Vitamin K plays a key role in helping the blood clot, preventing excessive bleeding. Unlike many other vitamins, vitamin K is not typically used as a dietary supplement.
Vitamin K is actually a group of compounds. The most important of these compounds appears to be vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is obtained from leafy greens and some other vegetables. Vitamin K2 is a group of compounds largely obtained from meats, cheeses, and eggs, and synthesized by bacteria.
Vitamin K1 is the main form of vitamin K supplement available in the U.S.
Recently, some people have looked to vitamin K2 to treat osteoporosis and steroid-induced bone loss, but the research is conflicting. At this point there is not enough data to recommend using vitamin K2 for osteoporosis.
Why do people take vitamin K?
Low levels of vitamin K can raise the risk of uncontrolled bleeding. While vitamin K deficiencies are rare in adults, they are very common in newborn infants. A single injection of vitamin K for newborns is standard. Vitamin K is also used to counteract an overdose of the blood thinner Coumadin.
While vitamin K deficiencies are uncommon, you may be at higher risk if you:
- Have a disease that affects absorption in the digestive tract, such as Crohn's disease or active celiac disease
- Take drugs that interfere with vitamin K absorption
- Are severely malnourished
- Drink alcohol heavily
In these cases, a health care provider might suggest vitamin K supplements.
Uses of vitamin K for cancer, for the symptoms of morning sickness, for the removal of spider veins, and for other conditions are unproven.