Tag Archives: brain

Vitamin K may keep your brain from falling apart

Keeping your brain from falling apart is serious business.  Tape and twine have their places, but we are writing to report on some other . . . . “stuff.”   Today’s stuff is Vitamin K.

Vitamin K, Health and Research

Research is indicating that Vitamin K may be important in protecting brain function. Researchers recently measured vitamin K levels in blood (as serum phylloquinone) and compared them with how well people did on several tests of cognitive function. People with higher levels of Vitamin K did better on tests of verbal memory and recall.   320 men and women between the ages of 70 and 85 participated in the study. This is good news because we do have some control over our vitamin K intake. The study has its limitations of course.  A blood test measures only what is currently in a person’s system.    The blood test used in this study was not able to measure people’s Vitamin K intake over a long period of time.

What is Vitamin K?

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Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin.  There are two common forms K1 and K2.  K1 comes from plants.   K1 was the form of vitamin K evaluated on the study of cognitive function.

Animals (like us) use K1 to make K2.  K2 is also synthesized by bacteria in the gut.   People may have many different kinds of gut bacteria.  Your gut bacteria will be influenced by your diet and medical history.

Vitamin K is best known as the vitamin the helps blood clot.  Good dietary sources of Vitamin K include:

  • Leafy greens
  • Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli
  • Grains (minor sources)
  • Liver, eggs, meat, fish

Vitamin K may be important for maintaining bone health as well as brain health.  Vitamin K is being evaluated as a possible treatment for osteoporosis.  Until we hear more on that it is probably best to eat real food and plenty of vegetables rather rely on supplements.  Vitamins in vegetables come “packaged” with many other biologically important molecules.  You may need the entire package (by which we mean vegetable not multivitamin).  A dose of one particular molecule may not be particularly helpful.

Presse N, Belleville S, Gaudreau P, Greenwood CE, Kergoat MJ, Morais JA, Payette H, Shatenstein B, & Ferland G (2013). Vitamin K status and cognitive function in healthy older adults. Neurobiology of aging, 34 (12), 2777-83 PMID: 23850343

Knapen MH, Drummen NE, Smit E, Vermeer C, & Theuwissen E (2013). Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 24 (9), 2499-507 PMID: 23525894

Breakthrough of the Year: Sleep cleanses the brain.

From the Editors at Science:
Science 20 December 2013:
Vol. 342 no. 6165 pp. 1440-1441
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6165.1440-a
  • NEWS

To Sleep, Perchance to Clean

In work that Science‘s editors named a runner-up for Breakthrough of the Year, researchers studying mice have found experimental evidence that sleep helps to restore and repair the brain.

 Why do we sleep?

Questions of biology don’t get much more fundamental than that. This year, neuroscientists took what looks like a major stride toward an answer.

Most researchers agree that sleep serves many purposes, such as bolstering the immune system and consolidating memories, but they have long sought a “core” function common to species that sleep. By tracking colored dye through the brains of sleeping mice, scientists got what they think is a direct view of sleep’s basic purpose: cleaning the brain. When mice slumber, they found, a network of transport channels through the brain expands by 60%, increasing the flow of cerebral spinal fluid. The surge of fluid clears away metabolic waste products such as β amyloid proteins, which can plaster neurons with plaques and are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Until this discovery, researchers thought the brain’s only way to dispose of cellular trash was to break it down and recycle it inside cells. If future research finds that many other species undergo this cerebral housekeeping, it would suggest that cleaning is indeed a core function of sleep. The new findings also suggest that sleep deprivation may play a role in the development of neurological diseases. But with a causal role far from certain, it’s too early for anyone to stay awake worrying.

References and Web Sites

E. Underwood, “Sleep: The Brain’s Housekeeper?” Science 342, 6156 (18 October 2013).

L. Xie et al., “Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance From the Adult Brain,”Science 342, 6156 (18 October 2013).