Vitamin K is a critical nutrient widely known for its ability to promote normal blood clotting. A wealth of new information demonstrates that this vitamin in its multiple forms can provide a powerful anti-inflammatory shield to protect against many lethal diseases of aging. Writing in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers show that vitamin K works with other fat-soluble nutrients to protect the brain from arterial calcification that leads to a stroke or cognitive decline.
Vitamin K works to prevent the deposition of calcium within arterial walls and ushers the mineral toward the normal construction of bone throughout the body. The research provides proof that eating a healthy diet to maintain adequate stores of vitamin K over a lifetime can help prevent arterial hardening, atherosclerosis and cognitive decline.
Vitamin K Slows Cognitive Decline by Supporting Brain Health
To determine the effect of vitamin K on cognitive function, researchers studied three groups of mice that were broken into a low, adequate, or high level of vitamin K supplemented in their diet over the course of their lifetime. Vitamin K is a fat soluble nutrient that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier to provide antioxidant support to a critical organ composed primarily of omega-3 fats.
Researchers found that vitamin K plays an important role in “maintaining the white matter region of the brain by supporting the myelin sheathing that protects axons, connecting glial cells together with axons, and facilitating the speed at which your brain functions.” Animals with the lowest supplemental vitamin K levels displayed the highest degree of cognitive decline as they grew older, compared with the highest vitamin K group.
Vitamin K2 Inhibits Coronary Artery Calcification to Halt Heart Disease
Scientists publishing in the journal Atherosclerosis determined the effect of vitamin K on 564 post-menopausal women. The study was designed to contrast dietary intake of both the phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinone (vitamin K2) with coronary artery calcification (atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries). Researchers found that the K2 form of vitamin K was associated with a significant decrease in coronary artery calcification, while vitamin K1 did not appear to impact disease progression.
Dark green leafy vegetables provide a healthy dose of vitamin K1 but are not a significant source of vitamin K2, the form shown to yield protection against arterial hardening and dementia. Fermented foods such as natto, egg yolks and certain cheeses provide high levels of K2, although many people may choose to avoid these foods. Health-minded individuals will need to supplement with a quality supplement providing the full range of vitamin K isomers (1000 - 2000 mcg per day) to avert atherosclerosis and cognitive function decline.