Higher vitamin K levels associated with improved verbal episodic memory
Tuesday, October 1, 2013. The December, 2013 issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging describes a study conducted by researchers at the University of Montréal which uncovered an association between higher serum phylloquinone (vitamin K1) levels and better verbal episodic memory in older adults.
The current investigation utilized data from 320 subjects between the ages of 70 to 85 years who were free of cognitive impairment upon enrollment in the Québec Longitudinal Study on Nutrition and Successful Aging (NuAge), which recruited 1,793 men and women from 2003 to 2005. Follow-up interviews were conducted yearly for up to three years following enrollment. The current study's subjects underwent cognitive evaluation between 2006 and 2008, and blood samples collected at this time period were analyzed for phylloquinone and other factors.
An association was found between higher vitamin K levels and the scores of three immediate free recall trials and 20 minute delayed free recall, which evaluated verbal episodic memory. (Episodic memory refers to the memory of events with their space-time context.) The authors remark that the current study's finding corroborates that of a recent animal study which found diminished spatial learning ability in those given a diet that provided a reduced amount of vitamin K.
"The present study is important, because it provides support for an emerging role of vitamin K in the aging brain," write Nancy Presse and her coauthors. "To our knowledge, this is the first published study to examine the association between vitamin K and cognitive outcomes in healthy older adults."
"The present report emphasizes the need to consider vitamin K as a nutritional factor in cognitive health in the aging population," the authors conclude. "Future studies will be needed to further our understanding of the role of vitamin K in brain and to examine whether treatment with vitamin K antagonists could affect cognition."
An article published on May 11, 2012 in the journal Science reports the outcome of research that suggests that the administration of vitamin K2 could reverse mitochondrial defects responsible for the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Mitochondria are organelles within the cells that function as power plants to provide energy for the cells' operation. Energy is generated via the transporting of electrons—a process that is disrupted in Parkinson's disease. This loss of energy production leads to such characteristic symptoms as tremors, muscle stiffness and lack of movement that occur in Parkinson's disease patients.
In their introduction to the article, neuroscientist Patrik Verstreken of the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology and his colleagues at Northern Illinois University note that "Vitamin K2 is best known as a cofactor in blood coagulation, but in bacteria it is a membrane-bound electron carrier. Whether vitamin K2 exerts a similar carrier function in eukaryotic cells is unknown."
For their research, the team used fruitflies that were genetically modified to have defects found in human Parkinson's disease patients that lead to decreased mitochondrial activity. While flies with mutated PINK1 or Parkin were flightless due to defects in their mitochondria, those that received vitamin K2 were better able to fly due to improved electron transport within the mitochondria that led to more energy being produced--a process similar to that elicited by ubiquinone. "Thus, mitochondrial dysfunction was rescued by vitamin K2 that serves as a mitochondrial electron carrier, helping to maintain normal ATP production," the authors conclude.
"It appears from our research that administering vitamin K2 could possibly help patients with Parkinson's," Dr Verstreken remarked. "However, more work needs to be done to understand this better."
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