Vitamin A is essential in the formation of visual purple, a pigment found in the retina of the eye that is needed for vision at night. Health and the resiliency against infection of the outer skin, and internally of the mucous membranes that line the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts as well as the mouth, nose, and ears depend on vitamin A. The vitamin is an antioxidant and may be important in preventing cancer of the lungs and cervix in women. It helps cells reproduce normally. Vitamin A is fat-soluble and can accumulate in the body becoming toxic if more than 50,000 IU are ingested daily. Pregnant women should not take more than 10,000 IU each day.

Approximately 90% of the body's vitamin A is stored in the liver with small amounts deposited in the fatty tissues, lungs, kidneys, and retinas. Under stressful conditions the body uses this reserve supply if it doesn't receiving enough of the vitamin from the diet. The liver needs a sufficient supply of zinc in order to mobilize and release stored vitamin A into the bloodstream.

The liver converts beta carotene obtained from foods into vitamin A. Carotene is nontoxic and along with other carotenoids is an antioxi-dant and offers more protection against cancer than vitamin A by itself. These other phytochem-icals include alpha carotene, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin and are found in the red, yellow, and orange pigments of fruits and vegetables.


Foods that are especially rich in one of the B vitamins will also contain several other members of the complex as their functions in the body are closely interrelated. The B vitamins are also made by bacteria in the intestinal tract. The complex is most important for the health of the nervous system. B vitamins have a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, and are essential for maintaining the muscle tone of the gastrointestinal tract and heart.

The B vitamins are water-soluble. They are not stored in the body in any great quantity and need to be supplied daily by the diet. The need for the complex increases during chronic illnesses, stress, and when alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs are used. Taking a single B vitamin should be accompanied by the complex in order to avoid an imbalance or deficiency of the others.


Mental efficiency, health, and a feeling of well-being are dependent on thiamine. It is required for nerve cells to function normally. It is essential for the formation in every cell of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy fuel that the body runs on. The vitamin easily dissolves in water, is vulnerable to heat during cooking, and to baking soda and powder in baked goods. It is a component of the germ and bran of wheat, the husk of rice, and that portion of all grains that is commercially milled out to give the grain a lighter color and finer texture.


Riboflavin is a constituent of enzymes involved in cell respiration. It is also necessary for the maintenance of good vision and healthy skin. The vitamin helps convert carbohydrates to ATP, the energy fuel. It has a yellow pigment and colors the urine.


Niacin is a coenzyme involved in the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Besides its presence in food, the vitamin is manufactured in the body from the essential amino acid trypto-phan. It is important for blood circulation and reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.

Large doses cause a flushing of the skin as a result of the dilation of blood vessels but the effect is not harmful. A form of niacin, niacinamide, does not cause any skin sensations, however, large doses can damage the liver and cause depression in some people. The form inositol hexanicotinate lowers serum cholesterol without harming the liver. Doses of the vitamin should not exceed 1000 mg a day, unless under the supervision of a physician. High doses of niacin should not be taken during pregnancy, or in cases of ulcers, gout, diabetes, gallbladder or liver diseases, or recent heart attack.


Pyridoxine is extremely important in the development of the nervous system. It helps process amino acids and is involved in the production of serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine. The vitamin has been used to reduce morning sickness during pregnancy. A hormonal shift leading to PMS (premenstrual syndrome) in women, and nerve compression injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, have been helped by the vitamin. Because of its role in fat metabolism, a deficiency is associated with atherosclerosis. A lack of the vitamin can cause depression.

Oral contraceptives can create a pyridoxine deficiency, and much of the vitamin is lost in the processing of foods and is not one of the vitamins that is replaced in so-called "enrichment." Nerve damage has been observed in individuals taking more than 300 mg a day.


