Researchers examined data from more than 50,000 people taking part in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health study over a 23-year period. They investigated whether people who ate more foods containing vitamin K had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease related to atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries).
There are two types of vitamin K found in foods we eat: vitamin K1 comes mainly from green leafy veggies and vegetable oils, while vitamin K2 is found in meat, eggs, and fermented foods such as cheese.
The study found that people with the highest intakes of the vitamin K1 were 21% less likely to be hospitalized with cardiovascular disease closely related to atherosclerosis.
For vitamin K2, the risk of being hospitalized was 14% lower.
University of Western Australia researcher Dr. Jamie Bellinge, the first author on the study, said the role of vitamin K in cardiovascular health and particularly in vascular calcification is an area of research offering promising hope for the future.
“Current dietary guidelines for the consumption of vitamin K are generally only based on the amount of vitamin K1 a person should consume to ensure that their blood can coagulate,” explained ECU researcher and senior author on the study Dr. Nicola Bondonno.
However, there is growing evidence that intakes of vitamin K above current guidelines can afford further protection against the development of other diseases, such as atherosclerosis.
“Although more research is needed to fully understand the process, we believe that vitamin K works by protecting against the calcium build-up in the major arteries of the body leading to vascular calcification.”
“Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death in Australia and there’s still a limited understanding of the importance of different vitamins found in food and their effect on heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease,” Dr. Bellinge said.