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Vitamin K

Vitamin K is best known for its role in helping blood clot properly, and in preventing excessive bleeding. It also plays an important role in bone health.


Vitamin K protects the body against the following.


bulletBleeding. Vitamin K is used to reduce risk of bleeding in liver disease, jaundice, malabsorption, or in association with long-term use of aspirin or antibiotics. Vitamin K has been used in the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding, and with vitamin C to treat morning sickness. Babies are sometimes given a vitamin K injection soon after birth, because in certain cases, such as in premature infants, they are at increased risk for bleeding.
bulletOsteoporosis. Vitamin K is needed for bones to use calcium. Vitamin K supplements may improve bone mass in postmenopausal women. Vitamin K deficiency is linked to osteoporosis because low levels have been found in those with the condition. Supplements of vitamin K have been used to treat osteoporosis.


Vitamin K also helps in the following ways.


bulletVitamin K may prevent kidney stones.
bulletA vitamin K analog, K compound 5, may stop liver cancer growth.
bulletSome forms (water-soluble chlorophyll) help control body, fecal, and urinary odor.
bulletWater-soluble forms are used to treat skin wounds.


Dietary Sources

Foods that contain a significant amount of vitamin K include chlorophyll, green tea, turnip greens, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, and dark green lettuce.

Freezing foods may destroy vitamin K, but heating does not affect it.

Other Forms


bulletVitamin K supplements are available in both natural and synthetic forms.
bulletSupplements of fat-soluble chlorophyll are an excellent source of vitamin K.
bulletWater-soluble chlorophyll is the most common form of vitamin K found over the counter. The water-soluble form is not absorbed into the body, and is useful for treatment of skin, and to reduce body odor.
bulletVitamin K is available in multivitamin complexes, and as 5-mg tablets.


How to Take It

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin K is 80 mcg for men, and 65 mcg for women. To help prevent and treat disease, increase the amount of dark green leafy vegetables you eat, and supplement your diet with up to 500 mcg of vitamin K each day.

As with all medications and supplements, check with a health care provider before giving vitamin K supplements to a child.



bulletVitamin K can interfere with the action of anticoagulants such as warfarin or coumadin.
bulletX-rays and radiation can raise vitamin K requirements.
bulletVitamin K is excreted in breast milk, and crosses the placenta. Pregnant women and women who are breast-feeding should consult their health care provider before starting vitamin K supplements.
bulletYour body may need more vitamin K if you are taking aspirin, cholestyramine, phentoin, or mineral oil laxatives.
bulletSome snake venoms destroy vitamin K, which helps blood clot properly. Vitamin K may be injected to stop the bleeding from snakebite.
bulletExtended use of antibiotics may result in vitamin K deficiency. These drugs kill not only harmful bacteria, but also beneficial, vitamin K-activating bacteria.


Possible Interactions

Vitamin K counteracts the effects of the blood-thinning medication warfarin, rendering the medication ineffective. When taking this medication, do not take vitamin K supplements and avoid foods with high quantities of this nutrient.

Antibiotics, particularly a class known as cephalosporins, reduce the absorption of vitamin K. This is a particular problem for people who already have low levels of vitamin K or are at risk for deficiency (such as those who are malnourished, elderly, or taking warfarin).

The cholesterol-lowering medication cholestyramine may also reduce the absorption of vitamin K.

Taking anticonvulsants (such as phenytoin) during pregnancy or while breastfeeding may deplete vitamin K in newborns; consult your obstetrician and/or pediatrician for advice on nutrient replacement therapy.

Supporting Research

Bendich A, Decklebaum R. Preventive Nutrition: The Comprehensive Guide for Health Professionals. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press; 1997.

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Drug Facts and Comparisons 1999. St. Louis, Mo: Facts and Comparisons; 1998: 270272.

Craciun AM, Wolf J, Knapen MH, Brouns F, Vermeer C. Improved bone metabolism in female elite athletes after vitamin K supplementation. Int J Sports Med. 1998;19:479484.

Feskanich D, Weber P, Willett WC, Rockett H, Booth SL, Colditz GA. Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69:7479.

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Jie KG, Bots ML, Vermeer C, Witteman JC, Grobbee DE. Vitamin K status and bone mass in women with and without aortic atherosclerosis: a population-based study. Calcif Tissue Int. 1996;59:352356.

Knodel LC, Talbert RL. Adverse effects of hypolipidaemic drugs. Med Toxicol. 1987;2(1):10-32.

Kohlmeier M, Saupe J, Shearer MJ, Schaefer K, Asmus G. Bone health of adult hemodialysis patients is related to vitamin K status. Kidney Int. 1997;51:12181221.

Krummel D, Kris-Etherton P. Nutrition in Women's Health. Gaithersburg, Md: Aspen Publishers; 1996:434435.

Lubetsky A, Dekel-Stern E, Chetrit A, Lubin F, Halkin H. Vitamin K intake and sensitivity to warfarin in patients consuming regular diets. Thromb Haemost. 1999;8:396399.

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Novel form of vitamin K may stop liver cancer cell growth. Oncology. 1998;12:1541.

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Tamatani M, Morimoto S, Nakajima M, et al. Decreased circulating levels of vitamin K and 25-hydroxyvitamin D in osteopenic elderly men. Metabolism. 1998;47:195199.

Which vitamin K preparation for the newborn? Drug Ther Bull. March 1998;36:1719.

Copyright 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.