Know Your Vit “K”

It would be interesting to know that Vit K doesn’t refer to any particular nutrient but is actually a group of molecules. They are named after the Danish term ‘Koagulation’, which refers to their crucial role in blood clotting

Thanks to the internet and social media, we all are far more health conscious now than about a decade back. We are aware of multivitamin supplements and those who read avidly on the subject of health are aware, what each Vitamin is good for. There is enough information about Vitamins A, B, C, D & E.

However, we know little about Vit-K. People often confuse Vitamin K with potassium. This is because K is the chemical symbol for potassium on the periodic table of elements.

It would be interesting to know that Vit K doesn’t refer to any particular nutrient but is actually a group of molecules. They are named after the Danish term ‘Koagulation’, which refers to their crucial role in blood clotting by Henrik Dam in 1940. This group of molecules are chemically related fat-soluble compounds known as quinones. These are vitamins K, K1, K2, and K3. Vitamin K1 (Phylooquinone) is the natural form of vitamin K and is found in plants and is the primary source of vitamin K that humans obtain through foods. It acts as an activator in plants and plays a role in photosynthesis.

Vitamins K1 and K2 are completely different. Vitamin K1 is converted into K2. This conversion of K1 to K2 occurs in intestine and in certain tissues in the body. Vit K1 has monounsaturated fat molecule tail and Vit K2 has polyunsaturated fat molecule tail.

The rate at which your blood clots are measured as prothrombin time(PT), and you may have seen this in your blood reports if you have bleeding issues. Vit K(K1) is an essential nutrient as it regulates normal blood clotting. Vit K2 (Menaquinone) helps transport calcium throughout the body, and so plays a vital role in bone and dental health. Vitamin K activates a protein that helps prevent deposition of calcium and plaque in arteries and soft tissue. It is also helpful in converting glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver, thus promoting healthy liver function.

Though rare, a deficiency in Vit K can lead to defective blood clotting, increased bleeding and osteopenia. Symptoms include easy bruising, gastrointestinal bleeding, excessive menstrual bleeding and blood in the urine.

People with chronic malnutrition, addicted to alcohol and those with health conditions that limit the absorption of dietary vitamins are at a high risk of Vit K deficiency. People who may benefit from supplemental vitamin K are babies (who usually get a shot of vitamin K at birth) and those with digestive diseases. In an effort to prevent “hemorrhagic disease of the newborn,” also known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding or VKDB, a vitamin K1 injection may be given to newborns and young infants.

It is possible to derive enough Vit K for daily requirements from a well-balanced diet. Rich sources of Vit K1  include green tea, leafy greens( mainly kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens), cruciferous vegetables(like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), soybean oil and wheat bran. Fermented dairy, including yoghurt, cheeses, egg yolk, butter and fermented soy including miso and natto, provide Vit K2. Because Vit K is fat-soluble, it’s best to include dietary fats with plant-based food sources. Absorption of it K2 is higher in the body as compared to Vit K1.

While no known toxicity is associated with vitamin K, however high doses may cause numbness or tingling in the extremities.

People taking Warfarin/ Coumadin or other blood thinning medications(like Asprin) should ensure enough intake of Vit K-rich foods, as Warfarin and Vit K work against each other in the body. Vitamin K supplementation during pregnancy (beyond RDA which is 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight) may increase the risk of jaundice in newborns. Vitamin K ingested by breastfeeding mothers is generally considered safe.

Antacids may lower absorption of vitamin K, and vitamin K may reduce the blood-thinning effects of several herbs including alfalfa, American ginseng, anise, celery and chamomile.

Like a true friend, Vit K can help your bones, heart, liver, teeth and save you by clotting the blood on time. 

So how does it feel to “K”now your new friend better?

Tags assigned to this article:
Vitamin K wellbeing health diet


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