Is vitamin D harmful without vitamin K?



Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D and vitamin K is essential for your health.


But some sources claim that vitamin D supplementation is harmful if you have a low vitamin K content.


So, what is the truth? This article analyzes the science behind these claims.


What are vitamins D and K?


Vitamin D and vitamin K are essential fat-soluble nutrients.


In general, they are more abundant in foods with high fat content, and their absorption into the bloodstream increases when consumed with fat.


Often called "sun vitamin", vitamin D is abundant in fatty fish and fish oil, but is also produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight.


One of the main functions of vitamin D is to promote the absorption of calcium and maintain adequate levels of calcium in the blood. A deficiency of vitamin D can cause bone loss.


Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, fermented legumes and vegetables, as well as in some fatty foods of animal origin, such as egg yolks, liver and cheese.


It is necessary for the blood to clot and promotes the accumulation of calcium in your bones and teeth.


Summary: Vitamins D and K are fat-soluble nutrients that play an essential role in the metabolism of calcium in your body.


Vitamins D and K work as a team


When it comes to calcium metabolism, vitamins D and K work together. Both play important roles.


The role of vitamin D


One of the main functions of vitamin D is to maintain adequate levels of calcium in the blood.


There are two ways in which vitamin D can achieve this:




  • Improvement of calcium absorption: Vitamin D improves the absorption of calcium from the food you eat (1).


  • Taking calcium from bones: When you do not consume enough calcium, vitamin D maintains your blood levels by consuming the body's primary supply of calcium: bones (2).


It is essential to maintain adequate levels of calcium in the blood. While calcium is best known for its role in bone health, it has many other vital functions in the body (3).


During periods of insufficient calcium intake, your body has no choice but to use calcium reserves in your bones, although that can cause bone loss and osteoporosis over time.


The role of vitamin K


As mentioned above, vitamin D ensures that your blood calcium levels are high enough to meet the demands of your body.


However, vitamin D does not completely control where calcium ends up in your body. That's where vitamin K comes in.


Vitamin K regulates calcium in your body in at least two ways:




  • Promotes bone calcification: Vitamin K activates osteocalcin, a protein that promotes the accumulation of calcium in your bones and teeth (4).


  • Reduces soft tissue calcification: Vitamin K activates the GLA protein in the matrix, which prevents calcium from accumulating in the soft tissues, such as the kidneys and blood vessels (5, 6).


At this point, few controlled studies in humans have investigated the effects of vitamin K supplements on the calcification of blood vessels, but more studies are being done (7, 8, 9).


Calcification of blood vessels is involved in the development of chronic diseases, such as heart and kidney disease (10, 11, 12).


Summary: One of the main functions of vitamin D is to ensure adequate levels of calcium in the blood. Vitamin K promotes the accumulation of calcium in your bones, while reducing its accumulation in soft tissues, such as blood vessels.


Is vitamin D harmful without vitamin K?


Some people worry that a high intake of vitamin D may promote calcification of blood vessels and heart disease among people with low vitamin K content.


Several lines of evidence support this idea in part:




  • The toxicity of vitamin D causes hypercalcemia: A symptom of extremely high levels of vitamin D (toxicity) is hypercalcemia, a condition characterized by excessively high levels of calcium in the blood (13).


  • Hypercalcemia leads to calcification of blood vessels (BVC): In hypercalcemia, the levels of calcium and phosphorus become so high that calcium phosphate begins to accumulate in the lining of blood vessels.


  • BVC is associated with heart disease: According to experts, calcification of blood vessels is one of the main underlying causes of heart disease (14, 15).


  • Vitamin K deficiency is associated with BVC: Observational studies have linked low levels of vitamin K with an increased risk of calcification of blood vessels (16).


  • High-dose vitamin K supplements prevented BVC in animals: A controlled study in rats with a high risk of calcification showed that a vitamin K2 supplement in high doses prevented BVC (17).


  • Vitamin K supplements can reduce BVC in humans: A controlled study in elderly people showed that supplementation with 500 mcg of vitamin K1 every day for three years reduced BVC by 6% (18).


  • High intake of vitamin K can reduce the risk of heart disease: People who get high amounts of vitamin K2 from their diet have a reduced risk of calcification of blood vessels and heart disease (19, 20, 21).


In short, the toxicity of vitamin D can cause calcification of blood vessels, while vitamin K can help prevent this from happening.


Although these chains of evidence may seem firm enough, some pieces of the puzzle are still missing.


While extremely high doses of vitamin D can lead to dangerously high calcium levels and calcification of blood vessels, it is still unclear whether lower doses of vitamin D are harmful in the long term (13, 22, 23).


In 2007, a nutritionist proposed that high doses of vitamin D could deplete vitamin K, which could cause vitamin K deficiency. Further research is needed before the validity of this theory can be fully confirmed (24).


No solid evidence shows that moderate amounts of vitamin D are harmful without adequate intake of vitamin K. However, research is ongoing and the image could be cleared up in the near future.


Summary: Scientists do not know if a high intake of vitamin D is harmful when the intake of vitamin K is inadequate. The evidence suggests that it could be a concern, but a definitive conclusion can not be reached at this point.


How do you get enough vitamin K?


Vitamin K comes in many different forms, traditionally divided into two groups:




  • Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone): The most common form of vitamin K. It is found in plants, especially green leaves such as kale and spinach.


  • Vitamin K2 (menaquinone): This form is much rarer in food and is found mainly in foods of animal origin and fermented foods such as natto.


Vitamin K2 is actually a large family of compounds, including menaquinone-4 (MK-4) and menaquinone-7 (MK-7).




  • MK-4: It is found in foods of animal origin such as liver, fat, egg yolk and cheese.


  • MK-7: Formed by bacterial fermentation and found in fermented foods, such as natto, miso and sauerkraut. It is also produced by intestinal bacteria (25, 26).


The current dietary recommendations do not distinguish between vitamin K1 and K2. For people older than 19 years, the adequate intake is 90 mcg for women and 120 mcg for men (27).


The two tables below show the richest sources of vitamins K1 and K2, as well as the amounts these foods provide in a 100-gram serving (26, 28, 29, 30).


Adding some of these foods to your daily diet would help you meet your vitamin K requirements. Supplements are also widely available.


Since vitamin K is soluble in fat, consuming it with fat can improve absorption.


For example, you could add a little oil to your green leaves or take your supplements with a meal that contains fat.


Fortunately, many foods rich in vitamin K2 are also high in fat. These include cheese, egg yolks and meat.


Do not take very high doses of vitamin K supplements before talking to your doctor, as they may interact with certain medications (31).


Summary: Vitamin K1 is abundant in green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach. Vitamin K2 is found in foods of animal origin, such as liver, eggs and cheese, and fermented foods such as natto.


The bottom line


Scientists are still investigating the functions of vitamins D and K.


They do not fully understand how they interact, but gradually new pieces are being added to the puzzle.


It is clear that vitamin K benefits your heart and bones, but it is not clear if supplements of high doses of vitamin D are harmful when you have a low vitamin K content.


However, make sure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D and K from your diet. Both are important.



Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-and-vitamin-k






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