Vitamin K is an essential nutrient, and it was discovered in 1929. It is a nutrient used for blood clotting (coagulation).
The discovery was made in a German journal, and the initial name of Vitamin K was “Koagulationsvitamin”. A dentist Weston Price also discovered it.
He travelled the world in the 20th century and studied the relationship between disease and diet in many populations and areas.
He discovered that there are some unidentified nutrients present in the diet, which are non-industrial, and these nutrients provide protection against many diseases and infections like tooth decay and chronic diseases. This nutrient was vitamin K.
There are two types of Vitamin k:
It is also known as phylloquinone. It is found in plant-based diets like green vegetables.
It is also known as menaquinone. It is found in fermented and animal-based foods. Vitamin K2 also has different types like MK-4 and MK-7.
How Do Vitamins K1 and K2 Work?
Vitamin K is known to stimulate proteins responsible for calcium metabolism, blood clotting, and heart health. Another important role of it is to regulate calcium deposition. To put simply, it prevents calcification of kidneys and blood vessels and helps in calcification of bones instead.
A few scientists believe that vitamin K1 and K2 should be thought of as different nutrients and that they differ from each other in their functions.
This concept was shown by an animal study which told that as compared to vitamin K1, vitamin K2 (MK-4) is known to lessen blood vessel calcification.
Studies conducted in humans also show that vitamin K2 helps to enhance bone and heart health, whereas vitamin K1 has no such benefits. Despite this, more studies need to be conducted before understanding the differences between vitamin K1 and K2 fully.
Benefits of Vitamin K
There are many health benefits of Vitamin K. Some of the benefits are:
1. Help Prevent Heart Disease
The deposition of calcium around your heart in its arteries poses as a huge risk for heart disease. Thus, anything that can reduce this calcium buildup also helps to prevent any heart disease. Vitamin K serves to stop the deposition of calcium from building up in the arteries.
2. Anxiety and depression
People whose blood glucose levels are high have a higher chance of getting anxiety, depression, and any cognitive impairment.
A study conducted in 2016, used rats suffering from high blood glucose levels, metabolic syndrome and symptoms related to anxiety, to know the effects of vitamin K in these conditions.
It was seen that after ten weeks of treatment, vitamin K has worked to regulate blood glucose, anxiety and depression back to normal. But rats’ memory deficit was still not improved.
3. Help Improve Bone Health and Lower Your Risk of Osteoporosis
In Western countries, Osteoporosis, also known as porous bones, are a common disease. Fracture rates are quite high in those with osteoporosis, which is especially prevalent in females.
Calcium is found mainly in bones and teeth, which is improved by vitamin K2, used to regulate calcium.
Stimulation of two proteins which binds calcium, matric GLA protein and osteocalcin, is done by vitamin K2 that helps in developing and maintaining bones. Proof from controlled studies also shows that K2 is also related to good bone health.
4. Improve Dental Health
Dental health is also affected due to vitamin K2, as shown in different researches. But no human studies have been done so far. As seen in animal studies and knowing the uses of vitamin K2 in bone regulation, it should be assumed that this vitamin also affects dental health.
Osteocalcin is the main protein for regulation in dental health, the protein which is stimulated by vitamin K2 and is essential for bone metabolism.
New dentin is generated when osteocalcin stimulates a mechanism for its production; this is present underneath the enamel as a calcified tissue. Vitamins A and D also work synergistically with vitamin K2, all of which are essential with important uses.
5. Help Fight Cancer
In Western countries, cancer is the most prevalent cause of death. Many new cancer cases are found even when modern medicine has improvised many techniques to treat them.
Knowing this, preventive strategies are required, most importantly. Interestingly, studies have been performed on the relation of vitamin K2 and different kinds of cancer.
6. Get the Vitamin K2 You Need
Vitamin K2 has fewer sources while that of vitamin K1 is more richly found in different food sources. Your body does the work of converting vitamin K1 to K2.
This is important as the source of vitamin K1 is ten times that of vitamin K2 present in food. But still, evidence shows that the conversion is still not enough.
So, it is more beneficial if you take vitamin K2 directly from the diet. The large intestine also produces vitamin K2 using gut bacteria. Studies also show that many broad-spectrum antibiotics may also work to reduce vitamin K2, leading to its deficiency.
Best dietary sources of Vitamin K
Many foods contain Vitamin k and its types K1 and K2. But most of the foods contain Vitamin K1. The bacteria present in the gut can convert vitamin K1 into vitamin K2 as required by the body. Vitamin K is present in most of the fermented foods also.
