Biotin

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: energy production, skin

Functions

  • Carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism
  • Energy metabolism
  • Formation of glucose from non-carbohydrates (amino acids, lactate and glycerol)
  • Growth
  • Health of skin, hair, nerves, sweat glands, sex glands, bone marrow.

Good food sources

Biotin is not a vitamin but an essential ‘vitamin-like’ substance and is widely distributed in meats, dairy produce and whole grains. Liver and egg yolk are particularly rich sources.

Deficiency symptoms

  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Dermatitis
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of sebaceous glands
  • Nausea
  • Smooth, pale tongue
  • Cradle cap in babies can be due to biotin deficiency.

Preventing deficiency

See Vitamin B1. Biotin is manufactured by the bacteria in our intestines, therefore long-term use of antibiotics could result in deficiency. The white part of raw eggs contains avidin, a substance which binds biotin and prevents its absorption.

Comments

See Vitamin B1. Biotin deficiency in vitro may aid the conversion of Candida albicans to its more pathogenic fungal form. Biotin may work synergistically with insulin and help to lower blood sugar levels.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Folic acid (Folate)

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: protein and DNA synthesis, amino acid metabolism, mental health, homocysteine, preventing birth defects, easily destroyed by heat

Functions

  • Blood formation
  • Melanin synthesis
  • Metabolism of methionine, phenylalanine, tyrosine
  • Protein, RNA and DNA synthesis
  • Synthesis of purines and pyrimidines
  • Synthesis of the amino acids glycine and methionine

Good food sources

  • Leafy green vegetables, especially raw spinach
  • Liver
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Soy flour
  • Whole grains
  • Yeast extract

Deficiency signs and symptoms

  • Anaemia
  • Anorexia
  • Apathy
  • Birth defects in children
  • Breathlessness
  • Constipation and digestive disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Growth impairment
  • Habitual miscarriage
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of heart disease (by causing raised homocysteine levels)
  • Insomnia
  • Memory impairment
  • Mental confusion
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Reduced immunity
  • Sore tongue
  • Vitiligo
  • Weakness

Low levels of several B vitamins have been found in psychiatric patients and in senile dementia.

Preventing deficiency

Folic acid is one of the vitamins most easily destroyed by heat, therefore vegetables should be cooked for as short a time as possible. Whole-grain foods should be eaten instead of white flour products and white rice. The cumulative losses of folic acid from food processing can amount to 65 per cent, leaving many foods with only one third of their original folic acid content. Prolonged boiling can cause losses of up to 50 per cent. Like vitamin B2, folic acid is sensitive to light. The bioavailability of folic acid is reduced by alcohol consumption, the contraceptive pill, aspirin, cimetidine (Zantac), antacids, zinc deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, and the ageing process. Folic acid deficiency is relatively common in malnourished hospitalized patients. Certain tissues can be more folate-deficient than others: for instance precancerous changes can occur in the cervix, lung or colon which are reversible with folic acid supplementation (Heimburger DC: Localized deficiencies of folic acid in aerodigestive tissues. Ann NY Acad Sci 1992669:87-95).

Vitamin B12 deficiency causes folate deficiency by causing folic acid to be trapped as methylfolate, which is unavailable to the body. A deficiency of the amino acid methionine has a similar effect. Oral contraceptives or deficiencies of vitamins B3 or C also prevent adequate utilization.

Comments

Folic acid itself does not occur in food or human tissue unless taken as a dietary supplement, and it is physiologically inactive until it has been reduced to dihydrofolic acid. Folic acid is in fact the parent molecule for a number of derivatives known collectively as folates.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Vitamin A (Retinol)

June 4, 2010 by  
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Keywords: protein synthesis, mucus membranes, eyesight, preventing infections

Functions

  • Eyesight
  • Growth
  • Immune system
  • Mucous membranes
  • Normal development of tissues
  • Protein synthesis

Good food sources

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Fish liver oils
  • Liver
  • Margarine

Deficiency symptoms

  • Acne
  • Dandruff
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry scaly skin
  • Infections
  • Frequent mouth ulcers
  • Poor vision in dim light

Preventing deficiency

Preformed (ready-made) vitamin A is known as retinol, and can only be obtained from animal foods, where it is usually found in the fatty portion, as it is a fat-soluble vitamin. The bioavailability of vitamin A and other fat-soluble vitamins is improved by the consumption of fat or oil as well as protein in the same meal. The consumption of vitamins C and E in the same meal helps to protect vitamin A and so also enhances its bioavailability. The presence of a zinc deficiency on the other hand impairs the absorption and utilization of vitamin A. Food irradiation also reduces vitamin A bioavailability. Vitamin A is said to be very quickly depleted by the presence of infections, and it may be wise to eat liver more frequently during these times. Vegetarians have to rely on their body’s ability to convert pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene) found in many fruits and vegetables—to retinol. The ability to make this conversion is impaired in hypothyroid individuals and diabetics. Babies cannot make this conversion at all.

