This article was previously published on June 20, 2020 and has been updated with new information.
Nutrient deficiencies can have a heavy toll on your health, and this includes increasing the risk of severe outcomes in the case of viral infections such as COVID-19. Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin best known for its role in blood clotting and found in foods such as spinach, eggs and certain cheeses, has been named among the latter for its potential protective role against COVID-19, which can cause blood clotting to degrade elastic fibers. in your lungs.
Both thromboembolism, which occurs when a blood clot clogs a blood vessel, and coagulopathy, a condition in which your blood’s ability to form clots is impaired, are prevalent in severe cases of COVID-19 and are associated with reduced survival rates. ,1 which tends to cause mild symptoms or none at all in most patients.
“Coagulation is an intricate balance between the process of promoting clots and dissolving in which vitamin K plays a well-known role,” Dutch researchers wrote in the Preprints study.2 which led them to suggest that vitamin K levels might be low in people with severe COVID-19.
Low vitamin K is associated with severe COVID-19 and poor outcomes
To test their hypothesis, the researchers studied 123 patients admitted to Canisius Wilhelmina Hospital in Nijmegen, a city in the Netherlands, with COVID-19 along with 184 control patients. Vitamin K levels and elastin degradation were also measured, and vitamin K was assessed by measuring desphospho-non-carboxylated matrix Gla protein (dp-ucMGP), which is inversely related to vitamin K status.
Elastin degradation was measured by desmosin, an amino acid found in tendons, and the elastin component. Patients with COVID-19 with an adverse outcome had significantly higher levels of dp-ucMGP, indicating low levels of vitamin K, compared with those with less severe disease. Dp-ucMGP was also significantly elevated in patients with COVID-19 compared with those without disease, and dp-ucMGP and desmosin levels were significantly associated.3 According to researchers:4
“Vitamin K status is reduced in patients with COVID-19 and is associated with a poor prognosis. Also, low vitamin K status appears to be associated with accelerated elastin degradation. Interventional testing is now needed to assess whether vitamin K use improves outcome in patients with COVID-19. “
Study author Dr. Rob Janssen supported vitamin K levels to increase vitamin K levels, except for people taking anticoagulants.
Speaking to The Guardian, he noted: “We have an intervention that has no side effects, not even less than placebo. There is one big exception: people on anticoagulants. It is completely safe for other people. My advice would be to take these vitamin K supplements. Even if it doesn’t help against severe Covid-19, it’s good for your blood vessels, bones, and probably your lungs. “5 Vitamin K can also be found in a variety of foods.
Two types of vitamin K and where to find them
There are two types of vitamin K: phylloquinone or vitamin K1 and menaquinones or vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is obtained from green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and cabbage, and is best known for its role in blood clotting. Without enough vitamin K1, your blood cannot clot properly and you are at risk of bleeding to death.
However, according to Leon Schurgers, a senior scientist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands who participated in the study, whom I interviewed in 2015, “… the absorption of vitamin K1 from food is extremely low. Only 10% of vitamin K, found in green leafy vegetables, is absorbed in your body… And there is no variable or modification of consumption that will significantly increase absorption. “
Vitamin K2, on the other hand, is better known for its role in bone and heart health, and is found in grass-fed animal products such as meat eggs, liver and dairy products, as well as in fermented foods including sauerkraut, certain cheeses and fermented soy food natto.
Although the amount of vitamin K2 in certain foods, such as cheese, is lower than the amount of vitamin K1 found in leafy, green vegetables, Schurgers noted, “all vitamin K2 is absorbed by the body … Vitamin K2 in food is almost completely absorbed. ” Natto is especially known for its high concentration of vitamin K2, specifically vitamin K2 with a longer chain known as menaquinone-7 (MK-7).
One study that studied the bioavailability of vitamin K even found that circulating concentrations of vitamin K2 were about 10 times higher after natta consumption than were vitamin K1 after eating spinach.6
“I worked with a Japanese scientist in London,” Janssen told the Guardian. what to dive into, I’d say. “7
Apart from natta, cheese is the food with the highest concentration of menaquinone, but levels vary depending on the type of cheese. Dutch hard cheeses such as gouda and edam have relatively high concentrations, as do French cheeses such as Munster cheese.8 However, many factors affect the amount of vitamin K2 in your food, including how long it is fermented and whether it is made from grass-fed dairy products or grown on pasture.
For example, pasteurized dairy products and products from factory-raised animals do not have a high content of MK-4, a short-chain form of vitamin K2. Only grass-fed animals (not cereal-fed) will develop naturally high levels.
