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Vitamin K is Key for Healthy Hearts

A study recently published in the September 2008 issue of the journal Atherosclerosis, found that increased consumption of vitamin K2, but not vitamin K1, may reduce the risk of calcium build up in arteries. Over time, this build up - known as “coronary calcification - can lead to hardening of the blood vessels and contribute to cardiovascular problems like heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.

For the recent study, researchers from the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands recruited 564 post menopausal women with an average age of 67. The women were given a 77-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) in order to assess their diets. Levels of arterial calcification were then measured using a technique called multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT).

The study found that 62 percent of the participants had arterial calcification. When the women with high daily consumption of K2 (45 micrograms) were compared to women with low levels of consumption (18 micrograms), a 20 percent decrease in coronary calcification was seen among the group with high daily consumptions.

Researchers noted that vitamin K2 consumption came primarily from cheese (54 percent), meat (15 percent), and milk products (22 percent). The average intake of was 31.6 micrograms per day.

When a similar comparison was made for vitamin K1, no significant difference was observed.

K vitamins are vital to your body because they coagulate blood. Without adequate levels of vitamin K you would bleed to death. But recent research has shown that vitamin K benefits go beyond blood coagulation and may include bone and joint health, cell growth and disease prevention.

Vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods such as cheese but can also be found in meat, green leafy vegetables and milk products. It needs to be synthesized by intestinal bacteria for your body to use. Because of that, antibiotics - which kill both good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract - have been shown to reduce vitamin K2 absorption.

While all K vitamins are important in a healthy diet, this study builds on the growing body of evidence showing that Vitamin K2 may be particularly beneficial with regards to cardiovascular health.
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