Diet rich in vitamin K benefits heart health, study finds

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People who eat a diet rich in vitamin K have up to a 34 percent lower risk of atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular disease, conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, according to new research by Edith Cowan University published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

For the study, 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, or plaque build-up in the arteries.

There are two types of vitamin K found in foods we eat: vitamin K1 comes primarily from green leafy vegetables 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 vitamin K1 were 21 percent less likely to be hospitalised with cardiovascular disease related to atherosclerosis. For vitamin K2, the risk of being hospitalised was 14 percent lower. This lower risk was seen for all types of heart disease related to atherosclerosis, particularly for peripheral artery disease at 34 percent.

The researchers said the findings suggest that consuming more vitamin K may be important for protection against atherosclerosis and subsequent cardiovascular disease. Additionally, the role of vitamin K in cardiovascular health and particularly in vascular calcification is an area of research offering promising hope for the future, the researchers said.

While databases on the vitamin K1 content of foods are very comprehensive, there is currently much less data on the vitamin K2 content of foods, the researchers said. Furthermore, the researchers said there are 10 forms of vitamin K2 found in our diet and each of these may be absorbed and act differently within our bodies. Future research will involve developing and improving databases on the vitamin K2 content of foods, as well as different dietary sources and their effects.