Eat more green leafy vegetables, reduce mortality risk?

Vitamin K is found in 2 predominant forms, Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), found almost exclusively in green leafy vegetables, and Vitamin K2 (Menaquinone), found in fermented foods, organ meats, meat, butter and eggs. In the data below (Juanola-Falgarona et al. 2014), we see that Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is negatively associated with death from all causes:

all cause mortl phylo

Death from all causes was assessed based on the average value for four groups of Vitamin K1 intake: 171 ug/day = blue line, 276 ug/day =red line, 349 ug/day = green line and 626 ug/day = the yellow line. In the data above, Vitamin K1 values less than 349 ug/day are about the same in terms of all-cause mortality risk. However, those who ate 626 ug/day of Vitamin K1 had about half of the mortality risk compared to the lower K1 intake groups! Interestingly, the RDA for Vitamin K, at 90 ug/day seems to be outdated, based on the data above. Also, Vitamin K2 was not associated with all-cause mortality risk, as shown below:

k2 all cause

Based on the K1 mortality data, 626 ug/day seems like a good goal. However, osteocalcin is a Vitamin K-dependent protein that has been shown to be maximally active in the presence of 1000 ug of Vitamin K1 (Binkley et al. 2002)! Osteocalcin is involved in pathways that decline with aging: insulin secretion and β-cell proliferation in the pancreas, energy expenditure by muscle, insulin sensitivity in adipose tissue, muscle and liver, and increased testosterone production (Karsenty and Ferron 2012). Therefore, getting 1000 ug+ per day of Vitamin K1 may optimize all of these functions and, decrease mortality risk!

What’s the take home from these data? Eat more leafy greens! How much is needed to get 1000 ug  per day? Shown below is a short list of foods rich in Vitamin K and the serving size needed to reach 1000 ug. Approximately 4 ounces of cooked kale or 7 oz. of raw spinach will suffice, and at a low calorie yield. Other foods, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or romaine lettuce would need to be consumed in far greater amounts to reach 1000 ug.

k osteo

What’s my daily K1 intake? Shown below is my 7-day average (7/16/2015 – 7/22/2015) for K intake, derived almost exclusively from plant sources. 1379 ug/day puts me well above the 626 ug/day that was associated with reduced mortality risk, and above the 1000 ug/day needed for maximal osteocalcin activation.

my k intake


Binkley NC, Krueger DC, Kawahara TN, Engelke JA, Chappell RJ, Suttie JW. A high phylloquinone intake is required to achieve maximal osteocalcin gamma-carboxylation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Nov;76(5):1055-60.

Juanola-Falgarona M, Salas-Salvadó J, Martínez-González MÁ, Corella D, Ostrich R, Ros E, Fitó M, Arós F, Gómez-Gracia E, Fiol M, Lapetra J, Basora J, Lamuela-Raventós RM, Serra-Majem L, Pintó X, Muñoz MÁ, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Fernández-Ballart J, Bulló M. Dietary intake of vitamin K is inversely associated with mortality risk. J Nutr. 2014 May;144(5):743-50.

Karsenty G, Ferron M. The contribution of bone to whole-organism physiologyNature. 2012 Jan 18;481(7381):314-20.


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