Our body requires many vitamins and minerals to function properly. Though we are aware of vitamin A, B, C, and D, vitamin K falls behind in our nutrient calculation. However, we must understand that vitamin K is also a prominent vitamin required by the human body. A deficiency can cause severe mishaps. Hence, this article is dedicated to the importance of Vitamin K and how the human body utilizes or absorbs it.
What is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is a group of compounds. Out of these, Vitamin K1 or phylloquinone and Vitamin K2 or menaquinone are the most important ones. Vitamin K has a crucial role in preventing excessive blood loss and blood clotting. It also has significant roles to play in bone metabolism and maintaining the calcium levels in the body.
How is vitamin K absorbed in the body?
Vitamin K is classified into two forms – one which is present in all green leafy veggies such as Kale, spinach, and collard green and is called phylloquinone. And another type of vitamin K is present in fermented foods and animal foods. It is notable that the human body also produces menaquinones.
Pancreatic and bile enzymes perform an action through which enterocytes present in the small intestine gradually absorb the ingested vitamin K. The process is similar to what happens with various other fat-soluble vitamins and dietary lipids.
The vitamin K is placed in the chylomicrons from the small intestine, then secreted to the lymphatic capillaries, and finally transported into the liver. Lastly, it is replaced into lipoprotein, which is low in density. You will notice that vitamin K is present in many parts of your body, namely, liver, brain, bones, pancreas, and heart.
Vitamin K is generally carried to different parts of the body in lipoproteins. When you compare all the other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin K works differently in circulation. This is primarily because vitamin K is excreted and metabolized in your body quite rapidly.
Your body can retain only 30 to 40% of the physiological oral dose, where you excrete 20% through urine and 40% through feces. Consequently, your body contains a low level of vitamin K in the blood and tissues compared to other fat-soluble vitamins.
However, you must note that the transportation and absorption of vitamin K in gut bacteria have limited information. Some research claims there are long chains of menaquinones in the large bowel, but the exact amount is not mentioned right now!
But research does confirm that the little requirement of vitamin K in your body is satisfied by the menaquinones present in the large intestine.
What are the Functions of Vitamin K?
Now that we have given you a glimpse of how vitamin K is divided into two parts, let's talk about the function vitamin K performs in your body. You already know that vitamin K is stored in your liver, fatty tissues, and small intestine, but do you know what it does?
Well, if vitamin K is not present, your body will not be able to produce prothrombin. Prothrombin is an integral part of clotting that helps bone metabolism and blood clotting.
Vitamin K deficiency generally affects the child who is just born. Also, children suffering from cystic fibrosis, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and short-bowel syndrome have clotting issues.
So, newborns are generally given a vitamin K injection that protects their skulls from bleeding, which can indeed turn out to be fatal.
Quick Note: Women who are 19 years and above must consume around 90 mcg of vitamin K a day, and males must consume 120 micrograms.
Benefits of Consuming Vitamin K
Vitamin K is a super nutrient that provides your body with several benefits that must be known to all. Here we present a detailed list of a few of the most important benefits of taking reasonable amount of Vitamin K in your daily diet.
Improves Bone Health
Research confirms that there is a close link between osteoporosis and low consumption of vitamin K. Studies confirm that vitamin K helps keep your bones strong, reduces the chances of fractures, and also helps in improving bone density. However, there is more research required in this regard.
Affects Cognitive Health
When your body has higher levels of vitamin K, there is a massive chance of older adults having great episodic memory. It was seen in research that individuals who were over 70 years having high levels of vitamin K1 did have a tremendous verbal episodic memory performance.
Helps Improve Heart Health
Vitamin K helps prevent mineralization (a process through which minerals are build-up in your arteries), which helps keep your blood pressure levels regular. All of which allows your heart to pump blood efficiently throughout your body.
Mineralization can occur with age which is a primary reason people have heart problems. So, experts suggest that experts consume an adequate amount of vitamin K to reduce the chances of strokes.
Which Foods are Rich in Vitamin K?
As we complete the sections that cover the functions of consuming vitamin K and the importance of it in the human body, let's check out some foods that are rich in vitamin K. Here are the following:
One cup (100 gms) of cooked Kale can provide you with 817mcg of vitamin K.
