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Low vitamin K levels linked to disability and limited mobility

July 10, 2019—Want to help your chances of staying active and independent as you age? It may help to eat your leafy greens. A study found that older adults with low levels of vitamin K—which is found in foods like spinach and kale—may face an increased risk of mobility problems, such as trouble walking or climbing stairs.

The study involved men and women in their 70s. Researchers looked at the amount of vitamin K—obtained from food—circulating in the participant's blood. They also periodically checked on the men's and women's mobility levels.

Compared to those with ample vitamin K levels, older adults with low vitamin K levels were:

  • Nearly 1.5 times more likely to develop limited mobility. The research team defined this as having any trouble walking a quarter of a mile or climbing 10 steps without resting.
  • Nearly twice as likely to develop disability. The researchers defined this as having a lot of trouble walking or climbing steps, or being unable to do these things.

The study, published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, doesn't prove that low vitamin K causes mobility problems, the researchers caution. Other things might explain this apparent connection. More research is needed to confirm the study's results.

Where to find K

Vitamin K is an essential ingredient in a healthy diet, regardless of its potential to help maintain mobility. It helps with normal blood clotting, for instance. Good food sources include kale, spinach, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, tuna and blackberries.

If you take the blood-thinner warfarin (Coumadin), talk with your doctor before boosting your intake of vitamin K-rich foods. A sudden increase in your vitamin K level could prevent Coumadin from working like it should.

A balanced diet can help you get all the nutrients your body needs. Learn more about nutritious eating.

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