Scientists from Edith Cowan University found that people who eat a diet rich in vitamin K have up to a 34 percent lower risk of atherosclerosis-related heart disease (conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels).
There are two types of vitamin K found in foods we eat: vitamin K1 comes primarily from green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils while vitamin K2 is found in meat, eggs, and fermented foods such as cheese.
In the study, the team examined data from more than 50,000 people taking part in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health study over a 23-year period.
They tested whether people who ate more foods containing vitamin K had a lower risk of heart disease related to atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries).
The team found that people with the highest intakes of vitamin K1 were 21 percent less likely to be hospitalized with heart disease related to atherosclerosis.
For vitamin K2, the risk of being hospitalized was 14 percent lower. This lower risk was seen for all types of heart disease related to atherosclerosis, particularly for peripheral artery disease at 34 percent.
The team says the findings suggest that consuming more vitamin K may be important for protection against atherosclerosis and subsequent heart disease.
They say the role of vitamin K in cardiovascular health and particularly in vascular calcification is an area of research offering promising hope for the future.
These findings shed light on the potentially important effect that vitamin K has on heart disease and reinforces the importance of a healthy diet in preventing it.
While databases on the vitamin K1 content of foods are very comprehensive, there is currently much less data on the vitamin K2 content of foods.
Furthermore, there are 10 forms of vitamin K2 found in our diet and each of these may be absorbed and act differently within our bodies.
More research into the different dietary sources and effects of different types of vitamin K2 is a priority.
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The research was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and conducted by Dr. Nicola Bondonno et al.
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