Vitamin K is almost a mysterious vitamin, one not often mentioned, or seen on shelves as a supplement, but this dark-horse of the vitamin world has a huge part to play in our health and wellbeing.
Vitamin K exists as two main forms:
– vitamin K1 (phylloquinone): sourced from vegetables and converted into vitamin K2 by intestinal bacteria
– vitamin K2: the activated form of vitamin K, found in organ meats, egg yolks and some fermented foods
The K2 version is much more active in the body, but we get much more vitamin K1 in the diet
The role of vitamin K
Vitamin K2 activates two enzymes in our body:
– osteocalcin: activates osteocalcin, the result is more calcium and minerals get deposited into the bones resulting in stronger bones
– matrix GLA-protein: less calcium is deposited into the arteries, and some current research is suggesting that it may also decrease calcification that is already present
So its role with both of these enzymes makes it a pretty important nutrient in our diet.
Vitamin K2’s assistance in increasing bone-mineral density has been shown to reduce fracture rates in people with osteoporosis and, when combined with vitamin D seems to be even more effective.
In addition to helping make strong bones, vitamin K has an important role in blood clotting, assisting in insulin imbalances involved with diabetes, as well as preventing certain cancers.
A deficiency of vitamin K is not common, but you may find your levels are not as healthy as they could be, which can have some health implications. Some early signs may include excessive bruising or bleeding.
A deficiency may occur when the body can’t properly absorb the vitamin from the intestinal tract, or after long-term treatment with antibiotics. But it also seems that we modern humans are becoming increasingly deficient in K2 because we don’t eat large quantities of vitamin K1 or K2 containing foods, mainly our leafy green vegies.
- Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine, and green leaf lettuce
- Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
- Fruits: plums, avocados and kiwis
- Fish, liver, meat, eggs and cereals (contain smaller amounts)
Recommended daily intake
|Population group||Adequate intake per day|
|Children 0-6 months||2 micrograms|
|Children 7-12 months||2.5 micrograms|
|Children 1-3||30 micrograms|
|Children 4-8||55 micrograms|
|Children 9-13||60 micrograms|
|Girls 14-18||75 micrograms|
|Women 19 and up||90 micrograms|
|Women pregnant or breastfeeding (19-50)||90 micrograms|
|Women pregnant or breastfeeding (less than 19)||75 micrograms|
|Boys 15-18||120 micrograms|
|Men 19 and up||120 micrograms|
Adults and children who eat a balanced diet that include plenty of the the foods mentioned above should get enough vitamin K, and do not need supplementation.
People who may benefit from supplemental vitamin K include:
– babies (who usually get a shot of vitamin K at birth)
– people with digestive diseases such as Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease
– people taking drugs that interfere with the absorption of vitamin K including: antibiotics and anticonvulsants
A decrease in vitamin K status and/or an increase in demand for the vitamin often occur in very malnourished people as well as in heavy drinkers and recreational drug users.
Drug and nutrient interactions
If you take blood thinning drugs (such as anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs), you may need to monitor your intake of vitamin K foods and certainly not take any form of supplementation before consulting with your healthcare practitioner.
If you feel your vitamin K levels could be low, why not get in touch with the Natural Chemist for an appointment with one of our nutritionists. They will be able to give you input and advise on dietary changes to increase your intake as well as look at supplementation if appropriate. T: 1300 882 303.
So, as calcium’s chaperone and a role in increasing bone density, it seems K2 may actually help you climb those mountains 🙂
Geleijnse JM et al, 2004, Dietary Intake of Menaquinone Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study, J Nutr 134,11, pp3100-3105. Available at: //jn.nutrition.org/content/134/11/3100.full.pdf+html
Osiecki H, 2014, The Nutrient Bible, 9th Edn, Bio Concept Publishing, QLD
Pizzorno JE, 2008, The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edn, Churchill Livingstone, USA