Absorption of B12 depends on the presence in the stomach of the intrinsic factor, a mucoprotein enzyme. Autoimmune reactions in the body may either bind the intrinsic factor to prevent B12 absorption or prevent cellular ability to produce the enzyme. B12 is closely related to the activity of four amino acids, pantothenic acid, and vitamin C. It also helps iron function better in the body and aids folic acid in the synthesis of choline. It has a role in the production of DNA and RNA, which are the body's genetic material, and in s-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), a mood altering substance. The vitamin, along with folic acid, regulates homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid which, in excess, is associated with heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease.

The vitamin is found in meats, fish, eggs, and milk and is not provided in vegetarian diets. Sublingual and nasal forms are effective as supplements. The daily recommended dose is 2 to 3 mcg.


Folic acid is involved in the duplication of chromosomes during cell reproduction, a process that is accelerated during pregnancy when new tissue is being formed. The vitamin is important in preventing birth abnormalities such as neural tube defect which involves poor brain and spinal cord development, and mental disorders that may be obvious or may be subtle in effect and not noticed at birth or in infancy but become evident later in life. It can help in preventing cleft palate. Folic acid regulates blood homocysteine levels, an amino acid associated with risk of heart disease, strokes, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease. It is necessary for the production of the mood related substance SAMe.

Birth control pills and diets high in fat and refined carbohydrates can cause a folic acid deficiency. The vitamin is easily destroyed by high temperatures.


There is a close correlation between pantothenic acid tissue levels and function of the adrenal glands. The adrenals are, for example, important in responding to stress. Pantothenic acid is a part of the energy cycle and the production of acetyl-choline, a neurotransmitter. It is involved in cholesterol and hormone synthesis. The vitamin is widely available in almost all natural foods; however, food processing destroys substantial amounts. Fifty percent of pantothenic acid is lost in the milling of grains and 37% in meat during cooking.


These vitamins have been isolated in foods and their chemical structures identified as part of the B group, although the activity of para amino benzoic acid (PABA) is quite different from other B vitamins. Biotin acts as a coenzyme in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Prolonged use of antibiotics and antiseizure medicines interfere with its production. It is destroyed by raw egg white. The vitamin strengthens brittle nails and lowers blood glucose levels preventing diabetic neuropathy. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, lack of appetite, dermatitis, hair loss, anemia, nausea, and depression.

Choline and inositol are constituents of lecithin and are primarily associated with the use of fats and cholesterol in the body and for cell membrane integrity. Choline is a component of acetyl-choline, a neurotransmitter in the brain, and has been helpful in treating neurological and psychological disorders. Inositol is also involved in nerve transmissions. Diabetics excrete the vitamin at a rate greater than normal. PABA occurs in combination with folic acid and plays an important role in determining skin health, hair pigmentation, and health of the intestines.


Vitamin C is necessary for the formation of collagen, the connective tissue in skin, ligaments, and bones, and is important for the healing of wounds. The vitamin aids in forming red blood cells and preventing hemorrhaging and bleeding gums. It maintains the activity of white blood cells which act as bacteria fighters, but too high amounts of C reverses that effect and white blood cells actually become less active. Vitamin C acts as an inhibitor of histamine, a compound that is released during allergic reactions.

Vitamin C has shown protective effects against heavy metal exposure, pesticides, and food additives such as nitrates which have been associated with cancer. The vitamin is an antioxidant, protects LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage, supports the immune system, and helps prevent cancer. Recent studies have shown vitamin C affects nitric oxide activity, which is important in the dilation of blood vessels beneficial in preventing artery spasms leading to heart attacks and in lowering blood pressure.2

Birth control pills and aspirin deplete the tissues of vitamin C. Ingestion of above 100 mg at one time results in decreased efficiency of absorption and an increased rate of excretion of unmetabolized ascorbic acid. Tissues reach saturation at 200 to 250 mg. Large doses may inactivate vitamin B12, have caused demineralization of bones in animals, may prevent the absorption of calcium, interfere with the absorption of copper, and result in the formation of kidney stones.

