Green is the color of our last essential vitamin in the alphabetical row, which is the relatively unpopular vitamin K. In this blog post, we want to find out an answer to the question “How Good is Vitamin K for You? – The Lifeguard for Your Bloodstream”. And we will get to know why vitamin K is so good for us, from where we can get it and what else might be interesting about this essential vitamin.
Why can we call vitamin K the lifeguard for your bloodstream?
Vitamin K performs the most important functions in our blood.
If we have a wound on our skin, vitamin K ensures that our blood pool doesn´t run dry.
If we have a wound in one of our blood vessels, vitamin K ensures that there doesn´t develop a thrombus or a plug, which may lead to a heart attack, a stroke or a thrombosis, when released into the bloodstream.
Therefore vitamin K swims within our bloodstream always ready to rescue us, when necessary.
So now you know that vitamin K is quite important for your health. So let´s get a little more into detail so that you get to know how good vitamin K is for your body.
What is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble, heat and oxygen-stable but light-sensitive cofactor for enzymes. It is also often described as the coagulation factor because it ensures the coagulation of blood when we have a wound. There are three typical known forms of vitamin K. Phylloquinone (vitamin K1), which is built in the chloroplasts of plants, the cells of the photosynthesis. Menaquinone (vitamin K2), which is built through microorganisms, like E.coli or Bacteriodes, who are living in our gut or fermenting microorganisms like in raw sauerkraut. These two forms are biologically active, whereas 50% of the more active vitamin K2 can be built in our gut and vitamin K1 can also be converted into vitamin K2. Finally, there are also some synthetical forms of vitamin K of which menadione (vitamin K3) is one.
Vitamin K is an essential vitamin for us, which we have to get (at least 50%) of it through our nutrition.
What is the demand for Vitamin K?
Depending on the age, health and lifestyle the daily demand for an average and healthy adult for the essential vitamin K is 60 – 120 μg per day.
Where can you get Vitamin K from (Top foods)?
Here are the Top foods, which are rich in vitamin K1 :
1. Kale (up to 800 μg/100g)
2. Parsley (up to 550 μg/100g)
3. Spinach (up to 300 μg/100g))
4. Chickpeas and brussels sprouts (up to 250 μg/100g)
5. Nuts (up to 50 μg/100g)
Animal products like cheese and meat or fermented food like natto (soy) or sauerkraut contain very little amounts of vitamin K2 (<1 μg/100g) so that they are negligible for the coverage of vitamin K.
What are the functions and benefits of Vitamin K?
As we learned above the most important function of vitamin K is its presence in our blood. Let´s summarize the functions of vitamin K and let´s get a little bit more into detail.
The ability of vitamin K to coagulate leaking blood is also its name giver. The “K” in vitamin K stands for “Koagulation” (which we can find in German for example).
The coagulation prevents high losses of blood internally and externally. Without coagulation, every wound could be life-threatening. Hemophiliacs are an example for that.
Vitamin K together with vitamin D has several important functions within the calcium absorption. On the one hand, it is there to activate calcium-binding proteins, which prevent arteriosclerosis. And on the other hand, wounds in the blood vessels are not closed with calcium plugs.
So vitamin K helps us to protect us from arterial calcification, supports elastic blood vessels and therefore maintains a healthy cardiovascular system.
As vitamin K also activates osteocalcin, an enzyme which helps to integrate calcium into our bones, it is also an indispensable partner for vitamin D and the calcium regulation in our body.
Cell division and function in the energy metabolism
Vitamin K activates enzymes, which regulate the formation, division and mobility of body cells and works within repair processes in our body.
Moreover, vitamin K plays a role as an electron transporter in the mitochondria, which are the most important cell organisms in our body in the energy metabolism.
What deficiency symptoms of Vitamin K exist?
A hypovitaminosis of vitamin K is seldom as about 50% of the needed vitamin K is built in our gut through the gut flora in form of vitamin K2. There needs to be a risk factor like a fat absorption disorder in the gut or a disturbed gut flora. Possible symptoms of a lack of vitamin K can be as followed:
- bleeding like nose bleeding and in worse cases also internal bleeding in organs
- morbus haemorrhagicus neonatorum (bleeding at newborn, which is prevented by giving 1 – 2 mg of vitamin K some days after and a month after birth)
What overdose symptoms of Vitamin K exist?
A hypervitaminosis of vitamin K is not known for adults as it can be excreted through the urine. Different is it for a newborn as a too much of vitamin K can lead to a hemolysis due to an excretion disorder for bilirubine, the yellow degradation substance of hem. The condition is called jaundice.
What else may you have to consider about Vitamin K?
Value in our body
The amount of vitamin K in our body is about 70 – 100 μg. It is mostly stored in the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, the bone marrow and the lymph nodes. Vitamin K can be stored for 14 days in the body, predominantly in the liver.
Antagonists and Advice
Vitamin K2 is biologically much more active than vitamin K1 and the most active form is vitamin K2 MK7 (100% all-trans-form, not cis-form) as it stays over 50 times longer in our body than vitamin K2 MK4. Vitamin K2 is also more important because it does not only activate coagulating factors like K1 but also regulates the calcium level and plays a role in cell division.
Moreover, vitamin K2 works best together with vitamin D. Most important is their teamwork within the regulation of the resorption of calcium.
Like all the fat-soluble vitamins, it is best to eat food rich in vitamin K together with fat like butter or oil as it increases the absorption.
Coumarin-derivates can inhibit the ability of the liver to produce blood coagulating factors. Coumarin itself can be hepatotoxic in high doses, which can be achieved through an excessive consume of cassia cinnamon, tonka beans or woodruff.
Discovery and Use
In 1935 the fat-soluble factor for the ability of the blood to coagulate was discovered within the research of chicks.
The word “menaquinone” is the short form of the chemical name “me(thyl) – na(phtho)quinone”.
Also, vitamin K may not be as popular as vitamin C or vitamin D, we have learned that it is very important for us as well. And that is because vitamin K ensures a fast coagulation, which prevents us from bleeding excessively. Furthermore, it plays an indispensable role together with vitamin D within the calcium metabolism. It helps to bind surplus calcium and therefore inhibits arteriosclerosis, the calcification of the blood vessels. It also supports the integration of calcium into the bones and works in the cell and energy metabolism. Whereas up to 50% of our daily vitamin K demand can be covered by vitamin K2, which is formed in our gut through the bacteria living there, the rest of the demand has to be covered by the food we eat. The amount of vitamin K2 in food, like sauerkraut or natto, is negligible so that green vegetables like kale, parsley and pulses like lentils and chickpeas are a good choice for vitamin K1 in food. Vitamin K1 can also be converted into the biologically more active form vitamin K2.
Wow. With this post, we have gone through all 13 essential vitamins on a basic level. In the following blog posts, we are going to have a look at more specific aspects of micronutrients. Moreover, I will try to integrate my personal experiences. So it definitely will get even more exciting and interesting.
What do you think now? Was this blog post helpful for you? What else do you know or want to know about vitamin K? Please leave your comment below.