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12.5B: Vitamin K Deficiency and Toxicity

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  • Vitamin K deficiency is rare, but can occur in newborn infants. They are at higher risk, because there is poor transfer of vitamin K across the placental barrier, their gastrointestinal tracts do not contain vitamin K producing bacteria, and breast milk is generally low in vitamin K.1 As a result, it is recommended (and widely practiced) that all infants receive a vitamin K injection within 6 hours of birth.2

    Prolonged antibiotic treatment (which kills bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract) and lipid absorption problems can also lead to vitamin K deficiency.3 Vitamin K deficient individuals have an increased risk of bleeding or hemorrhage. Remember that high levels of vitamin E intake can also interfere with vitamin K's blood clotting function. It is believed that a vitamin E metabolite, with similar structure to the vitamin K quinones, antagonizes the action of vitamin K.

    Phylloquinone and menaquinone have no reported toxicities. However, menadione can cause liver damage1.

    References & Links

    1. Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. (2008) Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
    2. Byrd-Bredbenner C, Moe G, Beshgetoor D, Berning J. (2009) Wardlaw's perspectives in nutrition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
    3. McGuire M, Beerman KA. (2011) Nutritional sciences: From fundamentals to food. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning
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