Comments

Animals store vitamin A in their liver, which is why liver is a good source of retinol—sometimes too good a source. Vitamin A supplements are used in modern intensive farming as a growth promoter, which can increase 20-fold the amount of vitamin A which naturally occurs in an animal’s liver. This is why pregnant women are warned against consuming liver regularly, although the problem is less likely to occur with liver from organically-reared animals. A vitamin A deficiency is so well known to aggravate infections and their complications, that  the World Health Organization has for some time administered vitamin A together with the measles vaccine to children in developing countries.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

December 27, 2010 by  
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Keywords: energy production, nervous system

Functions

  • Conversion of carbohydrate to energy
  • Energy production
  • Brain, heart, muscle and nerve function
  • Release of acetylcholine from nerve cells

Good food sources

  • Beans
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Pork
  • Whole grains

Deficiency symptoms

  • Burning, tingling in toes and soles
  • Depression
  • Easy fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tender calves

Low levels of several B vitamins have been found in psychiatric patients and in senile dementia.

Preventing deficiency

Sugar metabolism requires vitamins B1, B2 and B3, magnesium and chromium. A high sugar consumption uses up these nutrients without replacing them, because sugar does not contain any vitamins or other nutrients except calories.

Alcoholism can also lead to B vitamin deficiency, and alcohol itself can impair the absorption of B vitamins from the intestines.

Many countries make the replacement of some of the lost B vitamins compulsory in products made from refined (white) flour, since the B vitamins are mostly found in the bran and germ of the flour, not in the white, starchy portion. Since white flour products are staple foods for many people, diets could otherwise become dangerously inadequate. Manufacturers may advertise this so-called fortification as ‘added vitamins, giving rise to the mistaken impression that their products are nutritionally superior when this may be far from true.

To avoid thiamine and other B vitamin deficiencies, the diet should be low in sugar. Wholemeal bread, flour and cereals should be used whenever possible, but not in raw form, since cooking is often needed to improve bioavailability.

The bioavailability of vitamin B1 is reduced in the presence of a folic acid deficiency and by the consumption of alcohol and so-called anti-thiamine factors found in fish, shellfish, blueberries, blackcurrants, brussels sprouts, red cabbage and beetroot, but only when these foods are eaten raw. Vitamin B1 is one of the least stable of all the vitamins and huge losses occur during normal processing and cooking. The more finely ground a food (such as minced beef or pork) the greater the loss of vitamin B1, which escapes via the juices. Vitamin B1 is completely inactivated by the widely used preservative sulphur dioxide, and by sulphite solutions used, for instance, to keep chipped potatoes from turning brown. Uncooked freshwater fish and shellfish contain the enzyme thiaminase, which destroys 50 per cent of the vitamin B1 found in the food. Tea also contains an anti-thiamine factor (ATF) which destroys vitamin B1.

Comments

Doctors and other practitioners working in the field of nutritional medicine and therapy consider that an individual’s requirements for B vitamins can be raised if he or she has gone without adequate amounts for any length of time. This may be why deficiency symptoms can persist even when the diet later becomes adequate by normal standards, and in these cases it may be necessary to take dietary supplements for a limited period of time to correct any damage to the B-vitamin dependent systems.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: nervous system, anaemia, frailty in the elderly

Functions

  • Detoxifies cyanide (found in tobacco smoke and in some foods)
  • DNA synthesis
  • Growth and development
  • Healthy nerves

Good food sources

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Liver
  • Meat
  • Yoghurt

Found only in animal foods, although some vegan products are fortified with extra B12 by the manufacturers.

Deficiency symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Anaemia
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased risk of heart disease (by promoting raised homocysteine levels)
  • Loss of sensation in feet and legs
  • Nerve and spinal cord degeneration (with unsteadiness and mental deterioration)
  • Sore, smooth tongue

Low levels of several B vitamins have been found in psychiatric patients and (for B12 in particular) in senile dementia.

Preventing deficiency

Although vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods, vegans (who do not eat any animal foods) survive because our requirements for this vitamin are very small. Yeast extracts used as food flavourings are often fortified with vitamin B12, and vegans should ensure that they consume such foods regularly, or some other product with a guaranteed vitamin B12 content, such as a B12 supplement. Algae and seaweeds are sometimes promoted as plant sources of this vitamin, but they are not a reliable source and some contain only vitamin B12 analogues—substances which are quite similar to vitamin B12 but may actually block the bioavailability of the real vitamin.

Between 16 and 75 per cent of vitamin B12 in a meal is absorbed. The more B12 is ingested, the lower the percentage of absorption. The bioavailability of vitamin B12 is reduced by a lack of intrinsic factor (see below), by parasitic infections and by bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine. Chronic diarrhoea, tapeworm and other intestinal disorders can also inhibit B12 absorption.