Vitamin K may reduce the comorbidities of COVID-19
The WHO-China Joint Mission report on COVID-19, published in February 2020, showed a higher gross mortality rate (CFR) among people with COVID-19 and additional medical conditions. While those who were otherwise healthy had a CFR of 1.4%, those with comorbid conditions had much higher rates, as follows:9
- Cardiovascular diseases – 13.2%
- diabetes – 9.2%
- High blood pressure – 8.4%
Another study examining the impact of coexisting health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes on COVID-19 outcomes showed that they were associated with “poorer clinical outcomes”, such as admission to the intensive care unit, need for invasive ventilation or death .10 This means that reducing the risk of underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure could improve your outcomes if you have COVID-19.
Vitamin K could play a protective role here, as it is also linked to diabetes and heart health. Both vitamin K1 and K2 intake may be associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.11
Vitamin K can affect insulin sensitivity by carboxylating osteocalcin, which can function as a hormone in regulating insulin sensitivity. It could also play a role in reducing insulin resistance and the risk of type 2 diabetes through its effects on calcium metabolism.12 Moreover, a review published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism states:13
“Increased vitamin K1 intake in cohort study… has been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 51%. A recent review suggests that vitamin K supplementation can be used as a new adjunct therapy to improve glycemic control and quality of life.”
Vitamin K strengthens heart health, important for COVID-19
As mentioned, people with heart disease have worse outcomes if they develop COVID-19, and the role of vitamin K in heart health is also well noted, especially for vitamin K2. One of the reasons why vitamin K2 is so important for heart health has to do with complex biochemistry involving enzymes of the gla-protein matrix (MGP, which is found in your circulatory system).14), and osteocalcin, which is found in your bone.
“Gla” means glutamic acid, which binds to calcium in the cells of your arterial wall and removes it from the lining of your blood vessels. Once removed from the lining of your blood vessel, vitamin K2 then facilitates the integration of that calcium into your bone matrix by delivering it to osteocalcin, which in turn helps “cement” calcium in place inside your bone.
Vitamin K2 activates these two proteins, so without it this process of calcium transfer from your arteries to your bone cannot take place, which increases the risk of arterial calcification. In fact, in one study, those who had the highest amount of vitamin K2 were 52% less likely to experience severe calcification in their arteries and 57% less likely to die from heart disease in seven to 10 years.15
Low levels of vitamin D and vitamin K have also been linked to high blood pressure,16 another condition that increases the risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19. While many people – both young and old – face type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, these conditions can change and you will significantly reduce your risk of serious COVID-19. Ensuring that you get enough vitamin K is one part of this equation.
Vitamin K works in combination with vitamin D.
Note that vitamin K2 also acts in tandem with vitamin D and magnesium. It is therefore important to remember that vitamin K2 should be considered in combination with calcium, vitamin D and magnesium, as all four have a synergistic relationship that affects your health.
Vitamin D is also noteworthy in terms of COVID-19, as analysis of medical records revealed a direct correlation between vitamin D levels and disease severity in people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.17
To improve your immune function and reduce the risk of viral infections, you need to raise your vitamin D to a level between 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng / mL) and 80 ng / mL. In Europe, the measures you are looking for are 150 nanomoles per liter (nmol / L) and 200 nmol / L. This, along with addressing your vitamin K intake, is a natural strategy that can significantly reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 disease.
Are you getting enough vitamin K?
It can be difficult to tell if you are getting enough vitamin K because there is no easy way to check or test vitamin K2 adequacy. Vitamin K2 cannot currently be measured directly, so it is measured by indirect assessment of subcarboxylated osteocalcin. However, this test is not yet commercially available.
As a general rule, if you have osteoporosis, heart disease or diabetes, you are probably deficient in vitamin K2. Furthermore, it is believed that the vast majority of people are actually deficient and will benefit from more K2, which you can achieve by eating more of the following foods:
- Certain fermented foods such as natto or vegetables fermented using a starter culture of vitamin K2-producing bacteria
- Certain cheeses such as Brie, Munster and Gouda, which have a particularly high K2
- Organic grass-fed animal products such as egg yolks, liver, butter and dairy products
If you are taking statins, which are known to consume vitamin K2,18 it could also be flawed. If you are interested in supplementation, as a general guideline, I recommend taking about 150 mcg of vitamin K2 per day.
Others recommend slightly higher amounts – more than 180 to 200 mcg. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about overdosing on K2, because it seems to be completely non-toxic. If you opt for a vitamin K2 supplement, make sure it is MK-7. The exception is if you are taking vitamin K antagonists, ie medicines that reduce blood clotting by reducing the effect of vitamin K. If so, you should avoid MK-7 supplements.
Also keep in mind that excessive intake of dietary or supplemental vitamin K1 may outweigh the anticoagulant effects of blood-thinning medications. Furthermore, when you take vitamin K, you do it along with fat. Because vitamin K is fat-soluble, it will not be properly absorbed, and be sure to balance it with calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium.