Tag Archives: vitamins

The ABC of Vitamins: Vitamin A

In the ABC of the alphabet song, "A is for Apple" and in our ABC of Vitamins we can start with Apple too because it contains around 100 iu of vitamin A.

And while that does not make it a rich source of vitamin A it makes sense to talk a little about “iu” before we go any further into the story of the vitamins so let's briefly look at what an iu is…

International Units vs Milligrams

Measuring how much of a vitamin a food has does not seem like it would be a big deal but some Food scientists publish their results in iu or International Units and some in milligrams.

The reason is that the vitamins in a food have different forms in any particular food some of which are more active and effective than others. In those cases it makes more sense to publish the vitamin content in terms of “activity” which is measured in iu rather than just how much there is in mg.

Vitamin A was discovered to be essential for sight during animal experiments and found to exist in foods a number of forms such as the carotene version in vegetables and retinol in animal tissues.

The Carotene Family is huge because there are hundreds of different versions in plants, fruit and vegetables – a few commonly mentioned family members are beta carotene, lycopene and lutein.

Both beta carotene and alpha carotene ( and other carotenes) can be converted to retinol in the body and act as a storage tank in a way for this vital vitamin.

Beta carotene is sometimes called provitamin A or previtamin A to express the fact that beta carotene can be converted into Retinol when needed.

Beta Carotene vs Retinol

So you may be wondering whether we need to eat both the carotene provitamin A as well as Retinol?

The answer is no – because we can safely consume large amounts of carotenes in a healthy diet and only when the body needs retinol will it produce it by converting it from beta carotene. And since retinol is fat soluble it can build up in our tissues and particularly in the liver and potentially be hazardous.

Beta Carotene is Safer

That means that the plant forms of vitamin A are safer versions of this vital vitamin to include in your diet. They can build up in your tissues if your intake of sweet potato and carrots and kale is truly and madly gargantuan but all that happens then is a slight bronze or orange tint in your skin which may not even be noticed and which fades if your intake goes back to normal.

What Does Vitamin A do?

I mentioned in passing that we get vitamin A from sweet potato, carrots and kale so with such rich sources of the vitamin delivering many health benefits you can expect vitamin A to do a lot in the body.

It is most well known for its role in vision and in particular night vision. As far back as 1816 animal experiments done to find out why so many babies were dying in Paris found that scars on the cornea of the eye and then death occurred when something was missing from the diet. It took over a 100 years to work out that the missing something was vitamin A.

And it's not just visual acuity that we get from vitamin A – it contributes to the health of the skin and of what may be called our inner skin.

The power of vitamin A to heal skin lesions is well known and many commercial skin lotions and potions are based on it. Generally they will use a synthetic version of the vitamin rather than the natural version because they may have a patent for the synthetic version and will make a higher profit by selling.

No one makes money telling you to eat sweet potatoes!

But it is not just your skin that benefits from a diet rich in vitamin A – your inner health gets a boost too.

Starting at your lips and going right down the throat and windpipe and gullet right through your stomach and intestines there is an “inner skin” or mucous membrane.

And on this thin and delicate membrane rests the health of your body.

If this membrane is unhealthy we cannot absorb the nutrients we swallow, if this membrane is inflamed by allergens or toxic sprays on our food we struggle to get the nutrition we need.

And if the membrane that lines the windpipe and lungs is unhealthy and inflamed we may struggle to breathe and suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases.

This membrane – our inner skin – needs nourishment, it needs vitamin A for it's health ( and vitamin C too but we haven't got there yet 🙂 )

On the health of the inner skin rests our entire life – no kidding and no exaggeration because it is the mechanism for us to take in both food and oxygen. Without good delivery of both vital nutrients we decline in health and eventually die.

Knowing that vitamin A is a matter of life or death we ask an obvious question…

Where we get Vitamin A From?

We've mentioned a few already and they are the richest sources of beta carotene…sweet potato, carrots and kale. But there are lots of others and basically if you have a healthy diet, one with lots of vegetables you hardly need to bother about vitamin A even though it is so important.

Greens – Turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens and spinach are rich sources too.