Comments

Vitamin B12 contains the trace element cobalt, and provides its only known function in the human body.

Pernicious anaemia, which is the vitamin B12 deficiency disease, is not usually caused by a poor intake of this vitamin, but by a lack of ‘intrinsic factor’, a substance found in the stomach which combines with vitamin B12 and allows it to be absorbed by the lower part of the small intestine. Elderly people are particularly susceptible to a lack of intrinsic factor. Without it, only about 1 per cent of dietary vitamin B12 can be absorbed. Intestinal parasites can also cause vitamin B12 malabsorption.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common even in the presence of normal blood levels, particularly in the elderly. In a study carried out on 548 surviving members of the original Framingham study 12 per cent were found to be B12 deficient. (Lindenbaum J et al. Prevalence of cobalamin deficiency in the Framingham elderly population. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;60(1):2-11.)

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

December 27, 2010 by  
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Keywords: energy production, skin

Functions

  • Activates vitamin B6
  • Conversion of carbyhydrate to energy
  • Conversion of tryptophan to vitamin B3
  • Growth
  • Metabolism of fats, protein and carbohydrate

Good food sources

  • Dairy produce
  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Meat
  • Soy flour
  • Whole grains

Deficiency symptoms

  • Bloodshot, burning, ‘gritty’ eyes
  • Cracks and sores in corners of mouth
  • Dryness, cracking, peeling of lips
  • Eyes sensitive to light
  • Insomnia
  • Sides of nose red, greasy and scaly
  • Soreness and burning of lips and tongue

Low levels of several B vitamins have been found in psychiatric patients and in senile dementia.

Preventing deficiency

See Vitamin B1. The bioavailability of Vitamin B2 is reduced by the consumption of alcohol, and by high zinc levels, some antibiotics, and caffeine. Riboflavin in foods is destroyed by lengthy exposure to the light. Up to 14 per cent of vitamin B2 is lost when milk is pasteurized, and a further 12-25 per cent when it is boiled.

Comments

See Vitamin B1.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

December 27, 2010 by  
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Keywords: energy production, mental health, nervous system

Functions

  • Conversion of carbohydrate to energy
  • DNA synthesis
  • Health of skin, nerves, brain, digestive system
  • Synthesis of fatty acids and steroids.

Good food sources

  • Beef liver
  • Chicken
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Salmon and other oily fish
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Whole grains

Deficiency symptoms

  • Depression
  • Dermatitis
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Red, swollen tongue

Low levels of several B vitamins have been found in psychiatric patients and in senile dementia.

Preventing deficiency

See Vitamin B1. Alcohol severely inhibits vitamin B3 bioavailability. In many grains (particularly wheat and corn), vitamin B3 occurs in the form of a complex which cannot be digested or absorbed if the grain is unprocessed. Wheat requires baking with alkaline baking powder, and corn requires soaking in alkaline lime water before vitamin B3 is released.

Comments

See Vitamin B1. Some cases of severe vitamin B3 deficiency are indistinguishable from schizophrenia, and Dr Abram Hoffer in Canada has pioneered the treatment of schizophrenia using vitamin B3 megadoses, with many successes. Experiences of World War II ex-POWs from Japanese camps suggest that the longer and more severe a B3 deficiency, the higher the corrective dosages needed to restore normal function. Some schizophrenics may need more than 600 mg B3 per day.

Oestrogens reduce the rate of conversion of tryptophan to vitamin B3, which means that when this vitamin is lacking, women in their child-bearing years are twice as likely as men to develop deficiency-related problems. Two enzymes required for the conversion are dependent on vitamins B2 and B6, so that deficiencies of either of these vitamins could also lead to vitamin B3 deficiency.

Vitamin B3 is often supplemented in large doses for a cholesterol-lowering effect. However this approach does not address the possible causes of the high cholesterol.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: stress, nervous system

Functions

  • Conversion of carbohydrate to energy
  • Growth and development
  • Health of nervous system
  • Production of anti-stress hormones

Good food sources

  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Yeast

Deficiency symptoms

  • Burning feet
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor muscle co-ordination
  • Weakness
  • ‘Wind pains’ in intestines

Low levels of several B vitamins have been found in psychiatric patients and in senile dementia.

Preventing deficiency

See Vitamin B1. The vitamin B5 content of foods is considerably reduced by storage and freezing. Green beans lose more than 50 per cent of their B5 after 12 months’ storage while frozen. Canned vegetables lose up to 85 per cent of their vitamin B5 if stored for lengthy periods.

