Vitamin K

Vitamin K is considered fat-soluble. The name in itself refers to a group of vitamins which are all similar in both function and composition. There are two primary types of vitamin K. The first is vitamin K1 and the second is vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is normally what you find in supplements, while vitamin K2 has been looked into for treatment in individuals with osteoporosis.Interestingly enough, vitamin K was accidentally discovered in the early 1900s. The study at hand called for restricted diets, which then resulted in excessive bleeding. This excessive bleeding was not an intended result or side effect.  It was soon realized that the excessive bleeding was a result of the animals being deficient in vitamin K because of the diets received.

The Traditional Benefits of Vitamin K

Even though vitamin K is classified as a fat-soluble vitamin, the body does not store large amounts of vitamin K. In fact, the body's storage system for vitamin K is minimal. With very little reserves, this means vitamin K needs to be consumed daily. It has been shown that vitamin K can help with circulation, bone and heart health.

What is Vitamin K Used For?

Vitamin K may have numerous benefits to the body, including the following: Plays a Large Role in Blood Clotting, Increases Bone Strength, Reverse Calcification of Arteries, May Prevent Growth of Cancerous Cells.

Benefits of Vitamin K

Vitamin K plays an important roll in blood clotting, bone health and heart health.(1) Blood coagulation is an important defense mechanism in the human body. Clotting of the blood helps to prevent life-threatening blood loss. When a blood vessel is injured, it is the job of the platelets and proteins in the plasma to work together to heal the wound. Vitamin K has a part in producing four of the thirteen proteins needed for clotting including prothrombin which plays a large roll in blood coagulation.(2) Blood clotting is seen in the tiniest wounds such as a paper cut, to traumatic injuries and puncture wounds. Osteoporosis is a serious, possibly life-altering medical condition which causes bones to become brittle. This condition is more common in women than men. The risk of osteoporosis increases with age. Individuals who suffer from osteoporosis are at a greater risk for broken and fractured bones.(3) Studies have shown that vitamin K can help increase bone strength by playing a role in bone metabolism. Researchers are still studying the effectiveness of vitamin K in heart health. Studies have shown that vitamin K can help reverse calcification of the arteries, which is a leading cause of heart disease.(4)  Evidence suggests that vitamin K2 can prevent certain cancers, especially liver cancer by preventing the growth of cancer cells.

How to Use Vitamin K

Although a very small amount of vitamin K is made by the bacteria in the intestines, it is not enough to provide the recommended daily amount. Individuals can consume the daily recommended amount of vitamin K in three different ways. The first way is through diet. There are plenty of foods across all food groups that contain vitamin K. For those who do not consume enough vitamin K through their diet, there are oral supplements available in order to meet the required amounts. Vitamin K injections are the third way to receive vitamin K. However, this method is typically reserved for those who are diagnosed with a vitamin K deficiency, newborns and in some cases liver cirrhosis patients. As with any nutrient, it is important to receive adequate amounts of vitamin K daily. Although vitamin K deficiencies are less common than other nutrient deficiencies, individuals can still suffer devastating consequences if the body's needs are not met. According to the National Institutes of Health daily recommended vitamin K amounts are as follows: 0-6 months consume 2.0 mcg 7-12 months consume 2.5 mcg 1-3 years consume 30 mcg4-8 years consume 55 mcg 9-13 years consume 60 mcg 14-18 years consume 75 mcg Mature males consume 120 mcg Mature females 90 mcg Unlike with most nutrients, there are no extra requirements when it comes to the amount of vitamin K needed by pregnant and lactating women. The vitamin K requirement remains at 90 mcg. It is always best to check with your doctor if you are nursing or pregnant to make sure your nutritional intake is adequate based on your individual needs.

Symptoms of a Vitamin K Deficiency

A vitamin K deficiency is caused by either an insufficient intake of vitamin K or a decreased ability to absorb the nutrient. Individuals with liver disease can also experience a decreased ability to store vitamin K in their body. Common signs of a vitamin K deficiency include easy bruising, discharge from the nose or gums, excessive bleeding from wounds or cuts, blood in either the urine or stool, bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract and heavier than normal periods. Typically a vitamin K deficiency is suspected when an individual presents with excessive, unexplained bleeding. A prothrombin time test is the most common method to investigate excessive bleeding. Vitamin K injections are prescribed and given to those who have a deficiency. Oral supplementation can be used to control vitamin K levels in the body. It takes an average of three days before the effects of vitamin K treatment can be seen and felt by the individual.If you are worried about or suspect a vitamin K deficiency, contact your healthcare provider. Your doctor will conduct a thorough examination, including an evaluation of your history, perform the needed tests and prescribe the necessary treatment.

Foods that Contain Vitamin K

Foods that contain vitamin K are usually of the fermented variety such as raw cheese and sauerkraut.

Citations and Sources

1. Caluwé R, Verbeke F, De Vriese AS. Evaluation of vitamin K status and rationale for vitamin K supplementation in dialysis patients. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation. December 2018. doi:10.1093/ndt/gfy3732. Dahms S, Demir F, Huesgen P, Thorn K, Brandstetter H. Sirtilins - the new old members of the vitamin K-dependent coagulation factor family. J Thromb Haemost. January 2019. [PubMed] 3. Lorentzon M. Treating osteoporosis to prevent fractures: current concepts and future developments. J Intern Med. January 2019. [PubMed] 4. van B, Beulens J. The Role of Vitamin K Status in Cardiovascular Health: Evidence from Observational and Clinical Studies. Curr Nutr Rep. 2017;6(3):197-205. [PMC]

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