A shy vitamin

Some vitamins are definitely more popular then others.  You would be hard pressed to find someone in your acquaintance that doesn’t have at least a general idea of what vitamin C is.  Part of the reason for this is that vitamin C is marketable: it can be added to cough drops and made to taste like oranges.  What about a vitamin that isn’t marketable, but just as important to your health?

Vitamin K is almost unheard of by the general public, yet much of the research into osteoporosis says it is absolutely crucial to bone health.  Vitamin K has three different forms.  K1 is found in chlorophyll, meaning that we ingest it when we eat green veggies – the darker in colour the better.  If your body has proper amounts of good “friendly” bacteria in the intestines, then it can turn K1 into a more biologically active form (something the cells can use easily) called K2.  K3 is a synthetic form.

Vitamin K helps the body make and activate two proteins that are critical for bone health.  These are called osteocalcin and matrix G1a.  These proteins guide calcium and other minerals into the osteoblast (bone-building) cells, making strong, well formed bones.

The flip side of this is that vitamin K also keeps calcium from building up where it shouldn’t.  It prevents calcification of soft tissues such as the heart and arteries. Several studies have shown that the higher the levels of vitamin K in the body, the lower the risk of heart disease (Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, et al. Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. Nov 2004).

Vitamin K is needed for proper blood clotting and people who are deficient in this vitamin often bruise easily.  It is this natural function as a blood clotter however that keeps vitamin K off the market in supplement form.  In a society where many people already have clogged arteries it can be dangerous to take in a substance that thickens the blood.  Especially as almost everyone over the age of fifty seems to be on blood thinners.

As you can see though, by preventing calcification of arteries, vitamin K can actually reduce the need for blood thinners by improving vascular health.  The solution is to get this vitamin from food sources.  Eating lots of dark green leafy vegetables is perfect, especially things like spinach, broccoli, green beans, bok choy and kale.  The more active form of K2 is available through a few foods such as egg yolks, butter and fermented soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh and miso.  Keeping the colon clean and supplementing with probiotics will help the body make the best use of the vitamin K acquired through vegetables.

So many people are looking for the magic pill that is going to make everything better.  What is interesting about vitamin K is that it is very hard to find in supplement form.  In order to get the benefits, you actually have to (gasp) eat vegetables, or at the very least, a good green drink.  For those who are always looking for a better way to deal with heart disease and osteoporosis, it’s just one more reason to eat salad.

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