Vitamins

.. renia, although no experimental proof has been produced to show its efficacy. In large amounts it reduces levels of cholesterol in the blood, and it has been used extensively in preventing and treating arteriosclerosis. Large doses over long periods cause liver damage. B6 Pyridoxine, or vitamin B6, is necessary for the absorption and metabolism of amino acids.

It also plays roles in the use of fats in the body and in the formation of red blood cells. Pyridoxine deficiency is characterized by skin disorders, cracks at the mouth corners, smooth tongue, convulsions, dizziness, nausea, anemia, and kidney stones. The best sources of pyridoxine are whole (but not enriched) grains, cereals, bread, liver, avocadoes, spinach, green beans, and bananas. Pyridoxine is needed in proportion to the amount of protein consumed. B12 Cobalamin, or vitamin B12, one of the most recently isolated vitamins, is necessary in minute amounts for the formation of nucleoproteins, proteins, and red blood cells, and for the functioning of the nervous system. Cobalamin deficiency is often due to the inability of the stomach to produce glycoprotein, which aids in the absorption of this vitamin. Pernicious anemia results, with its characteristic symptoms of ineffective production of red blood cells, faulty myelin (nerve sheath) synthesis, and loss of epithelium (membrane lining) of the intestinal tract.

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Cobalamin is obtained only from animal sources-liver, kidneys, meat, fish, eggs, and milk. Vegetarians are advised to take vitamin B12 supplements. Other B Vitamins Folic acid, or folacin, is a coenzyme needed for forming body protein and hemoglobin. Recent investigations show that folic acid deficiency may be responsible for neural tube defects, a type of birth defect that results in severe brain or neurological disorders (see Spina Bifida). The U.S.

Public Health Service recommends that women of child-bearing age take 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. Women should continue to take that dose through the first three months of pregnancy. Folic acid is effective in the treatment of certain anemias and sprue. Dietary sources are organ meats, leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and brewer’s yeast. Folic acid is lost in foods stored at room temperature and during cooking. Unlike other water-soluble vitamins, folic acid is stored in the liver and need not be consumed daily. Pantothenic acid, another B vitamin, plays a still-undefined role in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

It is abundant in many foods and is manufactured by intestinal bacteria as well. Biotin, a B vitamin that is also synthesized by intestinal bacteria and widespread in foods, plays a role in the formation of fatty acids and the release of energy from carbohydrates. Its deficiency in humans is unknown. Vitamin C, or Ascorbic Acid This well-known vitamin is important in the formation and maintenance of collagen, the protein that supports many body structures and plays a major role in the formation of bones and teeth. It also enhances the absorption of iron from foods of vegetable origin.

Scurvy is the classic manifestation of severe ascorbic acid deficiency. Its symptoms are due to loss of the cementing action of collagen and include hemorrhages, loosening of teeth, and cellular changes in the long bones of children. Assertions that massive doses of ascorbic acid prevent colds and influenza have not been borne out by carefully controlled experiments (see Cold, Common). In other experiments, however, ascorbic acid has been shown to prevent the formation of nitrosamines-compounds found to produce tumors in laboratory animals and possibly also in humans. Although unused ascorbic acid is quickly excreted in the urine, large and prolonged doses can result in the formation of bladder and kidney stones, interference with the effects of blood-thinning drugs, destruction of B12, and the loss of calcium from bones. Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, fresh strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, and guava. Good vegetable sources are broccoli, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, spinach, kale, green peppers, cabbage, and turnips.

Vitamin D This vitamin is necessary for normal bone formation and for retention of calcium and phosphorus in the body. It also protects the teeth and bones against the effects of low calcium intake by making more effective use of calcium and phosphorus. Also called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is obtained from egg yolk, liver, tuna, and vitamin-D fortified milk. It is also manufactured in the body when sterols, which are commonly found in many foods, migrate to the skin and become irradiated. Vitamin D deficiency, or rickets, occurs only rarely in tropical climates where sunlight is abundant, but it was once common among children of northern cities before the use of vitamin D-fortified milk. Rickets is characterized by deformities of the rib cage and skull and by bowlegs, due to failure of the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble and stored in the body, excessive consumption can cause vitamin poisoning, kidney damage, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Vitamin E The role of vitamin E in the human body is not clearly established, but it is known to be an essential nutrient in more than 20 vertebrate species. The vitamin plays some role in forming red blood cells and muscle and other tissues and in preventing the oxidation of vitamin A and fats. It is found in vegetable oils, wheat germ, liver, and leafy green vegetables. Vitamin E is popularly advocated for a wide range of diseases, but no substantial evidence has been found to back these claims. Although vitamin E is stored in the body, overdoses appear to have lower toxic effects than do overdoses of other fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin K This vitamin is necessary mainly for the coagulation of blood.

It aids in forming prothrombin, an enzyme needed to produce fibrin for blood clotting. The richest sources of vitamin K are alfalfa and fish livers, which are used in making concentrated preparations of this vitamin. Dietary sources include all leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, soybean oil, and liver. For a healthy adult, a normal diet and bacterial synthesis in the bowels usually are sufficient to supply the body with vitamin K and prothrombin. Digestive disturbances may lead to defective absorption of vitamin K and hence to mild disorders in blood clotting. Anatomy and Physiology.