Vitamin K is an essential fat soluble vitamin. It was discovered in the first half of the 20th century by Danish scientist Henrik Dam.
It is well known in helping to prevent blood clots. In fact, the letter ‘K’ which represents this vitamin, comes from the German word for coagulation. Vitamin K requires an effectively functioning pancreas for the Vitamin to get through to the gut. When you consume Vitamin K it is bound to protein.
There are two types of Vitamin K:
(1) Phylloquinones (type 1), which are derived from plants
(2) Menaquinones (type 2) – which are derived from animal and fish oils
Type 1 Vitamin K is the main dietary form of the vitamin. It is also the most biologically available form.
When we ingest Vitamin K, it goes directly to the liver to help maintain healthy blood clotting. It is needed to aid in the conversion of preprothrombin to the active blood-clotting agent prothrombin. It does this by adding a carbon dioxide.
Type 2 Vitamin K goes directly to the blood vessel walls, bones and tissues.
Vitamin K is a key part of the process by which the body clots blood in order to stop bleeding. It has also been shown to help to increase bone density, thus assisting in fighting osteoporosis and osteo-arthritis.
Vitamin K achieves it’s bone density properties by helping to produce the bone protein osteocalcin, which is vital for the uptake of calcium and for maintaining bone mineral density.
The following are potential benefits of Vitamin K:
✓ Protects the neural process against alzheimer’s disease
✓ Reduces coronary artery calcification
✓ Improves bone mineral density
✓ Reduces the risk of reoccurrence of liver cancer
Toxicity of Vitamin K is extremely rare. It is not yet known what the upper limit is for the human body.
Signs of Deficiency
Vitamin K Deficiency is indicated by ease of bruising and the development of a bleeding disorder which is indicated by dark clots under your nails and in your urine and stools.
Such deficiency however, is rare and is usually associated with diseases of the GI tract such as cystic fibrosis and gall bladder problems. People who are deficient also have an increased risk of developing bone mineral density diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
In newborns, the enzymes in the liver are not up to the task of properly utilising Vitamin K. That’s why all newborns are given a shot of Vitamin K immediately after delivery. If this does not happen, they are at risk of developing a bleeding disorder.
The main dietary sources of Vitamin K are dark green or leafy green vegetables. It is also produced by intestinal gut bacteria.
The recommended daily allowance for women is 90 micrograms and 120 micrograms for men. This equates to about to 0.75 to 1.0 microgram to 1 kg of bodyweight. Supplementation is generally not necessary because most people are able to get enough Vitamin K through their whole food intake. Check with your health professional for the correct dosage for you.
✓ Vitamin K is a fat soluble essential protein
✓ It’s key function is to stop bleeding
✓ May help prevent bone density disease and cardiovascular disease
✓ Main sources are dark and leafy green vegetables
✓ Supplementation is generally not needed