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 for example, rather than bones.
Overall, it contributes to the good functioning of our body and helps protect against a variety of debilitating medical conditions such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. It also stands out as an excellent anti-inflammatory vitamin, contributing to reducing inflammation in the body.
What are the benefits of vitamin K? 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 possess 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 is it good for?
1) It is the 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.
2) Supports cardiovascular health. Calcification is the process through which calcium accumulates in areas of the body such as joints, ligaments, muscles, heart valves or blood vessels. These abnormal deposits cause serious health problems such as atherosclerosis (calcium and lipid plaques occurring within artery walls) 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.
3) Vitamin K protects against oxidative stress. Although it is not known for its antioxidant properties, it would appear that phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinone (vitamin K2) can protect cells from oxidative stress.
4) It has potent anti-inflammatory activity. By lowering interleukin-6 levels, vitamin K manages to significantly reduce inflammation. Interleukin-6 is a glycoprotein believed to cause inflammation, coronary heart disease and even cancer.
5) 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.
6) Last but not least, vitamin K prevents blood loss as a result of wound bleeding. By means of a blood coagulation factor called prothrombin, vitamin K activates coagulation-associated processes which prevent massive blood loss.
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.