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What Does Vitamin K Do in the Body?

author image Allison Adams
Allison Adams has worked as a registered dietitian since 1996. She began writing professionally in 2000, with work featured in a variety of medical publications such as "Women's Health Magazine" and the "New England Journal of Medicine." Adams holds a Master of Science in nutrition and food sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
What Does Vitamin K Do in the Body?
Dutch brown cows eating hay in stable Photo Credit: egonzitter/iStock/Getty Images

The discovery of vitamin K in 1929 resulted by accident from a study of livestock undertaken by the Danish scientist Henrik Dam. Dam observed unusual symptoms in the animals, mostly related to bleeding, that had the common cause of a vitamin K deficiency. His findings would later help scientists understand vitamin K in humans.

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Purpose of Vitamin K

Blood proteins
Blood proteins Photo Credit: xrender/iStock/Getty Images

Vitamin K is an essential vitamin that facilitates blood clotting. Its name is taken from "koagulation," the German word for coagulation. Your body stores vitamin K in fat tissue and in the liver, although this vitamin originates in the intestinal tract. In addition to supporting the normal clotting of blood, vitamin K also helps support bone density, and plays an especially pivotal role for women nearing menopause who are at risk for osteoporosis.

Internal Source of Vitamin K

Asparagus is rich in vitamin K
Asparagus is rich in vitamin K Photo Credit: Clara_Gabrielli/iStock/Getty Images

As with other vitamins, you need to eat foods containing vitamin K. However, vitamin K is also produced in your body. Certain bacteria inside the human intestinal tract produce vitamin K for most people, although in rare cases not in sufficient quantity. In these cases, you must maintain a healthy diet with foods rich in vitamin K. According to MedlinePlus, men and women should consume 90 micrograms of Vitamin K a day.

Foods With Vitamin K

Cottage cheese with blueberries
Cottage cheese with blueberries Photo Credit: MKucova/iStock/Getty Images

A plethora of foods contain vitamin K. As a result, you likely already consume enough of this vitamin without needing to change your diet. Foods containing vitamin K are leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and green leaf lettuce; dairy products like cottage cheese; soybeans and soy milk; and blackberries, blueberries, grapes and the juices made from these. Many other fruits contain vitamin K, as well.

Signs of a Vitamin K Deficiency

Kale Photo Credit: zona/iStock/Getty Images

The major signs of a deficiency are bleeding problems, either with no clotting or with clotting that takes a very long time. Other problems include abnormally heavy menstrual periods in women, hemorrhaging and osteoporosis and other bone disorders. More severe indications of a vitamin K deficiency include liver cancer and birth defects in children born to mothers suffering from this deficiency. If you regularly eat a balanced diet but seem to display the signs of a deficiency of vitamin K, consult a doctor for other possible causes of the ailments.

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