A new study revealed that older adults with low vitamin K levels were more likely to die within the 13-year study compared to those whose vitamin K levels were adequate.
The results suggest that vitamin K, a nutrient found in leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce) and vegetable oils, may have protective health benefits as we age, according to researchers from Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center.
For the study, the research team combined data from three ongoing studies. They categorized 4,000 American participants, aged 54-76, according to their vitamin K blood levels. They then compared risk of heart disease and risk of death across the categories over approximately 13 years of follow-up.
All participants were free of heart disease at baseline and had vitamin K levels measured during a single medical exam that was part of each study's regular protocol.
The results showed no significant link between vitamin K levels and heart disease. However, the people with the lowest vitamin K levels had a 19 percent higher risk of death, compared to the those with vitamin K levels that reflected adequate vitamin K intake.
What does vitamin K do?
Vitamin K is a nutrient that’s important for maintaining healthy blood vessels; certain proteins in blood vessels require vitamin K to function. These proteins help prevent calcium from building up in artery walls, and without enough vitamin K, they are less functional.
Scientists have studied whether low blood levels of vitamin K increase the risk of coronary heart disease, perhaps by making blood vessels that feed the heart stiffer and narrower.
The vitamin is found in leafy greens, such as lettuce, kale and spinach, and in some vegetable oils, especially soybean and canola. Some fruits, such as blueberries and figs, also contain vitamin K.
The most common sources of vitamin K in the U.S. diet are spinach, broccoli, iceberg lettuce and soybean and canola oil.
While this study adds to existing evidence that vitamin K may have protective health benefits, it does not prove that a low vitamin K level increases the risk of early death.
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