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Putting the “K” in “Lacking”

Researchers Test Theory that a Lack of Vitamin K Increases Risk of Disease

Vitamin K deficiency contributes to age-related diseases, analysis shows.

Vitamin K deficiency contributes to age-related diseases, analysis shows.

If you’re like me, someone who’s always looking for the latest in health news, then you know that vitamin D has dominated the health news cycle.  The reason?  People are deficient in this all-important vitamin, so the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for the sunshine vitamin has been increased.

The vitamin D publicity parade continues, but a new parade is coming up the street, and vitamin K is the drum major.

Like vitamin D, vitamin K is another vitamin the average American is lacking in.  A lack of vitamin K puts people at greater risk for a plethora of problems, most notably blood disorders like hemophilia or bone issues like osteoporosis.  But it also puts people at greater risk for age-related diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and dementia.

Drs. Joyce McCann and Bruce Ames from Oakland, California’s Children’s Hospital Research Institute discovered this after poring over hundreds of studies and completing a series of tests that assessed the accuracy of their “triage theory,” first developed in 2006.

This so-called “triage theory” is a little convoluted, so stay with me if you can.  In its basic form, the theory says that as man evolved over time, cellular mechanisms developed that produced age-related diseases as a response to vitamin deficiencies.  These age-related diseases include cancer, heart disease, and dementia, hence the term “triage.”

To test the veracity of their theory, Ames and McCann used field mice with inactive proteins, proteins that typically absorb and rely on vitamin K to perform blood clotting functions.  Among the 16 inactive proteins, a little less than half of them depended on vitamin K to blood clot properly.  In other words, without vitamin K, the proteins are unable to clot, likely resulting in a blood disorder like hemophilia.

The other proteins weren’t as involved in blood clotting, so vitamin K wasn’t as crucial for clotting function.  But the lack of vitamin K was detrimental to other functions, like arterial, skeletal, and immune system function.  In fact, they found an increase incidence of “spontaneous cancer” among the mice.

The study is set to be published in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

While more research needs to be done before truly definitive conclusions can be made regarding vitamin K supplementation, the findings support McCann’s and Ames’ theory that vitamin K insufficiency expedites the occurrence of age-related diseases.

Nutrition analysis indicate the majority of Americans aren’t getting enough vitamin K, so Ames and McCann hope health officials will increase the recommended vitamin K intake for men and women (120 mcg/d for men; 90 mcg/d for women).  That fact, combined with their findings, will hopefully make that increase a reality.

Vitamin K is found primarily in green vegetables, like broccoli, spinach, kale, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.  Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin.  Traditionally, fat soluble vitamins are toxic in large quantities.  It’s possible that vitamin K can be toxic in high doses as a result of this fact, but at present, there’s no such thing as vitamin K overkill.

Translation:  the more vitamin K coursing through your veins, the better off you are in avoiding age-related diseases.

Sources:
thedoctorwillseeyounow.com
nutraingredients.com
sciencedaily.com
eurekalert.org

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