New Edith Cowan University (ECU) research has found that people who eat a diet rich in vitamin K have up to a 34 percent lower risk of atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular disease (conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels).
Over a period of 23 years, researchers analyzed data from over 50,000 people who participated in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health research. Researchers looked into whether people who ate more vitamin K foods had a lower chance of developing atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the blood vessels).
Vitamin K1 can be found mainly in vegetable oils and green leafy veggies, while vitaminK2 can be found in meat, eggs, and fermented food such as cheese.
Study results showed that those who consumed the most vitamin K1 were 21 percentage points less likely than others to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular disease.
The risk of being hospitalized for vitamin K2 was only 14 percent.
This lower risk was found for all types heart disease due to atherosclerosis, with a special emphasis on peripheral artery diseases at 34%.
Dr. Nicola Bondonno is an ECU researcher. She was also the senior author of this study.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
“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.”
University of Western Australia researcher, Dr Jamie Bellinge, was the first author of the study. Bellinge said that the role of vitamin in cardiovascular health and vascular calcification is an area of promising research.
Dr Bellinge explained that cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in Australia. There’s limited information about vitamins and how they affect heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease.
“These findings shed light upon the potential important effect vitamin K has on this deadly disease and emphasize the importance to eat a healthy diet in order to prevent it.”
Next steps in research
Dr Bondonno explained that, while there are many databases on vitamin K1 in foods, data on vitamin K2 is much more limited. Additionally, vitamin K2 can be found in 10 different forms and may act differently within the body.
“The next phase of the research will involve developing and improving databases on the vitamin K2 content of foods.”
“More research into the different dietary sources and effects of different types of vitamin K2 is a priority,” Dr Bondonno said.”
There is also a need to have an Australian database that tracks the vitamin K content in Australian foods (e.g. kangaroo, and vegemite.
Marc Sim, a study collaborator, has just developed an Australian database that will provide information on vitamin K in foods. This data will be published shortly.