Traditionally vitamin K is considered to be a key beauty vitamin, along with vitamins A, C and E. In fact, the discovery of vitamin K was hailed with a Nobel Prize in 1943. It is often used in five percent concentrations in skin care formulations for stretch marks, scars, rosacea and couperose because it improves the elasticity of blood vessels.
In my practice, I love to use formulations with vitamin K on the eye area because it provides noticable results in the reduction of dark circles and puffiness. There is a theory that under-eye darkness is caused by fragile under-eye capillaries that allow blood to seep into skin.
Vitamin K may help prevent this seepage by helping the blood to clot in these tiny under-eye vessels more efficiently.
Indeed, a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology suggests that vitamin K has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects on the skin. A gel with two percent vitamin K, 0.1 percent vitamin A and 0.1 percent vitamins C and E was applied to dark circles and wrinkles under the eyes of the study subjects. After eight weeks, 72 percent of them reported improved appearance to both the circles and wrinkles under their eyes.
Other studies indicate that vitamin K may help diminish the signs of aging as well. One of them, published in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, showed that when a one percent vitamin K cream was applied to bruises, they cleared up in approximately five fewer days.
Vitamin K is also valuable for use in body care formulations. A study published in the Journal of Vascular Research shows that vitamin K may help prevent varicose veins. Vitamin K activates a special protein needed to prevent vein walls from calcifying, a cause of varicose veins. In the study, researchers compared the healthy veins of 36 male patients (from ages 30 to 83), with varicose veins from 50 male patients (ages 40 to 81). High levels of the inactive protein (which requires vitamin K to activate) were found only in the patients who had varicose veins. However, when vitamin K was added to muscle cell cultures from the varicose veins, the protein was activated putting a halt to the calcification process.
Vitamin K may also offer anti-wrinkle benefits. A 2007 study shows that subjects who could not properly digest vitamin K suffered from serious premature wrinkling. In fact, one of the study's principle researchers, Dr. Leon Schurgers, believes that wrinkling in healthy "normal" populations is probably connected to deficiencies in vitamin K, because it prevents calcium deposits in elastin fibers.
Naturally occurring forms of vitamin K are not considered toxic, but keep in mind that skin creams with vitamin K include other ingredients. So please read the labels carefully, particularly if you are allergy-prone or have sensitive skin.
Sources of Vitamin K
There are two main forms of vitamin K. Vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and turnip greens and is particularly abundant in kale, spinach and collards. It is also is the form of vitamin K absorbed by the liver that helps your blood coagulate properly, keeps calcium in your bones, and prevents blood vessels from hardening.
The other type of vitamin K is vitamin K2, which can be found in meat, eggs and fermented foods like cheese and Japanese natto – a particularly rich source of vitamin K2.
Vitamin K3 also exists, but it is synthetic. As I mentioned, natural forms of vitamin K (K1 and K2) are not considered dangerous in high doses (except for those with kidney disease on dialysis). However, K3 can result in oxidative damage to cell membranes. Injections of K3 have caused liver toxicity, jaundice and anemia in infants.
As always, I recommend getting your daily allowance of vitamins and minerals from whole food sources. I believe that Mother Nature provides nutrition for us in unprocessed food in the right amounts and with the right combination of nutrients necessary for optimum absorption by the human body.
Consequences of Vitamin K Deficiency
A vitamin K deficiency can lead to blood coagulation problems. Symptoms include delayed healing, easy bruising and bleeding. This in turn can lead to nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in the urine, bloody or tarry black stools and extremely heavy menstrual bleeding. Infants with vitamin K deficiencies can suffer from serious bleeding issues.
Vitamin K is not stored in the body, so we need to consume sufficient amounts of this important vitamin daily. Humans can develop a vitamin K deficiency in as few as seven days when on a vitamin K-deficient diet.
Proper absorption of vitamin K, like that of other fat-soluble nutrients (A, D and E), also depends on healthy liver, gallbladder and digestive function. A vitamin K deficiency is more likely in people with digestive problems like celiac disease, irritable bowel disease, or those who have undergone intestinal bypass surgery. Keep in mind that vitamin K needs increase with age, and those over the age of 70 need to boost their vitamin K intake.