Vitamin K deficiency exists when chronic failure to eat sufficient amounts of vitamin K results in a tendency for spontaneous bleeding or in prolonged and excessive bleeding with trauma or injury. Vitamin K deficiency occurs also in newborn infants, as well as in people treated with certain antibiotics. The protein in the body most affected by vitamin K deficiency is a blood-clotting protein called prothrombin.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin K is 80 mg/day for the adult man, 65 mg/day for the adult woman, and 5 mg/day for the newborn infant. The vitamin K present in plant foods is called phylloquinone; while the form of the vitamin present in animal foods is called menaquinone. Both of these vitamins are absorbed from the diet and converted to an active form called dihydrovitamin K.
Spinach, lettuce, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage are good sources of vitamin K, containing about 8 mg vitamin K/kg food. Cow milk is also a good source of the vitamin.
A portion of the body's vitamin K is supplied by bacteria living in the intestine rather than by dietary sources.
Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting. Without the vitamin, even a small cut would cause continuous bleeding in the body, and death. Blood clotting is a process that begins automatically when any injury produces a tear in a blood vessel. The process of blood clotting involves a collection of molecules, which circulate continuously through the bloodstream. When an injury occurs, these molecules rapidly assemble and form the blood clot. The clotting factors are proteins, and include proteins called Factor II, Factor VII, Factor IX, and Factor X. Factor II is also called prothrombin. These proteins require vitamin K for their synthesis in the body. The blood-clotting process also requires a dozen other proteins that do not need vitamin K for their synthesis.
Tom Brody PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,