- and other types of organ damage
Vitamin K occurs naturally in different forms. The vitamin is primarily known for its role in blood coagulation, but a team of German scientists has found a new type of vitamin K. This form serves as a very particular type of antioxidant that counteracts cell death caused by a process called ferroptosis. Because ferroptosis is involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, acute organ damage, and other diseases, the researchers see a whole new potential for vitamin K in the prevention and mitigation of ferroptosis-related ailments. Earlier studies even suggest that selenium-containing antioxidants also protect against cell death caused by ferroptosis.
Ferroptosis is a natural type of programmed cell death. The cell carries out ferroptosis with help from iron-containing free radicals that attack the unsaturated fatty acids in the cell membrane, thereby setting off a chain reaction inside the cell. This phenomenon is known as lipid peroxidation and is one of the most harmful processes to which a cell can get exposed. For the last decade or so, science has discovered that ferroptosis that causes cell death can be involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, acute organ damage, and other diseases. There has been a hunt for new strategies to prevent ferroptosis and related diseases. Earlier research suggests that ferroptosis occurs when there is also a lack of the selenium-containing antioxidant, GPX4, that can neutralize the iron-containing free radicals. In their search for natural solutions, scientists have also looked at other vitamins and their role. Now, a science team from the innovative science institute, Helmholtz Munich, in Germany has discovered that vitamin K prevents cells and tissues from perishing as a result of ferroptosis. This is the case with vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and a particular type of vitamin K2 (menaquinone-4) that is involved in different metabolic processes.
- Vitamin K is lipid-soluble and occurs in a variety of different forms via intricate metabolic processes
- Vitamin K (phylloquinone) is important for blood coagulation and is mainly found in cabbage and green vegetables
- Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) counteracts atherosclerosis and osteoporosis through activation of proteins that remove calcium from the blood vessels and embed the mineral in bone tissue, instead
- We are able to synthesize vitamin K2 from vitamin K1, provided or gut flora is in good working order. Vitamin K2 is also found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, and soft cheese
A new breakthrough in vitamin K’s metabolism
In 2019, scientists had already identified an enzyme that counteracts ferroptosis in a very effective way. The enzyme is named FSP1 (ferroptosis suppressor protein-1). Now, the German scientists have discovered that FSP1 has this effect because it converts vitamin K into a form called hydroquinone. This is a type of reduced vitamin K that functions as a powerful antioxidant by counteracting ferroptosis through its neutralizing effect on the free radicals in the lipid-containing cell membranes. The researchers’ discovery of hydroquinone is considered a breakthrough in vitamin K’s highly complicated metabolism. Because ferroptosis is most likely one of the most ancient types of programmed cell death, the scientists believe that vitamin K may therefore be one of the oldest natural antioxidants. Vitamin K’s recently discovered potential for health through evolution calls for closer scrutiny. The study is published in Nature.
- FSP1 (ferroptosis suppressor protein-1) is an enzyme that converts vitamin K1 into vitamin K2 and hydroquinone
- Hydroquinone serves as a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes iron-containing free radicals, thereby counteracting ferroptosis
- Because ferroptosis is involved in Alzheimer’s disease, acute organ damage, and a host of degenerative diseases, the scientists see a whole new potential for vitamin K with regard to human health
Vitamin K2 deficiency and reasons for lacking the nutrient
There is only a recommended intake level for vitamin K1, and it is 75 micrograms per day. The ability to convert vitamin K1 into vitamin K2 varies a lot. Many studies suggest that we humans can ingest comparatively large quantities of vitamin K2 (75-180 micrograms/day).
Lack of vitamin K may be a result of unhealthy eating habits, a malfunctioning gut flora, and prolonged use of warfarin (vitamin K antagonist for preventing blood clots), antibiotics, antacids, acetylsalicylic acid, and cholesterol-lowering statins.
Eikan Mishima et al. A non-canonical vitamin K cycle is potent ferroptosis suppressor. Nature, 03 August, 2022.
Helmholtz Munich. Vitamin K prevents cell death: New function for a long-known molecule. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2022.
DA Stoyanovsky et al. Iron Catalysis of Lipid Peroxidation in Ferroptosis: Regulated Enzymatic or Random Free Radical Reaction. Free Radic Biol Med. 2019
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