Essential Vitamin K Information

Essential Vitamin K Information: What You Need to Know About the Vitamin You Probably Don't Know You Need

When most of us think about vitamins, we think of vitamin C, or maybe of A, B, D, or E. The vitamin everybody needs but many of us don't know about is vitamin K. Here's your essential vitamin K information.

Vitamin K's sole job in the body is to make the proteins that regulate the flow of calcium in and out of tissues. Vitamin K makes is possible for the body to convert the amino acid glutamic acid into gamma-carboxyglutamic acid.

There are very few proteins that contain this chemical, but the work they do is essential. Here is the most notable thing vitamin K does for you:

Vitamin K helps blood to clot.

The K in vitamin K is an abbreviation for the German word "Koagulation." Vitamin K enables a protein containing the above-mentioned gamma-carboxyglutamic acid to "grab" calcium out of the bloodstream and link proteins together so they can form a floating net in the bloodstream. This floating net forms the clot that keeps blood in its proper channels and prevents excessive bleeding.

If you aren't relying on the best vitamin K information and you aren't getting enough vitamins in your diet of supplements, you are at risk of excessive bleeding. Foods and supplements that provide vitamin K are useful in keeping cuts, scratches, and other wounds from becoming the "gushers" that cause a serious loss in blood volume. But the lesser known vitamin K information is that it isn't just for the bloodstream.

Vitamin K also helps get calcium into bones.

The complicated process of keeping bones healthy and strong is the result of an interplay between vitamin K and vitamin D. The cells that make bone make a hormone called osteocalcin. This hormone is regulated by the active form of vitamin D.

Osteocalcin won't work, however, unless it's activated by the addition of three byproducts of glutamic acid. This step requires vitamin K.

You can't get calcium into your bones if you aren't getting calcium in your diet, but too little calcium usually isn't the real reason bones are weak. The essential combination is calcium with vitamins K and D.

Some more vitamin K information is that vitamin K helps keep calcium out of your arteries.

You've probably heard of "hardening of the arteries," known in medical terms as atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis. Hardened arteries are a result of calcium replacing cholesterol in the lining of the blood vessel.

This calcification happens when a microscopically small amount of cholesterol becomes lodged in the arterial wall. White blood cells known as macrophages feed on cholesterol, and they make a surveillance run throughout the bloodstream to keep the arteries open.

Sometimes, however, a macrophage gets imbedded in the arterial wall and can't get out. It dies trying to feed on the excess cholesterol, and other macrophages are signaled to clean up the new and larger problem in the lining of the blood vessel. There can eventually be a visible mass (sometimes the size of the period at the end of this sentence, but sometimes a lot larger) consisting of a tiny bit of cholesterol and a whole lot of dead white blood cells.

The dead white blood cells can be replaced by artery-hardening calcium. Vitamin K, however, keeps that from happening. Just as vitamin K makes sure calcium moves into bones, the best vitamin K information from current science is that vitamin K keeps calcium out of arterial clogs.

Arteries that aren't clogged up with calcium and cholesterol move more blood at a lower pressure. Clots aren't as likely to lead to heart attack and stroke when arteries are open. The latest vitamin K information also suggests that vitamin K helps keep the linings of blood vessels flexible, so if there is a clot to lodge to cause a heart attack or stroke, the effects of the event will not be catastrophic.

Out and out vitamin K deficiency isn't very common. The latest vitamin K information is that failure to get enough vitamin can result in problems with blood clotting. It's very easy for your doctor to diagnose a vitamin K-related deficiency in blood clotting factors with a simple blood test.

Vitamin K deficiencies can also contribute to nosebleeds, bleeding gums, heavy menstruation, blood in the stool, blood in the urine, black or tarry stools, tinted urine, or easy bruising. In the very rare cases of vitamin K deficiency in infants, there can be life-threatening bleeding in within the skull.

This condition doesn't occur without other obvious symptoms, however, and it's most likely in babies who are breastfed by mothers who take anti-seizure medications.

So how do you get your vitamin K?

There was a time when nutritionists believed that vitamin K was made by bacteria living in the colon. On the basis of this theory, pediatricians gave babies vitamin K injections, theorizing that the newborn's digestive tract hadn't had enough time to make vitamin K.

