A new study conducted by researchers from Tufts University explored the effects of vitamin K -- a supplement most commonly found in leafy vegetables like kale and spinach -- on older consumers.
Their work revealed that older people who had lower levels of vitamin K were at an increased risk of early death, whereas the same wasn’t true for those with higher levels of the vitamin.
“The possibility that vitamin K is linked to heart disease and mortality is based on our knowledge about proteins in vascular tissue that require vitamin K to function,” said researcher Kyla Shea. “These proteins help prevent calcium from building up in artery walls, and without enough vitamin K, they are less functional.”
The researchers analyzed data from three different studies, all of which determined participants’ vitamin K levels from a blood test. Nearly 4,000 participants were involved in the study, and all were over the age of 50. After the initial analysis, the researchers followed up with the participants over a decade later and assessed their vitamin K levels and risk of heart disease.
The researchers learned that early death was nearly 20 percent more likely for participants with lower levels of vitamin K. The researchers noted that vitamin K plays a role in healthy blood flow throughout the body, and so being deficient in the supplement could be cause for concern -- particularly as consumers age.
Because vitamin K is typically found in healthier foods, the researchers hypothesized that an overall healthier lifestyle could explain the relationship between vitamin K and the participants’ lifespans. Interestingly, though over 850 participants developed heart disease over the course of the study, the researchers confirmed that the cases were unrelated to the participants’ vitamin K levels.
Although this study can’t prove cause and effect between vitamin K and longevity, these findings do highlight a connection between consumers’ health and their vitamin K intake.
“Similar to when a rubber band dries out and loses its elasticity, when veins and arteries are calcified, blood pumps less efficiently, causing a variety of complications,” said researcher Dr. Daniel Weiner. “That is why measuring risk of death, in a study such as this, may better capture the spectrum of events associated with worsening vascular health.”