When you ask your patients about the vitamins they are taking, you should not be surprised for them to quickly rattle off a list of vitamin A through vitamin E.
However, if you ask them about vitamin K, odds are exceptionally high that your patients will respond with a puzzled look and say, “What’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”
Interestingly, your patients may not realize that they probably were getting their daily recommended dose of vitamin K as children, in the form of fortified breakfast cereals. Of course, the best known of these cereals is Special K.
However, as often happens with food we ate as children, but stopped once we became adults, odds are also exceptionally high that your patients no longer have sufficient levels of vitamin K in their system, which may be at the root cause of several health issues.
What is vitamin K, what are the health benefits of vitamin K supplements, and what are some of the ways in which you can increase your daily vitamin K intake?
What is vitamin K?
Vitamin K represents a family of fat-soluble compounds, including phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinones (vitamin K2).1 Of the two, Vitamin K1 is considered to be more important in terms of key body functions. The vitamin is needed for the body to completely synthesize certain proteins that are involved in the coagulation process. It also is vital for modifying certain proteins to allow them to bind to certain ions that control calcium binding in bones and connective tissue.1
What are the health benefits of vitamin K supplements?
Because all newborns have low levels of vitamin K, it is standard procedure to give them a shot of the vitamin almost immediately after birth.2 This prevents vitamin K deficiency bleeding, which can range from bruising to bleeding inside the brain.
Your patients may need to increase their vitamin K levels if they are taking high doses of a blood thinner, such as Coumadin (warfarin), to avoid the risk of excessive bleeding.1 If any of your patients are taking vitamin K1 supplements for this reason, it is vital to take the same dose every day to keep levels consistent.1
A 2006 meta-analysis, which pooled the results of seven smaller studies on vitamin K2 supplementation for preventing fractures and reducing bone loss.3 In comparing the results across all seven studies to look for similarities across the results, the researchers determined that vitamin K2 may offset bone loss and fractures.
Food sources of vitamin K
Fortunately, there are abundant natural food sources of vitamin K, including:
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, lettuce, and broccoli
- Beans and soybeans
- Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and figs
- Meat, cheese, and eggs
- Vegetable oils1
Of course, your patients’ childhood favorite, Special K, is always an option, along with certain granola mixes.
If your patients are already taking vitamins A through E, they already have a very good vitamin vocabulary. However, it may be time to help them expand it by introducing them to vitamin K.
- Vitamin K fact sheet for professionals. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed May 30, 2017.
- Why does my newborn need a vitamin K shot? Oregon Health & Science University. Accessed May 30, 2017.
- Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, et al. 2006. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Archives of Internal Medicine 2006, 166(12):1256–1261.