Vitamin K lowers risk of cardiovascular disease
Researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU), The University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Danish Cancer Society Research Center have found that people who eat a diet rich in vitamin K have up to a 34% lower risk of atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular disease.
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). The results were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
There are two types of vitamin K found in foods we eat: vitamin K1 comes primarily from leafy green 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% less likely to be hospitalised with cardiovascular disease related to atherosclerosis. For vitamin K2, the risk of being hospitalised was 14% lower.
This lower risk was seen for all types of heart disease related to atherosclerosis, particularly for peripheral artery disease at 34%. Senior author Dr Nicola Bondonno, from ECU, said the findings therefore suggest that consuming more vitamin K may be important for protection against atherosclerosis and subsequent cardiovascular disease.
“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,” she said.
“However, there is growing evidence that intakes of vitamin K above the 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.”
UWA researcher Dr Jamie Bellinge, first author on the study, said there is still a limited understanding of the importance of different vitamins found in food and their effect on heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease.
“These findings shed light on the potentially important effect that vitamin K has on the killer [cardiovascular] disease and reinforces the importance of a healthy diet in preventing it,” he said.
The research adds to growing evidence linking vegetables generally and leafy greens specifically with improved cardiovascular health, with the same collaborating institutions recently confirming that people can significantly reduce their risk of heart disease by eating just one cup of nitrate-rich vegetables (such as leafy greens and beetroot) each day.
Again examining participants in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study, researchers found that people who consumed the most nitrate-rich vegetables had about a 2.5 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure and between 12 to 26% lower risk of heart disease. The optimum amount of nitrate-rich vegetables was one cup a day and eating more than that didn’t seem to give any additional benefits.
“Our results have shown that by simply eating one cup of raw (or half a cup of cooked) nitrate-rich vegetables each day, people may be able to significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” said lead researcher Dr Catherine Bondonno, from ECU.
“The greatest reduction in risk was for peripheral artery disease (26%), a type of heart disease characterised by the narrowing of blood vessels of the legs; however, we also found people had a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.”
The results were published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.
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