Vitamin K: Uncovering the unknown benefits and sources of the lesser-known Vitamin
The fat-solvent Vitamin K is a necessary micronutrient that is most known for the essential role it plays in blood clotting processes inside our body. Frequently alluded to as “the overlooked vitamin”, this vitamin whose many advantages are regularly disregarded is similarly imperative in other substantial operations, for example, bone metabolism, prevention of cardiac diseases, regulating blood calcium levels and a variety of other medical conditions.
While its other counterpart, Vitamin D has been a subject of dialogue in various articles and researches, did you know that if you are deficient in Vitamin K, even having an optimal level of Vitamin D may not help your body maintain optimal health? Yes! Vitamin K serves as an essential adjunct to Vitamin D. Undoubtedly; this means we must know more about this critical Vitamin and how we maintain it at an optimal level in our bodies, isn’t it?
Who Needs Vitamin K?
Of course, the first question that comes to mind is – Who most needs this Vitamin?
Well! If you come from a family has a background marked by coronary illness or osteoporosis, Vitamin K is the insurance you need to keep your heart and bones sound.
Other than this, if you or your family members exhibit any one or more of these conditions, you may well be suffering from a Vitamin K deficiency and would benefit from adding this vitamin and its sources to your diet. The conditions to look out for are:
- Liver disorders that could interfere with the storage of Vitamin K.
- Have suffered or are suffering from gastrointestinal problems like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis or other conditions that may inhibit nutrient absorption.
- Consuming drugs such as cholesterol medicines, broad-spectrum antibiotics, blood-thinning medication or aspirin.
- A poor or restricted diet
So, now we know when we need Vitamin K (or more of it!!).
But you may still be wondering why?
Well! You need it for several reasons.
Vitamin K brings some virtues that are unknown to the larger masses. Let’s check out some of these benefits that make a Vitamin-K-rich diet a must for everyone!
Some Unknown virtues of Vitamin K
1: There is more than one form
Though usually described by its generic name as Vitamin K, do you know that this Vitamin is a family of compounds? Yes, there are three types of this Vitamin.
- Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, which comes from plants. Found naturally in green vegetables, K1 is the primary type of dietary Vitamin K that is absorbed directly by the liver and plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy blood clotting process.
- Vitamin K2, or menaquinone, which is produced by the gut bacteria that line our gastrointestinal tract and by fermented foods. This type is absorbed directly by the bones, blood vessel walls and other tissues except for the liver and is mostly involved in maintaining bone and heart health.
- Vitamin K3, or menadione, which is a human-made, synthetic form of Vitamin K that shows some toxicity levels that cause oxidative damage to cell membranes and is hence not a form recommended for consumption.
Among the three, K2 is the more superior form of Vitamin K. When we consume Vit. K1, the bacteria in our gut convert it into the storage form (Vit.K2), which is then absorbed by the small intestines and stored in the liver and fatty tissues.
2: Vitamin K aids more than just blood clotting
Though Vitamin K is most known for its role in blood clotting, did you know that this vitamin has many other parts to play in our bodies as well?
Vitamin K benefits the body in various ways:
- Bone Health: Vitamin K has shown to improve the concentration of calcium and other essential minerals necessary for bone and matrix health. It supports healthy bones, improving bone density, preventing and even reverse age-related bone density loss, and thereby decrease the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. The activation of osteocalcin, an essential protein that is vital in bone building, too needs Vitamin K.
- Cognitive Health: Vitamin K has been linked with improved episodic memory in individuals over the age of 70 years. The sphingolipid metabolism in the brain cell membranes that is impaired by the onset of Alzheimer’s is dependent on a protein that works only in the presence of Vitamin K.
- Heart Health: From preventing mineralisation & hardening of arteries by activating the protein, MGP, to the removal of calcium deposits from the arteries, to enable the pumping of blood freely throughout the body, Vitamin K has a crucial role to play in heart health.
- Menstrual Health: Surprised?! Well! If you suffer from PMS, Vitamin K could help alleviate the condition by regulating the hormones, reducing the excessive blood flow, pain and cramps associated with the disease.
- Cancer Prevention: Vitamin K has been observed to reduce cancer-related inflammation, repair cells and slow down the overall growth of the cancer cells, helping stabilise people suffering from hepatic, colon, prostate, skin and oral cancers.
- Dental Health: Vitamin K is essential for the health of your teeth and gums. It helps to prevent tooth decay by cancelling out the effects of acids.
- Promotes Wound Healing: Vitamin K has shown a proven capability to promote wound healing through blood clotting, accumulating cells and helping in skin repair. This vitamin helps control bruising and dermatitis, thereby maintaining skin health.
- Improves Insulin Action: Vitamin K shows the properties of a natural insulin sensitiser that helps regulate blood sugar levels by performing the function like that of a diabetics’ drug sans the side effects!
3: Vitamin K is best absorbed with healthy fats
Vitamin K, being a fat-soluble vitamin, is dependent on fats for its effective absorption in the body. Hence, eating vitamin K rich sources such as leafy greens such as kale or spinach paired with healthy fatty foods such as plant oils like olive and avocado can improve its absorption into the body.
4: Most people get enough Vitamin K
A Vitamin K deficiency is a sporadic occurrence mainly because it is our guts that produce it, in addition to being widely available in foods. In general, people seldom need Vitamin K supplementation, except in cases of people with intestinal conditions that render the gut impaired for production or absorption of this essential vitamin in sufficient amounts.
5: Protein Supporter
From helping proteins that help in coagulation (Protein C, protein S) to supporting bone formation by supporting the function of the bone-forming protein (osteocalcin) and the anti-calcification protein (MGP), Vitamin K is instrumental in the various processes of the major proteins within our body.
Sources of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is found naturally in several foods. Though the recommended intake for vitamin K generally depends on age and gender, in general, the daily intake recommended in women (19 years and over) is at least 90 mcg while that in men is 120 mcg.
One can find the requisite intake of Vitamin K in foods such as:
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach, beans, okra, broccoli and cabbage.
- Fermented foods
- Fruits such as apples, prunes, grapes and strawberries
- Meat and seafood
- Nuts including cashews, almonds and walnuts
Vitamin K, with its remarkable life-saving benefits, is an up and coming vitamin that holds the key to a healthy existence. Undoubtedly, one needs to take this vitamin seriously, isn’t it?
Medical Disclaimer: The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. Patients and consumers should review the information carefully with their professional health care provider. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. You should consult your physician before beginning a new nutritional or fitness program.