Key to Stanching Blood Flow

In 1929, a Danish researcher discovered the key to stanching blood flow, aptly naming it vitamin K, for “koagulation.”

Now, scientists are discovering the nutrient’s possible participation in bone strength, heart health, control of inflammation and prevention of diabetes. Vitamin K is a direct regulator of inflammatory responses, and we need optimal intake of this vitamin in order to avoid chronic, excessive inflammation.

Vitamin K is actually three different compounds, all of which are fat soluble. It is absorbed from the upper small intestine with the help of bile (or bile salts) and pancreatic secretions, and then carried to the liver.

Vitamin K also may help regulate blood calcium levels. Calcium, in addition to keeping bones strong, is also necessary for blood clotting. Accumulating evidence supports an active role for Vitamin K in bone health.

Vitamin K and Inflammation

Already known to be important for blood clotting, this vitamin also may be a formidable foe of inflammation. Researchers in the Framingham Offspring Study have linked elevated blood levels of vitamin K and high dietary intakes of K with reduced levels of 14 inflammatory markers. Other studies have found that higher blood levels of vitamin K are associated with less risk of inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis and heart disease.

Deficiency of Vitamin K is rare. Deficiency is more common in sprue, celiac disease, and colitis or after bowel surgery.

Where We Get Vitamin K

Vitamin K is found in varied foods including green leafy vegetables, meat and dairy products (cheese), cereals, liver, fruits and vegetables. Little Vitamin K is lost from foods with ordinary cooking. It is also found in asparagus, coffee, bacon and green tea.

Spices and herbs that contain vitamin K are black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, chili, mustard seed, turmeric, sage, thyme, cumin, basil, marjoram, oregano, curry, paprika, chives and parsley. (Source: Nutrition Data)

Hints that vitamin K has other potential functions has sparked speculation that we might need more than we are getting in our daily diets.

Vitamin K and Diabetes

Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting as well as being an important nutrient for strong bones. However, people who take blood-thinning medications like Coumadin need to be aware of the interaction between vitamin K and those drugs.

Interestingly, a smaller intake of vitamin K will increase the effectiveness of Coumadin, while too much vitamin K will decrease its effectiveness. Here are tips to help you get enough vitamin K without sacrificing the optimal benefits of your medication.

  • Consistency is the key. You may continue to enjoy foods high in vitamin K such as eggs, cheese, tomatoes, ham, lettuce and more.
  • Your doctor can adjust the medication to your diet.
  • Be consistent when taking vitamin/mineral pills and medical nutritional supplements such as Glucerna. They contain vitamin K.
  • Do not drastically cut back on your fat intake. Oils and margarine’s contain vitamin K and all fats will increase the absorption of it.

Stronger Bones?

Vitamin K activates the conversion of a bone-building protein called osteocalcin that shores up bone tissue and reduces the likelihood of fractures. And several studies point to a link between K intake and hip fractures. Those who took in about 250 micrograms a day of vitamin K, from both food and supplements, experienced fewer broken hips than those who got only about 50 micrograms daily. (Source: Nurse’s Health Study)

Moreover, a review that pooled the resulties of 13 studies concluded that people who took supplemental vitamin K suffered less bone loss and a whopping 80 percent fewer fractures than those who did not take extra K. These and other similar findings are encouraging.

On-going studies continue on vitamin K to see if it also has benefits on the heart, inflammation associated with chronic diseases, and blood glucose control/insulin sensitivity, but it’s too early to draw any conclusions.

RDA: 90 micrograms for women and 120 for men.

Vitamin K from Food

In general, the greener the leaf, the more vitamin K it contains.

Don’t be worried about too much K from certain foods; most people have no problem taking in the daily recommended amounts. Little Vitamin K is lost from foods with ordinary cooking.

  • Kale, cooked, 1 cup = 1,146 micrograms
  • Collard greens, cooked, 1-cup = 1,059 micrograms
  • Spinach, cooked, 1-cup = 1,027 micrograms
  • Broccoli, cooked, 1-cup = 220 micrograms
  • Brussels sprouts, cooked, 1-cup = 220 micrograms
  • Spinach, raw, 1-cup = 145 micrograms
  • Asparagus, cooked, 8 spears = 96 micrograms
  • Broccoli, 1-cup raw = 90 micrograms
  • Cabbage, cooked, 1-cup = 73 micrograms
  • Celery, chopped, raw, 1-cup = 57 micrograms
  • Romaine lettuce, 1-cup = 57 micrograms
  • Peas, cooked, 1-cup = 40 micrograms
  • Blueberries, 1-cup = 29 micrograms
  • Kiwifruit, 1 medium = 31 micrograms
  • Canola oil, 1-tablespoon = 17 micrograms
  • Cauliflower, cooked, 1-cup = 17 micrograms

IMPORTANT: Since vitamin K can interfere with the action of the blood-thinning drug warfarin (Coumadin), it is important to let your doctor know if you suddenly start eating foods rich in vitamin K, as your medication might need adjusting.

Read More: Essential Nutrients