Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin that assists with blood clotting and bone strength. It was first noticed in 1929 by Danish scientist Henrik Dam who observed that after feeding chickens a diet lacking in cholesterol they would start bleeding. He concluded that a second compound, koagulationsvitamin aka vitamin K, had been extracted from the food with the cholesterol.
As I mentioned above, vitamin K’s most important function is that it helps the blood to clot. Without vitamin K even a minor cut would bleed continuously. It is therefore vital for the proper healing of wounds. On top of this vitamin K has a number of further important roles which include:
– Helping the body retain calcium.
– Reducing bleeding in women with heavy menstrual periods.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin K is 80mg for men and 60mg for women. Unlike most other vitamins, your body can produce vitamin K from bacteria in your intestines. About a third of your daily requirements are supplied in this way and the remainder can be sourced from your diet. The richest source of vitamin K is green, leafy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and spinach. Green tea is another great source of vitamin K with liver, milk and eggs also containing lower levels of the vitamin.
A vitamin K deficiency can have a very serious impact on your health and in the worst cases can cause heavy and uncontrollable bleeding in various parts of the body including the eyes, the gums and the nose. It can also cause the bones to become weak leading to osteoporosis (reduced bone density) and fractures.
However, unlike other vitamin deficiencies, a lack of vitamin K may be caused by something other than your diet. Certain disease can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb vitamin K whilst prolonged use of antibiotics can also kill off the intestinal bacteria responsible for producing the vitamin. On top of this anticoagulants (medicines that thin the blood) can interfere with the absorption of vitamin K.
If you do suffer from vitamin K deficiency as a result of one of the above reasons, then diet alone may not be enough to meet your daily needs. In this case you may want to consider vitamin K supplements. Although supplements can be useful if you are struggling to get your RDA of vitamin K, I still recommend that you use them sparingly. Try to get the majority of your vitamin K from diet and use supplements to top up when needed. Overdosing on vitamin K supplements can damage both your red blood cells and your liver, so diet should always be your preferred source.
Vitamin K is an extremely important vitamin. Without it a slight bump would lead to heavy bruising and a small cut could potentially be fatal. Therefore, it is highly important that you get your RDA of this vitamin by giving green, leafy vegetables a place in your daily diet. If you decide to take supplements just remember to be sensible. Taking too many can be toxic and can do serious damage to your body.
Toxicity of Vitamins Information (Medical News Today)
Vitamin K Information (Food Standards Agency)
Vitamin K Information (How Stuff Works)
Vitamin K Information (Life Clinic)
Vitamin K Information (Wikipedia)