Poor old vitamin K barely gets a mention in most health advice articles, but this essential nutrient is the key to keeping your blood and bones in optimal health.
Read on to find out how vitamin K supports your overall wellbeing; how to spot a vitamin K deficiency; and what you can do to boost your levels.
What role does vitamin K play within the body?
Vitamin K is essential to maintaining overall wellbeing, but is most often associated with promoting heart health, bone density and oral health, as well as reducing cell mutations and infection rates.
While most of us turn straight to calcium to boost bone health, vitamin K is a far more potent and long-term solution. Vitamin K tops up the level of the protein that maintain calcium levels in your bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and even stopping bone loss in people already afflicted by osteoporosis, according to some studies. People with the highest intake of vitamin K are also 65% less likely to suffer a hip fracture than those with the lowest intake levels.
Heart disease and blood clotting
Vitamin K plays a key role in preventing the calcification of your arteries, which is one of the primary causes of heart disease. The vitamin carries calcium out from the arteries before it has a chance to form a hard plaque. It also activates the protein that enables blood to clot, reducing the risk of infection.
Studies have shown that people with a higher intake of vitamin K may be less likely to develop cancer. Further research is underway to try to discover the root of this correlation.
What are the health risks and symptoms of deficiency?
When the body’s levels of vitamin K are low, it will eventually switch into ‘emergency mode’ and start shutting down any non-essential functions. This accelerates a whole host of health nasties, including the ageing process, neural decay and cell mutation (which could eventually lead to cancer).
These are some of the potential health problems that make it so important to fine-tune your vitamin K levels:
|Arterial calcification, cardiovascular disease and varicose veins
|Infectious diseases (such as pneumonia)
|Cell mutation (potentially leading to cancer)
A recent study found that only 50% of people that consume a typical western diet are getting enough vitamin K.
Here are some of the signs that could indicate you have a vitamin K deficiency:
- Sensitivity to bruising
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding when passing water
Replenish your levels with the right diet and high-quality supplements
There are two natural types of vitamin K, helpfully labelled ‘K1’ and ‘K2’. K1 is found in vegetables, while K2 (also known as menaquinone) comes from dairy products and is found naturally in your gut.
Balancing your intake of both K1 and K2 is the best way to maintain your natural vitality, although K2 has been found to be more potent at topping up levels and possess additional health benefits.
We all need vitamin K in order to keep our bodies running like clockwork, however some people do carry an additional risk of becoming deficient. You might be at an increased risk if you:
- Are on a long-term course of antibiotics or medication to decrease fat absorption
- Suffer from gastrointestinal problems, liver disease or gallstones
- Take cholesterol lowering medication, anticoagulants (such as warfarin) or synthetic oestrogen
- Have been diagnosed with coeliac disease, cystic fibrosis or cholestasis
- Have an excess of vitamins A and E
Here’s the top 10 food groups that can help you combat vitamin K deficiency:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Salad vegetables
- Brassica vegetables
- Hot spices
- Stalk vegetables
- Olive oil
- Dried fruit
There are also a couple of golden rules to help optimise your vitamin K intake, such as avoiding hydrogenated vegetable oils that block absorption and topping up the levels in your gut with a probiotic.
The role of high quality supplements
If you’re in one of the ‘at-risk’ groups or just can’t consume enough vitamin K through your diet, it might be worth considering introducing a high-quality supplement into your daily routine.
While vitamin K is fat soluble, there are no known problems with toxicity should you go a little over your recommended amount. The only proviso is to avoid supplements if you’re taking anticoagulant medication.
Vitamin K might not be quite as glamourous as vitamins C or D (found in citrus and sunshine respectively), but that’s no reason to forget about a nutrient that’s so crucial to keeping your heart and bones healthy. Follow the simple tips in this article and discover your natural balance.