we obtain only very small amounts of the most useful form, vitamin K2, which is found, for example in probiotic foods.

Health Benefits

Some vitamin K2 is made naturally by probiotic bacteria in the bowel. Absorption is not that efficient, however, and the amounts made are not enough to need our needs. Production appears to be reduced in older people and in those taking antibiotics.

  • Bones: vitamin K is needed to make the protein, osteocalcin, which binds calcium in your bones. Lack of vitamin K is linked to osteoporosis and research suggests vitamin K supplements can reduce calcium loss from bones in older women by up to 50%, and helps to strengthen weak bones and reduce the risk of fractures. [1]

  • Diabetes: some evidence suggests that vitamin K is associated with reducing thee development of insulin resistance and protects against type-2 diabetes. This could be linked with the vitamin K-dependant bone protein, osteocalcin, which is thought to play a role in glucose metabolism.

  • Heart: vitamin K2 (but not vitamin K1) is associated with reducing the risk of heart disease in older people, especially older women. Researchers looking at dietary intakes of over 16,000 women aged 49-70 years found that every 10mcg increase in dietary intakes of vitamin K2 reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 9%. [2] This may be related to a reduced build-up of calcification in artery walls.

  • Cancer: Evidence is also emerging that links vitamin K as a powerful player in cancer prevention. Recent studies have connected vitamin K2 with a nearly 30 percent reduction in the risk of cancer mortality and a 14 percent lowered risk of cancer altogether, and high dietary vitamin K intakes with up to 45 percent lower risk of developing cancer of the immune system.

Good Sources

Good sources of vitamin K1 include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, and vegetable oils and cereals. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, cheese and other probiotic foods are good sources of vitamin K2.

Try to include both vitamin K1 and K2 in the diet for better overall health.

To obtain the heart and circulatory benefits of this vitamin, look for supplements that contain vitamin K2 rather than vitamin K1 where possible, but not vitamin K3, or menadione, which is a synthetic, man-made form of the vitamin.

References

[1] Cockayne S, et al. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med 2006; 166(12):1256-61.

[2] Gast GC, et al. A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease.Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2009;19(7):504-10.