Are You Getting Enough Vitamin K?

When a new vitamin or supplement with vast health benefits becomes popular, instantly your local health food store is packed with a variety of ways to take it and every celeb is adding it into their diet.

Even though you have lived so many years without hearing about it, suddenly they are telling you that you can’t be healthy without it. Vitamin K2 is next on that list.

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K1 and K2 are two naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin K3 is a synthetic version of vitamin K.

K1 and K2 are not just different forms of the same vitamin, they could be actually be viewed as two different vitamins.

K1 plays a key role in directing blood-clotting in the body. It regulates normal blood clotting by helping the body transport calcium.

Some of you might have taken a K1 shot at birth or a series of drops in the first few weeks of your life. This shot is said to prevent hemorrhage incidents in newborns.

Great sources of vitamin K are greens including kale, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and avocado.

K2 has most recently gained some fame and it’s key role is maintaining bone health. It is used by other tissues to place calcium where it belongs like in the bones and teeth and keeps it out of where it doesn't belong, in the soft tissues. K2 works synergistically with vitamins A & D. 

K2 plays a significant role in the health of your teeth. Vitamin K2 exists in the second highest concentration in the salivary glands, with its highest concentration in the pancreas.

Interestingly enough, your body makes K2 from K1, but it’s not a 1:1 conversion. It’s approximately a 10:1 conversion and the presence of fat enhances that conversion process.[i]

The best sources of K2 are meat and dairy products from pasture-raised animals. So where does that leave vegans? Well, the most noted source of K2 for vegans is a traditional fermented Japanese dish made of sticky soy beans called natto.

It's also good to note that K2 is produced by lactic acid bacteria. This is the kind of bacteria in sauerkraut.

How much vitamin K do you need?[ii]

Women ages 19+ (including those pregnant and breastfeeding) should get 90 micrograms of vitamin K per day

Men ages 19+ and up should get 120 micrograms of vitamin K per day

How can you get Vitamin K from food?[iii]

Food

Amount of Vitamin K (micrograms)

Kale, ½ cup

225

Spinach (raw), ½ cup

75

Turnip greens, ½ cup

70

Broccoli, ½ cup

45

Cabbage, ½ cup

30

 




 




 


What happens if we don’t get enough Vitamin K?

Luckily, vitamin K deficiency is rare in HEALTHY adults. But people with severe digestive disorders or on long antibiotic therapies can me susceptible. People with chronic malnutrition, alcohol dependency or anyone with health conditions that limit absorption of dietary vitamins should be cautious as well.

When you don’t get enough vitamin K, your blood takes a long time to clot which can cause excessive blood loss and increases your risk of death from injuries.

Should you be taking Vitamin K supplements?

The truth is most healthy people get enough of Vitamin K in their diet so supplementation is not necessarily needed.[iv] If you have problems with fat digestion and absorption then Vitamin K supplements may help you.

There are two forms of vitamin K2 supplements available in stores: MK-7 and MK-4. MK-7 is a natural extract of the fermented soy food mentioned earlier, natto. MK-4 is a synthetic supplement said to be chemically identical to the vitamin K2 found in animal fats. Even though it's synthetic, it is thought to be effective and was used in studies. At this time there are no studies comparing these two supplement types.

Some people with osteoporosis may want to consider taking vitamin K2 supplements to help with strengthening bones. According to a number of Japanese trials, vitamin K2 has shown to completely reverse bone loss and could possibly even increase bone mass in people with osteoporosis.[v] 

Are there side effects if you take too much vitamin K?

There is no known toxicity associated with vitamin K but vitamin K over supplementation during pregnancy could increase risk of jaundice in newborns.[vi]

Why is vitamin K different than other supplement fads?

When Omega 3 and probiotics became trendy, they were quickly added to almost every kind of food product on the market, but not vitamin K. This is because a large percentage of our society is currently taking anti-coagulants (such as Coumadin/Warfarin) which are vitamin K’s antagonist.

People take anti-coagulants to prevent blood clots, which occur commonly in conditions such as heart disease. If they eat foods with a high vitamin k content, it can reduce the impact of anti-coagulants and increase the risk of a stroke or a pulmonary embolus.

The concern is not so much about the intake of vitamin K but the sudden rise of it. As long as people taking anti-coagulants maintain a consistent measure of vitamin K, it will allow for stable dosing of the anti-coagulants. This can be a tricky balance so many people on this medication avoid vitamin K all together, which can cause deficiency.

People on anticoagulants should keep their daily vitamin K intakes between 90-120 micrograms per day (like recommended for everyone else), according to Linus Pauling Institute. Again, it's more important for them to keep their vitamin K intake consistent rather than to worry about keeping it low. 

Future of vitamin K:

Researchers are optimistic about vitamin K2’s potential for those with or susceptible to osteoporosis.[vii]

Researchers are also looking at vitamin K2 as a therapy for rheumatoid arthritis and examining the potential of vitamin K2 for the prevention of colon cancer.

For now ensure that you are getting enough vitamin K from your leafy greens (it shouldn’t be too hard) and only if you have proven to be deficient, then resort to vitamin K2 supplements in order to get enough of this very needed and beneficial vitamin.


4 Comment(s)

  1. I'm actually taking <a href="http://products.mercola.com/vitamin-k/">vitamin K2</a> supplements. Has anyone tried it? But I'm planning to switch brand, though. Any recommendation?

    Sarah P. | Reply

  2. Can too much vitamin k cause blood clotting and arterial blockages or heart attacks if it causes the blood to clot?

    jeff | Reply

  3. My mother is on cumadin and can't understand why vitamin K has to be limited to keep the blood thin. But a vegetarian with high intakes of vitamin K doesn't get blood clots and heart attacks from the blood clotting effects of vitamin K?

    jeff | Reply

  4. Too much Vitamin K is only a problem when taking certain medications or when chronic medical conditions are present. In most people, even most unhealthy people, vitamin K is healthy and can be consumed as much as one desires without any problem.

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

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