A study has found vitamin K not only blocks new arterial calcium buildup but can also reduce existing levels of calcification by 37 percent. Researchers at Maastricht University published their findings in the April 1st issue of Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology.
"Given that arterial calcifications are predictive of cardiovascular events, regression of arterial calcification may help reduce the risk of death in people with chronic kidney disease and coronary artery disease," wrote lead author Leon Schurgers.
Schurgers and his co-workers fed 10-week old male Wistar Kyoto rats a diet containing the blood thinner warfarin to induce calcium buildup. The animals were then separated into four groups: the first group was given warfarin, and the other three groups were taken off the drug. The three groups of warfarin-free animals were given various doses of Vitamin K. The researchers reported that, in the normal dose Vitamin K group, arterial calcium levels continued to increase even after warfarin administration ended.
"In contrast," the researchers wrote, "high-vitamin K intake (both K1 and K2) not only blocked the progress of further calcium accumulation but also lead to a greater than 37 percent reduction of previously accumulated arterial calcium precipitates within six weeks."
These findings are especially relevant for people who take blood-thinning drugs, which are known to induce arterial calcification by inactivating a protein called matrix GLA, or MGP, a potent inhibitor of calcification. MGP requires vitamin K for activation.
"The medical community now recognizes that vitamin K-dependent MGP plays an essential role in promoting cardiovascular health," said Schurgers, "Our study shows that in an animal model, vitamin K can actually regress preformed calcifications. The health implications for humans are significant."
Vitamin K is found in many kinds of foods, including soybeans, olives, and oils, as well as in dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts.
"What's interesting about this study is that researchers actually used a common blood thinner drug in order to induce a calcium build up in the arteries," said Mike Adams, author of The 7 Laws of Nutrition. "This indicates quite clearly that medical researchers know the best way to cause calcification of arteries is to dose the subject with blood thinner drugs," Adams said. "At the same time, this potentially deadly side effect is not being fully explained to patients who are taking blood thinner drugs such as Coumadin."