This famous fat-soluble vitamin can be found in generous amounts in many green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin K plays an essential role in blood coagulation, preventing blood loss during the process of wound healing. Moreover, it stimulates the absorption of calcium from both food sources and supplements, thus contributing to strong, healthy bones. Also, vitamin K prevents calcium deposits from forming in joints, heart valves or artery walls and redirects calcium where it’s needed: in bones.
Overall, vitamin K contributes to the good functioning of the body and the good health of multiple systems and organs, from bones and teeth to the heart and cardiovascular system. Getting enough vitamin K further helps protect against a variety of debilitating medical conditions, reducing risks of diseases such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis. The vitamin stands out as an excellent anti-inflammatory vitamin, contributing to reducing inflammation in the body.
How much vitamin K a day?
As far as health benefits are concerned, vitamin K has been shown to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular, bone and blood health, as well as possesses potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, provided minimum daily requirements are met. And seen there are so many vitamin K-rich foods, supplementation is not needed in order to meet daily recommended intakes and enjoy the health benefits this of the nutrient. As of 2016, it is estimated that an average person needs 120 micrograms of vitamin K a day to stay healthy.
What are the benefits of vitamin K?
Prerequisite for strong, healthy bones
As mentioned above, vitamin K is responsible for calcium absorption in bones. But aside from this, it prevents osteoclasts from reabsorbing bone tissue and depleting our bones of crucial minerals. Osteoclasts (a kind of bone cell) help repair bones by restoring bone integrity; at the same time, they break down bone tissue and help release the minerals into the blood (a process called bone resorption). A hormonal imbalance may lead to an increase in osteoclast numbers, resulting in frail bones (bone demineralization). Vitamin K prevents too many bone cells from forming and thus preserves bone integrity and bone health.
Good for cardiovascular health
Vitamin K supports cardiovascular health. Calcification is the process that causes calcium to accumulate in unusual areas of the body such as joints, ligaments, muscles, heart valves or blood vessels. These abnormal deposits cause serious long-term health problems such as atherosclerosis (calcium and lipid plaques occurring within artery walls) and predispose to cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke. This occurs when there is both a high calcium intake and a vitamin K deficiency. For this reason it’s very important to make sure your diet supplies you with sufficient vitamin K, which will help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Exerts free radical scavenging properties
Vitamin K protects against oxidative stress by scavenging for reactive oxygen molecules called free radicals which cause damage to cells. Although it is not known for its antioxidant properties, vitamin K in the form of phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinone (vitamin K2) can protect cells from oxidative stress and associated side effects.
Exerts anti-inflammatory properties
Vitamin K exhibits a strong anti-inflammatory activity. By lowering interleukin-6 levels, vitamin K manages to significantly reduce inflammation in the body. Interleukin-6 is a glycoprotein found to be a marker for inflammation and diseases such as coronary heart disease and even cancer.
Prevents hemorrhagic disease in newborns
Also known as vitamin K deficiency, hemorrhagic disease may occur in the first 6 months of life of vitamin K-deficient babies. The disease manifests itself through various forms of bleeding and can be treated by administering vitamin K to the newborn. Because it is a highly delicate condition, it should be left to the attention of a qualified physician.
Supports blood coagulation processes
In other words, vitamin K prevents excessive blood loss that can occur as a result of wound bleeding, childbirth etc. By means of a blood coagulation factor called prothrombin, vitamin K activates coagulation-associated processes which prevent massive blood loss.
Vitamin K deficiency and side effects
Taking oral antibiotics for prolonged periods of time will lead to vitamin K deficiency and possibly favor gastrointestinal disease in the form of biliary obstruction, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and regional enteritis. Because vitamin K is also produced in the intestinal tract by good gut bacteria, not just obtained from food, overuse of antibiotics and other medication is best avoided because it can cause severe imbalances in gut flora populations which may affect local production of the vitamin as well as absorption from food sources and cause serious deficiencies as a result. Vitamin K deficiency symptoms include excessive bleeding such as gastrointestinal bleeding, nosebleed, easy bruising, arterial calcification and bone fractures.
Needless to say, vitamin K-rich foods and supplementation can interact with anticoagulant medication because the vitamin has proven blood clotting properties. As a result, it is recommended to carefully monitor your vitamin K intake if you are being prescribed anticoagulants and ask your doctor’s advice regarding any major dietary changes.