- Vitamin K plays an essential role in blood clotting which is important for wound healing.
- Vitamin K also reduces the risk of fractures in people with osteopenia.
- There is some evidence that vitamin K may prevent heart disease.
- This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
Vitamin K offers a wide variety of health benefits from maintaining bone strength to possibly preventing heart disease. It’s especially important for wound-healing, as vitamin K helps your blood to clot.
Here are three health benefits of vitamin K and how you can ensure you’re getting enough in your diet:
1. Vitamin K helps heal wounds
Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting.
Not all blood clots are bad. For example, whenever you get a scrape, cut, or bruise certain proteins in the blood, that rely on vitamin K to function properly, cause your blood to coagulate, or clot, to stop the bleeding.
Vitamin K helps turn blood from a liquid to a sticky, gel-like consistency that then hardens into a scab. Without blood clotting, any injury would cause you to bleed to death.
People with blood conditions like hemophilia, as well as people who take blood thinners, may have difficulty with blood clotting. It’s important to maintain an adequate and stable intake of vitamin K, preferably through your diet versus in a supplement.
“When you take a blood thinner, you’re basically working in opposition of vitamin K,” says Amanda Izquierdo, a licensed dietitian and nutritionist in Chicago. “That doesn’t mean that you have to take a vitamin K supplement.” If you take a blood thinner like warfarin (Coumadin), you should speak with your doctor before taking a supplement so you don’t cancel out your medication’s effects.
2. Vitamin K plays a role in bone health
Just like every organ and tissue in our body, bone cells are constantly dying off and being replaced. Vitamin K plays a crucial role in this cell turnover process, promoting the cycle of cell growth and replacement that maintains your bone strength and keeps them resistant to breaking.
On the flip side, vitamin K deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis and a higher risk of fractures.
A 2009 study published in PLoS Medicine with 440 postmenopausal female participants with osteopenia found that vitamin K reduced the risk of bone fractures. Half of the participants took five milligrams of vitamin K a day for four years, while the other half took a placebo.
The study found that those taking vitamin K did not see an improvement in age-related bone mass density — as bone loss is inevitable after menopause — but did experience fewer bone fractures compared to placebo.
3. Vitamin K may prevent heart disease
Your risk of heart disease may also be linked to how much vitamin K is in your diet.
A study published in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition with 388 participants aged 60 to 80 found that vitamin K slowed the progression of coronary artery calcification (CAC). CAC is when calcium buildup in your arteries hardens and restricts blood flow. It is one of the main predictors of heart disease.
Participants with significant pre-existing levels of CAC who took 500 micrograms of vitamin K, plus a multivitamin each day for three years saw a 6% slower progression of CAC than those who simply took a multivitamin.
How much vitamin K do I need?
Daily recommended amounts of vitamin K differ according to how old you are and other demographic factors, says Izquierdo.
Vitamin K sources
Vitamin K is readily available in many of the foods that we eat. These include:
Vitamin K Supplements
If you are concerned about your vitamin K levels, ask your doctor for a blood test. If you don’t have a vitamin K deficiency, you probably don’t need to take a supplement.
Vitamin K deficiency in adults is rare. But, it can occur in people with:
- liver disease
- Cirrhosis (liver scarring)
- Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or those who had bariatric surgery
Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement as they can help you determine the correct dosage.
Vitamin K is best known for its role in blood clotting, but it has other health benefits, too, like ensuring healthy bones. The best way to make sure you are getting enough vitamin K is to incorporate leafy green vegetables in your diet. If you are thinking of taking an oral vitamin K supplement, you should speak with your doctor, especially if you are on blood thinners.