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Diet & Nutrition >>> Vitamin Articles & News

Are Vitamins Really Necessary?

By: Vatche Bartekian - Stress Management Specialist

Several years ago, a student of mine started developing rashes on his arms and would get many nosebleeds during the day. He was afraid that he might be developing some kind of an allergy or even anemia. After consulting with a doctor and taking appropriate prescribed measures, he still continued to demonstrate the symptoms.

He finally came to me for advice and I asked him if he ate a lot of fruits and vegetables to which he answered "no". I immediately saw the possible problem: vitamin and mineral deficiency. After putting him on a balanced diet of meats, legumes and fruits, his symptoms disappeared.

The ABC's Of Vitamins
Vitamins and minerals are now recognized in playing a role in the health and vitality of every organ in the body, from skin and bones to the nervous and immune systems, right up to the brain. Studies have shown that being well nourished with vitamins and minerals can lower cholesterol levels, help wounds heal faster, raise your sperm count and make you more resistant to colds and flu, asthma, cataracts, and even gum disease.

Vitamins such as C, E, and beta-carotene also have a protective benefit against the effects of aging and certain types of cancer. One particularly interesting discovery is the evidence that beta-carotene boosts immune system functions in AIDS patients.

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What Is Enough?
On average, only 9% of all North American men consume three or more vegetables and two or more fruits daily, as recommended by the government. Therefore, it's not hard to see that most of us lack the optimum daily dosage of vitamins and minerals. We must therefore introduce supplements into our diets.

For a basic daily supplement, you want a pill that contains 100% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for all vitamins and minerals. This is especially important for men since minerals such as potassium, magnesium, selenium and zinc help regulate body functions and aid in the growth and maintenance of body tissues, and act as catalysts for the release of energy. The following is a table outlining the facts about vitamins and minerals:

Dietary Source
Major Functions
Signs of Prolonged Deficiency
Toxic Effects Of Major Doses
Vitamin A
Liver, milk, butter, cheese, carrots, spinach.
Maintenance of vision, skin, linings of nose, mouth, digestive and urinary tracts.
Night blindness; dry, scaling skin; loss of appetite; anemia; kidney stones.
Headache, vomiting and diarrhea, vertigo, double vision, liver damage, bone defects.
Vitamin D
Milk, fish oils, butter, egg yolks, sunlight.
Maintenance of bones and teeth; promotion of calcium absorption.
Bone softening, loss, and fractures in adults.
Kidney damage; calcium deposits in soft tissues, depression, and death.
Vitamin E
Vegetable oils, whole grains, nuts & seeds, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, peaches.
Protection and maintenance of cellular membranes.
Red blood cell breakage and anemia, weakness, neurological problems, muscle cramps.
Relatively non-toxic, but may cause excess bleeding or formation of blood clots.
Vitamin K
Green leafy vegetables; smaller amounts widespread in other foods.
Production of essential blood clotting factors.

Dietary Sources
Major Functions
Signs of Prolonged Deficiency
Toxic Effects of Megadoses
Vitamin C
Peppers, broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage
Maintenance and repair of connective tissue, bones, teeth, and cartilage; promotion of healing and iron absorption
Scurvy, anemia, loose teeth, joint pain, poor healing, hair loss
Urinary stones, acid stomach, nausea, diarrhea, headache, fatigue
Whole-grain and enriched breads and cereals, organ meats, lean pork, nuts, legumes
Conversion of carbohydrates into usable forms of energy; maintenance of nervous system function
Beriberi (symptoms include muscle wasting, mental illness, anorexia, enlarged heart, nerve changes, abnormal heart rhythm)
Dairy products, enriched breads and cereals, lean meats, poultry, fish, green vegetables
Energy metabolism; maintenance of skin and nervous system
Cracks at corners of mouth; sore throat; skin rash; hypersensitivity to light; purple tongue
Conversion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins into usable energy
Pellagra (symptoms include diarrhea, dermatitis, inflammation of mucus membranes, dementia)
Flushing of skin, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, liver dysfunction, glucose intolerance
Headache, vomiting and diarrhea, vertigo, double vision, liver damage, bone defects
Vitamin B6
Eggs, poultry, fish, whole grains, nuts, soybeans, liver, kidney, pork
Protein and neurotransmitter metabolism; red blood cell synthesis
Anemia, convulsions, cracks at corners of mouth, dermatitis, nausea, confusion
Neurological abnormalities and damage
Green leafy vegetables, yeast, oranges, whole grains, and legumes, liver
Amino acid metabolism, synthesis of RNA and DNA, new cell synthesis
Anemia, weakness, fatigue, irritability, shortness of breath, swollen tongue
Masking of vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12
Eggs, milk, meats, other animal foods
Metabolic reactions; synthesis of red and white blood cells
Anemia, fatigue, nervous system damage, sore tongue
Cereals, yeast, egg yolks, soy flour, liver; widespread in foods
Metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins
Rash, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, depression, fatigue, hair loss
Pantothenic Acid
Animal foods, whole grains, legumes; widespread in foods
Metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins
Fatigue, numbness of hands and feet, gastrointestinal disturbances

After these basics in vitamins, minerals should also be looked at before taking them.

Dietary Sources
Major Functions
Signs of Prolonged Deficiency
Toxic Effects of Megadoses
Dairy products, tofu, fortified orange juice and bread, green leafy vegetables, bones in fish
Maintenance of bones and teeth, control of nerve impulses and muscle contractions
Bone mineral loss
Constipation, urinary stones, calcium deposits in soft tissues, inhibition of mineral absorption
Drinking tap water, tea, and marine fish eaten with bones
Maintenance of tooth and bone structure
Tooth decay
Increased bone density, mottling of teeth, impaired kidney function
Iodized salt, seafood
Essential part of thyroid hormones; regulation of metabolism
Goiter (enlarged thyroid), cretinism (birth defect)
Depression of thyroid activity, hyperthyroidism
Grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, green vegetables, and mineral water
Transmission of nerve impulses, energy transfer, activation of many enzymes
Neurological disturbances, cardiovascular problems, kidney disorders, nausea, growth failure
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, coma; death in people with impaired kidneys
Present in nearly all foods
Bone growth and maintenance; energy transfer in cells
Weakness, bone loss, kidney disorders, cardiorespiratory failure
Drop in blood calcium levels, calcium deposits in soft tissue
Meats, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes
Nerve function and body water balance
Muscular weakness, nausea, drowsiness, paralysis, confusion, disruption of cardiac rhythm
Cardiac arrest
Seafood, meat, eggs, whole grains
Protection of cells from oxidative damage, immune response
Muscle pain and weakness, heart disorders
Hair loss, nausea and vomiting, weakness and irritability
Salt, soy sauce, salted foods
Body water balance, acid-base balance, nerve functions
Muscle weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, sodium deficiency is rarely seen
Edema, hypertension
Whole grains, meat, eggs, liver, seafood (especially oysters)
Synthesis of proteins, RNA and DNA; wound healing; immune response; ability to taste
Growth failure, loss of appetite, impaired taste, skin rash, impaired immune functions, poor wound healing
Vomiting, impaired immune function, decline in blood HDL levels, impaired copper absorption

This table will hopefully clear up any inquiries that you may have about the use of vitamins and minerals. If you want some more information, just email me your questions on the subject because you're better safe than sorry.

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