Vitamin K is primarily known as the blood clotting vitamin but also supports bone, heart and brain health. Vitamin K is abundantly found in the foods we eat. Eating a variety of healthy foods will ensure you get adequate vitamin K.
Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin. Vitamin K resides throughout the body including brain, heart, liver, bone and pancreas. Your body uses Vitamin K quickly and either excretes excess in urine or stored in your liver and fatty tissues. Toxic levels are extremely rare. It is best to consume fat soluble vitamins with some dietary fat for best absorption. Small amounts of Vitamin K circulate in your body at any given time. If you take a Vitamin K supplement, your body will most likely use less than 40% of the supplement.
Types of Vitamin K
There are two types of Vitamin K: K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is known as phylloquinone, which is primarily found in cauliflower, spinach, kale, and cabbage. Unfortunately most people can only absorb about 10% of K1 from food. Vitamin K2, consists of a series of menaquinone, MK-4 – MK-13 and is primarily made by your body in your intestinal bacteria using Vitamin K1. Note that antibiotics can kill the intestinal bacteria that make Vitamin K2 and long term use of antibiotics could lead to Vitamin K2 deficiency. Small amounts of Vitamin K2 are found in things like butter, beef liver, curdled cheese, and egg yolks.
Benefits of Vitamin K
Vitamin K supports bone and teeth health, blood clotting and works hand in hand with calcium metabolism. It works in your liver, brain, pancreas, and heart and skeletal system.
Vitamins K1 and K2 is necessary to manage the protein used for blood clotting. If you don’t get enough vitamin K, you could be at risk of excessive bleeding or hemorrhaging from a sever wound.
Vitamins K1 and K2 balance calcium which support bone strength, reduce fractures and high doses may help reduce mineral bone loss. Vitamin K deficiency may be a factor of osteoporosis.
Vitamin K2 may help prevent calcium buildup in your arteries which causes atherosclerosis, a risk factor for heart disease.
Vitamin K2 helps protect your brain as you age and may help neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Vitamin K2 also helps your body fight against oxidative stress and inflammation which affects brain health.
Vtamin K2 may help reduce the risk of, or increase survival of liver and prostate cancers.
Sources of Vitamin K
Vitamin K1 is abundant in a variety of plant based foods. You would have to be malnourished or taking a medication that inhibits Vitamin K1 absorption to be deficient in Vitamin K1. Babies may also be deficient since Vitamin K does not filter through the placenta and breast milk usually contains very low levels. Vitamin K2 is found in mostly animal based foods plus your body can convert Vitamin K1 to Vitamin K2.
Foods containing Vitamin K1 are:
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Turnip greens
- Soy Beans
- Vegetable oil
- Dried Figs
- Pine nuts
Foods containing Vitamin K2 are:
- Fermented foods (Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Pickles)
Vitamin K Doses
The general recommended vitamin K doses for children are between 2 mcg to 75 mcg depending on age and 120 mcg for adults. For more specific doses based on your age go to vitamincalculator.net.
Vitamin K2, Vitamin D and Calcium
Vitamin K works closely with Vitamin D to help regulate calcium for bone and heart health. Having too much Vitamin D can lead to high levels of calcium in your blood which causes calcium build up in your arteries and can lead to heart disease. Having adequate Vitamin K2 will help balance this. Consider taking Vitamin D and Vitamin K supplements together.
ReferencesVitamin K, National Institute of Health
Vitamin K | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health