IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
Kenny Kalenot loves a good time. Loves his food and loves his motorcycle. One day while out for a spin with his buddies he hit a patch of gravel on the side of the road. The bike slide gracefully off the shoulder of the highway down a small slope. Kenny was thrown off but other than a small gash on his leg was relatively unscathed. The bleeding from the gash wasn’t all that bad but it didn’t seem to stop. His friends helped him up and tried in vain to stop the bleeding but couldn’t. A couple of hours later in the hospital emergency the blood was still trying to escape the bandages. Kenny was beginning to worry. Dr. Wise thought he probably knew why the bleeding wasn’t stopping but did some tests anyway. After the blood tests came back they revealed what Dr. Wise had suspected.
“Are you having any other problems, Kenny, such as nose bleeds or bruising?”
“Actually, yah, a lot of nosebleeds and bruises appear out of nowhere. How did you know?”
“Kenny” asked Dr. Wise, ”Do you eat very many green vegetables?”.
“Hell no” replied Kenny, “that stuff will kill you.”
“How about fortified breakfast cereal?”
“No, just bacon & eggs. I’m a protein man,” he said proudly.
“Well, protein man, that’s all very well but you might want to consider changing your diet before you bleed to death!”
“Kenny, you’re not getting enough Vitamin K.”
We’ll get back to our injured biker shortly but I just want to let you in on why the lack of vitamin K was so dangerous for Kenny.
WHAT IS VITAMIN K?
Vitamin K has two forms that are used by the human body. Vitamin K1 as phylloquinones and Vitamin K2 as menaquinones
WHAT DOES VITAMIN K1 DO?
Phylloquinone or vitamin K1 from the Scandinavian ‘Koagulation-Vitamin’ is instrumental in stopping us from bleeding to death. One of the roles of this fat soluble vitamin is to assist enzymes in getting carbon dioxide into an amino acid called glutamic acid. The result of this process is the birth of another amino acid called ‘gamma-carboxyglutamic acid’. We’ll just call it GLA for short.
This ‘Gla amino acid ‘ is critical in helping 7 special proteins extract energy charges from calcium molecules. With this charge the 7 proteins are able to create what is called a coagulation cascade that stops bleeding by forming and controlling the formation of clots. Amazing.
Some of the proteins create the clotting while others work as anticoagulants creating a balance so that the clotting stops at a certain point so that all the blood in our body doesn’t clot.
In the now famous 1998 Nurses Health Study it was discovered that women who had a sufficient amount of Vitamin K1 in their diet had a lower risk of hip fractures. According to Wikipedia’s information on this report the women who consumed Vitamin K1 containing lettuce at least once a day had a significantly lower risk of hip fracture than women who consumed lettuce one or fewer times per week. Added to these results is the discovery that those who took high intakes of Vitamin D but low intakes of Vitamin K1 had an increased risk of hip fracture suggesting that these two vitamins work together to produce strong bones.
WHAT DOES VITAMIN K2 DO?
In the last few years studies on menaquinone or vitamin K2 have revealed that it is heavily implicated in the prevention of plaque buildup on artery walls. The matrix GLA protein is dependant on K2 for its ability to not only prevent but reverse vascular calcification. There has been shown to be approximately 100 times more K2 in healthy arteries than in plaque filled arteries.
Apparently there are three Vitamin K dependant proteins that are believed to have some role in the development of strong bones. It is thought that Vitamin K2 like K1 works synergistically with Vitamin D and Calcium to achieve this. K2 anK1 add carbon atoms to a protein called osteocalcin enabling it to increase the absorption rate of calcium into the bone.
“I’ll take vitamin pills.” Kenny said to the good doctor.
“Well, that’s an idea, “ said Dr. Wise.” Certainly if you are unable to get good, whole food you should take vitamin pills but I recommend you get your vitamins from food. Our bodies respond better to nutrients like vitamins and minerals if they come in food. They tend to work better when they are delivered naturally. Natural foods carry vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that work together as a team to make us healthy.”
“Oh,” said Kenny thoughtfully.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll set you up with a dietician who can give you some good ideas about how to get more vitamins and minerals into your diet, o.k.”
“I guess. o.k.”
A couple of months later Kenny’s nose bleeds and excess bruising had stopped. The recipes he received from the dietician had not only helped him with the lack of Vitamin K but had also introduced him to a whole new world of really great tasting food and a much healthier body.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH VITAMIN K1?
It’s actually difficult not to get enough Vitamin K1 because it is present in so many foods in a healthy diet. It is also recycled in our bodies by something called the Vitamin K cycle and some of it is created by bacteria in our small intestines. However, unlike other fat soluble vitamins very little Vitamin K is stored by the body and its stores are rapidly depleted without regularly getting it from our food. People who are on anticoagulant drugs or people who have problems with digesting fat need to pay special attention to getting enough in their food.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH VITAMIN K2?
Vitamin K2 is more difficult to get in our diet especially if we don’t eat many animal products. If you are a woman then you may be much more prone to developing osteoporosis. Both men and women may be at much greater risk for developing plaque buildup on artery walls.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH VITAMIN K1 and K2?
Because it is not stored by the body there is little if any risk of getting too much. However, in the case of people who need to reduce clotting, such as people who have developed blood clots in their veins, doctors will often recommend that the patient’s diet reduce or eliminate foods with vitamin K in them.
WHERE DO WE GET VITAMIN K?
Now, you’re probably one of those really smart people who eats a well balance diet but if you want to make absolutely sure you’re getting enough Vitamin K1 the following table will give you a guide to go by. Vitamin K1 is found in plant foods such as green leafy vegetables and K2 is found in animal livers and fermented foods.
Linus Pauling Institute