Vitamins are essential for our body. These are organic compounds that are responsible for important functions in our body. Vitamins A, C and D are most commonly mentioned. Vitamin K, on the other hand, is mentioned less frequently. This vitamin is also absolutely vital for our organism and is responsible for the fact that we do not bleed to death from the smallest of injuries.
This article aims to bring you closer to the most important facts and functions of vitamin K. We will give you the causes and symptoms of bleeding disorders and explain the connection between vitamin K and the phenomenon of blood clotting. We will then list various foods that contain this vitamin and tell you about your daily needs.
the essentials in brief
- Vitamin K plays a very important role in blood clotting and is also important for bone health in humans.
- A blood clotting disorder can lead to severe blood loss or bleeding. Common symptoms of this disease are frequent nose or gum bleeding and also blood in the urine or stool.
- You can counteract blood clotting disorders with a balanced diet. Many foods contain vitamin K, but common causes of this condition are other diseases.
Definition: What is vitamin K?
Just like vitamins A, D and E, K vitamins belong to the fat-soluble vitamins and play a very important role in blood clotting in our body. You can also recognize this from the letter K, which stands for the word coagulation, a synonym for blood clotting.
We distinguish between three different variants: vitamin K1, vitamin K2 and vitamin K3. These differ not only in production, but also in function.
Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is produced by plants and is therefore mainly found in particularly rich vegetables and fruits. A vitamin K1 deficiency is therefore very rare in adults.
You can find vitamin K1 in fruits and vegetables. Green vegetables have the highest content. (Image source: unsplash.com / congerdesign)
Vitamin K2 (menaquinone), on the other hand, is found in animal foods such as meat, fish or dairy products. In addition, it is produced by our body itself in the intestine and is responsible for the formation of bacteria in our intestinal flora.
In contrast to the other two subgroups, vitamin K3 (menadione) is not fat-soluble but water-soluble. It is produced exclusively synthetically and is absolutely forbidden for human consumption as it is poisonous. In addition, it is no longer used in medicines.
Definition: What does blood coagulation mean?
Our body's coagulation system protects us from bleeding and blood loss. Blood clotting is therefore a vital process. Bleeding that occurs if the blood vessels are injured is stopped and wound healing is initiated. Without our blood clotting, we would bleed to death from even minor injuries.
A bleeding disorder therefore means that the blood does not clot well quickly and heavy bleeding can occur. This is often the result of a vitamin K deficiency. The medical term is hemophilia.
At the same time, however, the blood must not clot too quickly (tendency to clot), otherwise blood clots can form and clog vessels even without external injuries. This can result in thrombosis or embolism.
If you have been diagnosed with a "blood clotting disorder", you should adapt your everyday life accordingly. This diagnosis is not the end of the world, but you should observe the following 10 rules of conduct:
- taking anticoagulants
- Never forget your emergency card or your treatment card
- Make appointments for regular checks
- You should only take other medications after consulting your doctor
- If you are bleeding or in severe pain, see a doctor
- Pay attention to a balanced diet
- Longer trips should be discussed with your doctor
- Let other doctors who treat you know about your diagnosis
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Avoid smoking
It should be in your own interest to observe the following points in your everyday life. The most important thing is that you take your medication, inform doctors and watch your diet.
Background: How does vitamin K affect blood clotting?
Below we will answer the most frequently asked questions about vitamin K and blood clotting.
Following this, you will find a list of different foods that contain different amounts of vitamin K.
How do I recognize a blood clotting disorder?
You can recognize a possible blood clotting disorder by an increased tendency to bleed. You might recognize them by the following symptoms:
- Frequent nosebleeds
- bleeding gums
- Heavy menstruation
- visual disturbance
- blood in stool/urine
If you experience the above symptoms, you should definitely make an appointment with a doctor.
What is the INR value?
For a long time, the quick test was used to examine blood coagulation, but it is rarely used today. This could not be compared well in the different laboratories.
Nowadays this value is therefore given as the "International Normalized Ratio" (INR). This is meaningful and comparable despite different laboratories and test methods.
To determine the INR value, you have to have blood drawn. You will then find out whether your blood coagulation corresponds to normal values. (Image source: unsplash.com / Hush Naidoo)
The INR value indicates how quickly blood clots. By taking blood from the vein, this is examined in the laboratory and your value is determined. In a patient training course, you have the opportunity to independently measure your INR value with a blood coagulation meter and adjust the dosage of the medication accordingly. (10)
What is the role of vitamin K in my body?
The task of vitamin K is mainly the formation of certain proteins (proteins), which affect our blood clotting. Furthermore, it also supports the formation of other proteins, which are responsible for bones, plasma and kidneys. (6)
Evidence is accumulating that vitamin K may play a role in cognition, particularly in older age. (3) It should also be able to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. (5)
Vitamin K is essential for our body.
