Vitamin K supplements                 

Prevention of hemorrhage

Vitamin K injections may be given to patients before or after surgery to prevent hemorrhage. The injections may be also be used to reduce the risk of excessive bleeding in those with liver disease, jaundice, malabsorption problems or who are taking aspirin or antibiotics.

Hemorrhagic disease of the newborn

Newborn babies are often given a vitamin K injection soon after birth. Vitamin K is not readily transferred from mother to baby, and as newborn babies do not have the intestinal bacteria necessary to produce vitamin K, they are at increased risk of hemorrhage. Premature babies run an especially high risk of brain hemorrhage during delivery because their blood vessels may be too fragile to withstand the surges in blood pressure that can occur. Vitamin K supplements are often given to women who have a high risk of delivering premature babies. Vitamin K supplementsĀ Mothers who are taking anti-epileptic drugs are also given supplements of vitamin K as their babies are at particular risk of vitamin K deficiency. Vitamin K supplements should only be taken on the recommendation of a doctor.

Childhood cancers

In the early 1990s, researchers reported a possible increase in the risk of childhood cancers in children who were given vitamin K injections after birth. These injections are commonly used to reduce the risk of internal bleeding. However, the results of studies are inconclusive. This link was examined in four studies published in the British Medical Journal in 1998. The results of two of the four studies suggest that there is no association between vitamin K injections and cancer, one could not exclude the possibility, and the fourth suggested a possible increase in the risk of leukemia.

In the first study, researchers assessed the risk in over 1000 Scottish children up to 14 years of age. They looked at the links between several types of cancer, including leukemia, and did not find an association. In another study, researchers in Oxford, UK compared the incidence of cancer in groups of children from 94 maternity units with different vitamin K policies.
Their results showed that a raised risk was occasionally associated with vitamin K, but the overall results were not significant. The researchers are quoted as saying that "it is unlikely that there is a greatly increased risk of childhood cancer attributable to intramuscular vitamin K given to newborns, if indeed there is any." However, in another study the same researchers drew the conclusion that "the risk cannot be large, but the possibility that there is some risk cannot be excluded."

The results of the fourth study by researchers in the north of England indicate that there may be some risk. This study involved 685 children who developed cancer before age 15 and 3442 controls. The results showed a two- fold increase in risk of a type of cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 1 to 6 year olds who had been given vitamin K injections.

Some research suggests that oral supplements in three doses of 1 to 2 mg, the first given at the first feeding, the second at two to four weeks and the third at eight weeks may be an acceptable alternative to injections.

In general, infants taking formula have a lower risk of hemorrhagic disease than those who are breastfed, as vitamin K levels are higher in formula. Maternal vitamin K supplements can reduce the risk of deficiency in breastfeeding newborn babies. In a study published in 1997, University of Wisconsin researchers showed that maternal vitamin K supplements of 5 mg per day increased the vitamin K content of breast milk to levels comparable with that in infant formula. Plasma vitamin K levels of babies increased compared to the placebo group.

Vitamin K supplementsĀ Osteoporosis

Vitamin K supplements may improve bone mineralization in postmenopausal women by boosting blood levels of osteocalcin and also possibly by decreasing calcium excretion through the urine. Research evidence suggests that vitamin K intakes much higher than the current recommendations improve biochemical markers of bone formation as well as bone density. Large supplemental doses of vitamin K have been used to treat osteoporosis.

Other uses

Vitamin K may be useful in the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding. It has also been used with vitamin C to treat morning sickness.

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Vitamin K
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Other Vitamins:

Vitamin A
Beta carotene
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12
Pantothenic acid
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K