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Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential in very small amounts for supporting normal physiologic function. We need vitamins in our diet, because our bodies can’t synthesize them quicklyenough to meet our daily needs.
Vitamins have three characteristics:
  • They are natural components of foods; usually present in very small amounts.
  • They are essential for normal physiologic function (eg. growth, reproduction, etc).
  • When absent from the diet, they will cause a specific deficiency.
Vitamins are generally categorized into the following types
1.Water soluble
2.Fat soluble
Water-soluble vitamins
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include burning feet, weakness in extremities, rapid heart rate, swelling, anorexia, nausea, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems.
  • Toxicity : None known.
  • Sources :Sunflower seeds, asparagus, lettuce, mushrooms, black beans, navy beans, lentils, spinach, peas, pinto beans, lima beans, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tuna, whole wheat, soybeans
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include cracks, fissures and sores at corner of mouth and lips, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, photophobia, glossitis of tongue, anxiety, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
  • Toxicity : Excess riboflavin may increase the risk of DNA strand breaks in the presence of chromium. High-dose riboflavin therapy will intensify urine color to a bright yellow (flavinuria) – but this is harmless.
  • Sources : Almonds, soybeans/tempeh, mushrooms, spinach, whole wheat, yogurt, mackerel, eggs, liver
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and stomatitis.
  • Toxicity: Niacin from foods is not known to cause adverse effects. Supplemental nicotinic acid may cause flushing of skin, itching, impaired glucose tolerance and gastrointestinal upset. Intake of 750 mg per day for less than 3 months can cause liver cell damage. High dose nicotinamide can cause nausea and liver toxicity.
  • Sources: Mushrooms, asparagus, peanuts, brown rice, corn, green leafy vegetables, sweet potato, potato, lentil, barley, carrots, almonds, celery, turnips, peaches, chicken meat, tuna, salmon
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
  • Deficiency : Very unlikely. Only in severe malnutrition may one notice tingling of feet.
  • Toxicity : Nausea, heartburn and diarrhea may be noticed with high dose supplements.
  • Sources: Broccoli, lentils, split peas, avocado, whole wheat, mushrooms, sweet potato, sunflower seeds, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, eggs, squash, strawberries, liver
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include chelosis, glossitis, stomatitis, dermatitis (all similar to vitamin B2 deficiency), nervous system disorders, sleeplessness, confusion, nervousness, depression, irritability, interference with nerves that supply muscles and difficulties in movement of these muscles, and anemia. Prenatal deprivation results in mental retardation and blood disorders for the newborn.
  • Toxicity : High doses of supplemental vitamin B6 may result in painful neurological symptoms.
  • Sources : Whole wheat, brown rice, green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, potato, garbanzo beans, banana, trout, spinach, tomatoes, avocado, walnuts, peanut butter, tuna, salmon, lima beans, bell peppers, chicken meat
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
  • Deficiency : Very rare in humans. Keep in mind that consuming raw egg whites over a long period of time can cause biotin deficiency. Egg whites contain the protein avidin, which binds to biotin and prevents its absorption.
  • Toxicity : Not known to be toxic.
  • Sources: Green leafy vegetables, most nuts, whole grain breads, avocado, raspberries, cauliflower, carrots, papaya, banana, salmon, eggs
Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
Folate is the naturally occurring form found in foods. Folic acid is the synthetic form used in commercially available supplements and fortified foods. Inadequate folate status is associated with neural tube defects and some cancers.
  • Deficiency : One may notice anemia (macrocytic/megaloblastic), sprue, Leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, weakness, weight loss, cracking and redness of tongue and mouth, and diarrhea. In pregnancy there is a risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery.
  • Toxicity : None from food. Keep in mind that vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency can both result in megaloblastic anemia. Large doses of folic acid given to an individual with an undiagnosed vitamin B12 deficiency could correct megaloblastic anemia without correcting the underlying vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Sources: Green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, black eyed peas, spinach, great northern beans, whole grains, baked beans, green peas, avocado, peanuts, lettuce, tomato juice, banana, papaya, organ meats
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 must combine with intrinsic factor before it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. We can store a year’s worth of this vitamin – but it should still be consumed regularly. B12 is a product of bacterial fermentation, which is why it’s not present in higher order plant foods.
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include pernicious anemia, neurological problems and sprue.
  • Toxicity: None known from supplements or food. Only a small amount is absorbed via the oral route, thus the potential for toxicity is low.
  • Sources: Fortified cereals, liver, trout, salmon, tuna, haddock, egg
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include bruising, gum infections, lethargy, dental cavities, tissue swelling, dry hair and skin, bleeding gums, dry eyes, hair loss, joint paint, pitting edema, anemia, delayed wound healing, and bone fragility. Long-term deficiency results in scurvy.
  • Toxicity: Possible problems with very large vitamin C doses including kidney stones, rebound scurvy, increased oxidative stress, excess iron absorption, vitamin B12 deficiency, and erosion of dental enamel. Up to 10 grams/day is safe based on most data. 2 grams or more per day can cause diarrhea.
  • Sources: Guava, bell pepper, kiwi, orange, grapefruit, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, papaya, broccoli, sweet potato, pineapple, cauliflower, kale, lemon juice, parsley.

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