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Any of several fat-soluble compounds essential for the clotting of blood. A deficiency of vitamin K in the body leads to an increase in clotting time. In 1929 a previously unrecognized fat-soluble substance present in green leafy vegetables was found to be required for coagulation of the blood; its letter name comes from the Danish word koagulation. A pure form was isolated and analyzed structurally in 1939; several related compounds having vitamin-K activity have since been isolated and synthesized. The form of vitamin K that is important in mammalian tissue is of microbial origin. A synthetic vitamin K precursor called menadione is used as a vitamin supplement.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on vitamin K, visit Britannica.com.