Skip to content
Current Dispatch Times: Normal [Same Day Before 3pm EST]
Current Dispatch Times: Normal [Same Day Before 3pm EST]
Vitamin K written on a chalk board surrounded by green vegetables

Is Your Diet Lacking Vitamin K?

Vitamin K was discovered by Danish biochemist Carl Peter Henrik Dam during his studies with chicks between 1928-1935. The name vitamin K is derived from the first letter of the German spelling of the word "koagulation." The letter K was also the first available letter in the alphabet that had not been used to denote a vitamin.

After Dam discovered vitamin K at the Biochemical Institute of the University of Copenhagen, biochemists quickly verified it at the University of Berkeley in California. In 1943, Dam was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his research into antihemorrhagic substances and his discovery of vitamin K and its benefits. American Edward E. Doisy shared the prize with Dam for his independent work regarding explaining the chemical nature of vitamin K.

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K has the vital role of making a variety of proteins necessary for blood clotting and bone building. For example, both prothrombin and osteocalcin are proteins that are vitamin K-dependent. Prothrombin is directly related to blood clotting, while osteocalcin is responsible for producing healthy bone tissue. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble group of compounds with two main types.

Main Types of Vitamin K

  • Vitamin K-1
  • Vitamin K-2

Vitamin K-1, the primary type, is derived from foods such as leafy greens and vegetables. It is also known as phylloquinone. Vitamin K-2, also called menaquinone, is mainly obtained from foods like meat, eggs, and cheese. In addition, vitamin K-2 can be produced by bacteria in the human body. Although vitamin K is found throughout the body, it breaks down quickly to be discharged through urine and stool.

Where is Vitamin K found in the Human Body?

  • Bones
  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Pancreas 

Signs of Vitamin K Deficiency

Fortunately, cases of vitamin K deficiency in healthy adults are very low. This is attributed to the fact that so many foods we ingest on a daily basis contain vitamin K-1 and because our bodies produce vitamin K-2. Since vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting, symptoms of a deficiency revolve around blood-related issues.

Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency

  • Bleeding into the skin, causing bruises
  • Small blood clots under nails
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • Dark black stool that contains blood
  • Tooth decay

Who Is Most at Risk for Vitamin K Deficiency?

Babies are most at risk for vitamin K deficiency due to only having a small amount stored in their bodies at birth and receiving their food supply solely from breastmilk or formula. As a result, the biggest concern for babies is vitamin K deficiency bleeding, or VKDB. With such low levels of vitamin K at birth, newborns up to six months of age run the risk of their blood not clotting. 

When blood doesn’t clot, it leads to internalized bleeding into the intestines or brain. This deficiency and side effects are much riskier in newborns than in full-grown adults. This is why both the Canadian Paediatric Society and the College of Family Physicians of Canada endorse administering a single intramuscular dose of vitamin K in 0.5 mg to 1.0 mg to all newborns to ward off potential vitamin K deficiency side effects.

Kids or adults who suffer from cystic fibrosis, chronic pancreatitis, celiac disease, liver disease, liver damage, or other malabsorption conditions can suffer from vitamin K deficiency. In addition, vitamin K antagonist drugs like Warfarin and Cefamandole are also associated with an increased risk of vitamin K deficiency. Supplements are available if you are experiencing low vitamin K levels in your food diet or as a result of disease or medicine. Consult with a medical doctor to determine the recommended dose. 

15 Foods That Contain Vitamin K 

  • Cooked spinach
  • Cooked kale
  • Raw Swiss chard
  • Cooked turnip greens
  • Cooked green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Raw arugula
  • Cooked Brussels sprouts
  • Red and green leaf lettuce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Margarine
  • Kiwi
  • Avocado
  • Cooked cabbage
  • Pork chops 

What Are the Benefits of Vitamin K?

Current research shows a connection between adding vitamin K-2 supplements to your daily food intake and an improvement in overall bone and heart health. However, research does not show a direct benefit from taking vitamin K-1 supplements. So, a healthy diet rich in green foods supplemented with vitamin K-2 has the most noticeable effect.

3 Health Benefits of Vitamin K

  • Bone health
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Exercise benefits

Vitamin K and Bone Health Benefits

Vitamin K and vitamin D work hand in hand when it comes to bone health. While vitamin D aids in bone growth, vitamin K has a significant role in bone density and maturation. These two vitamins work together to create strong and healthy bones as we grow and once we have reached adulthood. Many athletes rely on a vitamin K and vitamin D3 combination supplement in addition to the foods they eat to benefit their overall bone and tooth health.

Vitamin K and Cardiovascular Health Benefits

Vitamin K can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This is because calcium can get deposited in blood vessels, causing them to harden and affecting their ability to help blood flow through the body. Typically, this leads to cardiac events.

The Matrix Gla protein, also known as MGP, is a vitamin K-dependent protein. MGP is responsible for removing calcium buildup from arteries. Therefore, supplementing your diet with vitamin K can benefit your body by increasing your MGP activity.

Vitamin K and Exercise Benefits

A 2017 study gave “aerobically trained male and female athletes” 300 mg of vitamin K-2 for four weeks, then reduced the amount to 150 mg for the next four weeks. A placebo group received a rice flour supplement in the same amounts. This is the first study to research the link between vitamin K-2 and active individuals. A 12% increase in maximum cardiac output was linked to the vitamin K-2 supplement.

Cardiac output refers to the amount of blood your heart pumps each minute. When exercising, your heart beats faster and stronger to increase your cardiac output. The current belief is that vitamin K increases the tissue's strength around the heart. Eating both foods rich in vitamin K and supplementing your diet can aid in these heart-related benefits while exercising.

Vitamin K For Bone and Heart Health

Incorporating vitamin K into your diet is as simple as adding some green plant-based foods to your diet. However, if you don’t have access to or time to prepare fresh cooked veggies rich in vitamin K, supplements are available to keep your heart and bones healthy and strong.

Creating a health and nutrition plan isn't entirely about the physical results we see in the mirror. The majority of the changes to your body will take place on the inside and then be reflected on the outside. Therefore, a balanced diet is essential in ensuring the work you put in at the gym can reach its full potential.

Previous article Yummy Sports has the Best-Tasting Protein Powders and BCAA Supplements, but How Do They Stack Up?
Next article How to Use Meal Replacement Shakes for Healthy Eating