Why This “Hidden Vitamin” Shortage Can Harm Your Health

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Vitamin K: How Are Your Levels?

If you want to improve your health, then vitamins must be a crucial weapon in your arsenal. Numerous studies over the years have highlighted the various benefits that can be obtained from vitamins. Recent studies have shed new light on the relatively obscure and extremely underrated vitamin K. Now let us examine the many health benefits that can be derived from this vitamin.

Know Your Vitamin K

There are actually two types of vitamin K: K1 and K2. All K vitamins have identical functions that are tied to the naphthoquinone ring structure. What distinguish the two forms of vitamin K are their unique side chains.

Dr. Leon Schurgers is one of the world’s leading researchers on vitamin K. During the Rotterdam Study, which examined the differences between vitamins K1 and K2, Schurgers observed that  two major difference between vitamin k1 and k2 are the food items in which they’re found and the amount of the vitamin that’s absorbed by the body.

He argued that, vitamin K1 is “highly bioavailable” in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and cabbage, but the body is capable of absorbing only 10 percent of the total. On the other hand, vitamin K2  is the product of bacterial fermentation and the human body is capable of absorbing almost the full amount of vitamin k2 from the fermented foods in which it is found.

Counting Vitamin K’s Benefits

Both vitamins K1 and K2 are known to help in blood clotting by activating certain coagulation factors. In the past, this has raised concerns from those who are taking oral anticoagulants (which prevent blood clots). Yet surprisingly, high vitamin K levels do not cause your coagulation factors to shift into overdrive. Schurgers explains:

“If you take oral anticoagulants … you have to be careful with K1 AND K2. However, the advice in the United States is to skip everything that contains vitamin K, and that is something I argue against.

Because if you take away all the K1 and K2 from the diet, every little interference — if you take a little bit of vitamin K — [it] will have a dramatic effect on the anticoagulant level. However, if you have a steady intake level of vitamin K1 or K2, or both, a little bit of interference is not that bad anymore.”

Vitamin K is also vital in activating and promoting the biological function of the proteins osteocalcin (found in the bone) and matrix Gla protein or MGP (found in the vascular system).. It’s also known to strongly inhibit calcifications.

Elderly people who have atrial fibrillation or venous or deep-vein thrombosis and take oral anticoagulants are advised to be cautious about their blood levels, as these drugs prevent the recycling of vitamin K (both K1 and K2). It’s advisable to get your baseline PT (prothrombin) measurements while taking the oral anticoagulant and obtaining vitamins K1 and K2 from dietary sources. This information should allow your doctor to adjust your dose based on the results.

Among people who consumed high levels of vitamin K2, research found both lowered risk and prevented deaths from cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular calcification. Vitamin K2 also hindered arterial calcification by moving calcium to the bone instead. Vitamin K2 is also crucial for vascular flow to the brain by preventing plaque deposits, which may lead to Alzheimer’s disease if not monitored properly. Schurgers noted a study that showed how vitamin K2 played a role in delivering cellular energy in Parkinson’s disease patients, and even treating the disease itself.

Take Your Vitamin K Levels Up a Notch

According to Schurgers, virtually everyone is deficient in vitamin K. If you want to know what your vitamin K levels are, consider taking the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA) test. This blood test calculates the active and inactive forms of MGP in your body and can accurately determine how much vitamin K you have.

Whether or not you know your results, it’s still best to include vitamin K rich foods in your diet to ensure optimal health.

  • Vitamin K1: Consume 200 grams of organic vegetables every day, particularly green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
  • Vitamin K2: Eat at least 360 to 500 micrograms of hard and soft cheeses, raw butter, kefir, fermented foods like sauerkraut, natto, and miso, grass-fed beef and chicken liver, lamb or duck, or dark turkey meat. The bare minimum is 45 micrograms per day, according to the Rotterdam Study, but it’s best to aim for a higher amount.

You can also increase your vitamin K2 levels by taking a supplement, but only do it as a last resort.

The literature on vitamin K is fast expanding but rather limited when compared with other well-known vitamins. The information presented by Schurgers and his colleagues in the Rotterdam Study proved there are many benefits to be derived from vitamin K regardless of your age or level of well-being. Perhaps the most important point to remember is that there are a wide variety of vitamin K-rich foods and vegetables. These healthy and flavorful items make it easy to boost your vitamin k levels with a wholesome natural diet.