Could Vitamin K Deficiency Increase COVID-19 Complications?

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Could Vitamin K Deficiency Increase COVID-19 Complications?


Consider this—over 8000 medical papers on COVID-19 have been published in 2020 alone—the majority of which have been published just in March and April. As the amount of clinical data grows, we will learn more nuanced aspects of this novel pandemic—one of which will be how micronutrient status may impact COVID-19. 

In a recently e-published paper, a team from the Netherlands studied the level of vitamin K in over a hundred people admitted to the hospital with confirmed COVID-19. Vitamin K was measured in 307 people—123 with confirmed COVID-19 hospitalization plus 184 controls that did not have COVID-19. Of the 123 people with COVID-19, they were further subdivided into three groups depending on the severity of their disease:

  • Group 1: recovered and left the hospital
  • Group 2: put on a ventilator in the ICU
  • Group 3: they died in the hospital

Higher vitamin K status was seen in the control group—so people who did not get COVID-19 tended to have better vitamin K levels. But more importantly, of the sick patients, those who fared worse had lower vitamin K status. 

Researchers concluded that a deficiency in vitamin K may be linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes. 

So, the next question—why?

One reason may have to do with previous work linking low vitamin K status with respiratory disease—in particular, something called IFP, which stands for idiopathic (unknown cause) pulmonary (lungs) fibrosis (scar tissue buildup).  

The hypothesis is that low vitamin K may have something to do with scar tissue building up in the lungs. Here’s the proposed mechanism: there is a protein called MGP (matrix gla protein) that is vitamin-K dependent to work properly. The role of MGP is to make sure minerals, in particular calcium, stay in bones and not in blood vessels. If calcium builds up in blood vessels, they become stiff and “calcified” and sets the stage for atherosclerosis. If MGP does not do its job, the bones can potentially lose calcium while the arteries can potentially get hardened. (This is why vitamin K is so important for bone and heart health.) 

MGP has another, related, function—which is to protect the elasticity of connective tissue against mineralization, which would make it stiff. In fact, there is a protein called elastin that is present in lung tissue that keeps is flexible. Elastin is similar to the structural protein collagen but is more elastic and in smaller spaced tissues—like the interstitial spaces in our lungs. If elastin becomes stiff, which could happen in vitamin K deficiency, then fibrous scarring could build up which then impairs pulmonary function. If lung tissue is stiff, it is harder to breathe and harder to exchange oxygen. Since MGP needs vitamin K to do its job, it is plausible that low vitamin K may contribute to lung fibrosis, or scarring, during a respiratory infection. 

The researchers are NOT suggesting that vitamin K supplementation during COVID-19 would help prognosis. It is quite a different conclusion to state that vitamin K deficiency may worsen prognosis, which is what they conclude. 

Although more research is needed, the implications are clear—that micronutrient deficiencies, in this case, vitamin K—can potentially worsen outcomes in patients with COVID-19.  

If you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, what can you do to improve your chances of a full recovery? One giant step is to correct micronutrient deficiencies now—before you are sick. Get a micronutrient test today.  

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Source: Dofferhoff A et al. Reduced Vitamin K Status as a Potentially Modifiable Prognostic Risk Factor in COVID-19; doi:10.20944/preprints202004.0457.v1. Epub ahead of print.