Vitamin K supplementation may be beneficial for a number of chronic conditions that people may suffer from as they age. Accordingly, supplementation may be required for bone and cardiovascular health. (2.4)
Studies indicate that vitamin K2 also plays a role in the mineralization of the bones, which could possibly prevent osteoporosis, the so-called "bone loss". (1)
Furthermore, vitamin K deficiency is associated with increased calcification of the main arteries and with insulin resistance. Vitamin K1 did not show any success, vitamin K2, on the other hand, seems to have promising effects. (9)
There are bacteria in our gut that can produce vitamin K2. However, there has not yet been any clear research result as to whether these vitamins produced by the body can contribute to covering the vitamin K requirement.
What are vitamin K antagonists?
Vitamin K antagonists are there to lower the vitamin K level in the body. The active ingredients are mostly used for medicines, take effect after about two days and make blood clotting more difficult.
Taking vitamin K antagonists is necessary if there is a risk of thrombosis or an embolism after illness or surgery.
Vitamin K antagonists are, for example, curamine or heparin. In general, the antagonists usually consist of four important active ingredients: acenocoumarol, dicoumarol, phenprocoumon, warfarin.
During treatment, you should continue your diet exactly as you did before treatment with vitamin K antagonists. Restricting your dietary intake of vitamin K does not appear to be a valid strategy for improving levels and you should maintain a stable diet. (7)
How much vitamin K should I take in a day?
The daily requirement of vitamin K varies from person to person. According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), a quantity of 60 to 80 micrograms of vitamin K per day is recommended for young people from the age of 15 and adults, depending on age and gender. The daily requirement of babies is around 4 to 10 micrograms, children have a daily requirement of between 15 and 50 micrograms depending on their age.
|Old||Gender||Vitamin K daily requirement|
|0-4 months||/||4 micrograms|
|4-12 months||/||10 micrograms|
|1-15 years||/||15-50 micrograms|
|15-50 years||Feminine||60 micrograms|
|Over 50 years||Feminine||65 micrograms|
|15-50 years||Masculine||70 micrograms|
|Over 50 years||Masculine||80 micrograms|
The recommended daily amount of 60 micrograms of vitamin K should also be consumed by pregnant and breastfeeding women.
What else influences blood clotting?
Regular monitoring of blood coagulability is necessary and recommended in any case. Some factors that can affect your blood clotting include:
- Physical activity
The most common cause of blood clotting disorders are other diseases. Vitamin K deficiency is rather rare, but in the long term it can also lead to a reduced ability of the blood to clot.
Even without major damage to vessels, large numbers of blood platelets can accumulate, stick together and form a blood clot. This can happen when blood flows too slowly and then pools.
Can vitamin K help me with a blood clotting disorder?
Definitely yes! Vitamin K plays a crucial role in our body's blood clotting.
However, if you are diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder, this does not necessarily have to be due to a vitamin K deficiency, as other diseases can also cause this disease.
If you have a blood clotting disorder, you should definitely talk to your doctor about possible treatments. Most likely, you will be given clotting medication. However, your doctor will also tell you to watch your diet.
Vitamin K deficiency is relatively rare in healthy people.
A balanced diet is important for people with blood clotting disorders. It should not be forgotten that vitamin K is contained in several foods and you can therefore cover your vitamin K requirements relatively well even with an unbalanced diet. Vitamin K supplements can also help.
What should I consider in case of injuries?
If you injure yourself slightly and blood comes out of the wound, then you should act according to this "Bad Luck" scheme:
|P - break||Stop what you are doing and rest for a while.|
|E - ice cream||If you are injured, cool the injury. Make sure you put a towel between the injury and the cooling pad/ice.|
|C - compress||Apply a tight pressure bandage.|
|H - high camps||Try to elevate the injured area.|
Sudden, heavy bleeding from the nose or mouth should be checked out by your doctor, as should larger injuries, reddish urine and dark-colored stools.
What is the importance of vitamin K for dogs?
Vitamin K is also an essential nutrient for dogs. It is particularly important for lactating bitches, as it not only regulates blood clotting and blood flow, but also calcium metabolism and cell growth.
Vitamin K is also vital for dogs, because the vitamin also acts as an antidote to rat poison. (Image source: unsplash.com / Jamie Street)
Another important factor in vitamin K is its ability to act as an antidote to rat poison.
Vitamin K is particularly important for liver diseases, bone injuries, wound healing, cortisone and cancer treatments and for older dogs.
Why do newborns need extra vitamin K?
In Germany, it is customary to give newborns vitamin K in the form of drops immediately after birth and also during the second and third check-ups. Infants also have a need for vitamin K and breast milk has very little of it. (8th)
A lack of vitamin K in newborns can lead to bleeding in the brain, for example.
