14 Sep 2007
How to Identify a Vitamin
Two characteristics mark a particular compound of identification as a vitamin:
- The compound must be a vital organic dietary substance and not carbohydrate,protein, fat or mineral. It must be necessary in small quantities and perform a specific metabolic function or be useful in preventing a deficiency disease.
- It cannot be produced by the body. Instead, it must be supplied in food. (Vitamin D is the only exception to this rule).
Vitamins are classified in relation to their solubility in either fat or water. The fat-soluble group includes vitamins A,D,E, & K. These vitamins are usually associated with certain fatty foods, such as animal meats, oil, or dairy products. These vitamins are more heat-stable than water vitamins. Therefore, less damage occurs during food preparation.
There are two basic forms of Vitamin A- performed and pro vitamin A. The performed vitamin A is found only in animal sources. It is usually associated with fats. The more common pro vitamin A (carotene) is found in plants. It was first discovered in carrots, thus deriving the name. The majority of human needs are obtained from plant sources, and carotene is converted into usable vitamin A by our bodies. When vitamin A enters your body, certain fat-related substances assist in its absorption. These substances are bile salts, pancreatic lipase and fat itself. The most important functions are in the area of vision and tissue growth. Recent studies, however, associate vitamin A to open-wound healing, severe burn healing, sexual functioning, diabetes, and as a possible aid in treating cancer patients. Sources of vitamin A include colored fruits and vegetables, dairy products, eggs, margarine, fish liver oils and liver.
Vitamin D also requires the presence of bile salts to assist in its absorption. After being absorbed, vitamin D is carried to the liver and other organs to be utilized. Since Vitamin D is stored in the liver, there may be the same potential for toxicity as in Vitamin A. Vitamin D in the body is concerned mainly with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It makes the cell membrane more permeable to calcium and phosphorus, thus allowing the cell to utilize these materials. In the absence of Vitamin D, bones do not form properly, which can cause deformities during a child's growth years.
Vitamin E has been found to be a group of related vitamins. It is fairly stable to heat and acids, but can be destroyed by alkaline. One of the most important characteristics is its ability as an anti-oxidant. Vitamin E may be found in eight different tocopherol forms. However, most products contain only the alphatocopherol, and most contain the synthetic form. The synthetic form can be differentiated from the natural form by the appearance of a small "1" after the "d" (i.e.;, d1-alpha tocopherol=synthetic). Food sources of Vitamin E are mainly vegetable oils. Other food sources include: milk, eggs, wheat germ, fish, green leafy vegetables, and cereals.
Vitamin K has been known as the blood clotting vitamin. The major function of this vitamin is to control the synthesis of prothrombin. Prothrombin, which is produced by the liver, is necessary to initiate the blood clotting process of the body. Vitamin K is normally synthesized by the bacteria in the intestinal tract. An adequate supply is normally present in the average healthy person. The use of antibiotics, however, may destroy or reduce the effectiveness of the intestinal bacteria in producing adequate supplies. It is therefore suggested that when on antibiotic therapy, substances that provide material to rebuild bacteria (such as acidophilus) should be considered. The first Vitamin K was derived from alfalfa which is still a good food source. Other sources include: green leafy vegetables and small amounts from cheeses, tomatoes, and liver.
B vitamins are directly related to three main areas of our nutritional needs and support system. The first group includes: thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, which relate to alleviating various disease factors. The second group includes pyridoxine and Pantothenic acid which have a role in providing co enzyme factors to the body. The third group includes folic acid and B12 which are important blood-forming factors.
Vitamin B1 [Thiamine]:
The absorption of Thiamine takes place mostly in the first section of the small intestines, the duodenum. Removal of either part or all of the duodenum resulting from an ulcer or injury will significantly affect Vitamin B absorption due to its being destroyed by alkaline intestinal secretions found in the lower intestinal tract. Thiamine is not stored in large quantities in the body. Therefore, daily intake is important. Its main metabolic function in our bodies is as a co enzyme in key reactions that produce energy from glucose. Clinical effects that may relate to a B1 deficiency may be seen in the gastrointestinal, nervous and cardiovascular systems.
