Most of us have heard of vitamin C and vitamin D, in fact, A,B, C, D, and E are all familiar. It's like an alphabet. But many of us have never heard of vitamin K, a crucial vitamin as we age.
Not only does it protect the heart, it also is critical for bone density, stronger bone formation. That's why patients on coumadin, or warfarin, have a much higher risk of osteoporosis, because they are told not to take vitamin K or eat foods such as green leafy vegetables.
Now a new study in the Journals of Gerontology, researchers examined 1089 seniors. They measured their levels of vitamin K. Then they looked at a number of physical attributes related to their leg strength and function. This included measuring leg strength, gait speed, and a physical performance battery.
Those with higher vitamin K levels tended to have higher leg strength and gait speed results.
Those with low levels of K were then given vitamin K supplements for several years. The same measurements were then made, and sure enough, the strength and gait scores improved. Balance also improved, and as any of us that are over age 60 knows, our sense of balance is not as strong as when we were younger, leading to more falls.
A simple test of balance you can do right now is this: stand on one leg for 20 seconds without falling, then stand on the other for 20 more seconds. You should be able to do this easily, and if you cannot, you're balance systems are impaired and you are at risk of falling.
Vitamin K is also crucial for the immune system and helps to prevent infectious disease such as pneumonia. It helps prevent tooth decay. There is much research using vitamin K in oncology, as it has been shown to provide substantial protection against cancer of the prostate, colon, stomach, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, nasopharynx and oral cancers.
It also helps to improve insulin sensitivity, and those with higher K levels have a 20% less risk of developing diabetes.
There are three forms of K, K1, K2, and K3. The best form for supplementation is vitamin K2, also called menaquinone. K2 is made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract, and goes straight to the blood vessel walls, bones and tissues other than the liver.
K2 is natural, non-toxic - even at 500 times the RDA. It is a fat soluble vitamin, and therefore requires fat to be absorbed properly - take it with a meal that contains some fat.
Foods that have K2 include:
Fermented foods - the food highest in natural K2 is natto, which is a form of fermented soybeans consumed in Asia;
Dark green vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cucumbers and asparagus;
Whole egg mayonnaise;
Dark turkey meat;
Lamb or duck;
So either take vitamin K2, or eat many of the foods listed above, and your body will thank you!