Many older patients in the U.S. are taking drugs to thin their blood and prevent abnormal blood clotting. The most commonly used one is Coumadin, also known as warfarin. This drug works by interfering with vitamin K. It works because vitamin K is critical for blood clotting. So when you take vitamin K out of the picture, the blood can't clot. But like most vitamins, vitamin K has many other functions in the body besides blood clotting. One of those functions is brain physiology and function. So recently, scientists wondered if taking an anti-vitamin K blood thinner increases the chance of developing dementia.
Researchers examined 267 men and women between the ages of 75 and 91. Some of them were taking an anti-vitamin K blood thinner and some weren't. They gave each of the men and women a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). The MMSE is a simple cognitive function test that a doctor can do in the office in less than 15 minutes. A perfect score is 30. A score less than 25 indicates cognitive impairment. Then they compared the scores of the men and women on the anti-vitamin K drugs vs. the ones who weren't. When they made the comparison, they also took into account any factors that might influence the results, such as age, sex, weight, health status, and mood. Here's what they found..
Out of the total 267 men and women, 197 scored less than 25 on the MMSE test. And the risk of being in that group was 17.4% higher in those who were taking an anti-vitamin K drug.
Another study reported just a couple of years ago in the Journal of Neurobiological Aging also looked at brain performance and vitamin K levels. Researchers looked at 320 men and women aged 70 to 85 years who had no obvious signs of any cognitive impairment.
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Then they checked their memory, brain speed, and their vitamin K blood levels. The researchers found that the higher the vitamin K levels were, the better their verbal episodic memory and brain speed.
Your episodic memory is important for everyday life. For example, remembering where you put your keys is an example of episodic memory. The authors of the study concluded that, "Our study adds evidence to the possible role of vitamin K in cognition during aging, specifically in the consolidation of the memory trace." How can vitamin K be so important for brain function? Two ways for sure.
For one, vitamin K is involved with the metabolism and regulation of sphingolipid metabolism. Sphingolipids are fats that are a major component of brain cell membranes that have a significant role in the structure and function of the nervous system. They are biologically potent molecules that are involved in a wide range of brain-cell actions. Also, there's growing evidence that vitamin K has anti-inflammatory activity and protects the nervous system from free radical damage.
So if your doctor has you taking a drug like Coumadin that interferes with vitamin K, perhaps you should look into an alternative. Although there are no published studies to prove it, I believe that the combination of nattokinase and fish oil supplements is a safe and excellent way to do this. Many doctors, including myself, have been using this combination for decades and have never seen a bad result.
In addition, in some cases, I also use an 81 mg aspirin tablet. Advanced Bionutritionals makes an excellent nattokinase supplement called Advanced Natto Formula. And the fish oil I recommend is the one I formulated, Complete Daily Oils. Take one of each twice a day. And maybe the next time you go to find your car keys, you will find them much faster.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Annweiler, C., G. Ferland, et al. "Vitamin K antagonists and cognitive impairment: results from a cross-sectional pilot study among geriatric patients." J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 January;70(1):97-101.
Presse, N., S. Belleville, et al. "Vitamin K status and cognitive function in healthy older adults." Neurobiol Aging. 2013 December;34(12):2777-83.