Low vitamin K intake linked to decreased heart health in teens

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03 Oct 2017 --- A study of 766 otherwise healthy adolescents has shown that those who consumed the least vitamin K1 were at 3.3 times greater risk for an unhealthy enlargement of the major pumping chamber of their heart. Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is found in spinach, cabbage, iceberg lettuce and olive oil and is the predominant form of vitamin K in the US diet.

“Those who consumed less had more risk,” says Dr. Norman Pollock, bone biologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and corresponding author of the study published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Overall, about 10 percent of the teenagers had some degree of this left ventricular hypertrophy, Pollock and his colleagues report.

Left ventricular changes are more typically associated with adults whose hearts have been working too hard, too long to get blood out to the body because of sustained, elevated blood pressure. Unlike other muscles, a larger heart can become inefficient and ineffective.

Click to Enlarge

The scientists believe theirs is the first study exploring associations between vitamin K and heart structure and function in young people. While more work is needed, their findings suggest that early interventions to ensure young people are getting adequate vitamin K1 could improve cardiovascular development and reduce future disease risk, they write.

In the 14-18 year olds who consumed the least vitamin K1, the study found the overall size and wall thickness of the left ventricle were already significantly greater and the amount of blood the heart pumped out significantly lower, Pollock says.

Changes were independent of other factors known to influence heart structure and function, including sex, race, body composition, physical activity and blood pressure, says Mary Ellen Fain, MCG second-year student and the study's co-first author.

Only 25 percent of the teens in the study met current adequate intake levels of the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, Pollock notes.

“They had higher levels relative to the other kids,” Fain says. “But even at that age, it seemed to make a difference in their hearts.” Fain and Pollock noted that it was clear than none of the participants consumed large amounts of the vitamin.

Vitamin K is known to be important to blood clotting and healthy bones. There is increasing evidence of its cardiovascular impact as well. For example, one direct, negative impact of low vitamin K intake on the heart may be reduced activity of matrix Gla protein, which helps prevent calcium deposits on blood vessel walls.

Pollock, who is also leading a novel study of the cardiovascular impact of a vitamin K supplement on obese children already showing signs of diabetes risk, has early evidence that the vitamin levels are lower in obese and overweight children.

Click to EnlargeVitamin K and K1 have become of growing interest over the past five years from a product development perspective. According to Innova Market Insights data, food & beverage launches tracked featuring vitamin K and vitamin K1 saw a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of +34.2 percent and +37.7 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2016, when 2012 is taken as a base of 100.*

In 2016, 91.6 percent of all food and beverage launches tracked featuring vitamin K fell in the Baby & Toddlers market category. More specifically, Baby Formula/Milk products accounted for 85.9 percent of all food and beverage launches tracked featuring vitamin K, and Baby Cereals & Biscuits for 4.3 percent.

By Lucy Gunn

*Base of 100 for both vitamin K and vitamin K1, but start product launch numbers differ for both.

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