Vitamin B2 [Riboflavin]
Absorption of B2 takes place mainly in the upper section of the small intestines. Similar to B1, B2 is a vital factor in protein metabolism and is also a part of a key enzyme system relating to the production of energy in the cell. B2 deficiencies rarely occur alone. They are usually associated with other nutritional deficiencies. The best source of B2 is milk. Other sources include: organ meats, whole grains and some vegetables.
Niacin [Nicotinic Acid]:
Niacin teams up with riboflavin as a control agent in the cell co enzyme system that converts protein into glucose. Deficiencies of niacin are closely related to those of riboflavin. They may include: weakness, loss of appetite, indigestion, and skin eruptions. Niacin also has a close relationship to Tryptophan. When Tryptophan is present in adequate amounts, a niacin deficiency will not occur. Our body utilizes the Tryptophan to produce the niacin.
Vitamin B6 [Pyridoxine]:
B6 is absorbed in the upper portions of the small intestines and is usually found throughout the body tissue. B6 is essential in deamination and transamination which involve moving nitrogen around to form different amino acids.
Vitamin B9 [Folic Acid]:
The absorption of folic acid takes place throughout the small intestines. Small amounts may be synthesized by intestinal bacteria. A deficiency of folic acid produces a nutritional megaloblastic anemia. This large blood cell is unable to transport oxygen properly.
Vitamin B12 [Cobalamin}
The vitamin B12 was discovered during the search for a specific agent to control pernicious anemia. B12 is unique and one of the most complex of the B vitamins. its uniqueness comes from its chemical makeup which reveals the mineral cobalt at its core. B12 is the only human nutrient known that requires exposure to HCL in the stomach before it can be absorbed. The HCL prepares the vitamin and allows it the be absorbed. Improper absorption of Vitamin B12 is the key factor in pernicious anemia. Sources of B12 are almost solely animal foods. The best sources are liver and dairy products.
Pantothenic Acid is widespread throughout the body. It is synthesized in considerable amounts by intestinal bacteria. Because of this, production deficiencies are unlikely. Pantothenic Acid assists in cellular energy production. It also is essential for the information of acetylcholine (the regulator of nerve tissue) and assists in the production of cholesterol, steroid hormones and Vitamin D. Some sources of Pantothenic acid are: yeast, liver, egg yolk and skimmed milk.
Biotin is a co enzyme necessary for a variety of important functions in our bodies. Biotin helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. It is needed for normal growth, healthier hair and skin and maintenance of nerves, bone marrow, and sex glands. Sources are yeast, liver, eggs, whole grains, and fish.
Choline Bitartrate has a relationship to fat metabolism. If the body has a problem breaking down fat, the fats have a tendency to be deposited in the tissues of organs, such as the kidneys, liver, heart and vascular system. Excessive quantities of fat in these organs interfere with the normal functioning of the cells and may be a cause of premature aging of that organ.
PABA [Para-amino benzoic acid]
PABA (Para-amino benzoic acid) is a member of the B complex family. It stimulates intestinal bacteria to produce folic acid, and is involved in the utilization by the body of Pantothenic acid. PABA is most widely known as a good therapeutic sunscreen.
Inositol is a member of the B-complex family. It occurs in high concentrations in the brain. Inositol may have a cholesterol-lowering quality. It has a tendency to break up fat in our systems when given with Choline.
Vitamin C is absorbed from the small intestines. It is not stored or produced by the body. Therefore, an ample supply must be taken in daily. It is a very unstable vitamin and can be destroyed by oxygen, alkalines, high temperatures and light. Since it's easily destroyed, cooking vegetables and fruits should be kept to a minimum. Also the more surface of a vegetable that is exposed to air, the less Vitamin C content will be retained. Vitamin C acts as an intercellular cementing substance. IT also helps to build and maintain bone and connective tissue. It aids in formation of hemoglobin, is active in wound healing; helps fight infections; maintains body resistance against a variety of ailments and maintains strong blood vessels. Sources include: Citrus fruit, vegetables, strawberries, green pepper, broccoli, melons, etc.