Vitamin K Deficiency Contributes To Age-Related Diseases

Vitamin K is essential to living a longer, healthier life

The problem is most people are deficient, which is cause for alarm, according to Bruce Ames, PhD, one of the foremost scientists of anti-aging and longevity medicine. Ames’ current article, which appears in the October 2009 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, says that current recommendations for vitamin K intake needs to be increased to ensure optimal health.1

Dr. Ames, a biochemist with the University of California at Berkeley and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, presented his famous triage theory of aging in 2006, which states that modest vitamin and mineral deficiencies are very common and are an early biomarker of disease.

Like Robin Hood, when the body requires nutrients for short-term health and reproduction, it robs them from organs that are nutrient rich and of lesser importance in order to sustain major organs that are nutrient poor. For example, Dr. Ames says, “If you’re short of iron, you take it out of the liver before you take it out of the heart because if you take it out of the heart, you’re dead. And one of the things that’s long-term is DNA damage, which doesn’t show up as cancer for 20 years.”2

If you’re deficient for years your body weakens, DNA becomes damaged and you get sick and eventually die. Dr. Ames adds, “If you want maximum life span, your micronutrient needs must be met throughout life.”2

That includes vitamin K. Vitamin K is linked to blood health because about half of the 16 known proteins that depend on the vitamin are necessary for blood coagulation. Current FDA recommendations for vitamin K (90 mcg/day for adults) are based on levels to ensure adequate blood coagulation, but failing to ensure long-term optimal levels of the vitamin may accelerate bone fragility, arterial and kidney calcification, cardiovascular disease, and possibly cancer.

From Ames’ triage perspective, much of the population, and patients who are taking warfarin/coumadin (blood thinners), are not receiving sufficient vitamin K for optimal long-term health. 1

Recommended dosage for optimal health (not recommended for children or pregnant or lactating women)

  • Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) — 240 mcg
  • Vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7) — 45 mcg

What you should know about Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it is stored in fatty tissue in the body. Vitamin K is known as the clotting vitamin because without it blood would not clot. Studies also indicate that it helps maintain strong bones, and that a deficiency can contribute to osteoporosis.

Vitamin K is found in dark green leafy vegetables, cereals, soybeans, and other vegetables. Vitamin K is also made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract.

There are two main forms of vitamin K: phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinones (vitamins K2). K1 is found in dark green leafy vegetables, and makes up about 90% of the vitamin K in a typical Western diet.

K2 makes up about 10% of the vitamin K in the foods we eat and can be obtained from meat and fermented foods like cheese and natto. Multivitamins contain either small amounts or no vitamin K2 at all.


  1. McCann JC, Ames BN, Vitamin K, an example of triage theory: is micronutrient inadequacy linked to diseases of aging? Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Aug 19. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Downey, Michael. Natural Foods Merchandiser. The triage theory offers a new look at aging, Jan. 1, 2007

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