Current recommendations for vitamin K are not being met, placing people at increased risk of cancer and heart disease, says a new analysis.
The new analysis of data from hundreds of published articles dating back to the 1970's also suggests that current recommendations for vitamin K intakes need to be increased to ensure optimal health (1). These recommendations are based on levels to ensure adequate blood coagulation, but failing to ensure long-term optimal levels of the vitamin may accelerate bone fragility, arterial and kidney calcification, cardiovascular disease, and possibly cancer.
The researchers used mice with inactivated versions of the 16 known vitamin K-dependent proteins. They found that five of these proteins required for coagulation had critical functions, meaning that inactive forms were lethal. On the other hand, five proteins were less critical, and the animals survived through weaning. However, genetic loss of these less critical vitamin K-dependent proteins, inadequate intakes of vitamin K1 from the diet, vitamin K deficiency, and human mutations were all associated with age-related conditions, including weaker bones and hardening of the arteries, which increased the risk of cardiovascular disease. An increase in the incidence of spontaneous cancer was also observed.
Experts commented that much of the population and anticoagulant (warfarin/coumadin) patients may not receive sufficient vitamin K for optimal function of vitamin K-dependent proteins that are important to maintain long-term health. The findings may provide a research strategy to uncover early biomarkers of chronic disease and may have important implications for determining the optimum intake of all vitamins and minerals, as well as major implications for preventive medicine.