Vitamin K — both from meat and leafy greens — provides great protection for the heart

JOONDALUP, Australia — A diet rich in vitamin K can lower the risk of heart disease due to atherosclerosis by over 30 percent, a new study reveals. Researchers at Edith Cowan University note this benefit doesn’t just come from vitamin K coming from green leafy vegetables, but also from vitamin K-rich foods like meat, eggs, and cheese.

The findings come from a review of over 50,000 people taking part in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health study for 23 years. Study authors examined whether people who eat more foods containing vitamin K have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease due to atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a condition where fat and cholesterol build up into plaques that block the arteries. This can lead to poor blood flow, blood clots, heart attack, or a stroke.

Study authors note that there are actually two types of vitamin K that come from food. Vitamin K1 comes from green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils, while vitamin K2 comes from meat, eggs, and fermented foods.

No matter where it comes from, Vitamin K helps the heart

The study finds that people consuming the highest amounts of vitamin K1 had a 21-percent lower risk of hospitalization due to atherosclerosis-related heart disease. Those eating the largest amounts of vitamin K2 lowered their risk by 14 percent. Results also show that vitamin K lowered the risk of all types of heart disease with a connection to atherosclerosis, including a 34-percent reduction in the risk of peripheral artery disease.

“Current dietary guidelines for the consumption of vitamin K are generally only based on the amount of vitamin K1 a person should consume to ensure that their blood can coagulate,” says ECU researcher and study senior author Dr. Nicola Bondonno in a university release.

“However, there is growing evidence that intakes of vitamin K above the current guidelines can afford further protection against the development of other diseases, such as atherosclerosis,” Dr. Bondonno continues. “Although more research is needed to fully understand the process, we believe that vitamin K works by protecting against the calcium build-up in the major arteries of the body leading to vascular calcification.”

Dr. Bondonno notes that although scientists know a tremendous amount about vitamin K1 coming from leafy greens, there is much less data on vitamin K2 content in food. Researchers say there are 10 forms of vitamin K2 in the typical diet. However, the team says each of these may be absorbed and act differently within the body.

“The next phase of the research will involve developing and improving databases on the vitamin K2 content of foods,” Dr. Bondonno concludes. “More research into the different dietary sources and effects of different types of vitamin K2 is a priority.”

The study appears in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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