I like to keep my eye on news about Vitamin K because of the steady stream of new research showing just how important the micronutrient is for our health.
So in the avalanche of Covid-19 research that has come out in the past several weeks — do you know that close to 800 medical papers about Covid have been published so far? — it doesn’t surprise me that a team of Dutch researchers decided to explore Vitamin K status and its impact on Covid-19 outcomes.
Why zero in on Vitamin K? Researchers were curious about low Vitamin K status and its connection with scar tissue buildup in the lungs, and how this appears to be a factor in severe Covid-19 respiratory symptoms.
Vitamin K plays an important role in lung function because it helps to activate elastin, the protein responsible for lung tissue flexibility. The lungs must be incredibly flexible to function well.
Without enough Vitamin K, elastin becomes stiff and fibrous scarring can build up in the lungs — making it more difficult to breathe and more difficult for lung tissue to exchange oxygen. During a respiratory infection like Covid-19, researchers hypothesized that people with low Vitamin K status could be at increased risk for severe respiratory symptoms.
Researchers: Vitamin K makes a difference in “good” vs. “bad” Covid-19 outcomes
In their study, the research team looked at a protein marker that is tied to Vitamin K status — comparing levels of the marker in 123 people hospitalized with confirmed Covid-19 to those in a control group of 184 that did not have Covid. The marker — desphospho-uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein (dp-ucMGP) — is inversely related to Vitamin K status: when levels of dp-ucMGP are higher, it indicates that Vitamin K levels are lower or deficient; when levels of dp-ucMGP are lower, it indicates higher levels of Vitamin K.
Across the board, results showed that levels of dp-ucMGP were higher in patients with Covid-19 infection and lower in the healthy control group. But not only that, when researchers compared severity of respiratory symptoms and outcomes among Covid patients — comparing those who recovered and were discharged from the hospital with those who required ventilator use or who died — dp-ucMGP levels were comparatively low in the patients with “good” outcomes and higher in the patients with “poor” outcomes.
Although more research on Vitamin K and Covid-19 is needed, the implications of this particular study are intriguing —that Vitamin K deficiency could be a driving force in the severity of Covid symptoms and may even be a factor in who contracts Covid in the first place.
Are you getting enough Vitamin K — and the right kind?
Vitamin K is not a single nutrient, but the name given to a group of vitamins of similar composition. The two main groups that occur naturally are phylloquinone, or K1, and themenaquinone, or K2. Of these two forms, vitamin K2 — in particular the subset of K2 known as MK–7 — is the one you want to target. Vitamin K2 is more bioavailable, longer lasting, and provides greater benefits in the body.
Some Vitamin K2 you can get through your diet — organic lean meats, organic eggs, and hard or soft cheeses (especially blue cheese) can supply you with K2. Not that I am giving you a license to eat dairy! Natto — fermented soybeans — is an excellent source of K2. Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and seaweed are also pretty good sources. You often hear about kale and other leafy greens being touted for their Vitamin K content, but it’s mainly the K1 form .
Aside from dietary sources, K2 can also be produced in the body by certain beneficial intestinal bacteria. This is a reason why long-term use of antibiotics can lead to Vitamin K deficiency as it kills off this good flora.
Beyond Covid, there are so many reasons why women especially should pay attention to their Vitamin K2 intake:
– Vitamin K is important for healthy bones — it has the unique capacity to activate proteins that help to keep calcium in bone (and out of the arteries — see my point below).
– Vitamin K contributes to regulating inflammation in the body, which is key for healthy immune response.
– Vitamin K helps to keep blood vessels more elastic and free from mineral build up. Several studies show that people who took Vitamin K2 as MK-7 had a reduced risk of coronary calcification and heart disease. (In other words, K2 as MK-7 keeps calcium in the bones and out of the arteries!)
– Even in patients with kidney disease, who are at risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease, small doses of Vitamin K as MK-7 (and vitamin D) helped slow the progression of the disease.
I generally recommend a therapeutic dose of 90 mcg of Vitamin K2 as MK-7 on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the average U.S. intake is only 9-12 mcg, if any at all! Taking a high quality Vitamin K2 as MK-7 supplement is an easy and practical idea for getting what you need.
Important note: Supplementing with Vitamin K may reduce the effectiveness of Coumadin and other blood thinning medications. If you are taking a blood thinner, you will want to talk to your doctor about how to still maintain healthy vitamin K intake.
Okay, so that’s the latest news about Vitamin K! I’m sure there will be even more proof of its importance to our health as new research continues to emerge, but for now, nourishing your levels of this micronutrient can give you all the vital support it has to offer.
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