Vitamin K foods and supplements are particularly important for preventing bone loss and fractures for elderly patients
When you ask patients about the vitamins they are currently taking, they will usually go through the common vitamins A-E – and they will almost invariably give one of two answers if you ask about vitamin K. Some may not even know that vitamin K exists, or which vitamin K foods are important, while others may assume you are asking about a popular breakfast cereal.
While it is true that vitamin K is not as well known with patients, it is just as important for maintaining good health. In fact, marketing experts predict that there will be a huge surge of interest among consumers for vitamin K as part of their overall desire for better health to fight off the COVID-19 virus.1
What is vitamin K?
Vitamin K encompasses a group of fat-soluble compounds, including phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinones (vitamin K2).2 Of the two, vitamin K1 is considered more important.
Vitamin K foods and supplements help the body synthesize proteins that help with the coagulation process. It also modifies other proteins to bind to ions that control calcium binding in bones and connective tissue 2 – helping newborns and the elderly, among others.
Health benefits of vitamin K supplements
Newborn infants are almost always given vitamin K1, as they all start out with low levels in their system. Vitamin K1 prevents internal bleeding for newborns, including inside the brain.3 Vitamin K2 helps offset bone loss and bone fractures, which is particularly important for those of your older patients, particularly women after menopause.
However, patients taking any blood-thinner medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin), may need to take a higher dose of vitamin K to get proper results and avoid excess bleeding.2
There are a number of vitamin K foods, 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 oil
- Certain granola mixes
Outcomes from vitamin K foods and supplements
A 2006 article in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported the results from a meta-analysis of several smaller papers examining the effect of vitamin K in preventing bone fractures and reducing bone loss.4 The researchers examined the results of 13 papers to look for similar patterns, which could strengthen the overall conclusions.
They found that vitamins K1 and K2 reduced bone loss, while vitamin K2 also reduced fractures.4
Overall popularity of vitamin K
If some of your patients are taking vitamin K, they are not alone. In fact, the global vitamin K market was valued at almost $US 55 million in 2019, and is predicted to reach $US 290 million by 2026. This represents an increase of almost 25% in compound annual growth rate.1
Although the majority of vitamin K sources has been via food, pharmaceutical sources are steadily growing and are predicted to continue on that trajectory.1 Given this continued increase in demand for vitamin K, this would be an excellent time to talk to your patients about its benefits as more than just a breakfast cereal from their childhood.
- Vitamin K2 Market Share, Size, Trends, Industry Analysis Report By Product (MK-4, and MK-7), By Application (Pharmaceuticals, Nutraceuticals & Food, Others); By Source (Natural, Synthetic, Others); By Regions, Segment Forecast, 2020 – 2026. Polaris Market Research. Published April 2020. Accessed Aug. 18, 2020.
- Vitamin K Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated June 3, 2020. Accessed Aug. 18, 2020.
- Why does my newborn need a vitamin K shot? Oregon Health & Science University.
- Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, et al. 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.