New study findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have found that people with higher intakes of vitamin K from food may be less likely to develop or die of cancer, specifically lung and prostate cancer, compared to those who eat relatively few vitamin-K- containing foods.
Researchers at the German Cancer Research Center conducted the study, which is the first of its kind to examine the link between vitamin K intake and the risk of developing or dying from cancer.
Vitamin K exists in two natural forms: vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, found largely in green leafy vegetables, as well as some vegetable oils, such as canola and soybean oils; and vitamin K2, or menaquinone, for which meat and cheese are the primary dietary sources.
In the current study, vitamin K2, which study participants most frequently got through cheese, was linked to the odds of developing or dying from cancer, whereas vitamin K1 was not.
The findings are based on data from over 24,000 German adults who were between the ages of 35 and 64, and cancer-free at the outset of the study. The researchers estimated the participants' usual vitamin K intake based on a detailed dietary questionnaire.
Over the next decade, 1,755 participants were diagnosed with colon, breast, prostate or lung cancers, of which 458 died during the study period.
The researchers found that people with the highest intakes of vitamin K2 were 28 percent less likely to have died of any one of the cancers than the one-quarter of men and women with the lowest intakes of the vitamin. That was after factors like age, weight, exercise habits, smoking and consumption of certain other nutrients, like fiber and calcium, were taken into account.
When researchers looked at the cancer types individually, there was no clear link between either form of vitamin K and breast cancer and colon cancer. However, greater consumption of vitamin K2 was linked to lower risks of developing or dying from lung cancer or of developing prostate cancer.
While its possible vitamin K itself could offer some protection against cancer, it doesn't appear to have an obvious link to the disease, so more studies are needed.
Whether vitamin K itself is responsible for the lower cancer risks in this study remains to be seen. According to the researchers, one limitation of the study is that they estimated vitamin K intake based on participants' reported eating habits. While most of the reported vitamin K intake came from eating cheese, it's possible that some other components of that food is related to cancer risk.
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