The role that vitamin K plays towards improving and maintaining health has only relatively recently come to light in comparison to all of the other vitamins.
As it turns out, there are many types of K vitamins all found in different foods and all doing different things in our body. In this blog post i'll summarise what vitamin K does and how to get it from food.
Health Benefits of Vitamin K
Exercise Performance: improved energy utilisation in muscle during exercise
Sexual Health: increases testosterone and therefore male fertility. Decreases androgens in females with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Metabolic Health: increases insulin production and sensitivity thereby promoting improvements in blood sugar control
Bone and Dental Health: improves mineralisation of bone and teeth thereby lowering the risks of fractures and dental cavities
Heart and Kidney Health: it binds to calcium in tissue preventing its accumulation in atherosclerotic plaques and kidney stones. Is also involved in the blood clotting
Blood clotting: is an important component to the production of clotting factor proteins in the liver.
Calcific tendonitis: as it binds calcium, it can help remove its deposition in inflamed tendons.
Cancer prevention: helps to turn off cancer genes and turn on the genes that make cells healthy.
Different Kinds of Vitamin K
Vitamin K1: Is most predominantly found in plant foods, especially green leafy vegetables. Once eaten it tend to travel straight to the liver where it will predominantly be used in the production of blood clotting factors. It doesn't seem to make it out of the liver where it can impact other tissue.
Vitamin K2: There are numerous kinds of K2 so we'll go through the most important ones separately.
MK4: Mostly found in animal products due to the fact that animals including humans can synthesise MK4 from other forms of vitamin K. MK4 has a greater affinity for reaching peripheral tissue so therefore plays a role in boosting sex hormones such as testosterone, preventing cancer and protecting tissue from calcium deposits
MK7: Mostly found in fermented food such as Natto and cheese, especially Jarlsberg cheese. MK7 is best at reaching bone where it aids in bone mineralisation (great for people with osteoporosis). Once in bone it is used to produce the hormone osteocalcin which give vitamin K its metabolic properties of improving insulin production and sensitivity (great for diabetic people) and exercise performance (great for athletes).
Anti coagulants such as warfarin are essentially vitamin K blockers, which is how they function to prevent blood clotting. Please consult with your health care professional if you decide to significantly increase your daily intake of vitamin K, and you should certainly refrain from taking it as a supplement.
With thanks to Chris Masterjohn for all of his research and publishing in this area.