It is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is present in meats and dairy products which are high in fat. It is also present in lean meat and poultry products, but vitamin K2 rarely found in foods.
The best sources of Vitamin K1 are:
- Vegetable oils
- Green vegetables like kale and spinach
The best sources for Vitamin K2 are:
- Egg yolk
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Natto, and soybeans
- Liver and other meat
- Dairy products like hard cheese
Why Newborns Need a Vitamin K Shot?
Vitamin K shot is required for babies that are newly born. Since they don’t have vitamin K in their bodies sufficiently, they cannot clot their blood properly.
Babies who are not administered with vitamin K supplements then suffer from a condition in which bleeding occurs known as Vitamin K Deficient Bleeding (VKDB), which leads to excessive bleeding of multiple organs.
During the starting six months of their lives, babies are more at risk of getting this condition since they cannot synthesize the vitamin on their own.
It is important to recall that this vitamin is synthesized in our bodies using diet or due to the presence of bacteria in our gut. Babies don’t eat solid food until they turn six months of age. (Mothers who breastfeed their kids, do not supply enough in their breast milk.)
Why a vitamin K shot, this may be your question?
The oral supplements are still not available in the US, so the shot works more quickly to avoid any brain bleeding.
How Much Do Kids Need Vitamin K?
The adequate amount of vitamin K that kids need are:
- 0 to 6 months old child need two micrograms of vitamin k each day
- 7 to 12 months old child need 2.5 micrograms of vitamin k each day
- 1 to 3 years old child need 30 micrograms of vitamin k each day
- 4 to 8 years old child need 55 micrograms of vitamin k each day
- 9 to 13 years old child need 60 micrograms of vitamin k each day
- 14 to 18 years old child need 75 micrograms of vitamin k each day
What If Your Child Doesn’t Get Enough?
Locally, the population contains a few cases dealing with vitamin K deficiency. But those who do suffer from this issue have more problems with their intestinal functioning or utilize medicines that do hinder its functioning and metabolism.
Recommend daily intake
Everyday use of 120 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K is recommended for adult males and for females, only 90 mcg is required, as instructed by the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). But no proper recommendation of Vitamin K-2 has been instructed.
In the United States, vitamin K deficiency is present very rarely in adults, as told by the ODS. People and infants are more at risk of developing this disease, vitamin K deficiency if they are suffering from specific gastrointestinal disorders, like ulcerative colitis and celiac disease.
A person’s chance of bruising, bleeding and hemorrhaging is greatly increased when this deficiency increases in its severity and the duration of clotting is prolonged.
Vitamin K deficiency also leads to osteoporosis due to low levels of bone mineralization. Vitamin K amounts in the body are affected by specific medications.
For example, the use of long-term antibiotics can kill off gut bacteria that develops vitamin K. Body’s tendency to absorb vitamin K is also affected by the use of cholesterol-lowering medications.
Vitamin also interacts with blood thinners like warfarin, affecting its function. Therefore, people utilizing these medications should take the regular amount of dietary vitamin K every day and should consult their doctors before using supplements or deciding on dietary alterations.
Vitamin K Supplements
Most of the people do not get enough Vitamin K trough diet, and they can have a deficiency of Vitamin K, which can cause many diseases. A person can get an adequate amount of Vitamin K from supplements also.
Many supplements are present in the market, which contains Vitamin K with other essential vitamins like Vitamin D and magnesium.
Two different types of vitamin K exist vitamin K-1 and vitamin K-2. Leafy green vegetables are the most common source of vitamin K-1 and the most common dietary source too.
The body agreeably absorbs more vitamin K-2, especially its subtype of MK-7. Other good sources of vitamin K2 also are organ meats, fermented foods, and dairy products.
A rich source of vitamin K2 is also present in fermented soybeans, like natto. Few quantities of K2 are also produced in the gut with the help of bacteria. Vitamin K and its two forms are important for bone health and blood clotting.
Vitamin K2 is also efficient in protecting against certain forms of cancer and heart disease. People usually consume this vitamin from their diet effectively and is rather a rare form of deficiency.
The risks related to this deficiency increases when more gastrointestinal conditions occur. But still, people suffering from these issues should consult their doctors before using dietary supplements.
Consulting your doctor is of the utmost importance when utilizing vitamin K supplements, especially while using blood thinners like warfarin. Many dangerous complications arise if vitamin K levels are altered, which can affect the anticoagulant activity of warfarin.