So what is vitamin K?
Vitamin K is essential for healthy aging. You may be unfamiliar with vitamin K. I know that I was. If you know about it at all you probably associate it with blood clotting. Recent research suggests that it has many more functions in the diet including the regulation of calcium in the body. More and more research suggests that it is important in helping the body maintain normal functions as you age. I have added it to my diet because I think the odds look good for vitamin K to be important as a supplement for seniors.
Basic facts about vitamin K
Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin. It’s name is derived for the German word for coagulation (koagulation). Vitamin K is commonly known because it is essential for the functioning of several proteins which are involved in blood clotting. Recent research suggests that it may also provide other health benefits.
There are two forms of Vitamin K:
K1 phylloquinone which is synthesized by plants
K2 several forms of menaquinone which are synthesized by bacteria.
Despite being fat soluble, the body stores very little Vitamin K. Amounts which are not used in reaction with chemical reactions in the body do not contribute to any health problems so you don’t have to worry about taking too much vitamin K.
Good dietary sources of Vitamin K include green leafy vegetables such as spinach, brussel sprouts and swiss chard although these vegetables contain the K1 form which is not as readily absorbed by the body as the bacterial form K2.
Vitamin K is associated with diseases related to aging
In addition to supporting blood clotting, Vitamin K protects against tissue calcification, atherosclerosis, bone loss and cancer. A principal function of Vitamin K is the regulation of calcium balance in the body. Too little Vitamin K can upset this regulation and increased dosage can restore this balance. One example of this imbalance is the calcification of soft tissues like heart valves and arterial walls (hardening of the arteries). Here the studies show that K1 is poorly absorbed into arterial walls while K2 is well absorbed and helped with the formation of smooth vascular muscle which is essential for free flowing arteries. Atherosclerosis is the result of calcium collecting on collagin which the body uses to repair inner arterial linings.
Many of the diseases which are commonly related with aging can be linked to calcification. Examples are kidney stones, arthritis, cataracts, heart valve insufficiency, bone fractures, wrinkled skin, bone spurs and atheroscleoris. Supplementing with Vitamin K can help the body retain the calcium balance effectively keeping the calcium in the bones where it belongs and away from soft tissues where it does not.
Japanese studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of high doses of Vitamin K2 to halt bone loss in older women and reduce significantly the incidence of hip fractures.
How much vitamin K do you need?
The National Academy of Sciences suggests an AI (adequate intake) for adult males is 120 mcg per day and 90 mcg for adult females. These levels are below the dosage levels used to treat age related diseases. The recommendations are related to the level of Vitamin K required for normal blood clotting and not the other benefits which are identified with Vitamin K. The dosage I use contains 1000 mcg of K1 and 1100 mcg of K2.
If you decide to supplement your Vitamin K intake, be sure to select one with a mixture of the K1 and K2 forms. In addition the MK-7 form of K2 which is longer acting in the body should be part of the mix.
If you currently use vitamin K in your diet, please add your comments and if you have any questions include them as well.