Vitamin K Keeps Skin Young and Healthy

Vitamin K is an overlooked vitamin that needs a bit of attention given to it.  Did you ever think that you need it for beautiful skin?  We often think about other vitamins and minerals that we need but never even give vitamin K a thought.  If you know what it does then getting enough vitamin K becomes important.  More than  important – it is critical and you can get into a lot of trouble without it. The good thing is it’s not hard to get.   You just have to make sure you do get it. And if you don’t like your green leafy vegetables and yogurt then you might not be getting enough.   You need your vitamin K if you want to stay healthy into old age, and if you want to look good now and later.

There are different kinds of Vitamin K.  It’s really an entire class of compounds.   The main types are Vitamin  K1 called phylloquinone and Vitamin K2 called menaquinone.   Leafy green vegetables and fruit and vegetables provide K1 – and K1 is involved mainly in blood clotting.

Vitamin K2 has many more biological functions than vitamin K1 and getting sufficient vitamin K2 helps your skin stay elastic and healthy.  It helps calcium get deposited  where its needed – and helps prevent it from getting deposited where it isn’t needed.  You might be wondering what calcium has to do with skin.  It’s got a whole bunch to do with it.  In the case of your bones – you want calcium there, in the case of your skin – you absolutely don’t.  Calcium laid down in to the cells of your skin causes it to sag and wrinkle because it calcifies the smooth vascular tissue in the cells of your skin which needs to remain flexible.  This is what is meant when you hear the term ‘calcification of soft tissue’.  If your body doesn’t make enough of a particular compound called matrix GLA then that’s what will happen.  It’s a complex reaction and I’m not going to make your eyes glaze over by telling you the in’s and out’s of it.  But the nuts and bolts of it is your body has proteins called GLA proteins.  Vitamin K helps to activate GLA proteins and then they can lay calcium where its needed.  A subset of these proteins called matrix GLA protein stops calcium from being laid down where it’s not meant to be. Vitamin K2 is needed for this.  This can cause problems, wrinkly skin being the least of them really.  You might have heard about the recent study where women who took calcium supplements were at greater risk of heart attack because of calcium deposits – well the good news is that enough matrix GLA will help prevent calcium being laid down in the soft tissue of the arteries (and skin).

Vitamin K2 is found in animal products and synthesized from bacteria in the gut.  If you have healthy gut bacteria then you can go a long way to getting your vitamin K2 needs met.  Healthy bacteria in your gut requires a couple of things, a regular source of probiotics, like kefir, yogurt or other fermented foods, and healthy supply of food for them to feast on and that food is fiber.   If you eat your leafy greens you will be supplying your body with a source of vitamin K1 and at the same time providing food for your gut bacterial to produce vitamin K2.

Vitamin K2 is also helpful in preventing varicose veins.  Varicose veins are caused by minerals clogging up them up and causing blood to back up in the vein.  In the same way that Vitamin K2 helps prevent calcium from being deposited in arteries it also stop veins from clogging up.  Vitamin K cream is used  to help heal bruises and added to skin creams to help get rid of dark circles under the eye.   It’s great that it can help with skin issues but more important to my way of thinking is what it does for the circulatory system helping us to stay healthy and not succumb to what have become almost accepted parts of aging.  Wrinkles, varicose veins and worst of all, calcium deposits which cause strokes and heart attacks and breast cancers.

Food sources for Vitamin K2 come from animal products,  including egg yolk, fermented products, and especially a fermented soy called natto.  I’ve not tried natto but by all accounts it’s pretty awful to the western palate – incredibly strong.   The animal products that contain the most amounts are from grass fed animals.  So you need to be seeking out butter, milk and cheese from grass fed cows.  If this doesn’t appeal to you then you can also buy supplements – or try your taste buds on natto.

How much vitamin K2 do we need?   Well the answer is – nobody seems to actually know.  The RDA is set for 90mcg for women and120 for men, and while this may be enough for blood clotting it is probably not enough for overall health.   Life extension is saying 1000mcg for K2 and 9000mcg of K1.  Life extension sells supplements of course – but I have no problem with that.  They provide plenty of research on their site and cutting edge science is always way ahead of what the standard authorities are willing to put their neck out for.  I have a feeling that in the future many of the RDAs for vitamins will be increased as has been the case with vitamin D.   For me, I’m going to keep on with my green smoothies that are rich in kale.  According the USDA data base 1 cup gives me 547mcg of K1.  Add my parsley to that and its another 164 for 10 sprigs.  Add my lettuce and celery and its another 100. I easily meet  1000mcg through the day this and I’m pretty sure I get quite a bit more than 1 cup of kale in my smoothies.  For my vitamin K2 I will have to rely on the fact that I eat plenty of fiber to feed my friendly bacteria and that I also eat probiotics on a daily basis.  Getting hold of grass fed milk and butter is next on my agenda though.   If you can’t bring yourself to drink a green smoothie then add leafy greens such as kale to what ever you can.  One cup of cooked Kale will meet your vitamin k1 needs.  It is a fat soluble vitamin so when you eat your vitamin K, make sure you get a healthy fat with it.  Don’t eat trans fats- they negate what vitamin K can do.

Resources:
Warfarin versus aspirin for stroke prevention in an elderly community population with atrial fibrillation (the Birmingham Atrial Fibrillation Treatment of the Aged Study, BAFTA): a randomised controlled trial The Lancet, Volume 370, Issue 9586, Pages 493 – 503, 11 August 2007

Gage BJ, Birman-Deych E, Radford M, Nilasena DS, Binder EF. Risk of osteoporotic fracture in elderly patients taking warfarin: results from the National Registry of Atrial Fibrillation 2. Archives of Internal Medicine January 23, 2006;166:241-246.

Matrix Gla protein is involved in elastic fiber calcification in the dermis of pseudoxanthoma elasticum patients.   Gheduzzi D, Boraldi F, Annovi G, DeVincenzi CP, Schurgers LJ, Vermeer C, Quaglino D, Ronchetti IP.   Lab Invest. 2007 Oct;87(10):998-1008. Epub 2007 Aug 27.

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One Response to “Vitamin K Keeps Skin Young and Healthy”

  1. [...] osteoporosis and calcification of soft tissue which contributes to vascular disease.  See my post on vitamin K for more about [...]

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