Vitamin K may improve your heart health

Diets high in vitamin K are associated with a reduced risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), according to a study published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

ASCVD is a category of disease that results from the build-up of fat in your arteries, reducing blood flow to certain regions of your body and resulting in serious events like a heart attack, stroke or reduced blood flow to your arms or legs (peripheral artery disease).

ASCVD is one of the major causes of mortality and illness in the United States. Many different factors can increase our risk of developing ASCVD, with some of the most common risk factors including diabetes, obesity, smoking, inactive lifestyle, improper diet and family history.

What is vitamin K and why is it important?

Vitamin K is found in many foods we eat and exists in 2 forms; vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. They are fat-soluble vitamins with important roles in blood clotting and regulating blood calcium levels (which can affect your risk of bone disease).

Food sources of vitamin K1:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts

Food sources of vitamin K2:

  • Pork Sausage
  • Hard and Soft Cheeses
  • Chicken Thighs
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Egg Yolk
Vitamin K may play a role in stopping fat build-up in our arteries which is the main contributor to cardiovascular disease.

What did the study look at?

Researchers analyzed data from over 50,000 patients who took part in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study to determine the effect of vitamin K intake on the risk of ASCVD. Patients were enrolled in this study between the ages of 50 and 65 years and were followed for an average of 21 years.

Utilizing questionnaires, patients were asked to record what they were eating regularly. These food items were then converted into the total vitamin K content contained within each item; this was subsequently used to estimate a patient’s total vitamin K intake.

Using this data, the researchers then correlated a patient’s vitamin K intake with the number of hospitalizations experienced for an ASCVD event including heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease.

What did this study find?

Those with the highest intakes of vitamin K1 had a 21% lower risk of an ASCVD-related hospitalization. Similarly, the risk for an ASCVD-related hospitalization was reduced by 15% for participants who had higher consumption rates of vitamin K2.

Key takeaways from this study

Diets high in vitamin K can be protective in reducing ASCVD including the incidence of heart attack, stroke or peripheral artery disease.

Interestingly, both vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 seem to be protective despite vitamin K1 being associated more with ‘healthier’ plant-based foods like kale, spinach and broccoli, and vitamin K2 being associated with animal-derived foods like cheese, pork, and egg yolks.

Further research is needed to determine at-risk individuals who may benefit from increased consumption of dietary vitamin K or from beginning vitamin K supplementation.

This study, “Vitamin K and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in the Danish Diet Cancer and Health Study,” was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on August 7th, 2021.

Data was informed by:
(1) Healthline