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The Vitamin Alphabet (Part I)
So, we’ve covered a bit about vitamin deficiencies and the potential symptoms. Now, let’s focus on the good news, which is that vitamin supplements, at this juncture at least, are still available in almost all health food or organic food stores. These essential vitamins have been used since antiquity and their health benefits are more than proven. They can be combined and customized into a regimen that fits your body, personal weakness/ailment or simply as a means of disease prevention. Let’s review.
Supposedly, vitamin A was discovered around 1906 out of an effort to keep livestock healthy. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates were already part of the cattle diet, but other nutrients such as vitamin A were lacking. A decade or so later, the substance was independently discovered by Lafayette Mendel and Thomas Osborne at Yale University and Elmer McCollum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the time, vitamin B had already been discovered and named, so researchers logically named the substance “fat-soluble factor A” or vitamin A. The nutrient was first synthesized into a working vitamin by two Dutch chemists, David Adriaan van Dorp and Josef Ferdinand Arens, in 1947.
Vitamin A only becomes only becomes a “vitamin” once it’s at work in the body. Before that, it is a compound known as beta-carotene, which provides the orange, yellow and red pigments in plants. Unsurprisingly, raw carrots, cantaloupe, winter squash and sweet potatoes are all good natural sources of beta-carotene. Note: You don’t always have to ingest a supplement to get vitamin A into your system.
Vitamin A helps the human body maintain good vision, immune function, skin health, bone metabolism, etc. It can help prevent the onset of cataracts and night blindness amongst other ailments.
Can you believe there was a time that we, as a species, believed that the eight water-soluble B vitamins were actually one vitamin like vitamins A or C. In reality, there are eight coexisting vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12), which can be found naturally in foods such as bananas, turkey, tuna, molasses and potatoes. Foods with all eight vitamins are said to be “vitamin B complex.”
The eight B vitamins are chemically distinct, synergistic and play important roles in maintaining healthy skin, immune function, cell growth and preventing pancreatic cancer. Deficiencies in B vitamins can lead to a whole range of general health problems like acne, anemia, depression, irregular heartbeat and diarrhea amongst others.
Vitamin B12 is absent from most plant products, which should raise concern for vegans or other strict vegetarian dieters. The bright side is that beer, America’s leisure drink of choice, is a good source of B vitamins thanks to its high yeast content.
Well, that wraps up vitamins A and B. Check in for vitamins C and D in part II of The Vitamin Alphabet.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.