Vitamin k which is a fat soluble vitamin is also called as anti hemorrhagic vitamin as it regulates blood clotting process. Adequate vitamin k is necessary for building strong bones, preventing osteoporosis and it also helps with blood clotting so it is essential to reduce blood loss after surgery and also to prevent bleeding problems during injury.
What Is Vitamin K ?
In 1930 few researches noticed that baby chicks who were fed a fat free diet developed bleeding problems. The hemorrhage was apparently due to the fall in the levels of prothrombin which is the clotting agent in the blood. The researchers solved the problem by feeding the chicks with a compound extracted from alfalfa and the anti hemorrhagic compound was named vitamin K. Vitamin K is very essential for clotting and our gut microbiome produces most of the daily requirement of vitamin K and only about 20% of it comes from the food that we consume.
Forms Of Vitamin K
Vitamin K exists in nature in two forms. The first is vitamin K1, vitamin K1 is mainly found in green vegetables and in certain oils like olive oil and soybean oil. The second is vitamin K2 and it is found in small amounts in animal products like butter, egg yolks and cheese. Our gut microbiome also produces vitamin K2.
Vitamin K Benefits:
1. Bone Health
Osteoporosis is the leading cause for fractures world wide and a staggering 200 million women are affected by it. Vitamin D and calcium are the most commonly prescribed supplements for treating and preventing osteoporosis but vitamin K also plays a crucial role in preventing osteoporosis. In a study, 5 mg of of vitamin K1 were given to 440 menopausal women for 2 years and there was almost 50 % reduction in fractures compared to placebo. Vitamin K increases bone strength thus preventing osteoporosis.
2. Prevents Vascular Calcification
Classification occurs when calcium builds up in body tissues, organs and blood vessels. This can cause a lot of problems from increasing the risk of blood clots and stroke to decrease in kidney function. Vitamin K deficiency has been linked to vascular calcification. Vitamin K especially vitamin K2 has been proven to prevent vascular calcification.
Dietary vitamin K1 is not as efficient as vitamin K2 in preventing vascular calcification so consuming only vitamin K1 for preventing vascular calcification won’t help. Supplementing with vitamin k will especially help people who are on warfarin tablets (anti hemorrhagic medicine) as usually the patients are deficient in vitamin K.
3. Beneficial Role In Insulin Resistance
Vitamin K supplementation has been proven to improve insulin resistance in old men. In a study
done on older men for 36 months, supplementation of vitamin k in the daily dose required greatly helped prevent further increase in insulin resistance thus proving the effect of vitamin K in insulin sensitivity.
4. Has Anticancer Properties
Vitamin K2 has been proven to have inhibit the growth of human cancer cells in the hepatoma lines. Supplementation of vitamin K2 in patients suffering from liver cirrhosis prevents the development of hepatocellular carcinoma and in patients who are already suffering from hepatocellular carcinoma, it prevents further occurrence which is very common. Supplementation of vitamin K2 has much less side effects for preventing further occurrences of hepatocellular carcinoma and it is also much cheaper.
5. Prevents Excessive Bleeding
As previously mentioned vitamin k is an anti hemorrhagic vitamin that is essential for effective functioning of blood clotting mechanism. Inadequate amount of vitamin K can lead to excessive bleeding and is very dangerous especially when undergoing operation and frequently surgeons prescribe it for preventing the risk of post operative bleeding. Doctors also prescribe it for treating excessive menstrual bleeding too.
Daily Requirement Of Vitamin K
The recommended daily dosage for adults about 20 years old is 122mcg for women and 138 mcg for men. Vitamin K deficiency is rare in healthy people as our body manufactures most of what it requires and the deficiency is only found in people with liver disease or intestinal illnesses that interferes with fat absorption as vitamin K is absorbed along with fat so fat is very crucial.
Factors Causing Vitamin K Deficiency
- Consuming very low fat diet for long duration’s of time can affect the amount of vitamin K our body produces as fat is essential for vitamin K production.
- Consuming antibiotics on a regular basis can also have a negative impact on the vitamin K levels in our body. As antibiotics affect our gut microbiome which in turn can affect the amount of vitamin K our gut microbes produces. Anything that affects our gut microbiome can affect the production of vitamin K so having a healthy gut is very crucial.
- Vitamin E helps our body to use vitamin K but if we supplement with high amounts of vitamin E for long duration’s of time, it can also affect vitamin K function.
Vitamin K Deficiency Symptoms:
A deficiency of vitamin K can lead to bruising easily often, blood taking longer to clot and it can cause severe hemorrhage. People with vitamin K deficiency should be careful when they get injured as they can bleed to death if seriously injured. When I was studying, one of my seniors used to bruise easily and she was diagnosed as vitamin K deficient. She was into sports and even small wounds used to bleed non stop and I still remember how anxious she used to get even for tiny wounds….
Vitamin K Supplementation
Supplementing vitamin K should be done only under the supervision of a healthcare professional except in small doses in multivitamin tablets. This is especially crucial if you are taking anticoagulant medications.
Vitamin K Sources
Leafy green vegetables like kale and swiss chard and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage are good sources of vitamin K. Meat and dairy products are also good source.