Vitamin K: Undervalued vitamin may protect against Alzheimer's disease

Vitamin K: Undervalued vitamin may protect against Alzheimer's disease


Last week some really good news about the possible effects of vitamin K on Alzheimer's was published in an online health magazine.
It means it wouldn't be a bad idea to eat more leafy greens, such as spinach and broccoli.

Leafy vegetables are full of a perhaps somewhat unknown vitamin: vitamin K. This vitamin, like other vitamins, is very important for your body. For example, it plays an important role in proper blood clotting and maintenance of strong bones. But this vitamin may have another important function. For example, experiments with rats cautiously show that there is a link between vitamin K and Alzheimer's disease.

Facts about Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is called dementia. But not all people with dementia have Alzheimer's disease. However, of all the diseases that lead to dementia, Alzheimer's disease is the most common (about 70 percent) followed by vascular dementia (16 percent). In the Netherlands, more than 280,000 people suffer from dementia. Moreover, the older you get, the greater the chance  you will get this disease. More than 40 percent of people over the age of 90 have dementia. Since we're all going to get older in the future, that means the number of people getting the disease will explode in the future. For example, researchers predict that the number of Dutch people with dementia will increase to more than half a million by 2040. This will increase further to at least 620,000 by 2050."

Dementia

Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death worldwide. However, there is a good chance the disease will rise up that ladder. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase exponentially. The number of cases could even triple by 2050.

That's why scientists are diligently looking for solutions, which is not so easy. Although Alzheimer's is a common disease, researchers still don't understand exactly how it develops. However, some studies have shown that there is a link between a vitamin K deficiency and Alzheimer's disease and dementia. And in a new study, researchers are now building on that.

The researchers conducted experiments with rats. Through various tests, they assessed the cognitive functioning of three-month-old rats; the age at which they reached adulthood. One group received vitamin K for seventeen months, while the other group did not. The researchers found that the rats given supplemental vitamin K performed better on all tests: they had less cognitive impairment and had improved spatial memory and learning ability.

At the end of the study, the researchers examined the rats’ brain tissues for insights on the biological pathways involved. The results suggest that vitamin K supplementation affects pathways involving the proteins NLRP3, caspase-1, and Nrf-2, which are involved in inflammation and antioxidant activity. Vitamin K also appears to promote the expression of tyrosine, an amino acid that helps preserve cognitive functions.

Vitamin K

According to the team, these findings mean that it is very likely that vitamin K protects against aging-related cognitive decline, associated with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. “The aging process is associated with deterioration of certain brain functions,” researcher Mohamed El-Sherbiny told Scientias.nl. “But vitamin K seems to protect the brain against this. This is mainly due to the fact that vitamin K plays a crucial role in the brain by regulating the synthesis and metabolism of so-called 'sphingolipids'. And they are involved in many neural processes and therefore play an important role in cognitive function.”

Leafy vegetables

The results from this study are very promising because it is possible that taking enough vitamin K could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. As mentioned, vitamin K is found in leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach and broccoli, but also in meat, cheese and eggs, for example. You don't even have to eat a lot of these foods.
If you stick to the recommended daily amount, you're already in the right range.
The recommended amount of vitamin K varies by age, but for adults over 18 years old, 70 micrograms per day is sufficient. “So consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables is enough to maintain healthy Vit K levels,” says El-Sherbiny. "However, if you can't reach this, there are also vitamin K supplements available in stores."

Vitality

The study shows that the food you consume has a major impact on brain health. And possibly vitamin K can help keep your brain vital. However, the team is still holding out for the time being. For example, they warn that more studies are needed to determine whether the new findings translate from rats to humans.

Further research is therefore already in the offing. However, the findings are promising. Especially because at the moment there is still no effective treatment for Alzheimer's. So if ways are found to slow down this debilitating disease in the least, that's promising. "At least we're showing that we should focus more on vitamin K intake in the elderly population," said El-Sherbiny. “Vitamin K may be a promising way to address age-related disorders and maintain healthy cognitive functions in aging individuals.”