Is vitamin K the forgotten vitamin? With so much focus on the other vitamins, the benefits of vitamin K are often under appreciated. This may be about to change. According to a recent study, consuming more vitamin K may help prevent heart disease, the most common killer in this country.
While it’s always been known that diet plays a role in heart disease prevention, the role of vitamin K hasn’t been substantiated until recently. How can vitamin K help you prevent heart disease?
In a study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, researchers showed that the risk of heart disease in women dropped by nine percent for every ten microgram increase in the amount of vitamin K they consumed each day. But, it gets more complicated.
There are actually two types of vitamin K, phylloquinone, known as K1 and the menaquinones, or the K2 vitamins. This study showed that it was only the K2 vitamins that reduced the risk of heart disease with the K1 component showing little effect.
Obviously to lower your risk of heart disease you want to add more vitamin K to your diet in the form of the K2 vitamins. While the K1 form of the vitamin is found primarily in green, leafy vegetables, the K2 forms are present in meat, eggs, and dairy products, particularly fermented cheese.
Could this study give some vindication to meat and dairy products which have been deemed unhealthy for the heart due to their high fat content?
While this study is compelling, it’s best to avoid stocking up on meat and fermented cheese for the purpose of getting more vitamin K. It’s unclear as to whether the beneficial effects of vitamin K2 on the heart overrides the higher fat content usually found in meat and dairy products.
Plus, eating lots of meat can have other negative health effects such as increasing the risk of colon cancer. Although you can buy vitamin K2 supplements online, it’s unknown whether supplementation provides the same benefits and whether it’s safe for long term use.
Keep in mind that adding more vitamin K in your diet can benefit more than just your heart. The K1 form found in green, leafy vegetables plays an important role in normal blood clotting and the K2 form helps to preserve bone mass and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin K is also thought to have antioxidant properties.
The other way to get more vitamin K in the form of K2 is to eat more K1 foods since K2 can be synthesized from vitamin K1 by bacteria in the intestines.
The bottom line? A balanced diet rich in green, leafy vegetables along with smaller amounts of low fat dairy products is a safe way to add more vitamin K to your diet and, potentially, lower your risk of heart disease.