The various types of vitamin K and their many functions

The various types of vitamin K and their many functions may come as a surprise to many people.

Obviously we have an alphabet of vitamins—A, B, C, D and E, but no vitamins F through J. So why K?

Maybe it is because vitamin K, long known by Germans for its importance in natural blood clotting, was derived from the German word ‘Koagulation.’

In recent years science has learned that vitamin K does much more than prevent blood clotting and that there are various types of vitamin K, each doing their work to ensure our bodily ‘engine’ is well maintained.

Vitamin K is very important in maintaining bone health. A deficiency has been shown to result in a much greater risk of bone  fractures.

American adults fall well below vitamin K requirements. Especially at risk are adolescents (known to be fast food addicts) and young adults. Men have more deficiency than women.

There are three basic types of vitamin K—K1, K2 and K3.

K1 is found in plant foods, particularly dark green, leafy vegetables. Rated as excellent are parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Romaine, asparagus, basil, cabbage, bok choy, celery, kiwi fruits, leeks, cilantro, green beans, cauliflower, cucumbers and oregano.

Nearly all vegetables provide a natural source of the minimal amount of vitamin K needed for bone and bone cell protection. And that, perhaps, explains why fast food-loving young athletes suffer many more fractures today than athletes of old.

They aren’t consuming enough of the food that supplies vitamin K and the other natural nutrients it works with, such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.

The K2 form of vitamin K is made from K1 and K3 by bacteria and other organisms. In plant foods you won’t find much K2 unless those foods have been fermented or otherwise transformed by bacteria and other organisms.

The menaquinones that help produce vitamin K2 come from fermented plant foods (such as kimchi and sauerkraut) and fermented animal foods (such as yogurt and kefir).

Those kind of foods are not favorites of most of today’s young people, but were homemade staples of earlier generations of all ages.

Not much is known about vitamin K3 and how it arrives in our bones in small amounts, nor is it known how vitamin K1 and K2 taken up by our bone cells work together.

So those are the various types of vitamin K. Even though we don’t understand exactly how they work, we know enough to surmise that our general health will benefit from nutritious whole foods and whole food supplements.

Source: The World’s Healthiest Foods (