October 20, 2015
Vitamin K is getting a lot of exposure lately and is becoming the new wonder vitamin. There is more research into the effects of vitamin K, a decade ago we learnt of the many effects of vitamin D, now the same is happening for vitamin K. So far we know that vitamin K is important for bone strength and cardiovascular health, but there is a growing list of its benefits. One of the world’s top researchers Dr. Cees Vermeer believes nearly everyone is deficient in it.
Vitamin K plays a function in coagulation (blood clotting); it also helps with bone formation and increasing bone density. Vitamin K requires bile for its absorption; it is derived from green leaves (vitamin K1) in the diet and is synthesized by the ‘good’ bacteria within your large intestine (vitamin K2).
With a vitamin K deficiency, there is a bleeding disorder, in developed countries vitamin K is injected intramuscularly in the newborn straight after birth to prevent haemorrhagic disease. It is a risk in the first few days because vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin (it needs fat to move within the body), fat soluble substances make it difficult to cross the placenta and also the gut of the new born is sterile, meaning there are no ‘good’ bacteria colonized (therefore vitamin K can't be absorbed), human milk also has a low concentration of vitamin K.
Vitamin K is given as a precaution in surgery to help the speed up healing. When there is obstructive jaundice and the bile duct can’t flow there is a danger that vitamin K hasn’t been absorbed. Vitamin K deficiency can also be seen in patients that have malabsorption issues and when there is prolonged antibiotic use because antibiotics kill all bacteria even the ‘good’ guys. If you are on anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin and dicumarol you can be deficient in vitamin K because they act to block the vitamin K coagulant effects causing a risk of weakening of the bones, namely osteoporosis but also fractures in the elderly.
Vitamin K is present in dark-green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, parsley, coriander, endive, mint, mustard greens, cabbage and lettuce. Kale having the most amount and lettuce the lease amount, in that order. Other sources include vegetable oil, beef liver, apples, green tea and cheese.
SO far we know it helps with:
- Arterial calcification, cardiovascular disease and varicose veins
- Prostate cancer, lung cancer and leukaemia
- Brain health problems, including dementia
- Tooth decay
- Infectious diseases such as pneumonia
The main Vitamin K is K2 in the form of MK7, which is newer, and a longer acting form that has more practical applications. It is extracted from the Japanese fermented soy product called natto. Vitamin K especially K2 directs calcium to be deposited where you want it i.e. your bones rather than in your organs, connective tissue or arteries causing atherosclerosis, a hardening of arteries and a contributor to cardiovascular disease. It does this by activating a protein hormone called osteocalcin produced by osteoblasts in your bones; this prevents calcium being deposited in your arteries. Vitamin K2 directs the calcium to your bones while vitamin D allows the calcium to be deposited, vitamin D without K can cause your arteries to build up calcium because K isn’t there to direct the calcium while vitamin D is there to deposit it. MGP is a vitamin K-dependant protein and the most powerful inhibitor of soft tissue calcification.
Therefore my recommendations are:
1) Bollard MJ et al, 2010. Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis. BMJ 2010; 341:c3691
2) European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2010 August 28-September 1, 2010, Stockholm, Sweden.
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