Join for Just $16 A Year
- Discounts on travel and everyday savings
- Subscription to AARP The Magazine
- Free membership for your spouse or partner
Vitamin K originates from the German term koajulation. It is also known as antihemorrhagic factor, and is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins necessary for good health. The others are vitamins A, D, and E. The primary and best-known purpose of vitamin K is support of the process of blood clotting. Prothrombin and other clotting factors are dependent on vitamin K for production. It also plays a role in bone health, and may help to prevent osteoporosis. Appropriate growth and development are supported by adequate vitamin K.
There are several forms of the vitamin:
The Required Daily Amount (RDA) of vitamin K is 5 micrograms (mcg) for infants less than six months old, 10 mcg for babies six months to one year old, 15 mcg for children aged one to three years, 20 mcg for those aged four to six years, and 30 mcg for those seven to ten years old. Males require 45 mcg from 11–14 years, 65 mcg from 15–18 years, 70 mcg from 19–24 years, and 80 mcg after the age of 24 years. Females need 45 mcg from 11–14 years, 55 mcg from 15–18 years, 60 mcg from 19–24 years, and 65 mcg after the age of 24, and for pregnant or lactating women. These values are based on an estimate of 1 mcg of vitamin K per kilogram of body weight.
The most common use of vitamin K is to supplement babies at birth, thus preventing hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. Routine administration of vitamin K to newborns is, however, being questioned by practitioners of evidence-based nursing. In 2003 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) restated that prevention of bleeding from early vitamin K deficiency by administration of the vitamin is accepted practice. The AAP also noted that a possible link between supplemental vitamin K and early childhood cancer has not been proven as of 2003.
Others who may benefit from supplemental vitamin K include those taking medications that interact with it or deplete the supply. It also appears to have some effectiveness in preventing osteoporosis, but some studies done involved patients using a high dietary intake of the vitamin rather than supplements. In 2003, however, a group of Japanese researchers reported that supplemental doses of vitamin K2 given together with vitamin D3 appeared to reduce bone turnover and sustain bone density in postmenopausal women with mild osteoporosis.
People taking warfarin, a vitamin K antagonist, are able to use the vitamin as an antidote if the serum level of warfarin is too high, increasing the risk of hemorrhage. Vitamin K taken by mouth appears to be more effective than intramuscular injections of the vitamin when it is used to counteract the effects of warfarin.
Some women find that supplemental vitamin K relieves the symptoms of morning sickness during pregnancy. This treatment is even more effective if vitamin K is taken together with vitamin C.
Topical formulations of vitamin K are sometimes touted as being able to reduce spider veins on the face and legs. The creams are quite expensive and the efficacy is questionable at best. However, recent clinical studies have shown that topical applications of vitamin K given to patients following laser treatments on the face are effective in minimizing bruising from the procedure.
More recently, researchers have been studying vitamin K intensively for its potential anticancer effects. Vitamin K3 in particular may be useful as an adjuvant treatment for ovarian cancer.
Author Info: Judith Turner, Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
Member access to health and insurance products and services at AARPhealthcare.com.
Members can get an instant quote with AARP® Dental Insurance administered by Delta Dental Insurance Company.
Members can save on eyewear with AARP® Vision Discounts provided by EyeMed.
Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.