Squash and Pumpkin – rich sources of beta carotene

Apricots – dried apricots and peaches are not just totally yummy they pack a punch of beta carotene too.

Tomatoes – a different carotene here – lycopene

How much Vitamin A do I need?

The RDA for retinol is 2300 iu for for adult females, 3000 iu for adult males but my recommendation is eat tons of healthy vegetables rich in beta carotene and forget the numbers. If you really want to take a supplement as a kind of health insurance then consider taking

Last Words on Vitamin A

Basing your diet on vegetables gives you much more than vitamin A, it gives you a sound foundation to be healthy and resist cancer, heart disease and diabetes as well as other chronic diseases that are common on poor diets. By all means take a good vitamin A supplement or a good multi-vitamin but help it along with a multi-vegetable dinner plate as well.

Do You Know the ABC…of Vitamins?

abc of vitaminsFunny enough, when we learn our ABCs we might say “A is for Apple, B is for Berry, C is for Cherry…but we don't learn about vitamins A, B or C until many years later, if at all. This means that we have only a hazy idea of how important they are to us or where they comes from or even what they are.

That stops here because today I want to fill in the gap left by our schooling and show you how important your ABC of vitamins really is.

What Are Vitamins Anyway?

Before we get to our ABC we need to clarify what vitamins really are.

Vitamins were discovered around 1900. One by one scientists found that there were unknown ingredients in food, something that was so important that animals and people die if it is missing from their diets.

Poor diets were found to lead to disease and death and one by one as the cases were studied the missing nutrient was found to be a vitamin.

Scientists found that there were several of these missing “somethings” and they then had to be given a name. The first name given was “vitamine” which was short for “vital amine” and then the letters of the alphabet were used so we ended up with A,B,C,D,E…all the way up to K.

Vital Amine?

And then the first major mistake was spotted! Vitamins were called “vital” meaning essential to life and that's correct but an “amine” is a member of the ammonia family and in a chemical formula looks like NH2 where N is for Nitrogen and H is hydrogen.

Problem is that vitamins are not amines so the very first step into Vitamin science was on quicksand and ended up with a quick correction.

A “political” correction was made – they kept the name and just knocked the final “e” of the word!

So now we call them “vitamins”.

Vital to Life

But food is vital to life – we know that without eating we get weaker, hungrier, lose weight and eventually lose consciousness and lose life.

Food supplies us with energy which we measure in calories and nutrients which we know as vitamins and other nutrients.

Scurvy is an interesting example of a disease we can get if we eat insufficient amounts of vitamin C. The disease was first described by Hippocrates who was writing hundreds of years B.C and yet 2,000 years later scientists were still unsure what the cause was. The cure was simple and had been proven many times and yet Doctors ignored the evidence.

And this was not a rare disease either as this quote from the Wiki shows “Between 1500 and 1800, it has been estimated that scurvy killed at least two million sailors ”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scurvy

And how to cure this awful disease? Easily according to Johann Bachstrom an 18th C Polish Pastor here is the cure…

“scurvy is solely owing to a total abstinence from fresh vegetable food, and greens; which is alone the primary cause of the disease ”

Which is of course, correct.

I could fill this entire blog post with similar cases, stories and proofs of how vitamins were found to cure disease.

And rather than do that I want to focus now on how much vitamin C we need – so we will look at a few numbers and see how they can help you know how much of the vitamins you need to not just avoid obvious disease but to healthy enough to thrive.

Not knowing this is why many people nowadays have scurvy – but more of that in a minute – we need some details to be able to use this information powerfully to boost our own health.

How Much and When?

We've seen that a major killer disease was found to be caused by a deficiency of a vitamin – in this case we are looking at vitamin C.

The next thing we need to know is how much vitamin C to use – how many milligrams of vitamin C do we need and does everybody need the same amount?

The surprising answer is that it all depends on where you live! Every government has a health and nutrition board that makes recommendations for the healthy functioning of its people.

Of course the people who get to sit on these boards are all Nutrition experts…oops that should be obvious but it does not quite work out that way. In fact the members of government committees are people who have the time and inclination for the paperwork and who are politically acceptable.