Comments

Vitamin B5 is known as the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin because such large quantities are found in the adrenal glands where the anti-stress hormones are made.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: protein synthesis, magnesium and zinc absorption

Functions

  • Blood and haemoglobin formation
  • Calcium and magnesium metabolism
  • Conversion of glycogen to glucose
  • Conversion of tryptophan to vitamin B3 or serotonin
  • Energy production
  • Histamine metabolism
  • Protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism
  • Selenium metabolism and transportation
  • Synthesis of prostaglandins from essential fatty acids
  • Zinc absorption

Good food sources

  • Avocado pears
  • Bananas
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains

Deficiency symptoms

  • Anaemia
  • Convulsions (in infants)
  • Inability to remember dreams
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Kidney stones
  • Morning sickness of pregnancy
  • Nervousness
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Red, scaly patches at sides of nose and corners of mouth
  • Skin rashes, especially on the forehead and around the eyebrows.

Vitamin B6 and vitamin B2 deficiency symptoms are very similar. Low levels of several B vitamins have been found in psychiatric patients and in senile dementia.

Preventing deficiency

See Vitamin B1. The bioavailability of Vitamin B6 is reduced by alcohol, by consumption of the B6 antagonists linseeds and mushrooms, and, in milk, by sterilization. B6 bioavailability in peanut butter, soy products and cereals processed with dry heat is low. The contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy may greatly increase a woman’s requirements for vitamin B6. 75-90 per cent of vitamin B6 is lost when flour is refined, and 37-56 per cent is lost from vegetables by the freezing process.

Vitamin B6 deficiency is probably more common than is generally realized: in one study which measured the B6 status of 35 pre-school children, 17 per cent of the children had B6 intakes less than two thirds of the RDA. Of these children, 9 per cent had inadequate vitamin B6 levels in their blood plasma. (Fries ME et al: Vitamin B6 status of a group of preschool children. Am J Clin Nutr 34(12):2706-10, 1981).

Comments

One type of schizophrenia, known as pyrroluric schizophrenia, is caused by an abnormally high requirement for both vitamin B6 and zinc.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: antioxidant, immune system, collagen health

Functions

  • Aids the absorption of iron from vegetables
  • Antioxidant
  • Collagen formation (maintains healthy connective tissue and bone)
  • Immune system
  • Stress hormone production
  • Wound healing

Good food sources

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Fresh fruit, especially citrus
  • Green peppers
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Raw leafy vegetables
  • Tomatoes

Deficiency signs and symptoms

  • Bleeding gums or loose teeth
  • Easy bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Fragile blood vessels

A chronic shortage of vitamin C, even if mild, can promote a wide range of illnesses and diseases since vitamin C is a vital nutrient for the immune system

Preventing deficiency

Fresh fruit and vegetables must be consumed regularly, preferably at the rate of five portions daily, to prevent vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is rapidly lost from vegetables when they are boiled, since it leaches out into the cooking water. Steaming, or cooking vegetables quickly, as in stir-frying, minimizes losses. Since the cooking water retains the lost vitamin C, this should also be used (e.g. made into soup or stock). The longer fruit and vegetables are stored before consumption, the more vitamin C is lost, for instance 30 per cent of vitamin C in potatoes is lost after 1-3 months’ storage. Vitamin C is also lost when the surface of fruit and vegetables is exposed to the air. To minimize this, do not chop them until just before consumption. By the same principle, vitamin C losses are also high from fruit juices. Losses of up to 100 per cent can occur once the container has been opened, shaken, and kept for a week in the refrigerator. Baking soda destroys vitamin C.

Vitamin C in the body is depleted by alcohol consumption, smoking, surgery, trauma, stress, exposure to pollutants, the use of certain medications such as aspirin-based pain-killers, antacids and the contraceptive pill, and by infectious illness. Most researchers now recommend a minimum intake of 200 mg vitamin C daily for smokers and those exposed to tobacco smoke.

Comments

Humans are virtually the only mammals who cannot make their own vitamin C from glucose in their liver. This is because we are lacking an enzyme which other mammals have. Other mammals can make the equivalent of 13 grams a day of vitamin C within their bodiy—more if under stress. This amount would be impossible to obtain from the diet. The roles of vitamin C in the body, its ready depletion by exposure to pollutants, smoking and stress, and the enhanced immunity afforded by a raised vitamin C intake have led many individuals to take a daily vitamin C supplement.

The view that, because the body excretes supplemented vitamin C, supplementation cannot make any difference to health, is now considered outdated. Supplementation results in high tissue saturation levels. Considerable research now supports the benefits of maintaining this degree of saturation in a variety of situations.

A severe deficiency of vitamin C (blood levels below 0.7 mg/100 ml) results in highly raised blood histamine levels. Vitamin C supplementation to 11 selected volunteers brought a reduction of the blood histamine level in every instance (Clemetson CA: Histamine and ascorbic acid in human blood. J Nutr 110(4):662-8, 1980).

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

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