An obscure nutrient, once thought only important to blood clotting, begins accumulating evidence of wider potential benefits
by Craig Weatherby
Type 2 or “adult onset” diabetes affects almost 24 million Americans, or about one in 12.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the annual economic cost of diabetes in 2007 was about $174 billion.
Of that staggering amount, medical expenditures totaled $116 billion and they included $27 billion for diabetes care (mostly drugs), $58 billion for chronic diabetes-related complications, and another $31 billion for other medical conditions promoted by diabetes.
Sadly, “adult onset”—the common term for Type 2 diabetes—is now misleading, because more and more teens and children now develop the diet- and lifestyle-related disease.
The basic prevention prescription includes ample exercise and a diet that meets two criteria:
And for those who struggle with their diet and exercise regimen—or are genetically susceptible to diabetes—new findings from Europe suggest that vitamin K may be an ally against diabetes.
- Low in omega-6-rich oils, sugars, and refined starches (white bread, skinless potato, while pasta, and pastries).
- High in colorful vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, fruits, fatty fish, lean meats, and modest amounts of whole grains.
There are two distinct kinds of vitamin K, with similar, overlapping effects in the body, and varying degrees of “vitamin K activity.”
As Andrew Weil, M.D., frequently notes, a substantial body of epidemiological (diet-health) evidence associates higher vitamin K-2 intakes with greatly reduced cardiovascular and bone fracture risks.
- Vitamin K1—which provides about 90 per cent of the vitamin K in the typical American diet—is found in green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli and spinach. The scientific name for vitamin K1 is phylloquinone.
- Vitamin K2 is found in chicken, organ meats (kidney, brain), butter, egg yolks, and fermented foods like cheese and Japanese miso and natto (fermented soy bean foods). A small amount is manufactured in the gut by friendly bacteria. Note: The term “vitamin K2” refers to several menaquinone compounds with varying degrees of vitamin K activity.
What about seafood?Meat from animals and fish is usually very low in vitamin K of any kind.
However, although they haven’t been analyzed for it, some nutrition researchers believe that fish organs, fat, and eggs should be rich sources of vitamin K2.
We hope someone out there takes up the challenge to measure vitamin K in fish eggs and fat!
Diabetes may be another thing affected by vitamin K, according to new research from the Netherlands.
Dutch study links vitamin K with reduced diabetes risk
Findings from a very large epidemiological study associate higher intakes of vitamin K with a reduced risk of developing type-2 (adult) diabetes (Beulens JW et al. 2010).
Researchers from the University Medical Center Utrecht and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment recruited almost 40,000 Dutch men and women.
The researchers analyzed data collected from 38,094 Dutch people aged between 20 and 70.
Diet questionnaires were used to estimate the participants’ dietary intakes of vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.
After crunching the numbers, it appeared that for every 10 mcg (micrograms) increase in vitamin K2 intake, the risk of developing type-2 diabetes dropped by seven percent.
Although there was a comparable link between rising vitamin K1 intakes and reduced diabetes risk, it was not statistically significant.
However, those with the highest vitamin K1 intakes were 19 percent less like to have developed diabetes during the 10-year-plus study, compared to those with the lowest estimated intakes.
Needless to say, this kind of statistical correlation does not prove that vitamin K 2 deters diabetes, so lab and clinical research is needed.
- Abbatecola AM, Evans W, Paolisso G. PUFA supplements and type 2 diabetes in the elderly. Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(36):4126-34. Review.
- Beulens JW, van der A DL, Grobbee DE, Sluijs I, Spijkerman AM, van der Schouw YT. Dietary phylloquinone and menaquinones intake and risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2010 Apr 27. [Epub ahead of print]
- Martín de Santa Olalla L, Sánchez Muniz FJ, Vaquero MP. N-3 fatty acids in glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Nutr Hosp. 2009 Mar-Apr;24(2):113-27. Review.
- Patel PS, Sharp SJ, Luben RN, Khaw KT, Bingham SA, Wareham NJ, Forouhi NG. Association between type of dietary fish and seafood intake and the risk of incident type 2 diabetes: the European prospective investigation of cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk cohort study. Diabetes Care. 2009 Oct;32(10):1857-63. Epub 2009 Jul 10.
- van Woudenbergh GJ, van Ballegooijen AJ, Kuijsten A, Sijbrands EJ, van Rooij FJ, Geleijnse JM, Hofman A, Witteman JC, Feskens EJ. Eating fish and risk of type 2 diabetes: A population-based, prospective follow-up study. Diabetes Care. 2009 Nov;32(11):2021-6. Epub 2009 Aug 12.