By Nurse Mark
Vitamin K is well known for its role in blood clotting. So much so that otherwise well-meaning but under-informed doctors sometimes warn their patients away from Vitamin K and from foods containing Vitamin K out of fear that it might somehow make them have blood clots. Those are invariably the doctors who are also quick to prescribe Coumadin (AKA “Warfarin” – the rat poison) at the least hint of a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) or atrial fibrillation.
But did you know that Vitamin K – “the clotting vitamin’ – can also help you to live longer, have stronger bones, and have less risk of “hardening of the arteries” (arterial calcification) as you age? Not only that, there are studies that show Vitamin K improves insulin sensitivity in both healthy subjects and in those with Type II Diabetes and that Vitamin K has a powerful cancer-preventative effect!
Here are some quick facts about Vitamin K:
Discovered in 1935 it is actually two related substances: Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is the main form of the vitamin that we get from diet. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7 and menaquinone-4) is obtained in lesser amounts from diet and is mostly a product of our bodies conversion of Vitamin K1 to Vitamin K2. It is becoming clear to researchers that each of these forms of Vitamin K is vital to our health, and that each form has very different actions.
How important is Vitamin K?
In one study published in 2014, in a group of more than 7,000 people at high risk for cardiovascular disease, the people with the highest intake of vitamin K were 36 percent less likely to die from any cause at all, compared with those having the lowest intake. (1)
In another study, researchers found that people with the highest intake of vitamin K2 were 57 percent less likely to die of coronary heart disease compared with those with the lowest intake (2) showing the importance of both forms of Vitamin K.
In yet another study, women with the highest intake of vitamin K2 were found to be at a 20 percent lower risk for coronary artery calcification (hardening of the arteries) than women with the lowest intake. Interestingly, that same study found that vitamin K1 had no significant impact – once again showing the importance of obtaining both forms of Vitamin K. (3)
Vitamin K has been recognized by the European Food Safety Authority (Europe’s version of our FDA) as being important to bone, heart and blood vessel health. (4)
Along with its proven effect at lessening arterial calcification, Vitamin K has been shown in study after study to reduce osteoporosis and bone loss, and to increase bone density (and thus strength) in the spine and in hip bones – two places where osteoporosis is most likely to hit aging people, especially aging women, the hardest. (5, 6, 7, 8)
Diabetes is a condition that is often characterized by high levels of body-wide inflammation. In addition to being at lower risk for fractures related to osteoporosis, diabetics with the highest Vitamin K1 intakes show reduced inflammatory markers related to diabetes. (9) Additional studies related to diabetes have shown increased insulin sensitivity and improved blood glucose control even in non-diabetic, healthy people and even a reduced risk of ever developing Type II diabetes! (10, 11, 12, 13, 14)
Cancer is a threat to anyone, young or old – but as we age we run an ever-increasing risk of developing some form of this dread disease. Can Vitamin K come to the rescue? While it is not a “silver bullet” against cancer, Vitamin K was shown in a large European study to slash the risk of death from cancer by a whopping 28 percent for those taking the higher amounts of Vitamin K versus people taking the lowest amounts. (15)
Men, Vitamin K is for you too: A related European study found an amazing 63 percent lower risk of advanced prostate cancer in men taking higher doses of Vitamin K2. (16)
Colon cancer may prove to be vulnerable to the health-giving effects of Vitamin K: a study that placed human colon cancer cells into laboratory mice found that Vitamin K induced apoptosis (cell death) and suppressed the growth of the implanted tumors. (17, 18)
And liver cancer, often a tragic result of AIDS or alcoholism or an infection with the hepatitis B or C virus, can be helped: several human studies have shown that supplementation with Vitamin K after the surgical removal of the hepatocellular carcinoma cancer lesion reduces the recurrence and improves survival in those stricken with this aggressive and deadly cancer. (19, 20)
But is it safe? In a word, YES.
Even for people using blood thinners, Vitamin K supplementation is safe.
The blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) actually works by suppressing the normal, healthy effects of Vitamin D, and recent studies are proving that those using this antiquated “blood thinner” are actually at increased risk for developing arterial calcification – actually putting them at increased risk of having the very cardiac or cardiovascular disasters that the drugs were meant to prevent! (21, 22)
The effects of more modern blood thinners like Pradaxa (dabigatran) and Eliquis (apixaban) are not affected by vitamin K intake and so it is safe and appropriate to take full-dose vitamin K without worry of counteracting the desired anticoagulant effects of the drugs.
In any event – DO NOT stop taking any anticoagulant drug without talking with your doctor first!
