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What People with Type 2 Diabetes Should Know about Vitamin K

Vitamin K and type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, when was the last time your doctor or a diabetes educator talked to you about vitamin K? Chances are the topic of this often neglected nutrient has not come up, but there are some important things you should know about this vitamin.

What is vitamin K?

Vitamin K is not one but a group of related substances under this broad term. However, the two basic types of vitamin K are phylloquinones, which is produced by plants, and menaquinones, which is made by bacteria. Nearly all of the vitamin K people get comes from plants.

When you think of vitamin K, think green, because the foods richest in this nutrient include kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, Brussel sprouts, green beans, Romaine lettuce, and parsley.

Like vitamins D and E, vitamin K is fat soluble, which means it is absorbed in fat molecules and travels throughout the body before being stored in body tissue. The primary role of vitamin K is to keep the body’s blood clotting abilities in precise balance—providing clotting when there is an injury to prevent excessive bleeding and reining in clotting when there is no injury to prevent a blood clot from blocking a blood vessel.

Vitamin K also performs other critical tasks, including support of bone health and protecting the heart against build-up of calcium in the arteries. In fact, people who have a vitamin K deficiency are at greater risk for hardening of the arteries than are those who keep up their vitamin K intake.

There are some warnings

Because vitamin K has an impact on blood clotting, you should talk to your doctor about this nutrient if you are taking blood thinning medication as there is a risk vitamin K could interfere with medications like warfarin (Coumadin), Xarelto, aspirin, Plavix (clopidrogel) or other medications used to prevent stroke, heart attack and blockages after certain heart procedures like stents.

You should never supplement with vitamin K unless your physician tells you to, but instead eat a well balanced diet.

Some medications used long-term such as antacids, antibiotics known as cephalosporins, the anti-seizure drug Dilantin and drugs that lower cholesterol by interfering with fat absorption (e.g.Wellchol) can lead to vitamin K deficiency.

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Some medications used long-term such as antacids, antibiotics known as cephalosporins, the anti-seizure drug Dilantin and drugs that lower cholesterol by interfering with fat absorption (e.g.Wellchol) can lead to vitamin K deficiency.

Vitamin K and type 2 diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes, vitamin K is important for you in other ways. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a research team looked at the association between intake of vitamin K (phylloquinone) and type 2 diabetes in elderly individuals at high risk for cardiovascular problems.

A total of 1,069 adults free of diabetes at the beginning of the study (median follow-up, 5.5 years) were evaluated. Biochemical analyses, body weight and proportions data, and dietary intake information were gathered periodically. Here is what the researchers found.

  • Dietary intake of vitamin K at baseline was significantly lower in individuals who later developed type 2 diabetes
  • Risk of developing type 2 diabetes in these individuals was 17 percent lower for each additional consumption of 100 micrograms of vitamin K
  • Among individuals who increased their intake of vitamin K during the follow-up period, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced 51 percent when compared with those who decreased or did not change how much vitamin K they consumed

(By the way, the National Academy of Sciences established the Adequate Intake of vitamin K to be only 90 micrograms for females and 120 micrograms for males.)

These findings led the authors to conclude that dietary vitamin K is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But there is more.

In a recent study published in Diabetes Care, the authors explored the relationship between vitamin K and people with diabetes and their risk of cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease. At the start of the study, 518 adults had a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers measured levels of circulating matrix Gla protein (MGP), a protein that require vitamin K to function properly, in the study participants. Based on their findings, they concluded that “a poor vitamin K status is associated with increased CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk” among people with type 2 diabetes.

In another study, researchers from the Netherlands followed about 38,000 adults for more than 10 years. They found that those who consumed a diet high in vitamin K had about a 20 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you know it’s critical for you to pay close attention to your diet. One often overlooked nutrient that can play an important role in type 2 diabetes is vitamin K, so be sure to eat plenty of leafy green vegetables!

Dalmeijer GW et al. Matrix Gla protein species and risk of cardiovascular events in type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetes Care 2013 Jul 22. Epub ahead of print
Ibarrola-Jurado N et al. Dietary phylloquinone intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in elderly subjects at high risk of cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012 Nov; 96(5): 1113-8
University of Maryland Medical Center

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