Vitamin K and potassium are essential micronutrients the body needs to develop and function properly. The two share some things in common, but they’re not the same.

Each has a unique set of properties and purposes. Unlike vitamin K, potassium is not a vitamin. Rather, it’s a mineral.

On the periodic table, the chemical symbol for potassium is the letter K. Thus, people sometimes confuse potassium with vitamin K.

This article highlights some of the main similarities and differences between vitamin K and potassium.

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How do vitamin K and potassium compare?

Vitamin K and potassium are both considered essential nutrients.

Your body needs essential nutrients to complete basic tasks. The body cannot product potassium on its own and can only make small amounts of vitamin K. As a result, it’s important to consume these nutrients through food.

Though vitamin K and potassium are both important, they’re not the same type of compound.

The table below summarizes some notable characteristics of each (1, 2, 3, 4):

Vitamin K Potassium
Compound type vitamin mineral
Chemical structure quinone lipid soft metal
Daily Value (DV) 120 mcg 4,700 mg
Forms food, supplements, and small amounts produced in the gut food, supplements, and in some foods as an additive
Bioavailability vitamin K2 may be more bioavailable than K1 still unclear which forms the body absorbs best
Uses blood clotting and bone metabolism an electrolyte that helps cells complete basic functions
Benefits may support bone and heart health and prevent infant bleeding may support bone health and benefit blood pressure

Vitamin K overview

Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins the body needs to produce proteins for blood clotting and bone production, among other functions (5, 6, 7).

Healthcare providers often give vitamin K1 supplements to infants just after birth to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB).

VKDB is a condition that occurs when there’s not enough vitamin K in the body to help form blood clots (8).

The most common types of vitamin K are K1 and K2 (5, 9).

Vitamin K1 — also known as phylloquinone — is the type usually found in leafy green vegetables. It’s also the most common type of vitamin K in the human diet (5).

Vitamin K2 is a group of compounds known as menaquinones. They’re often present in animal products and fermented foods.

Gut bacteria also produce small amounts of menaquinones (5).

However, the amount of vitamin K2 the gut produces varies. Further, scientists need to do more research to investigate how vitamin K2 produced by the gut may influence health (10, 11, 12).

Potassium overview

Potassium is a mineral that functions as an electrolyte within the human body.

Virtually every cell and tissue in the human body needs electrolytes to complete basic functions.

Potassium helps maintain (13):

  • water balance
  • blood pH
  • blood pressure
  • muscle movement
  • communication between neurons
  • regular heartbeat

Therefore, having blood potassium levels within normal limits is important for maintaining optimal health (14, 15, 16).

Summary

Unlike vitamin K, potassium is not a vitamin — it’s a mineral. To keep the body working properly, consume both nutrients in foods or supplements.

Benefits of each

Regularly consuming foods that are rich sources of vitamin K and potassium can contribute to an overall healthy diet.

These micronutrients each have benefits of their own, and they may even share a few similar benefits.

For example, scientists have studied both for their potential effects on bone and heart health (17, 18, 19, 20).

Here’s a closer look.

Vitamin K benefits

Vitamin K plays a significant role in bone growth and metabolism.

A deficiency of the nutrient has been linked with bone injuries. These may include fractures and diseases of the bone, such as osteoporosis (21, 22, 23).

Vitamin K supplements have shown potential in early research to help reduce fracture rates. These benefits may be particularly helpful for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (18, 21, 24).

However, scientists still need to do more rigorous research to fully understand the relationship between supplements and bone health (25).

Vitamin K may also help inhibit the accumulation of calcium in the blood vessels, which is a notable predictor of heart disease. Researchers believe vitamin K2 may help inhibit this buildup (26, 27).

Thus, getting enough vitamin K2 in your diet may help prevent calcium buildup and benefit heart health (26, 27).

However, researchers need to do more studies to fully understand the relationship between vitamin K and heart health.

Additionally, it appears that other nutrients, including vitamin D, may influence the effectiveness of vitamin K supplements for heart health (17, 28).

Emerging research suggests that vitamin K could have additional benefits in preventing age- and inflammation-related conditions like diabetes and cancer (29, 30, 31, 32).

Again, scientists need to do more high quality research to investigate these potential effects.

Potassium benefits

Potassium may play a role in bone health.

However, only a few high-quality studies have found potassium supplements improved measures of bone health (33, 34).

Like vitamin K, potassium may help bone health in postmenopausal women. A recent study found potassium may have more pronounced effects on bone health and osteoporosis risk in that population (35).

Potassium’s capacity to help regulate blood pressure appears to have significant impacts on heart health (19).

But it’s still unclear how potassium supplements compare to dietary potassium. Researchers also need to investigate how salt intake influences the impacts of potassium on heart disease (4, 19, 36).

Summary

Vitamin K and potassium both help with basic bodily functions. Adequate intake of these nutrients may benefit bone and heart health.

Safety concerns

Vitamin K and potassium are generally considered safe for most people. There’s not enough evidence to show that consuming too much of either could have toxic side effects (3).

No Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) has currently been set for either micronutrient (37, 38).

However, people taking certain medications and those with chronic kidney disease (CKD) may need to closely monitor the amount of vitamin K and potassium they’re consuming.

Otherwise, blood levels of these nutrients that are too low or too high could have dangerous side effects.

Vitamin K concerns

Research shows that people with CKD have an increased risk of vitamin K deficiency (39, 40, 41).

Therefore, ensuring that people with CKD are consuming enough vitamin K may be one way to help prevent future bone and heart complications. However, more research is needed (42, 43).

Because vitamin K encourages blood clotting, people taking blood thinning medications must pay close attention to how much vitamin K they’re consuming.

This will help prevent vitamin K from interfering with the intended effects of the medication (44).

Potassium concerns

When it comes to potassium, people with CKD are at an increased risk of hypokalemia — low blood potassium levels. They also have an increased risk of hyperkalemia, high blood potassium levels (45).

These blood potassium level abnormalities in CKD have been linked with an increased risk of hospitalization, heart disease, and death (45, 46, 47).

Thus, people with CKD may need to closely monitor their blood potassium levels and adjust their intake of potassium-rich foods and supplements accordingly.

Summary

People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) or those who are taking certain medications, including blood thinners, may need to pay close attention to their vitamin K and potassium blood levels.

Food sources of vitamin K and potassium

Some of the best food sources of vitamin K include (5):

  • fruits
  • leafy green vegetables
  • fermented soybeans
  • nuts
  • cheese
  • roasted chicken

Foods that are particularly rich in potassium are (48):

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • dairy products
  • seafood
  • lean meat

Summary

Many foods contain vitamin K and potassium. Leafy green vegetables and fermented soybeans are rich in vitamin K, while fruits and vegetables are often great sources of potassium.

The bottom line

The body needs the micronutrient’s vitamin K and potassium to continue working properly.

Although people sometimes confuse them with one another, the two aren’t the same. Potassium is a mineral and not a vitamin, and the two nutrients function differently in the human body.

Still, they both contribute to better bone and heart health, among other benefits.

Consuming foods rich is vitamin K and potassium is an important part of a healthy diet.