Although discovered in 1929 it was not until 1943 that a Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery of vitamin K.
The K in Vitamin K stands for “coagulation” or “Koagulation” as spelled in the Danish and German speaking areas in which the research was done and published.
And it refers to the ability of the blood to clot as part of the healing process that happens naturally when you cut yourself.
But the way in which vitamin K works is so complex that it is still being researched all these years later.
To steer us away from too much complexity let’s stick to the facts and let’s start with the basic truth about vitamins that they are needed in the diet to protect us from disease.
We’re going to go through 10 important things you need to know about vitamin K
So we’ll start with an obvious question – what does vitamin K protect us from?
1. A deficiency of vitamin K leads to bleeding
2. Because vitamin K does not cross the placenta new born babies sometimes have bleeding disorders and are routinely given an injection of vitamin K
3. Here is the controversial bit – all babies in the US and UK get these injections now
4. Vitamin K is made by plants and bacteria although there are synthetic versions made by pharmaceutical companies too
5. Green leafy vegetables are the best sources for vitamin K and those with a diet lacking daily greens are at risk
6. Vitamin K1 is called phylloquinone and is found in Kale and other greens
7. Vitamin K2 is called menaquinone and is made is small amounts by bacteria in the gut – providing you don’t kill them with antibiotics- and is the “Calcium controlling” version of Vitamin K
8. Overall, vitamin K1 controls coagulation and clotting, both of which are essential for healing and K2 is a traffic cop for calcium in the body; it tells the calcium where to go and where not to go. Without these instructions calcium can pile up in the arteries or the brain and with vitamin K whistling and waving at calcium so that it behaves well and builds up in and strengthens the bones.
9. Because vitamin K protects us from calcification – calcium build up in the arteries that occurs commonly with ageing and osteoporosis that also happens commonly with ageing it is gaining popularity as an all round antiaging vitamin
10. Vitamin K is blocked by some drugs such as Warfarin so if you are taking such drugs you need to consult with your health care provider so that your diet and supplements and medical drugs are not at odds with each other
Last words on the Health Benefits of Vitamin K
In light of vitamin K being of major importance to bone, arterial and general health we need to take it much more seriously than has been the case. For most people the fact that Vitamin K is easily found in Kale, Greens, Broccoli and the like is exactly why they do not get an adequate supply.
For a pregnancy this is worrying. Most people are aware of the importance of Folate to the unborn but who realises the crucial issue of vitamin K? And who tells pregnant mums? Nobody judging from this research
“Almost all neonates are vitamin K deficient, presumably as a result of deficient vitamin K nutrition in the pregnant mother during the third trimester and because of the lack of colonization of the colon by bacteria that produce vitamin K in the neonate. ”
This is why babies get vitamin K injections. In my view this should not be automatic but looked at on a case by case basis.
In supplements form either as a stand-alone vitamin K or as part of a multivitamin I advise checking that it is the natural forms, phylloquinone and menaquinone that are listed and not one of the synthetics.
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