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Vitamin K Facts: Health Benefits and Food Sources

Vitamin K Facts: Health Benefits and Food Sources

Vitamin K is a less well known fat-soluble nutrient that is fast-becoming an essential consideration for many different aspects of health.  Here we take a closer look at some of the key facts on vitamin K, why it’s important for your health and some of the research highlights to date.

Key facts

• Vitamin K is not actually a single substance; like vitamin E it is a family of structurally similar fat-soluble compounds. Vitamin K predominantly appears in nature in two forms: phylloquinone (K1) and the menaquinones (K2).

• Vitamin K1 is the main form in the Western diet; found in green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts) and vegetable oils (canola, rapeseed, olive and soy).

• It is generally accepted that vitamin K1 can be consumed in sufficient amounts by eating a regular supply of leafy greens, especially since leafy greens deliver an abundance of nutrients and phytonutrients essential for health.

• The term vitamin K2 actually refers to a series of menaquinones. The most common menaquinones present in humans are MK-4, (produced endogenously via conversion of vitamin K1 to MK-4) and longer chain menaquinones (MK-7 – MK-10) which are made by intestinal bacteria in all mammals including humans.

• It has long been considered that up to 50% of human vitamin K (menaquinone) requirement may be met by bacterial synthesis, however some research suggests that this may be much lower than previously thought.1

• Food sources of vitamin K2 include animal livers and fermented foods, particularly natto; a Japanese fermented soy bean food, which is produced with Bacillus natto, a bacterium that converts vitamin K1 to MK-7. Vitamin K2 is also found in cheese, dairy products and meat but in much lower amounts. Since natto is not commonly consumed as part of a typical Western diet, lower intakes of K2 may be a concern among Western populations, especially for those more at risk of deficiency.

• MK-7 is generally accepted to be one of the most effective forms of vitamin K, since it has a much longer half-life (4 days) than others. A longer half-life means it has a much better chance of building up a consistent blood level.2

• MK-7 is available in a patented supplement form of MenaQ7® which is derived from fermentation of chickpea protein and therefore not a concern for anyone with an allergy to soy.

• Having optimal levels of vitamin K is now recognised as being an important factor in long term health.

Vitamin K is particularly important for2

✔ Cardiovascular health
✔ Skeletal health
✔ Brain health
✔ Nervous system health
✔ Insulin production & sensitivity
✔ Genomic stability
✔ Healthy ageing (vitamin K needs increase with age)

Some groups may be more at risk of deficiency of vitamin K2 than others, these include:

• Elderly people
• Those with fat metabolism disorders and impaired intestinal absorption such as with Crohn’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis and Galactosemia – all of which have been linked to poor vitamin K status.

(NB: It is important to note that vitamin K supplementation (or very high dietary intake) is not recommended for anyone taking prescription anticoagulant medications such as warfarin.)

References:
1. Beulens JW, Booth SL, van den Heuvel EG, Stoecklin E, Baka A, Vermeer C. The role of menaquinones (vitamin K (2)) in human health. Br J Nutr. 2013;110(8):1357-1368.
2. Vitamin K2: Optimal levels essential for the prevention of age-associated chronic disease. Lara Pizzorno. Longevity Medicine Review. https://lmreview.com/vitamin-k2-optimal-levels-essential-for-the-prevention-of-age-associated-chronic-disease/
3. Garland CF, Kim JJ, et al. Meta-analysis of all-cause mortality according to serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Am J Public Health. 2014;104(8): e43–e50

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