What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin k is one of the lesser known vitamins. A fat soluble vitamin, vitamin K is needed for blood clotting.

Vitamin k has derived its name from the German word ‘koagulation’ which means to coagulate or to thicken. People deficient in vitamin K can suffer from osteoporosis or even a heart attack.

The body requires adequate amounts of vitamin K for proper blood clotting. Any deficiency in this vitamin, can lead to hemorrhages, where an individual may bleed profusely even when the cut is very small. Vitamin K is not directly involved in the blood clotting process. Vitamin K acts as an enzyme activator, which in turn helps to clot the blood.

The bones in our body contain an important protein called osteocalcin. Vitamin K is needed to bind the calcium to the osteocalcin protein. This important function will not be carried out in the bodies of people who are deficient in vitamin K.

As a result such individuals suffer from lower bone density and strength. Vitamin K deficiency can be directly linked to higher incidence of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, as well as of bone and hip fracture in the elderly.

Vitamin K also helps to keep our heart healthy and strong. One of the causes of heart attack is because of the hardening of the arteries. Vitamin k reduces the calcification taking place in the arteries by absorbing the hardened calcium.

Vitamin K also prevents the formation of kidney stones and aids in controlling urinary, fecal and body odor.

A healthy adult woman requires about 90 mcg of vitamin K, while the dietary recommendation for vitamin K for an adult man is about 120mcg. The human body obtains this vitamin from two sources – from dietary sources and from special bacteria in the intestine.

Some of the important food items which are rich in vitamin K and provide more than 100 mcg of vitamin K per serving are broccoli, endive, spring onions, parsley, swiss chard, purslane, cabbage and pistachio nuts.

Vitamin K deficiency may manifest itself in the form of bleeding gums, nose bleeds, heavy menstrual periods, gastrointestinal bleeding and blood in the urine.

In pregnant women, deficiency of vitamin K can result in her newborn having cupper ears, underdeveloped nose and mouth, shortened fingers and flattened nasal bridges.

People taking blood thinning medication should be careful about their vitamin K supplement intake.