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Vitamin K Deficiency: It’s Bad for Your Heart and Your Bones

It’s the forgotten vitamin. Vitamin K hasn’t been the focus of fanfare like vitamins such as vitamin C or vitamin D, but don’t underestimate its importance. According to a new research, older people need more vitamin K — to help protect their bones.

Vitamin K and bones

Spanish researchers gave 200 older people with an average age of 67 a food frequency questionnaire to find out how much and how often they ate certain foods. Then they checked a bone density on each person. What did they find? Older people with diets rich in vitamin K had higher bone density measurements and better overall bone health than those who got less of this vitamin. Their bones were not only denser, but they were less porous — a sign of good bone health. Bone density went up with each incremental increase in vitamin K they got through diet.

Vitamin K sources 

Vitamin K comes in two forms, vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. There is also a synthetic form of vitamin K called vitamin K3 that’s available as a supplement, although most experts don’t recommend it. Vitamin K1 is found mostly in green, leafy vegetables, especially kale, broccoli, collard greens and spinach.

Vitamin K2 is less common since it’s mostly in fermented products like natto, sauerkraut and fermented cheeses, which most people don’t eat in abundance. Fortunately, bacteria in the gut can synthesize vitamin K2 — but not vitamin K1.

Other reasons why vitamin K is important

Vitamin K is also important for proper blood clotting, but it could do more than just boost bone health and help with blood clotting. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people with higher intakes of vitamin K2 have a lower risk of cancer especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Another study showed that vitamin K2 may protect against heart disease by preventing calcification of the arteries.

What does this mean?

Vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 are both important for health, but vitamin K2, which few people get a lot of in their diet, seems to be the best form for reducing heart disease and cancer risk. Vitamin K is also linked to bone health in older people.

Keep in mind that these results are preliminary, but getting more vitamin K1 – by eating more green, leafy vegetables — and more vitamin K2 from fermented foods could offer health benefits. Remember the next time you’re shopping for groceries — and throw in some leafy vegetables and sauerkraut.

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