Special K

Yet one more reason to pile on those leafy greens

Seniors aren’t getting enough vitamin K, and that deficit could contribute to bone loss, hardening of the arteries and osteoarthritis, according to a nutrition researcher at Tufts.

Chicory is one leafy green that is rich in vitamin K. © FOODCOLLECTION

Sarah Booth, director of the Vitamin K Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, reviewed studies on vitamin K status among the elderly in an article published in the January issue of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. Although older adults seem to consume more vitamin K than younger adults, many seniors still aren’t getting the recommended daily amount of the vitamin, Booth said.

Vitamin K is found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and lettuce as well as in kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cereals, milk and soybeans. The recommended daily amount is 65 micrograms for adult females and 80 micrograms for adult males.

“Research has shown poor vitamin K intake may be associated with conditions such as bone fractures, bone loss, hardening of the arteries and osteoarthritis,” Booth said.

Although it may be important for the elderly to add more vitamin K-rich foods to their diets, Booth said researchers also need to examine factors other than diet that may affect vitamin K levels in the body. For example, she said, “studies indicate that low estrogen levels in menopause may change the way vitamin K is metabolized.”

More research is also needed to determine who might benefit from vitamin K supplements, she said.