Among 38,000 adults followed for a decade, those who got the most vitamin K in their diets were about 20 percent less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
According to Reuters:
"It's estimated that more than 23 million, or nearly 11 percent, of U.S. adults have type 2 diabetes ... The extent to which specific nutrients in the diet might affect diabetes risk remains unclear."
Both vitamins K1 and K2 were related to a lower diabetes risk, but the relationship was stronger with vitamin K2, which people get mainly from meat, cheese and eggs.
With diabetes rates soaring in developed countries, it's important to be aware of every lifestyle change you can make to reduce your risk.
While a healthy diet and exercise remain at the top of the list for diabetes prevention, simply making a point to include plenty of vitamin-K-rich foods in your diet could lower your diabetes risk by 20 percent, according to the latest research.
Vitamin K helps reduce systemic inflammation in your body, which may improve your ability to use insulin. Past studies have also shown that vitamin K deficiency may interfere with insulin release and blood sugar regulation in ways similar to diabetes.
As more studies are completed, the incredible importance of vitamin K is becoming clearer, and this is one nutrient you don't want to skimp on.
Why It's Important to Get Plenty of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is most well known for the important role it plays in blood clotting, but it does so much more than that …
- Fight Cancer …
Studies have linked vitamin K2 with a nearly 30 percent reduction in your risk of cancer mortality and a 14 percent lowered risk of cancer altogether.
One Mayo Clinic study also found a massive 45 percent lower risk of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma among people with the highest dietary intakes -- and the association held true even after accounting for other cancer influencers like smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and eating lots of foods that are high in antioxidants.
Vitamin K has also been found beneficial in the fight against other cancers, including liver, colon, stomach, nasopharynx, and oral cancers, and some studies have even suggested vitamin K may be used therapeutically in the treatment of patients with lung cancer, liver cancer, and leukemia.
One 2008 study by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) also found that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce your risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent.
- Improve Bone Density …
Vitamin K is one of the most important nutritional interventions for improving bone density. It serves as the biological "glue" that helps plug the calcium into your bone matrix.
In fact, when vitamin K was compared to a first-generation biphosphonate drug called Didronel in 72 osteoporotic women for two years, there was no difference found in the bone fracture rates between women taking vitamin K and women taking the biphosphonate drug for osteoporosis.
Other studies have shown vitamin K to be equivalent to Fosamax-type osteoporosis drugs, with far fewer side effects.
- Prevent Heart Disease …
Vitamin K helps to prevent hardening of your arteries, which is a common factor in coronary artery disease and heart failure. Research suggests that vitamin K may help to keep calcium out of artery linings and other body tissues, where it can be damaging.
- Stave off Varicose Veins …
Inadequate levels of vitamin K may reduce the activity of the matrix GLA protein (MGP), which in turn has been identified as a key player in the development of varicosis, or varicose veins. Since vitamin K is required to activate MGP, it is believed that adequate dietary intake of vitamin K is a prerequisite for the prevention of varicose veins.
- Lower Your Risk of Diabetes …
People with the highest intakes of vitamin K from their diet had a 20 percent lower risk of diabetes compared with those with the lowest intakes, according to the latest research from University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands. Past studies have also shown vitamin K to help reduce the progression of insulin resistance.
How Much Vitamin K do You Need?
Many people are not getting the currently recommended intakes of vitamin K, which are likely already too low to begin with. In fact, according to What We Eat In America NHANES 2001–2002, only one in four Americans are meeting the recommended levels of dietary vitamin K.
Further, the Institute of Medicine's recommended daily intake of 120 micrograms for men and 90 for women are based on levels that will ensure adequate blood coagulation. But vitamin K is important for more than just blood clotting; it impacts the health of your bones, arteries and immune system as well.
Now emerging research, including the "triage theory" from Joyce McCann, PhD and Bruce Ames, PhD, suggests that these other non-clotting functions that depend on vitamin K may need higher levels than are currently recommended.
Although the exact dosing is yet to be determined, the world's leading vitamin K expert, Dr. Cees Vermeer, recommends between 45 mcg and 185 mcg daily for adults. You must use caution on the higher doses if you take anticoagulants, but if you are generally healthy and not on these types of medications, I suggest at least 100 mcg of vitamin K2 daily.
For comparison's sake, in the diabetes study from the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands those who had the highest vitamin K intakes -- and therefore experienced the greatest protection against diabetes -- were consuming between 250 and 360 mcg of vitamin K daily from their diets.
Vitamin K1, K2 and K3 … What's the Difference?
There are three types of vitamin K:
- Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is found naturally in plants
- Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, is made by the bacteria that line your gastrointestinal tract
- Vitamin K3, or menadione, is a synthetic form that is manmade, and which I do not recommend.
You should strive to include both vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 in your diet, as both are beneficial.
K1 is found in dark green leafy vegetables, and makes up about 90 percent of the vitamin K in a typical Western diet. Collard greens, spinach, salad greens, kale broccoli and Brussels sprouts are particularly good sources.
The best natural source of vitamin K2 is derived from an ancient Japanese food called Natto. Natto is made from fermented soybeans and significant amounts of vitamin K2 are produced during the fermentation process. You can find natto at some health food stores and Asian grocery stores.
Since most Americans do not eat traditionally fermented foods like natto, adding them to your diet is a must as the health benefits are tremendous. Keep in mind you can also get vitamin K2 from other fermented food aside from natto, such as certain types of cheese, like raw curd.
If you find yourself not consuming enough fermented foods, you will certainly want to consider taking a supplement, especially if you have osteoporosis, heart disease or risk factors for diabetes.
It's important to note that vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that in order for your body to absorb it effectively, you need to eat some fat along with it.
What Else Can Help You Prevent Diabetes?
Eating dark leafy greens and fermented foods will help fortify your diet with vitamin K, and that is a great step toward keeping diabetes at bay … but there's plenty more you can do as well.
To find out the lifestyle strategies you can use to prevent and even treat type 2 diabetes, simply type "diabetes" into the search box at the top right of the page. I suggest starting by reading this recent article, which has my latest recommendations on treating and preventing diabetes without drugs.