If you have been battling respiratory issues and asthma and wondering if you have been taking enough of vitamins A, B, C and D, you may have been looking in the wrong direction. Going by latest research, Vitamin K may be your shield for lung health. A Danish community study of 4,092 adult men and women has shown that low levels of functional Vitamin K in the blood aggravated respiratory symptoms, increased the risk of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and raised the odds of lower lung functions on a spirometer. The findings were published in the ERJ Open Research journal.

“This is the first study to have shown a strong association between functional Vitamin K levels measured in blood and poor lung health and may potentially open up new ways for preventing and treating various respiratory conditions”, says Dr Sundeep Salvi, noted pulmonologist and Director, Pulmocare Research and Education Foundation.

How does Vitamin K impact the lungs?

Vitamin K was discovered as a fat-soluble vitamin by Danish biochemist Henrik Dam for which he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1943. The K originates from the word “Koagulation Vitamin” as it helped in blood coagulation and stopped bleeding. This vitamin also binds calcium to the bone and other tissues and has an antioxidant property as well. Also remember that nearly half of your platelets, which play an important role in blood clotting, originate in the lung. This unique function of the lung to synthesise platelets, along with this new observation that deficiency of Vitamin K is associated with increased odds of respiratory symptoms, highlight its important role in lung health.

How do low levels of Vitamin K cause breathing problems? Have studies been able to reveal the mechanism?

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The mechanism is still not known though studies are ongoing. The Dutch study has showed how a Vitamin K deficiency led to an increased risk of respiratory symptoms like wheezing (classically seen in asthma) and COPD. Earlier studies have already shown that Vitamin K deficiency increased the odds of lung fibrosis, a condition most seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Vitamin K deficiency is not common, its low levels have been associated with cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and muscle inflammation. A recent Japanese study showed that Vitamin K intake was associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer (38 per cent in men and 20 per cent in women). So, this vitamin certainly becomes important in therapy.

How can people increase their Vitamin K levels?

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Vitamin K is of 2 subtypes: Vitamin K1 whose sources are spinach, broccoli, brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, vegetable oils and cereal grains. Vitamin K2 sources are cheese, natto (fermented soya beans commonly used in Japanese breakfast), eggs, poultry and is also synthesised by intestinal bacteria. Vitamin K1 is primarily involved in blood clotting while Vitamin K2 is important for the proper functioning of various body organs including the heart, kidney, bone muscles and lungs.

Should one take Vitamin K supplements?

Our traditional balanced diet offers enough Vitamin K for its routine function. The daily requirement of Vitamin K is 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight. Additional supplementation is often not required unless your body is consuming excess Vitamin K. Blood vitamin K levels are measured indirectly as functional vitamin K levels because it is mixed with blood cholesterol levels. Although there are few adverse effects associated with Vitamin K intake, they are uncommon, and it is better to take your physician’s advice before you take any supplements.

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