Vitamin K

Alternative names
Vitamin K deficiency; Deficiency - vitamin K

Definition
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in blood clotting.

Function
Vitamin K is known as the clotting vitamin, because without it blood would not clot. Some studies indicate that it helps in maintaining strong bones in the elderly.

Food Sources
Vitamin K is found in cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, cereals, soybeans, and other vegetables. Vitamin K is also made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract.

Side Effects

Vitamin K deficiency is very rare and occurs when there is an inability to absorb the vitamin from the intestinal tract. Vitamin K deficiency can also occur after prolonged treatment with oral antibiotics.

Individuals with vitamin K deficiency usually have an increased propensity to bruising and bleeding.

Recommendations

Recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) are defined as the levels of intake of essential nutrients that the Food and Nutrition Board judges to be adequate to meet the known nutrient needs of almost all healthy persons.

Specific recommendations for each vitamin depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a PDF file that lists these recommendations.

The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the food guide pyramid.

It is important for people taking warfarin (a blood thinner) to know that vitamin K or foods containing vitamin K may reduce the effectiveness of this medication. Ask your health care provider before increasing intake or for advice on maintaining proper levels of vitamin K if you are taking warfarin.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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