Some natural health experts refer to vitamin K as the forgotten vitamin. We read and hear plenty about vitamin D and vitamin C these days, and even the vitamins A and E, but not so much about the elusive vitamin K. This is a concern because just about 100% of us are vitamin K deficient.
There are two forms – K1 and K2 and it is the latter where the deficiency lies
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. The human body needs this vitamin to promote the process of blood clotting, to protect the bones, as well as to prevent hardening of the arteries. While vitamin K1 is mostly responsible for actions on blood clotting, it is K2 which is needed for bone and cardiovascular health. The body does convert some K1 to K2 but without pretty perfect gut flora, it is unlikely you will get enough K2 and hence the high deficiency rate.
So how can we include vitamin K2 in our daily diet?
- The best food sources of K2 are natto and butter from grass fed animals (that eat rapidly growing grass).
- Lacto-fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut will also provide significant amounts of K2 because the bacteria used for fermentation produce K2. In fact the process of fermentation perks up the vitamin K content in any food.
- Good sources of K2 are organ meats such as liver while other meats, eggs and yogurt will also provide small amounts. These should be from a grass fed, organic or free range source.
- Eating dark, green, leafy vegetables is another valuable source, including Brussels sprouts, asparagus, celery leaves, broccoli, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards, radish leaves and kale. Eat as many as you can: raw, juiced, in salads or if cooking, use steamed or in broths or purees.
- Parsley is not just a garnish but an invaluable herb and source of this vitamin – a daily tablespoon would give you 75% of your necessary daily intake.
- Fermented cheese such as specific Swiss cheeses or Norwegian cheese are further food sources.
- Lettuce is yet another rich dietary source of vitamin K with Romaine lettuce containing about four times more vitamin K than iceberg lettuce.
- Amongst the whole grains, wheat bran, wheat germ and oats are better loaded with vitamin K than rice and millet.
- Sea kelp has good amounts of menaquinones, making it another good source.
If you cannot get an adequate intake of vitamin K through diet (and most people probably cannot) then supplements are the way to go. What are current public health recommendations for vitamin K? In 2000, the National Academy of Sciences established the following Adequate Intake (AI) levels for vitamin K:
Babies 0-6 months: 2 micrograms
Babies 7-12 months: 2.5 micrograms
Toddlers 1-3 years: 30 micrograms
Children 4-8 years: 55 micrograms
Children 9-13 years: 60 micrograms
Teens 14-18 years: 75 micrograms
Males 19 years and older: 120 micrograms
Females 19 years and older: 90 micrograms
Pregnant or lactating females 18 years and younger: 75 micrograms
Pregnant or lactating females 19 years and older: 90 micrograms
Dr Cees Vermeer (one of the world’s top vitamin K researchers) recommends 45 micrograms of vitamin K2 daily as a starting point but feels 180 micrograms is optimal. He personally takes 360 micrograms every day and confirms that there are no known adverse effects of toxicity.
Apart from being used in the cosmetic industry, because it helps treat dark circles and skin disorders like hyper pigmentation, Vitamin K is useful to the body in many other ways, maintaining the cardiovascular system, promoting growth and the development of bones while aiding blood clotting.
There is an extensive interaction between vitamin K, vitamin D and calcium
This is important for good bone health and for preventing osteoporosis.
Good digestion is also maintained with the help of vitamin K as cystic fibrosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other medical conditions have a common underlying cause - namely a vitamin K deficiency.
Research has also shown a deficiency of vitamin K occurs in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease while other research studies show that vitamin K helps protect the liver and spleen from cancer. It also helps diabetics and obese people by reducing glucose intolerance and promoting insulin regulation controls in the body.
The benefits of vitamin K help to prevent
- Coronary artery disease
- Dental plaque and gum disease
- Obesity and diabetes
- Alzheimer's disease
- Breast cancer and cysts
- Gallstones, colon cancer and Ctohn's disease
- Kidney stones
- Ovarian cysts
- Cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration
- Bone spurs, stiff joints, osteoarthritis, tendonitis and bone cancer
- Cellulite and scar tissue
If we go back into history, we find that early humans ate a very rich vitamin K diet, resembling that of the chimpanzee today who eats 40% of green leaves (some 200 different varieties). Such a diet equals a shopping bag full of leaves every day. Chimpanzees also eat a lot of termites which are rich in vitamin K2.
The few remaining human hunter gatherer societies in the world today follow a similar diet.