Articles

The V I T A M I N S !

Eat your vitamins and be a nice human. That is all. 

Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal physiological functions. Vitamins cannot be synthesized by humans in amounts large enough to meet daily physiological needs, therefore they must be ingested through ones diet. Vitamins are a natural component of food – inadequate vitamin consumption can lead to specific deficiency syndromes based on the lacking vitamin. Vitamins do not provide the body with energy, but they  are necessary for the facilitation of energy provided by macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, & fat).

14 vitamins exist – 4 are fat-soluble (A, D, E, & K) and 10 are water-soluble. Fat- soluble vitamins are dissolvable in fats. Excess amounts of ingested fat-soluble vitamins are able to be stored within the body, in the liver and adipose tissue. In contrast, water-soluble vitamins are able to dissolve in water and are quickly absorbed into one’s tissues for immediate use. Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored within the body after being transported to the body’s tissues, and therefore, must be consumed regularly through one’s diet to prevent deficiencies.  Excess amounts of ingested water-soluble vitamins are excreted in ones urine.

Below is a chart of the 14 different vitamins, what physiological function they play within the body and their importance for adequate consumption, what food sources they can be found in, and the deficiency symptoms, syndrome or condition associated with inadequate intake of the given vitamin.

Vitamin Physiological role within the body Food sources Deficiency symptoms, syndrome or condition associated with inadequate intake of the vitamin
A – the first Vitamin discovered!  (1) Helps maintain normal vision, (2) Promotes healthy growth and development, (3) Involved in regulation of gene expression. Sweet potato, Pumpkin, Carrot, Liver, Turkey Night blindness – if untreated can lead to irreversible blindness (Xerophthalmia)
D – The Sunshine Vitamin (1) Necessary for the development and formation of teeth and bones, (2) Acts as a steroid hormone, (3) Maintains calcium & phosphorus homeostasis, (4) Helps to regulate innate and adaptive immune responses. Not naturally found in many commonly consumed foods – Fatty fish, Egg yolks, Fortified dairy products

 

Canadians are advised to supplement with Vitamin D in seasons with limited sun exposure (fall & winter) to ensure adequate intake

Rickets, Osteomalacia, Osteoporosis, Increased susceptibility to autoimmunity and infection
E (1) Improves immune function, (2) An antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage by free radicals, (3) Helps to keep red blood cells healthy, and fight infection. Almonds & almond butter, Sunflower seeds, Cooked spinach, Avocado, Wheat germ, Eggs, Eel Weakened immune system and function, Nerve and muscle damage that can result in: muscle weakness, vision problems, and loss of feeling in the arms and legs

 

K (1) Required for the blood clotting cascade – needed to properly clot blood. Green leafy vegetables – kale, spinach, parsley, romaine lettuce, Turnip, Brussel sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Fish, Liver, Eggs, Cereals Deficiency is rare because widespread in food – Hemorrhages & prolonged blood clotting time
C (Ascorbic acid)

 

Humans are one of the few species that cannot synthesize Vitamin C

(1) Vital for growth and repair of skin, teeth, and bones, (2) An antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage by free radicals, (3) Enhances iron absorption, (4) Boosts immune function.

 

Peppers, Broccoli, Cabbage, Oranges, Guava, Papaya, Kiwi Scurvy – fatigue, impaired wound healing, hemorrhage in skin and gums, edema
Thiamin (B1) (1) Facilitates energy released from foods – enables the body to convert ingested CHO and protein to make energy, (2) Crucial for maintaining nervous system function. Oatmeal, Cereal, Pork, Sunflower seeds, Soy Beriberi – Wet Beriberi affects heart and circulatory system

 

Dry Beriberi damages nerves and can lead to muscle paralysis

Riboflavin (B2) (1) Enables your body to effectively use other B vitamins (conversions to co-enzyme forms), (2) Assists with energy production throughout the body.

 

Milk and milk products, Liver

Milling of wheat results in significant losses of B2, thus in Canada flour is fortified with B2

 

Lesion symptoms: redness, red tongue, magenta tongue, dermatitis

 

A vitamin B2 deficiency has potential to affect ones B6 levels

 

Niacin (B3)

 

Can be synthesized within the body from tryptophan (an amino acid)

(1) Central in macronutrient metabolism, (2) Enables enzymes to effectively work within the body, (3) Promotes healthy skin and nerves.

 

 

Whole and enriched gains, Peanut butter, Mushrooms, Fish, Poultry Pellagra – associated with dementia, dermatitis, diarrhea, and in extreme cases – death
Pantothenic Acid (B5) (1) Aids in the development and metabolism of various hormones. Widespread in food: Liver & various types of meat, Milk, Whole grains, Legumes Deficiency is rare because widespread in food

 

Burning feed syndrome – pain in toes and soles of feet

Pyridoxine (B6) (1) Linked to nervous system and hormone function, (2) Affects glycogen breakdown, (3) Aids in red blood cell formation and function, and hemoglobin development, (4) Enhances immune function. Bananas, Potatoes, Fortified cereals, Various types of meat, Grains, Legumes Deficiency affects nervous system – irritability, confusions, depression, sleeplessness
Biotin (1) Enables the release of energy to fuel bodily functions from CHOs, fats, and proteins from food.

 

 

 

 

Sweet potatoes, Yogurt, Peanuts & Peanut Butter, Almonds, Eggs, Liver, Soy protein, Whole-grains, Cereal, Legumes Neurological problems – depression, lethargy, hallucinations, rashes, thinning of the hair
Folate

 

Folate = form in foods & body

 

Folic Acid = fortified foods and supplements

(1) Aids in the production and maintenance of DNA and cells, (2) Helps to create red blood cells – preventing anemia.

 

Dark green leafy vegetables, Corn, Beans, Lentils, Fortified products

 

Deficiency usually due to diet and associated with weakness and depression

 

Neural tube defects – women of child bearing age are suggested to supplement with folic acid to lower the risk of giving birth to a child with birth defects

 

 

Cobalamin (B12)

 

The only vitamin that can exclusively be found in animal products and fortified foods

(1) Maintenance of the nervous system, (2) Enables the development of red blood cells, (3) Needed to form DNA. Eggs, Milk & milk products, Cheese, Various types of meat, Fish, Shellfish

 

It is strongly suggested that those who follow a plant based diet supplement with Vitamin B12

 

Neurological problems, pernicious anemia
Choline (1) Essential part of cell membranes (phospholipids), (2) Necessary for lipid and lipoprotein transport. All natural fats – Egg yolks, Peanuts, Soy beans Fatty liver and liver damage

 

EAT YOUR VITAMINS!!! Have a great weekend!

Anna x

 

Ps. Click the link if you want a printable chart of the vitamin table. I have one hanging beside my bed for quick reference. printable vitamin table

 

References:

[1] Dietitians.ca. (2019). Functions and Food Sources of Some Common Vitamins. [online] Available at: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Functions-Sources-Common-Vitamins.aspx [Accessed 1 Aug. 2019].

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