More vitamin K from leafy greens linked to better lung health

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Individuals who don’t get enough vitamin K, a key nutrient in green vegetables, might be at a higher risk for poor lung health, a new study explains. The study authors found that individuals with subpar levels of vitamin K in their bloodstream were more prone to conditions such as asthma, wheezing, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Vitamin K, commonly found in leafy greens, vegetable oils, and cereal grains, is crucial for blood clotting and aids in wound healing. However, its role in lung health has been unclear until now.

While the latest findings, reported in the journal ERJ Open Research, don’t modify existing guidance on vitamin K consumption, they bolster the case for additional research into the potential benefits of vitamin K supplements for certain individuals.

This research, spearheaded by Danish scientists from Copenhagen University Hospital and the University of Copenhagen, encompassed over 4,000 participants ranging in age from 24 to 77. These participants underwent spirometry, a lung function test, contributed blood samples, and provided insights on their health and lifestyle through questionnaires.

One particular blood test marker, dp-ucMGP, was used to identify low levels of vitamin K. Spirometry gauges the volume of air one can exhale in a second (known as forced expiratory volume or FEV1) and the maximum volume inhaled during one breath, termed forced vital capacity (FVC).

leafy greens smoothie
(Credit: Alisha Mishra from Pexels)

The research revealed a correlation between deficient vitamin K markers and reduced FEV1 and FVC values. Participants with decreased vitamin K levels were also more likely to report COPD, asthma, or wheezing incidents.

“We already know that vitamin K has an important role in the blood and research is beginning to show that it’s also important in heart and bone health, but there’s been very little research looking at vitamin K and the lungs. To our knowledge, this is the first study on vitamin K and lung function in a large general population. Our results suggest that vitamin K could play a part in keeping our lungs healthy,” says Dr. Torkil Jespersen in a media release.

“On their own, our findings do not alter current recommendations for vitamin K intake, but they do suggest that we need more research on whether some people, such as those with lung disease, could benefit from vitamin K supplementation.”

The team is currently conducting a comprehensive clinical trial contrasting vitamin K supplements with a placebo, primarily to study potential impacts on heart and bone health. This trial will now also integrate an analysis of respiratory health.

“This study suggests that people with low levels of vitamin K in their blood may have poorer lung function. Further research will help us understand more about this link and see whether increasing vitamin K can improve lung function or not,” adds Dr. Apostolos Bossios from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden

Dr. Bossios is the secretary of the European Respiratory Society’s assembly on Airway diseases, asthma, COPD, and chronic cough, and did not take part in the research.

“In the meantime, we can all try to eat a healthy, balanced diet to support our overall health, and we can protect our lungs by not smoking, taking part in exercise and doing all we can to cut air pollution.”

South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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