Current dietary guidelines recommend consuming a wide variety of fruits, grains, and vegetables. Leafy green vegetables are proven to be very healthy, as they contain numerous vitamins, minerals, and are low in calories.  

Consumption of vitamin K1—commonly found in spinach, cabbage, iceberg lettuce, and olive oil—during adolescence may reduce the risk of developing heart disease, according to a study published by The Journal of Nutrition.

The authors of the study found that not consuming vitamin K1 was linked to an increased risk of experiencing enlargement of the major pumping chamber in the heart of adolescents. The authors also found that increasing consumption of the vitamin protected against the condition.

These findings suggest that ensuring younger individuals consume enough vitamin K may improve heart development and prevent health issues in the future.

Included in the study were 766 healthy adolescents aged 14 to 18 years. Patients were instructed to wear an activity monitor for 7 days and complete reports about what they ate.

The authors used an echocardiography to examine the heart and discovered that 10% of the patients had left ventricular hypertrophy.

Changes to the left ventricular are typically associated with adults whose hearts are overworked due to high blood pressure. An enlarged heart can become inefficient and impact health, according to the authors.

The investigators said this is the first study that explores a link between vitamin K and heart structure and function among younger patients.

The authors discovered that patients who consumed the least amount of vitamin K had thicker and larger left ventricles that pumped less blood, according to the study.

These changes were persistent even when potentially confounding factors were accounted for, including sex, race, body composition, physical activity, and blood pressure.

“They had higher levels relative to the other kids,” said co-first author Mary Ellen Fain. “But even at that age, it seemed to make a difference in their hearts.”

Vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting and bone health and is thought to improve cardiovascular health as well; however, findings that link the vitamin and heart health have been inconclusive thus far.

Further studies are needed to explore how vitamin K1 consumption may influence heart development and health, the study concluded.