Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin which has derived its name from the German word ‘Koagulation‘ which means ability to prevent hemorrhages and to clot blood in order to prevent excess bleeding.
Forms of Vitamin K
There are three different forms of vitamin K which include:
- Vitamin K1- It is known as phylloquinone, the main dietary form of vitamin K present in green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin K2- It is known as menaquinone, which is produced by the bacteria during fermentation. Among all three forms, vitamin K2 plays a huge role in the treatment and management of various diseases and disorders.
- Vitamin K3- It is known as menadione and it is the synthetic form of vitamin K.
The beneficial role of vitamin K in preventing hemorrhages is very well known, but a vast array of studies has also learned about the role of vitamin K in arthritis, osteoporosis, dental health, memory, brain health and heart health. (1)
Health Benefits of Vitamin K
Let’s take a detailed look at the different beneficial roles of vitamin K in the body:
Enhances Bone Health
A right balance in the intake of vitamin K and calcium may fight osteoporosis and prevent bone fractures.
Vitamin K-dependent proteins activate osteocalcin, a compound which helps in binding calcium from the blood circulation to the bone matrix. It makes the skeleton stronger and less susceptible to fractures. For this entire process to take place, it is important to consume vitamin K-rich foods.
Studies have further demonstrated that vitamin K increases bone mineral density in individuals who are at a risk of osteoporosis and decreases fracture rates. Vitamin K along with vitamin D exerts a beneficial effect on bone density and modulates bone metabolism. (2, 3)
Scientific research revealed that poor vitamin K and vitamin D nutritional status is associated with an increase in the systolic as well as diastolic blood pressure.
Vitamin K helps in maintaining the blood pressure within the correct range via the following mechanism:
Vitamin K activates Gla proteins that protect against calcification and clot formation. It inhibits hardening of the arteries and reduces pressure on the inner walls of the arteries. These vitamin K-dependent proteins further prevent clogging up of the arteries, ensures smooth blood flow throughout the body and keeps your blood pressure in check. (4)
Improves Brain Health
It is found that vitamin K is not only important for bones, but this nutrient plays a vital role in protecting the brain and nervous system too. Vitamin K enhances the formation of sphingolipids in the brain, that play an important role in cell signaling and transmission.
It further protects the brain cells against damage and inflammation. Getting enough vitamin K improves cognition, memory, ability to think and concentrate. Therefore, individuals with adequate vitamin K status have lower chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders as compared to others. (5)
Improves Blood Glucose Levels
Evidence-based scientific studies have found that vitamin K is inversely associated with insulin resistance in older individuals. High intake of vitamin K-rich foods or supplements is linked to better glycemic control and improved insulin sensitivity.
Vitamin K-dependent proteins boost the health of pancreatic beta-cells and improve insulin secretion. As insulin secretion is improved, the entry of glucose into the cells for the purpose of energy is enhanced and less of it remains in the blood. Thus, vitamin K helps in the management of blood glucose levels.
Inflammatory compounds inhibit the insulin signal transduction pathway and causes insulin resistance. Vitamin K suppresses the formation of inflammatory compounds and thus, reduces overall inflammation. Making vitamin K-rich green leafy vegetables a part of the diabetic diet is a good way to reduce high blood glucose levels. (6, 7)
Chronic inflammation is the cause of various diseases and disorders in humans. Inflammation damages your healthy cells and tissues and has a negative impact on overall health.
Studies have found that vitamin K plays a key role in decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds. It further reduces risk of diseases associated with inflammation, which include osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases. (8)
Helps in the Management of Arthritis
Vitamin K intake along with anti-rheumatic drugs serve as a potential therapy in the treatment and management of arthritis. Studies have found that a deficiency of vitamin K is associated with an increase in the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis.
Vitamin K helps in the activation of certain proteins which play a vital role in regulating bone mineralization. Absence of these vitamin K-dependent proteins cause abnormalities in mineralization of bones and cartilages which is common during osteoarthritis. (9, 10)
Studies have reported that vitamin K has beneficial effects on the treatment and management of liver cancer. It suppresses the growth and spread of cancer tumor and cuts down the supply of blood to the tumor.
Vitamin K inhibits the growth and multiplication of cancer cells and reduces their population. It suppresses the production of inflammatory compounds and decreases overall inflammation, which otherwise worsens the overall condition. (11)
Prevents Tooth Decay
Poor dental health and dental caries can affect your brain health, memory and heart health. Vitamin K protects the teeth and enhances overall dental health via the following mechanisms:
Vitamin K strengthens the teeth by binding calcium from blood circulation to the teeth.
A centrifugal fluid flow is controlled by the brain, which is required for healthy teeth. Oxidative stress and free radical attack can negatively affect the centrifugal fluid flow and cause tooth decay and pain. Vitamin K fights against oxidative stress and enhances the flow of centrifugal fluid. This fat-soluble vitamin further reduces the vulnerability of teeth to the bacteria and thus, protects them.
Vitamin K improves salivary buffering and enhances re-mineralization of enamel.
A study found that individuals who consumed diet rich in vitamin K had few carious lesions as compared to individuals who consumed diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. (12)