One hundred grams of raw Swiss chard can provide you 830 mcg of vitamin K.
One cup (100 grams) of cooked mustard greens can provide you with 593 mcg of vitamin K.
One cup or 100 grams of brussels sprouts (cooked) contains 140 mcg of vitamin K.
One hundred grams of cooked chicken can provide you with 60 mcg of vitamin K.
Five prunes contain around 28 mcg of vitamin K.
One avocado containing around 100 grams can provide you with 21 mcg of vitamin K.
One hundred grams of pork chops will contain around 69 mcg of vitamin K.
Some other foods high in vitamin K are beans, beef liver, goose liver paste, kiwi, hard cheeses, green peas, soft cheeses, beet greens, parsley, beef kidneys, duck breast, egg yolk, butter, and whole milk.
So, consuming these foods in adequate amounts is sure to keep your vitamin K levels regular and under control!
Diseases caused by Vitamin K deficiency
People of all ages may be at risk of developing vitamin K deficiency. However, experts emphasize that newborns are most at risk of developing vitamin K deficiency. This deficiency occurs in infants, especially when they receive a low amount of vitamin K before they are born when the mother does not consume adequate vitamin K. Plus, the deficiency is present in the breast milk as well.
Some more factors that vitamin K deficiency includes are:
- Liver diseases
- Biliary tract diseases
- Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and tropical sprue are conditions where vitamin K is not absorbed correctly by the body.
Additionally, when the body consumes drugs like salicylates, barbiturates, anticoagulants, cholestyramine, and rifampin, vitamin K absorption in the body decreases.
However, according to what experts have to say, vitamin K deficiency in adults is rare. This is primarily because of the high consumption of grains, leafy veggies, and oils.
Vitamin K Deficiency in Infants
Since we have already mentioned earlier that infants are at a higher risk of developing vitamin K deficiency, we highlighted some frequent signs.
Let's check out what they are:
- Bleeding (around the nose, mouth, and belly button)
- Bruising near the face and head
- Bleeding from penis area, or place where vaccinations are given
- Paleness in the gums (noticed mostly in dark-skinned children)
- Blood in vomit or urine
- The yellowish tint of eyes and skin (highly different from newborn jaundice)
- Bloody, sticky, and dark stool
- Sleepiness and tiredness
Quick Note: If you notice any of the above signs, visit the pediatrician at the earliest.
Dietary intake of Vitamin K
Here's the recommended amount of vitamin K that a person must have daily.
Vitamin K intake
2.0 to 2.5 micrograms/day
55 to 60 micrograms/day
Women above 19 years
Men above 19 years
How to Diagnose Vitamin K Deficiency?
Generally, when someone has problems physically, like frequent bruising, heavy menstrual bleeding, excessive bleeding from cuts, injections, and punctures, it is indicated that people are suffering from vitamin K deficiency.
In that case, doctors generally go through a physical examination and, further, prescribe blood tests. Through the blood test, the doctor will check whether the patient has a low level of prothrombin level or not. If the level is low than recommended, it is an indication that the person has a low vitamin K level in their body.
Vitamin K Deficiency Treatment
In general, doctors prescribe their patients to consume foods rich in vitamin K. If the levels of vitamin K are still not increased, they start prescribing supplements.
But one should not consume these supplements on your own as they might negatively affect one's health. So, it's always advisable to speak to your doctor before incorporating vitamin K supplements into your diet.
Vitamin K Toxicity
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient. It has a vital role in keeping your bones, heart, and brain health. But excessive consumption of vitamin K can lead to toxicity.
So, if the levels of vitamin K increase in your body, you have a higher chance of becoming anemic, destroying your red blood cells and further causing jaundice. So, everything in limited amounts is highly recommended by experts.
As we end our blog, you must be well aware of the importance and functionality of this fat-soluble vitamin. So, consume this in the recommended amounts to avoid any deficiency in your body.
However, we would also want to conclude with what experts say about vitamin K deficiency in infants. Since they have a higher chance of developing this deficiency, we would always want you to notice the slightest symptoms we've mentioned above to treat your child immediately.