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Vitamin Focus: K

by Louise January 12th, 2012 | Vitamins
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Vitamin K is perhaps the least recognized vitamin. We rarely find it listed under the nutrition facts of a packaged product, so there are many people who have never even heard of it! Regardless, the definition of “vitamin K” has been somewhat hazy and often changing over the years. It’s not a single chemical; members of the vitamin K family have been named as vitamin K1, vitamin K2, and vitamin K3 in the past. That terminology has largely been replaced by categorizing a type of vitamin K as either phylloquinones (made by plants) or menaquinones (made by bacteria).

What does it do? Vitamin K is best known for its role in healthy blood clotting, but is also a key component in healthy bones, and the prevention of calcification of blood vessels or heart valves. Regarding blood clotting, vitamin K is what keeps our blood clotting ability at the ideal level. Too much clotting and we would get unwanted blockages, and too little clotting would cause prolonged bleeding from a simple cut. Vitamin K gets its name from the German word koagulation, as in, coagulation of blood vessels. It has also been revealed that vitamin K is useful in carboxylation and the control of osteoclasts (too much of these can cause bone demineralization), which are both essential mechanisms that keep ours bones from weakening and thus fracturing. Vitamin K also keeps arteries from hardening by controlling the build of up calcium inside a tissue.

What if we don’t get enough Vitamin K? As you might suspect, vitamin K deficient individuals suffer from symptoms related to proper blood clotting. This could be in the form of easy bruising, anemia, prolonged clotting times, and many other related issues. Naturally, other symptoms arise in the form of problematic bones, and issues with the hardening of arteries or heart-valve function.

What if we get too much?  Surprisingly, there do not seem to be any adverse effects involved with unusually high intake of vitamin K. In both its phylloquinone and menaquinone forms, vitamin K does not appear to be toxic at any level.

Where can we find vitamin K? This is where the dark, leafy greens come in. Kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts and the like are all excellent sources of vitamin K. Lettuce a good source of vitamin K, but it should be noted that certain types contain more than others. Iceberg lettuce only contain one quarter the amount of vitamin K that you would find in the same amount of romaine lettuce. Meat, eggs, and fermented soy food are good sources of the menaquinone form.

It is currently unknown how other nutrients act with vitamin K.

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.