Vitamin K is an umbrella label that covers a class of fat soluble compounds called naphthoquinones. These include vitamins K1, K2, and K3. The natural form of vitamin K is vitamin K1, a phytoniadione. It is most commonly found in plants and is the primary source of vitamin K that humans obtain through foods.
The primary purpose of vitamin K in the human body is in response to injury. Plainly stated, vitamin K regulates the coagulation (clotting) of blood. Vitamin K also assists in the distribution of the mineral calcium throughout the body, thus contributing to bone health. As such, vitamin K contributes to the reduction of bone loss thereby decreasing the risk of bone fractures. It is also thought to help prevent calcification of arteries and other soft tissues. There are those who advocate the use of vitamin K supplementation for certain cancers, spider veins, morning sickness, and other conditions, but these are unproven.
Most experts agree that unless a person has a condition that limits the absorption of dietary vitamins there is little need for supplements. Unfortunately, these conditions do exist, in which case a supplement could be considered. The following conditions may cause Vitamin K deficiency: chronic malnutrition due to Crohn’s disease or colitis, alcohol dependency and those taking drugs that interfere with vitamin K absorption, those who take high doses of aspirin and quinine, those who take antacids as they may be at risk of not absorbing enough vitamin K from their diets. In some countries, such as the UK, all babies are offered a shot of Vitamin K at birth as they are often born with deficiencies in their vitamin K levels.
Parents should ensure their children's health by making sure they eat a balanced diet that is rich in greens. If you suspect that your child is not getting enough vitamin K, your physician might recommend an injection of vitamin K. This might be called upon to prevent various bleeding disorders in infants or to prevent these if you and your physician suspect that your baby might be at risk for these problems.
There are some foods that are particularly rich in vitamin K. These include: leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, parsley and spinach, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, liver, soybean oil, and wheat bran, eggs, strawberries. K2 can be obtained by ingesting fermented dairy, including yogurt, cheeses, and fermented soy including miso and natto. Other food sources of vitamin K are meats, which are synthesized by bacteria.
There is no known level of toxicity for vitamin K. Further, the known symptom of high doses of vitamin K seem to be numbness and tingling in the extremities.
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