Scientists undercover link between vitamin K and diabetes prevention

Consuming high levels of vitamin K could protect against the development of type 2 diabetes, according to a study from the Netherlands.

Scientists monitored the diets of 38,000 Dutch adults for ten years and discovered that those who got the most vitamin K in their diets were around 20% less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the study period.

The researchers, based at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, said the findings did not show conclusively that the vitamin was the reason for the lower risk. However, the connection was strong enough to warrant further research into whether a lack of vitamin K can play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Vitamin K exists in two natural forms: vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, which is found mainly in green leafy vegetables; and vitamin K2, or menaquinone, which is found in meat, cheese and eggs. In the study, both kinds were found to be related to a lower diabetes risk, though the relationship was strongest with vitamin K2.

The findings, reported in the journal Diabetes Care, were drawn from answers to dietary questionnaires completed by 38,094 men and women aged between 20 and 70. Over the 10 year study period, 918 participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

In general, the researchers found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes fell for every 10mcg increase in vitamin K2 intake. Overall, the 25% of participants with the highest vitamin K intake were 20% less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than the 25% with the lowest intake.

It's not known exactly vitamin K might protect against diabetes. The researchers said there was some evidence it reduced systemic inflammation, which could enhance the body's use of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. But more research was needed, they added.

1. Dietary phylloquinone and menaquinones intake and risk of type 2 diabetes, Joline WJ Beulens, Daphne L van der A, Diederick E. Grobbee, Ivonne Sluijs, Annemieke MW Spijkerman, Yvonne T van der Schouw, Diabetes Care, doi: 10.2337/dc09-2302

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