This is the amazing thing that spinach does to your brain

Leafy greens are healthy, can help you maintain a healthy weight and promote heart health. Don’t wait, go buy kale and spinach.

Among the world’s healthiest vegetables, spinach (photo credit: Boaz Lavi)
Among the world’s healthiest vegetables, spinach
(photo credit: Boaz Lavi)

Leafy greens are one of the healthiest nutrients to add to your daily menu, partly because of the high presence of vitamin K which is known to help prevent heart disease and helps with blood clotting. 

Now, an international team whose research was published in the scientific journal Nature found a new and surprising advantage in eating foods with vitamin K: Preventing cell death and stopping degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, vitamin K comes in two forms. The main type is phylloquinone which is present in green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. The second type is menaquinone, found in animal foods like organ meats and fermented foods such as miso. This type can also be produced by bacteria in the human body. 

Researchers claim that there are 10 forms of vitamin K2 in the diet and each is absorbed and acts differently in the body.

Vitamin K and cell death

Researchers from the Helmholtz Center in Munich, Tohoku University in Japan, the University of Ottawa in Canada and the Dresden University of Technology discovered that vitamin K acts as an antioxidant that inhibits cell death. 

Researchers say that ferroptosis is a natural form of cell death related to iron in the cell and is characterized by oxidative destruction of cell membranes.

Recently, ferroptosis has been identified as a factor in Alzheimer's and other diseases. Findings suggest that vitamin K therapy may be a powerful new strategy to ameliorate the diseases associated with ferroptosis.

Preventing ferroptosis is considered a very promising approach to the treatment of many neurodegenerative diseases; new mechanisms and compounds that modulate ferroptosis are being extensively investigated. 

To identify these new molecules, a team of researchers led by Dr. Iken Mishima (Tohoku) and Dr. Markus Konrad (Helmholtz), systematically studied several natural vitamins and their derivatives. Mishima stated that researchers were surprised to see that two types of vitamin K, phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and menaquinone-4 (vitamin K2), can effectively rescue cells and prevent tissues from undergoing ferroptosis.

Eat foods with flavonoids 

Other research showed that nutrition can inhibit diseases like Alzheimer's. A study published in 2020 in the journal Neurology found that foods containing flavonoids, compounds in plant pigments, may delay and prevent Alzheimer's. 

They wrote at the time that "Eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea may be a relatively cheap and easy way for people to help prevent dementia." 

The main sources of flavonoids are pears, olive oil, kale, beans, tea, spinach, broccoli, wine, tomatoes and apples.