Vitamin K is much more than a blood clotting agent. Vitamin K improves bone density, aids in preventing hardening of the arteries, and is a stronger antioxidant than vitamin E or coenzyme Q10.
There are 3 known forms of vitamin K. K1 is found in dark green leafy vegetables. K2 is synthesized in the body by the healthy bacteria in the gut and is found in naturally fermented foods. K3 is synthetic and tends to generate excess free radicals and should be avoided.
Although vitamin K is fat soluble, it is not stored in the body. Deficiency of vitamin K is actually common. Antibiotics, aspirin, cholesterol reducing drugs, and hydrogenated oils are known to interfere with or deplete vitamin K.
Vitamin K is actually a modulator of blood clotting. Too much vitamin K will not cause too much blood clotting because the process is self regulated in the body. Vitamin K will also prevent blood clots by preventing platelet aggregation which is a separate process from coagulation. Platelet aggregation has to do with free radical damage, whereas coagulation is about calcium level in the cells.
New research on vitamin K is showing that K helps to keep calcium in the bones and out of the arteries. Vitamin K works on a specific form of protein that controls calcium. With enough vitamin K, this protein known as osteocalcin can hold onto the calcium and keep it from drifting out of the bones into soft tissue. When there is not enough vitamin K in the body to "carboxylate" the osteocalcin, calcium leaves the bones which then become porous.
Research results on bones and vitamin K show women with enough vitamin K are significantly less likely to get hip fractures by 30 to 50 percent. A study from the Netherlands using 1 mg. of vitamin K per day for 2 weeks increased the osteocalcin levels in post menopausal women to pre-menopausal range. Other recent studies have shown vitamin K to be equivalent to Fosamax-type drugs.
Vitamin K seems to be significant in preventing calcification or hardening of the arteries. Vitamin K is necessary to produce enough of a specific protein that prevents arterial calcification. Other areas in which vitamin K as a regulator of calcium appears to be helpful are in preventing strokes and in preventing Alzheimers.
The RDA of vitamin K is 85 mcg per day, which represents just enough vitamin K to maintain normal clotting factors. This amount appears to be grossly inadequate for maintaining solid bones and clear arteries along with the other beneficial aspects of vitamin K. Vitamin K researchers are now recommending 1000 to 3000 mcg per day of K as the level necessary for optimal health.
K is found abundantly in green leafy vegetables. A serving of collard green, spinach or salad greens will supply about 400 mcg. Maintaining healthy levels of "good" bacteria in the gut by taking probiotics or eating naturally fermented food will also help ensure adequate levels of vitamin K.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas. www.thegreenhouse.myshopify.com