Vitamin K is an often overlooked nutrient but not only is it essential for many bodily functions, it also has an impressive array of benefits, including lowering the risk of cancer.
Two new studies have found that vitamin K is emerging as a powerful player in cancer prevention. The first study 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 the second study found that those with the highest dietary vitamin K intakes had a 45 percent lower risk of developing cancer of the immune system.
According to results from the European Prospective Investigation into cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, people who have the highest intakes of vitamin K2, not vitamin K1, were linked to significantly lowering their risk of cancer and cancer mortality.
After analyzing data from over 24,000 participants who were followed for over 10 years, those who had the highest intakes of vitamin K2 were 14 percent less likely to develop cancer and 28 percent less likely to die of cancer compared to those with the lowest intakes.
A separate study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic also revealed impressive anti-cancer effects from vitamin K. Those with the highest dietary vitamin K intakes had a 45 percent lower risk of developing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, than those with the lowest. This association held true even after accounting for other cancer influencers like smoking, obesity, and eating lots of foods that are high in antioxidants.
Vitamin K has also been found beneficial in the fight against other cancers, including liver, colon, stomach, nasopharynx, and oral cancers, and some studies have even suggested vitamin K be used therapeutically in the treatment of patients with lung cancer, liver cancer, and leukemia.
Sources of vitamin K
There are three types of vitamin K. Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is found naturally in plants and vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, is made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract. Vitamin K3, or menadione, is a synthetic form that is manmade, and is not recommended.
For better health, include both vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 in the diet.
Vitamin K1 is found in dark green leafy vegetables, especially collard greens, spinach, salad greens, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and asparagus.
Fermented foods like cheese are good sources of vitamin K2. This is because significant amounts of vitamin K2 are produced during the fermentation process.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that in order for the body to absorb it effectively, it needs to be eaten with some fat along with it.
K. Nimptsch, S. Rohrmann, R. Kaaks, J. Linseisen. Dietary vitamin K intake in relation to cancer incidence and mortality: results from the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg). Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1348-58. Epub 2010 Mar 24.
Yoshida T, Miyazawa K, Kasuga I, et al. Apoptosis induction of vitamin K2 in lung carcinoma cell lines: the possibility of vitamin K2 therapy for lung cancer. Int J Oncol. 2003 Sep;23(3):627-32.