Vitamin K Benefits – Essential to building strong bones, preventing heart disease and more!
Vitamin K is made up of a group containing 2-methilo-napthoquinone derivatives. There are three primary forms of vitamin K known as K1 (phylloquinone, phytonadione, and phytonactone), K2 (menaquinones formed by the bacteria that live in the gut), and K3 (menadione).
Vitamin K is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and it can be found in the intestines. This vitamin primarily controls blood clotting to prevent blood loss in the event of injury. Vitamin K is also used to absorb calcium from food. Calcium is needed to grow bones and keep them healthy.
Vitamin K is found in the following foods: Eggs, chicken liver, fish, kale, and leafy vegetables such as collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, lettuce, and broccoli.
Adequate intake (AI) level for vitamin K based on consumption levels of healthy individuals.(1)
5 Surprising Vitamin K Benefits
1. Vitamin K protects bones and reduces osteoporosis risk
If you have a vitamin K deficiency it can disrupt calcium regulation, which causes damaging long-term side-effects.
Vitamin K is used to keep minerals such as calcium in the bones through maintaining levels of osteocalcin. This protein is secreted by the osteoblasts in the bones and is used to bind minerals to bones. If you don’t have enough vitamin K – especially vitamin K2 – then it impairs the ability of osteocalcin and prevents this process from happening.
This increases the rate at which bones lose calcium, which causes brittle bones and osteoporosis in the long-term.
People with an osteoporosis risk should consider taking vitamin K2 supplements made from fermented natto, which is the best natural source of the vitamin.
Other sources of vitamin K2 are fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir and certain hard cheeses like Emmental and Swiss cheese. Liver, kidney, and other organ meats, egg yolks from free range chickens, grass fed meats and particularly grass-fed butter are also sources of vitamin K2.
2. Prevent arteries from calcifying, reducing risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis
If you have low levels of vitamin K and are losing calcium in your bones, the calcium can end up inside the arteries.
Having proper levels of vitamin K in the body is needed to form a special protein known as matrix GLA protein (MGP). This protein stops calcium from crystalizing in the arteries and blocking them, but it can only work properly if you have enough vitamin K.
If you have a deficiency of vitamin K then you’re at a higher risk of the arteries hardening. Studies have shown that vitamin K2 menaquinone, in particular, is associated with reducing the risk of coronary calcification.
3. Proper Blood Clotting and Reduced Bruising
Your liver is responsible for producing proteins for clothing blood, and it needs vitamin K to produce them. The blood clotting proteins also affect how easily you bruise, as well as the rate at which you recover from bruises. If you bruise easily, then you might want to consider getting more vitamin K.
While the production of these blood-clotting proteins is essential, people believing that this was the primary function of vitamin K led to the recommended daily intake of vitamin K to be based solely on this purpose.
Many health experts now believe that the RDA of vitamin K isn’t enough to support the other functions of vitamin K; specifically that of building bones, keeping the heart healthy, and the other benefits of vitamin K. Several experts believe that vitamin K2 recommendations specifically need to be revised.
It’s important you understand blood-thinning medications such as Warfarin work by preventing vitamin K from functioning properly. If you have been prescribed blood thinners, then you should consult with them before taking vitamin K supplements and increasing your intake of the vitamin.
4. Reduced Cancer Risk
Vitamin K2 specifically has been studied to see how well it protects against certain kinds of cancers. A large study out of Europe involving over 11,000 men and lasting around 9 years discovered that increasing vitamin K2 levels reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer (although no effect was seen when increasing vitamin K1).
Another study – albeit smaller – showed that vitamin K2 was able to reduce the risk of liver cancer in women with cirrhosis of the liver. There have been other studies looking into treating leukaemia cells and other kinds of haematological cancers through menaquinones.
5. Improve Skin Condition and Prevent Wrinkles
The calcification process that is hardening your arteries is also going to affect the elastin that keeps your skin as soft and subtle as it is. If you don’t have enough vitamin K then it causes calcium to be deposited in the elastin fibers of your skin to create wrinkles.
Vitamin K is also a necessary component of certain proteins keeping your skin healthy, and it is also a potential factor in skin conditions such as acne. There are a number of reports that topical vitamin K skin treatments can prevent acne and heal acne scars.