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Vitamin K and "Koffee." (significant amount of vitamin K present in coffee; various health aspects examined) (Column)

The vitamin content of coffee is seldom considered a factor for or against the consumption of the beverage. Although mention is made of small or trace amounts of vitamin B and E, few people are aware that it contains significant amounts of vitamin K. I recently ran across a promotion piece by Dupont Pharmaceutical entitled "Patient Guide: Using Coumadin at Home", which claimed that an eight-ounce cup of coffee contained more than half the daily requirements of vitamin K and should not be exceeded by patients on this medication. An eight-ounce cup of regular or decaffeinated contains 91 micrograms (millionth of a gram), which is more than half the 70-140 micrograms daily human requirement. Susceptible people on their regimen could suffer extreme discomfort to the point of stroke, heart failure or fatality from the vitamin K content if they consume more than one cup of coffee per day under these conditions.

Vitamin K was discovered by a Danish biochemist in 1936. He noticed that chicks fed a fat-free diet tended to hemorrhage easily and found they were missing a factor responsible for blood clotting. He determined the factor was a fat-soluble compound which he named Koagulation Vitamin or vitamin K. Later, he isolated it from alfalfa and was awarded a Nobel Prize.

Vitamin K is stored in the liver and released slowly for use. Since the body needs only small amounts, deficiencies are rare. Exceptions are people dependent on intravenous feeding, or those who have chronic digestive problems that interfere with its absorption. Newborns are also susceptible to its deficiencies which can produce hemorrhages or other blood-clotting problems at birth. They need four or five days to acquire sufficient protective vitamin K. To prevent problems, almost all newborns in the U.S. receive a shot of this vitamin at birth, which protects them until they produce their own supply. Signs of such shortage are blood in the urine, small bruises on various parts of the body and spontaneous nose bleeds.

Hemophiliacs, who suffer a deficiency of K, are counterbalanced by those who have a surplus or cannot tolerate an excess of this vitamin. These include those whose metabolism is askew, and particularly those who have had a mild stroke-especially those anxious to prevent a more serious event. Low vitamin K will not liquidate clots once formed in the blood stream, but often prevents their formation. This is where excess from K from coffee or other sources becomes hazardous as additional clots in the blood stream can be instantly fatal or cause paralysis of various parts of the body including the cerebrum, leading to limb and speech difficulties as well as mental paralysis.

Physicians have several blood thinners they use to control the clotting times of susceptible patients to coagulation and clot formation and movement. They must establish an equilibrium for each patient and his diet, activities and medication, as a guide to the vitamin K content of his food.

Utilization is made of information such as: "Provisional Table of vitamin K content of Foods, Human Nutrition Information Service HN/S/PT-104 (USDA 1986)" These data also note that one of the highest sources of vitamin K is Green tea. An eight-ounce portion contains 1770 micrograms of vitamin K.

The analytical data about the level of vitamin K in coffee and tea raises some interesting and troubling questions. Labeling the results "provisional" signifies that a not very thorough or final result is claimed. It was probably not performed by a coffee analyst, as a five-ounce cup rather than eight-ounces is usually considered as standard. The amount of 91 micrograms of vitamin K is an extremely precise figure, which seldom occurs in actual practice in vitamin analysis, but would usually be reported at a range like 89-93 averaging 91. When several confirming tests are run, it would appear that the analysis was prepared on laboratory coffee which the chemists were drinking and only tested as an after-thought.

A more interesting question: How strong was the coffee? How was it brewed - percolation, filtration, boiling? The analysts reported that decaffeinated coffee has the same vitamin content as regular, which is somewhat unbelievable as vitamin K is oil-soluble and would be extracted by coffee solvents.

An even more pertinent question: Do Arabica and Robusta have the same amount of vitamin K? And do all crops of the same type of coffee have the same amount of vitamin? This is highly unlikely as agricultural products are notorious for their variability. Example: The caffeine content of coffee itself is highly variable from batch to batch, from crop to crop, from one plantation to another. Caffeine content of coffee frequently varies from 1% or less to as much as 3%. I suspect that published analysis of Green tea, which is the highest at 1,770 micrograms per eight ounces of brew, may be equally fallacious.

Every year, millions of elderly suffer strokes, heart attacks, pulmonary embolism, etc. and are placed on diets which ban coffee because of its vitamin K content. No or Low Vitamin K coffee would be a welcome specialty, both with or without caffeine. It could be explored by initiating analysis of various types of green coffee to see if a blend would be low enough to meet physicians' expectations. If not low enough, a process for removal of vitamin K without flavor loss would have to be developed.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Lee, Samuel
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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