Vitamin K: Uses, Functions & Benefits

Vitamin K

The term Vitamin K refers to a group of compounds. Basically, they are fat-soluble vitamins that regulate various key functions of the body. The two main forms are

  • Vitamin K1: It is also known as phylloquinone, and comes from plants. This is the main dietary form of vitamin K
  • Vitamin K2: It is also known as menaquinone. It is available from few animal-based and fermented foods.

Vitamin K is necessary for the production of prothrombin (protein and clotting factor) that plays a significant role in blood clotting and bone metabolism. Therefore, Vitamin K is involved in blood clot formation, and regulates bone metabolism as well as blood calcium levels. It is not commonly used as a dietary supplement.

Functions

Vitamin K has several beneficial effects on the body. These include:

  • Promotes healthy status of the bones
  • Improves cognitive abilities
  • Helps in the prevention of heart problems and diabetes

Here is the description about the important roles of Vitamin K:

a.      Regulation of Bone metabolism

Studies have shown that vitamin K helps in improving strength of bones, promotes bone density and reduces fracture risk. It is believed that vitamin K deficiency increases the risk of osteoporosis.

b.     Memory enhancement

Research has demonstrated that adequate intake of vitamin K results in improvement of memory among elderly population.

c.      Cardiovascular health

Vitamin K lowers blood pressure by preventing accumulation of minerals in the arteries. This helps in maintaining blood flow without exerting excessive pressure on the heart. Studies have reported a lower risk of stroke with adequate intake of vitamin K.

Dietary Sources

Vitamin K is naturally produced in the gastrointestinal tract by bacteria. The excellent dietary sources of Vitamin K includes green leafy vegetables such as green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, and turnip greens, and vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Few other foods that provide Vitamin K includes liver, meats, fish, eggs and cereals.

Recommended dosage (RDA)

The recommended daily intake of vitamin K among adult women is 90 micrograms (mcg) a day and for adult men is 120 mcg.

Drug Interactions. 

There are few drugs that impair Vitamin K functions. Drugs such as antibioticsaspirin, antacids, blood thinners and medications used for the treatment of cancerseizures, and high cholesterol.

Deficiency

Vitamin K deficiency is rarely seen in adults as foods already provide us sufficient amount of Vitamin K. The deficiency is more common in infants, where a condition known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) leads to Vitamin K deficiency. The risk of vitamin K deficiency is increased among individuals who are taking anticoagulants such as warfarin or antibiotics, have fat malabsorption syndrome and a diet that lacks adequate level of Vitamin K.

Signs and Symptoms

The main symptom due to lack of Vitamin K is excessive bleeding. The bleeding can occur at sites apart from the wound site. There are signs that demonstrate that a person can readily bleed due to vitamin K deficiency which includes frequent bruising, bleeding in the mucous membrane lining the inside of body, small clot formation underneath the nails and stools that are dark black in color containing blood.

Overview

Vitamin K is important for the blood clotting process. It regulates bone metabolism as well as blood calcium levels. Therefore, adequate intake of this key vitamin should be maintained to achieve overall health of the body.

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