- What other names is Vitamin K known by?
- What is Vitamin K?
- How does Vitamin K work?
- Are there safety concerns?
- Are there any interactions with medications?
- Dosing considerations for Vitamin K.
Several forms of vitamin K are used around the world as medicine. Vitamin K1 (phytonadione) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone) are available in North America. Vitamin K1 is generally the preferred form of vitamin K because it is less toxic, works faster, is stronger, and works better for certain conditions.
Vitamin K is most commonly used for blood clotting problems. For example, vitamin K is used to reverse the effects of "blood thinning" medications when too much is given. It is also used to prevent clotting problems in newborns who don't have enough vitamin K. Vitamin K is also given to treat and prevent vitamin K deficiency, a condition in which the body doesn't have enough vitamin K.
An increased understanding of the role of vitamin K in the body beyond blood clotting led some researchers to suggest that the recommended amounts for dietary intake of vitamin K be increased. In 2001, the National Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board increased their recommended amounts of vitamin K slightly, but refused to make larger increases. They explained there wasn't enough scientific evidence to make larger increases in the recommended amount of vitamin K.
- Preventing bleeding problems in newborns with low levels of vitamin K (hemorrhagic disease). Giving vitamin K1 by mouth or as a shot into the muscle helps prevent bleeding problems in newborns. Shots seem to work the best.
- Treating and preventing bleeding problems in people with low levels of the blood clotting protein prothrombin. Taking vitamin K1 by mouth or as an injection into the vein can prevent and treat bleeding problems in people with low levels of prothrombin due to using certain medications.
- An inherited bleeding disorder called vitamin K-dependent clotting factors deficiency (VKCFD). Taking vitamin K by mouth or as an injection into the vein can help prevent bleeding in people with VKCFD.
- Reversing the effects of too much warfarin used to prevent blood clotting. Taking vitamin K1 by mouth or as in injection into the vein can reverse too much blood clotting caused by warfarin. However, injecting vitamin K1 under the skin does not seem to work. Taking vitamin K along with warfarin also seems to help stabilize blood clotting time in people taking warfarin. It works best in people who have low vitamin K levels.
Possibly Effective for...
- Weak bones (osteoporosis). Taking a specific form of vitamin K2 seems to improve bone strength and reduce the risk of fracture in most older women with weak bones. But it doesn't seem to benefit older women who still have strong bones. Taking vitamin K1 seems to increase bone strength and might prevent fractures in older women. But it might not work as well in older men. Vitamin K1 doesn't seem to improve bone strength in women who have not gone through menopause or in people with Crohn's disease.
Possibly Ineffective for...
- Bleeding within the fluid-filled areas (ventricles) of the brain (intraventricular hemorrhage). Giving vitamin K to women at risk for very preterm births does not seem to prevent bleeding in the brain of preterm infants. It also doesn't seem to reduce the risk of nerve injury caused by these bleeds.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Blood disorder (beta-thalassemia). Early research shows that taking vitamin K2 by mouth along with calcium and vitamin D can improve bone mass in children with this blood disorder.
- Breast cancer. Research suggests that higher dietary intake of vitamin K2 is linked with a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
- Cancer. Some research has linked a higher food intake of vitamin K2, but not vitamin K1, with a reduced risk of death from cancer. But other research has linked a higher food intake of vitamin K1, but not vitamin K2, with a reduced risk of death from cancer.
- Colorectal cancer. Early research suggests that a higher dietary intake of vitamin K is not linked with a reduced risk of cancer of the colon and rectum.
- Heart disease. Higher dietary intake of vitamin K2 has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, risk factors for heart disease, and death due to heart disease in older men and women. But vitamin K2 intake from food does not seem to be linked with a reduced risk a heart disease in people at high risk for this condition. Dietary intake of vitamin K1 has not been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease. But increasing vitamin K1 intake from food has been linked with a reduced risk of death due to heart disease. Also, taking vitamin K1 as a supplement seems to prevent or reduce the advancement of coronary calcification. This is a risk factor for heart disease.
- Cystic fibrosis. People with cystic fibrosis can have low levels of vitamin K due to problems digesting fat. Taking a combination of vitamins A, D, E, and K seems to improve vitamin K levels in people with cystic fibrosis who have trouble digesting fat. Also, early research shows that taking vitamin K by mouth for can enhance the production of osteocalcin. Osteocalcin plays a role in the body's bone-building and metabolic regulation. But there is no reliable evidence suggesting that vitamin K improves overall health in people with cystic fibrosis.
- Diabetes. Early research shows that taking a multivitamin fortified with vitamin K1 does not lower the risk of developing diabetes compared to taking a regular multivitamin.
- Skin rash associated with a type of cancer medicine. People who are given a certain type of anticancer medicine often develop skin rash. Early research shows that applying a cream containing vitamin K1 helps prevent skin rash in people being given this type of medicine.
- High cholesterol. There is early evidence that vitamin K2 might lower cholesterol in people on dialysis with high cholesterol levels.
- Liver cancer. Taking vitamin K2 does not seem to prevent liver cancer recurrence. But some early research shows that taking vitamin K2 reduces the risk of liver cancer in people with liver cirrhosis.
- Lung cancer. Early research suggests that higher intake of vitamin K2 from food is linked with a reduced risk of lung cancer and lung cancer-related death. Dietary intake of vitamin K1 does not seem to be linked with a reduced risk of these events.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). Interferon is a medicine that helps people with MS. This medicine often causes a rash and burning of the skin. Early research shows that applying vitamin K cream modestly reduces rash and burning in people with treated with interferon.
- Prostate cancer. Early research suggests that higher dietary intake of vitamin K2, but not vitamin K1, is linked with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Early research shows that taking vitamin K2 along with arthritis medicine reduces markers of joint swelling better than taking arthritis medicine alone.
- Stroke. Population research suggests that dietary intake of vitamin K1 is not linked with a reduced risk of stroke.
- Spider veins.
- Stretch marks.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
Next: How does Vitamin K work?
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