Eat your broccoli.
Leafy greens rich in vitamin K — like broccoli and spinach — could be helping to keep your lungs healthy, a new study published in the journal ERJ Open Research revealed.
A group of scientists in Denmark found that people with low levels of vitamin K were more likely to have poor lung function and suffer from asthma, wheezing and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Vitamin K’s impact on our lungs was not widely understood prior to the study, researchers said.
Also found in vegetable oils and cereal grains, vitamin K is known to play a role in helping the body heal wounds, making proteins needed for blood clotting and building healthy bones, according to the Nutrition Source, an informational website run by Harvard’s School of Public Health.
“We already know that vitamin K has an important role in the blood and research is beginning to show that it’s also important in heart and bone health, but there’s been very little research looking at vitamin K and the lungs,” researcher Dr. Torkil Jespersen said in a press release.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study on vitamin K and lung function in a large general population. Our results suggest that vitamin K could play a part in keeping our lungs healthy.”
Researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital and the University of Copenhagen looked at a group of 4,092 people between the ages of 24 and 77, all living in Copenhagen.
Participants took a pulmonary function and breathing test called a spirometry, which measures how much air your lungs can breathe in and out, as well as how easily and how fast you can the blow the air out of your lungs, according to the American Lung Association.
The amount of air one can breathe out in one second is called forced expiratory volume (FEV1), and the total volume of air a person can breathe in one forced breath is forced vital capacity (FVC).
They also gave blood samples and took part in questionnaires about their overall health and lifestyle. The blood tests included a marker of low vitamin K levels called dp-ucMGP.
Findings showed that the people who had low levels of vitamin K on average had lower FEV1 and lower FVC. These people were also more likely to say they suffer from COPD, asthma or wheezing.
“This study suggests that people with low levels of vitamin K in their blood may have poorer lung function. Further research will help us understand more about this link and see whether increasing vitamin K can improve lung function or not,” said Dr. Apostolos Bossios — secretary of the European Respiratory Society’s assembly on airway diseases, asthma, COPD and chronic cough, and who was not involved in the research — in the release.
The study authors note that their findings do not change the recommended vitamin K intake, as supplemental research would need to be done in order to determine if vitamin K supplements could be of value.
According to the National Institutes of Health, an adequate intake for vitamin K for those aged 19 and older is 120 mcg daily for men and 90 mcg daily for women and for those who are pregnant or lactating.
“On their own, our findings do not alter current recommendations for vitamin K intake, but they do suggest that we need more research on whether some people, such as those with lung disease, could benefit from vitamin K supplementation,” Jespersen said.
“In the meantime, we can all try to eat a healthy, balanced diet to support our overall health, and we can protect our lungs by not smoking, taking part in exercise and doing all we can to cut air pollution,” Bossios added.
The research team is already working on a large clinical trial comparing a vitamin K supplement with a placebo to determine its effects on heart and bone health, so these newest findings for lung health can be added to the analysis of the trial.