You can find a very high quality Vitamin K supplement that provides both the Vitamin K1 and Vitamin K2 (Vitamin K2 in both the longer-acting menaquinone-7 and more immediate-acting menaquinone-4 sub-types. Yes, that is very important!) at Dr. Myatt’s Wellness Club. Dr. Myatt recommends one softgel capsule daily of Super K, or as directed by your health care practitioner.
For any of us, and especially those of us who are getting a little older and concerned with atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, and cancer, Vitamin K is a great way to help address and minimize many of the leading causes of death facing us in today’s modern American.
1.) Juanola-Falgarona M, Salas-Salvado J, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, et al. Dietary Intake of Vitamin K Is Inversely Associated with Mortality Risk. J Nutr. 2014 May;144(5):743-50.
2.) Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, et al. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. 2004 Nov;134(11):3100-5.
3.) Beulens JW, Bots ML, Atsma F, et al. High dietary menaquinone intake is associated with reduced coronary calcification. Atherosclerosis. 2009 Apr;203(2):489-93.
5.) Braam LA, Knapen MH, Geusens P, et al. Vitamin K1 supplementation retards bone loss in postmenopausal women between 50 and 60 years of age. Calcif Tissue Int. 2003 Jul;73(1):21-6.
6.) Purwosunu Y, Muharram, Rachman IA, Reksoprodjo S, Sekizawa A. Vitamin K2 treatment for postmenopausal osteoporosis in Indonesia. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2006 Apr;32(2):230-4.
7.) Knapen MH, Schurgers LJ, Vermeer C. Vitamin K2 supplementation improves hip bone geometry and bone strength indices in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2007 Jul;18(7):963-72.
8.) Knapen MH, Drummen NE, Smit E, Vermeer C, Theuwissen E. Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2013 Sep;24(9):2499-507.
9.) Juanola-Falgarona M, Salas-Salvado J, Estruch R, et al. Association between dietary phylloquinone intake and peripheral metabolic risk markers related to insulin resistance and diabetes in elderly subjects at high cardiovascular risk. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2013;12:7.
10.) Yoshida M, Booth SL, Meigs JB, Saltzman E, Jacques PF. Phylloquinone intake, insulin sensitivity, and glycemic status in men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jul;88(1):210-5.
11.) Ibarrola-Jurado N, Salas-Salvado J, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Bullo M. Dietary phylloquinone intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in elderly subjects at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Nov;96(5):1113-8.
12.) Yoshida M, Jacques PF, Meigs JB, et al. Effect of vitamin K supplementation on insulin resistance in older men and women. Diabetes Care. 2008 Nov;31(11):2092-6.
13.) Choi HJ, Yu J, Choi H, et al. Vitamin K2 supplementation improves insulin sensitivity via osteocalcin metabolism: a placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2011 Sep;34(9):e147.
14.) Beulens JW, van der AD, Grobbee DE, Sluijs I, Spijkerman AM, van der Schouw YT. Dietary phylloquinone and menaquinones intakes and risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2010 Aug;33(8):1699-705.
15.) Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Kaaks R, Linseisen J. Dietary vitamin K intake in relation to cancer incidence and mortality: results from the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg). Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1348-58.
16.) Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J. Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg). Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):985-92.
17.) Ogawa M, Nakai S, Deguchi A, et al. Vitamins K2, K3 and K5 exert antitumor effects on established colorectal cancer in mice by inducing apoptotic death of tumor cells. Int J Oncol. 2007 Aug;31(2):323-31.
18.) Kawakita H, Tsuchida A, Miyazawa K, et al. Growth inhibitory effects of vitamin K2 on colon cancer cell lines via different types of cell death including autophagy and apoptosis. Int J Mol Med. 2009 Jun;23(6):709-16.
19.) Kakizaki S, Sohara N, Sato K, et al. Preventive effects of vitamin K on recurrent disease in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma arising from hepatitis C viral infection. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007 Apr;22(4):518-22.
20.) Mizuta T, Ozaki I, Eguchi Y, et al. The effect of menatetrenone, a vitamin K2 analog, on disease recurrence and survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma after curative treatment: a pilot study. Cancer. 2006 Feb 15;106(4):867-72.
21.) Price PA, Faus SA, Williamson MK. Warfarin causes rapid calcification of the elastic lamellae in rat arteries and heart valves. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1998 Sep;18(9):1400-7.
22.) McCabe KM, Booth SL, Fu X, et al. Dietary vitamin K and therapeutic warfarin alter the susceptibility to vascular calcification in experimental chronic kidney disease. Kidney Int. 2013 May;83(5):835-44.
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