In the first few months, you should therefore pay close attention to spot bleeding, nosebleeds, bleeding in the stool or noticeable bleeding spots on the skin. If this occurs, a doctor should be consulted in any case.
Can vitamin K supplements help my blood to clot?
Yes! However, this is often not necessary at all. Nutrition experts assume that you get enough vitamin K through normal food intake, since vitamin K1 and K2 are contained in many foods.
It is important, however, that you should discuss additional vitamin K intake with your doctor. Dietary supplements are not always useful. Because, as described above, an overdose of vitamin K can also occur. For adults, this is not particularly bad, but it could cause serious problems for infants.
Vitamin K supplements can help your blood to clot. However, this is often not necessary. (Image source: unsplash.com / Volodymyr Hryshchenko)
If you eat a varied diet, which includes green vegetables in particular, and you don't have any other symptoms, then you shouldn't worry. A vitamin K deficiency is then very unlikely.
Which foods with vitamin K are suitable for supporting blood clotting?
The following list of foods with vitamin K content is intended to support you in your balanced diet. You should make sure that the information always refers to 100 grams of the respective food. The vitamin K content is given in micrograms.
Vitamin K in fruits/vegetables
The vitamin K found in fruits and vegetables belongs to the K1 subgroup. Vitamin K1 is mostly found in plant foods. Green vegetables and herbs are good sources.
In direct comparison to fruit, vegetables generally have an even higher vitamin K content. In the following table we have listed vegetables with a particularly high vitamin K content:
|Vegetables (100 grams)||vitamin K content|
Other vegetables that contain vitamin K include: Chinese cabbage, lettuce, chives and celeriac.
Fruit can also contain vitamin K. In the following table we have listed some types of fruit that contain vitamin K. However, you will notice that these have a significantly lower content than vegetables.
|Type of fruit (100 grams)||vitamin K content|
|bunch of grapes||15 micrograms|
However, if you need a higher vitamin K content, you should use the vegetables mentioned above, which clearly contain more vitamin K.
Vitamin K in other foods
The vitamin K2 variant also occurs in nature and can be better absorbed by us humans than vitamin K1. Below we list a few of the most common foods that contain vitamin K2.
Dairy products that contain a comparatively large amount of vitamin K are, for example, herbal cream cheese and quark. These contain 30 or 60 micrograms of vitamin K per 100 grams.
In addition to fruit and vegetables, dairy products also contain vitamin K. However, the content is much lower. (Image source: unsplash.com / Brian Suman)
You will find less vitamin K, for example, in low-fat quark or milk, both of which do not contain more than 1.0 micrograms.
You can also find more or less vitamin K in sea creatures. Herring and sprat both contain more than 20 micrograms per 100 grams.
In comparison, pollock, plaice or plaice contain just over 1.0 micrograms of vitamin K.
If you enjoy eating animal meat and need to top up your vitamin K levels, you should reach for chicken or veal liver. Both types of meat contain 80 or even more micrograms of vitamin K.
Beef and pork, on the other hand, contain a smaller amount of vitamin K. Their content is between 10 and 20 micrograms.
fats / oils
You get the most vitamin K when you use grapeseed oil, which contains a whopping 280 micrograms. Canola and pumpkin seed oil each also contain over 100 micrograms of vitamin K.
If you want to avoid excessive vitamin K content in fats / oils, you should use butter instead of the oils mentioned above. This contains only 7 micrograms of vitamin K.
If you have a blood clotting disorder, you shouldn't just look the other way. It is not only a physical, but also a long-term mental strain. Failure to seek treatment in time can result in death from bleeding to death.
A trip to the doctor can be enough to get medication for the disease. To prevent this disease, you should pay attention to a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
The daily requirement is not very high even for adults, so you can cover it quickly with a meal of green vegetables. Most importantly, you should pay particular attention to infants, as worst-case scenarios, they can suffer severe brain damage from being vitamin K deficient for too long.
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- Nancy Presse, Sylvie Belleville, Pierrette Gaudreau et al. Vitamin K status and cognitive function in healthy older adults. Neurobiology of Aging. December 2013; Volume 34, Issue 12, Pages 2777-2783.
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- Violi F, Lip GY, Pignatelli P, Pastori D. Interaction Between Dietary Vitamin K Intake and Anticoagulation by Vitamin K Antagonists: Is It Really True?: A Systematic Review. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016;95(10):e2895. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000002895
- Ardell S, Offringa M, Ovelman C, Soll R. Prophylactic vitamin K for the prevention of vitamin K deficiency bleeding in preterm neonates. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;2(2):CD008342. Published 2018 Feb 5. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008342.pub2
- Villa JKD, Diaz MAN, Pizziolo VR, Martino HSD. Effect of vitamin K in bone metabolism and vascular calcification: A review of mechanisms of action and evidence. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017;57(18):3959-3970. doi:10.1080/10408398.2016.1211616
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