The bioflavonoids are part of the C complex and enhance the effectiveness of vitamin C. They are important in increasing the strength of the capillaries and regulating their permeability. Some act as antihistamines, have antiviral, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties, and protect LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage. Bioflavonoids are categorized as isoflavones, anthocyanins, flavans, flavonols, flavones, and flavanones. Subcategories include rutin, hes-peretin, eriodictyol, quercetin (in onions), quer-cetrin, hesperidin, and genistein (in soy), and are found in the edible portions of fruits and vegetables and in the white segments of citrus fruits.


Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium from the intestinal tract reducing its urinary loss, and for the assimilation of phosphorus which is required in bone formation. The vitamin aids in the synthesis of enzymes in the mucous membranes that are involved in the transport of calcium. When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation, vitamin D is formed from a cholesterol derivative and absorbed into the circulatory system. The more pigment there is in the skin, the less of the vitamin is produced. Vitamin D is involved in cell reproduction, blood cell formation, and enhances the immune system. It is needed for regulating glucose. Dietary sources of vitamin D are egg yolks, butter, fortified milk, and fish livers or oil. After absorption, vitamin D is transported to the liver for storage and deposits are found in the skin, brain, spleen, and bones.

Excessive amounts may cause a rise of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and excessive excretion of calcium in the urine. This may lead to calcification of soft tissues and of the walls of the blood vessels and kidney tubules, a condition called hypercalcemia. Too much vitamin D for prolonged periods can result in weight loss, headaches, and kidney stones.


Vitamin E plays an essential role in cellular respiration of all muscles. This makes it possible for muscles and their nerves to function with less oxygen, thereby increasing endurance and stamina. Studies have shown that vitamin E can reduce the stickiness of blood preventing its tendency to form blood clots. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant and protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation. Recent studies have shown vitamin E supplementation of 100 IU daily for 2 years reduced the risk of heart attack3 and in another, 400 to 800 IU daily produced a 77% drop in nonfatal heart attacks.4 The ¿-alpha form of supplemental E is natural and more effective than the synthetic dl form. The gamma tocopherol may better protect against oxidation and supplements should include the mixed tocoph-erols.

In animal studies, rats were exposed to ozone levels that are normally found in industrial areas. Ozone is a single reactive oxygen molecule that does much injury to cellular structures. Those that received little of the vitamin had the most damage, those given larger doses essentially had no damage. Tissue damage can also occur from the diet; the same reactive oxygen molecules are present when unsaturated vegetable oils are exposed to air and heat and become rancid. The antioxidant properties of vitamin E may retard the aging process. Topically the vitamin can reduce scar formation (applied after the wound has closed) from burns, surgery, or other injuries.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, absorbed in the presence of bile salts and fat. From the intestine, it is absorbed into the lymph and transported in the bloodstream as tocopherol to the liver where high concentrations are stored. It is also stored in the fatty tissues, heart, muscles, testes, uterus, blood, and adrenal and pituitary glands. The vitamin is one of a group of compounds called tocopherols which include beta, delta, epsilon, gamma, and zeta.

Vitamin E is mainly found in the oily portions of foods like whole grains and seeds. The milling process reduces vitamin E content by as much as 85%. The vitamin has a tendency to raise blood pressure if given in supplemental form, therefore, initial intake should be low and gradually increased. High doses can interfere with iron metabolism; at dosages of 300 to 400 IU a day, nausea, intestinal distress, fatigue, weakness, and urinary abnormalities may be experienced in some individuals.


Vitamin K is necessary for the formation of pro-thrombin, a chemical required in blood clotting. It is also involved in a body process, phosphoryla-tion, in which phosphate, when combined with glucose, passes through the cell membranes and is converted into glycogen. It is involved in bone formation by transporting calcium. The vitamin is absorbed in the upper intestinal tract with the aid of bile salts, transported to the liver and stored in small quantities. Besides dietary sources, it is manufactured in the intestinal tract by certain bacteria. Synthetic vitamin K can be toxic. Supplemental vitamin K can interfere with the actions of some blood thinners.

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