Vitamin K is a cofactor of γ-glutamyl carboxylase, which plays an important role in the activation of γ-carboxyglutamate (gla)-containing proteins that negatively regulate calcification. Thus, vitamin K status might be associated with osteoarthritis (OA), in which cartilage calcification plays a role in the pathogenesis of the disease. This review collates the evidence on the relationship between vitamin K status (circulating or dietary intake level of vitamin K, or circulating uncarboxylated gla proteins) and OA from human observational studies and clinical trial, to examine its potential as an agent in preventing OA. The current literature generally agrees that a sufficient level of vitamin K is associated with a lower risk of OA and pathological joint features. However, evidence from clinical trials is limited. Mechanistic study shows that vitamin K activates matrix gla proteins that inhibit bone morphogenetic protein-mediated cartilage calcification. Gla-rich proteins also inhibit inflammatory cascade in monocytic cell lines, but this function might be independent of vitamin K-carboxylation. Although the current data are insufficient to establish the optimal dose of vitamin K to prevent OA, ensuring sufficient dietary intake seems to protect the elderly from OA.
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