Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamin abundant in leafy greens. Two types of vitamin K—K1 and K2—are important assets to several health functions.
K1 is the type you find in spinach, kale, collard greens, chard, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Your body can covert K1 to K2. Most of the conversion happens in the intestines. K2 is also available in foods like butter, egg yolk, liver, and some cheeses. You might hear about K3—it is a synthetic vitamin not used in humans.
1. Blood Clots
Some cosmetic companies claim that Vitamin K can help reduce redness and repair broken blood vessels visible on the skin. Others promote it as a sunburn and scar treatment. The real importance of Vitamin K is from a nutritional standpoint. It’s an essential part of the body’s blood clotting process. Without appropriate levels, the factors that allow your blood to clot when you get cut no longer work.
2. Protect Your Heart and Arteries
Proteins dependent on Vitamin K help reduce calcification in your veins and arteries. This means that you can use Vitamin K to reduce your cholesterol and chance of getting heart disease. A 2009 study determined that “a high intake of menoquinones”—which are a type of Vitamin K2—could possibly “protect against coronary heart disease.” The study was designed to encourage more research into the recommended dietary levels of Vitamin K1 and K2.
3. Promotes High Bone Mineral Density in Women
For women, Vitamin K is an important part of maintaining high bone mineral density (BMD) and avoiding hip fracture and osteoporosis. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that low dietary vitamin K intake is one of the leading risk factors for low BMD. Increasing vitamin K intake increases BMD for women. Interestingly, the study found that vitamin K did not do the same for men. Still, it is important for men to get vitamin K as it is important for maintaining the cardiovascular system.
4. Signs of Vitamin K Deficiency
Deficiency changes the vitamin-K depended coagulation blood factors. Because Vitamin K plays an important role in clotting, the first sign of deficiency is usually bleeding. Unexplained bruising can also signal that you aren’t getting enough vitamin K. In extreme cases, internal hemorrhages can occur. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals provides more information on the specifics of deficiency. Even if you don’t check it out, understand that there are potentially deadly results from not having enough vitamin K.
Currently, scientists are researching the potential benefits of Vitamin K3—the type that isn’t normally used in humans—as a cancer treatment. An article in Anticancer Research showed positive signs that K3 can effectively slow the growth of pancreatic cancer. Further research is still needed.
Overall, there are still many things we don’t know about vitamin K. Most of the studies we surveyed indicated that it’s hard to place a figure on the ideal dietary intake of the vitamin. Currently, the RDA is 90mcg per day for adults over age 19. The National Library of Medicine includes more information on recommended daily intake.
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