K is for Vitamin K

vitamin KAlthough vitamin K has not been tested specifically for its anti-wrinkle benefits, some clinical studies suggest it may be able to reduce wrinkles.

In one clinical trial to test the effectiveness of vitamin K1 in reducing dark circles under the eyes, the treatment slightly reduced wrinkles in some patients. However, the gel also contained vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as retinol.

In another small clinical trial involving 11 women the participants used eye pads containing 1% vitamin K. After 4 weeks, the pads improved the appearance of wrinkles and dark circles. The pads also contained 3% caffeine.

Vitamin K deficiency has many negative effects on skin health and leads to:

  • Abnormal calcification which in turn leads to calcium deposits that harden around the elastin fibers in skin, resulting in loss of elasticity.
  • Reduced production of glucosamine, which can negatively impact skin.
  • Reduced synthesis of glycosaminoglycan, which supports the skin’s dermis layer (along with collagen) and ultimately, loss of collagen.

Some experts suggest that the high levels of vitamin K in seaweed counteract skin aging. Japanese women have a higher intake of vitamin K through consumption of seaweed. Research has shown that Caucasian women seem to develop a lot more wrinkles than Japanese women.

Vitamin K is only one of the few vitamins able to penetrate the skin, making it suitable for a topical cream or ointment.

But benefits are not just cosmetic!

It’s well known that vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and improves bone health. Newer research indicates that vitamin K also impacts other areas of the body, including those particularly vulnerable to aging such as the brain.

Decreases in brain function (both cognitive and motor) as people age are linked to oxidative stress and inflammation. Research indicates that reducing the brain’s susceptibility to these harmful factors can help prevent or reverse degenerative brain conditions. Vitamin K appears to play multiple protective roles in reducing these risks.

There is a large concentration of vitamin K in the brain, mostly in the form of vitamin K2. Studies suggest that diets high in vitamin K actually promote vitamin K2 accumulation in the brain. Conversely, diets low in vitamin K are linked to cognitive impairment in animal studies.

Research suggests that vitamin K and vitamin K2 can help keep the brain healthy during aging. In fact, a study on nutrition and aging found that higher vitamin K levels in the blood were linked to better verbal memory in men and women aged 70-85 years old.

Glutathione (GSH) is a powerful natural antioxidant in our bodies. Not only does GSH act as an antioxidant, it is also an anti-inflammatory and antitoxin enzyme. Severely diminished levels of GSH leave brain cells vulnerable to free radical attack and cell death. In animal studies, inhibiting GSH causes neurological disorders.

Research strongly suggests that GSH depletion is related to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’sParkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). The good news is that vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 may help.

Some of vitamin K’s protective effects in the brain are related to the vitamin K-dependent Gla proteins. Research confirms that Gas6, one such Gla protein, is associated with brain health. Gas6 is active in brain cell growth and survival, and studies show that mice with mutated Gas6 receptors have severe neurological abnormalities.

The brain has a larger number of lipid molecules called sphingolipids. These serve as major signalling molecules between cells, and are predominately in the myelinated areas of the brain.

Aging and age-related brain disorders (such as Alzheimer’s disease) are linked to dysfunctional sphingolipid metabolism. Sphingolipids help maintain myelin, the protective sheath covering nerve cell axons. Axons are the thin tail-like extensions from the neuron body that electrical signals travel over.

Animal studies show that the vitamin K2 helps regulate sulfatide production in the brain. This suggests that vitamin K and vitamin K2 could help keep myelin healthy and protect brain cells.

Vitamin K Blocks Free Radicals

In this experiment, vitamin K offered no protection against sudden and severe oxidative injury. It also did not prevent the depletion of GSH, however, vitamin K did block the production of the free radicals that cause oxidative damage and cell death.

The clinical implications of the potent antioxidant protection by vitamin K are profound, especially since it has been proven to easily cross the blood-brain barrier (as shown by the successful use of vitamin K to prevent bleeding in the brain of preterm babies). These study results suggest that vitamin K may offer preventative and therapeutic benefits for neurological diseases linked to the depletion of GSH.