Some alarmists suggested that giving newborn babies vitamin K shots could cause leukemia later in childhood. This simply isn't true. A follow-up study of 1.3 million babies in the United Kingdom found that this dreaded childhood disease was no more likely among children who received vitamin K in the delivery room than among children who didn't.

Nutritionists did, however, eventually learn that shots of vitamin K usually aren't necessary after infancy. The best way to get your vitamin K is day by day. The best vitamin K information is that women need up to 90 micrograms and men need up to 120 micrograms a day.

Life Stage Age Males (micrograms/day) Females (micrograms/day)
Infants 0-6 months 2 2
Infants 7-12 months 2-3 2-3
Children 1-3 years 30 30
Children 4-8 years 55 55
Children 9-13 years 60 60
Adolescents 14-18 years 75 75
Adults 19 years and older 120 90
Pregnancy 18 years and younger - 75
Pregnancy 19 years and older - 90
Breastfeeding 18 years and younger - 75
Breastfeeding 19 years and older - 90
Adequate Intake (AI) for Vitamin K
(Source of Vitamin K information : Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, January 2001.)

Leafy green vegetables are a great source of vitamin K.

Vegetable oils and products made with vegetable oils aren't bad. Here's a brief list:

Food Serving Vitamin K (micrograms)
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup (chopped) 420
Canola oil 1 Tablespoon 19.7
Kale, raw 1 cup (chopped) 547
Leaf lettuce, raw 1 cup (shredded) 118
Mayonnaise 1 Tablespoon 11.9
Olive oil 1 Tablespoon 6.6
Parsley, raw 1 cup (chopped) 324
Soybean oil 1 Tablespoon 26.1
Spinach, raw 1 cup (chopped) 120
Swiss chard, raw 1 cup (chopped) 299
Watercress, raw 1 cup (chopped) 85

The very best sources of foods with vitamin K are green leafy vegetables. A more complete line-up of sources of vitamin K would rank vegetables in this order: Raw amaranth leaves, raw parsley, raw Swiss chard, cooked kale, raw watercress, cooked spinach, raw spinach, cooked turnip greens, raw collards, and cooked collards are the most highly concentrated foods with Vitamin K, in that order. Further down the list would be a few exotic foods, lamb's quarters (the plant, not the meat), chrysanthemum leaves (served with Japanese food) and chicory among them. Any vegetable contains at least a little vitamin K.

The vitamin K information you need to know to get the full benefit of vitamin K is to use at least a little oil in cooking or dressing your leafy greens. Your best choice of oil is olive. Olive oil works best. Vitamin K dissolves in fat, not water, so you need fat to carry vitamin K to your colon.

What's the vitamin K information for recommended daily allowance? Generally speaking, your diet should include foods with vitamin K to give you about a milligram (1,000 micrograms) a week.

That's 2 cups of chopped raw kale. Or 10 cups of lettuce. You could also get all your vitamin K for a week by eating a small jar of mayonnaise. The essential vitamin K information to remember is, it isn't necessary to slather on the mayo or to turn green with chlorophyll just to ensure you get your RDA of vitamin K.

Supplemental vitamin K is available without prescription. Vitamin K is a safe supplement. Although an allergic reaction is remotely possible, there is no toxicity associated even with high doses of vitamin K1, the kind of vitamin K found in food (phylloquinone), or vitamin K2, a form of the vitamin found in supplements made in Japan (menaquinone). Where you would need to be careful is taking supplements made with vitamin K3 also known as menadione. This form of the vitamin, however, is only available by doctor's prescription in North America or Europe.

Be sure your vitamin K comes in a formula that you don't have to take with food. It's also better if your K is part of a complete nutritional supplement that's easy to remember to take. Getting your vitamin K isn't the only reason to eat your greens, so its' a good plan to include some kind of dark, green leafy vegetable in your diet several times week. For your "vitamin insurance", however, take supplemental K.

Other Vitamin K links:

Vitamin K Cream Benefits

Foods with Vitamin K

Coumadin and vitamin K.

More than Vitamin K Information at the home page.

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