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Vitamin K: importance, daily requirement, deficiency symptoms

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 428 views

The term vitamin K includes vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone). Like vitamins A, D and E, vitamin K is fat-soluble. It is particularly important for blood clotting. Find out here how much vitamin K you need and which tasks it fulfills.

What is vitamin K?

Vitamin K is one of the fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamins A, D and E). It occurs naturally as vitamin K 1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K 2 (menaquinone). Phylloquinone is mainly found in green plants. Menaquinone is produced by bacteria like E. coli, which are also found in the human gut . Apparently, K2 is the more active form of the vitamin. However, the effect is the same for both.

The vitamin K is absorbed in the intestine and transported via the blood to the liver , where it fulfills its main task – the production of blood clotting factors.

In addition to the natural compounds vitamin K1 and K2, there is also the synthetic vitamin K3 (menadione). It was formerly used to treat vitamin K deficiency , but is no longer approved due to its side effects: Vitamin K3 can damage the liver, among other things, and cause anemia due to the breakdown of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia ).

What is the role of vitamin K in the body?

Blood coagulation is the most important task of vitamin K: It is required for the formation of coagulation factors from inactive precursors. Without vitamin K, the body cannot produce these factors and therefore cannot stop bleeding.

Other effects of vitamin K: It prevents calcium deposits in soft tissues such as blood vessels and cartilage. It also helps regulate cell processes (such as cell division) and repair processes in the eyes, kidneys, liver, blood vessels and nerve cells. Vitamin K also inhibits bone loss in women after menopause – the enzyme osteocalcin, which regulates bone mineralization, is vitamin K-dependent.

Vitamin K antagonists as a drug

Vitamin K’s important role in blood clotting has been used for decades to reduce blood clotting in certain diseases. This is necessary in patients who are prone to developing blood clots (e.g. due to atrial fibrillation or artificial heart valves ). They are often treated with drugs that block the effects of vitamin K – so-called vitamin K antagonists. The preparations prevent vitamin K from converting the precursors of blood coagulation factors into their active form. This reduces the risk of blood clotting and blood clots forming.

What is the daily requirement of vitamin K?

How much vitamin K you need every day varies from person to person. According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), the recommended daily amount for young people from the age of 15 and adults is between 60 and 80 micrograms of vitamin K, depending on age and gender. Babies in their first year of life have a daily vitamin K requirement of 4 to 10 micrograms, Depending on their age, children have a daily requirement of between 15 and 50 micrograms.

According to the DGE, this is how much vitamin K you need:

Vitamin K daily requirement in µg/day
infants *
0 to under 4 months 4
4 to under 12 months 10
1 to under 4 years 15
4 to under 7 years 20
7 to under 10 years 30
10 to under 13 years 40
13 to under 15 years 50
teenagers / adults male Female
15 to under 19 years 70 60
19 to under 25 years 70 60
25 to under 51 years 70 60
51 to under 65 years 80 65
65 years and older 80 65
pregnant women 60
breastfeeding 60

*Newborns get vitamin K through breast milk. However, since this is not enough to fill the stores sufficiently, all infants are given additional vitamin K after birth by the pediatrician during the first check-ups.

With certain diseases (increased risk of vascular occlusion by blood clots = thrombosis ), the doctor can recommend a reduced vitamin K intake.

Vitamin K: foods high in content

Read more about vitamin K levels in foods in the article  Foods High in Vitamin K

How does a vitamin K deficiency manifest itself?

Dietary insufficiency is rare. Nutritionists assume that you get more than enough vitamin K with a mixed diet.

When vitamin K levels drop, the body appears to be using vitamin K, which is produced by gut bacteria. If there is still a proven vitamin K deficiency (e.g. in chronic kidney weakness), there is a tendency to bleed. Because of the vitamin K deficiency, the vitamin K-dependent blood coagulation factors are no longer produced sufficiently – the blood coagulates less well.

To check how well a patient’s blood is clotting, the doctor can determine the INR value or Quick value .

How does a vitamin K excess manifest itself?

According to the current state of knowledge, healthy adults are not at risk from a diet with an excessive amount of vitamin K. On the other hand, an excess of vitamin K can be dangerous for newborns: it can trigger the breakdown of red blood cells (hemolysis).

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