Very often the real experts don't fit into these requirements and the resulting recommendations show all the signs of official data they are out of date and ignore important scientific research.

In Canada, the US, UK, India and Australia – to mention the main English speaking countries the “Official” recommendations for daily vitamin C intake for an adult are…

Country Adult Dosage mg
Australia 45
Canada 90
India 40
United Kingdom 40
United States of America 60 to 95

 

In addition, just to show you that this is a political issue, there are values recommended by the World Health Organisation and the European Union which are 45 and 80 mg respectively.

Altogether then "Official" sources say that we should take an amount between 40 mg and 95 mg !

And remember we are only looking at vitamin C values, we will find a similar divergence of view with every other nutrient!

So who is right?

What is a person going to do here? Well the practical answer is,”Ask an expert!” and my definition of an expert is someone who is trained in Nutritional science and treatment and that answer will take you to people who use Nutrition with their patients.

That excludes the vast majority of Medical Doctors and includes Naturopathic Doctors and Nutritional Therapists and some Chiropractors and Herbalists.

It may surprise you that most Medical Doctors are not taught Nutritional Medicine but that reflects the situation. They are taught a lot of Drug Therapy and little to no Food and Nutritional Therapy.

Expert Opinion On Vitamin C

If my discussion on who is an expert does not quite convince you then let me refer you to the expert above all others on vitamin C; someone who is, you might say, the expert of experts…

And that is Dr Linus Pauling – yes the Linus Pauling with 2 Nobel Prizes. He recommended we take 2000 mg a day and that is what I take.

What I noticed in my time as a Nutrition student is that the more Nutrition people knew the more vitamin C they took. It was pretty common for us to take 4000 or 5000 mg a day and to do so for years.

I have taken these doses for decades now and have enjoyed almost perfect health.

A last word on the Official dosage.

Why do the officials get it so wrong? Part of the answer is politics and part is that they do not use Nutritional therapy on a daily basis with patients and simply do not base their recommendations on practical knowledge but on theoretical requirements about how much is needed for a white blood cell and how much is needed to help absorb iron in the diet and so forth.

Real practical advice for a adult seeking good health usually concludes with doses of 2000 mg upwards.

In the next post we look deeper into the ABC of Vitamins click here to read more.

Photo credits RubyGoes

Is Bio-Detox the Right Detox Supplement for You?

One of the main messages made very strongly here the Natural Detox Blog is that Detox cannot be accomplished just by drinking pure water or green juices or by following any particular diet – however good the diet is.

And if you are wondering why this is so – the answer is very simple – and it is because detox processes going on in the liver and elsewhere in the body need extra supplements to get them going and detoxify the toxins in your tissues.

Detox needs specialised nutrition which you cannot get from water or fruit juices.

That's why we need Detox supplements – the next point is whether Bio-Detox by Biotics Research is a Detox Supplement that would work for you.

Before we start I have to say that I have not taken Bio-Detox myself, so this section will be based on a discussion of the ingredients as shown in a PDF on their website.

It has a long list of ingredients including vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes, amino acids, and a few like CoQ10 which do not fit into any neat category and finally, glandulars.

So let's breeze through each of these in turn and see if anything stands out…

Vitamins

There's a nice spread of A, C, E and B. My only comment here is that in my opinion the amount of the individual B vitamins is too small. For example, B1 has 1 mg and B2 1 mg too. To me these are oddly tiny values.

Here for example is the extract from the Wiki on Vitamin B1 aka Thiamine

Reference Daily Intake and high doses

The RDA in most countries is set at about 1.4 mg. However, tests on female volunteers at daily doses of about 50 mg have claimed an increase in mental acuity. There are no reports available of adverse effects from consumption of excess thiamine from food and supplements.

I'm not going to labour the point, so let's close this section by looking at the B1 dose in my daily multi– it is 32 mg and really I'd like a higher dose!

Minerals

Zinc, copper, selenium and molybdenum on the list and magnesium a major detox mineral missing.

Hmm!

Herbs

Milk thistle, cleavers, dandelion as well as Burdock, red clover and Indian Barberry all superb detox herbs and Adrographis a wonderful herb not well known outside Ayurvedic medicine which is so extraordinary all you can do is call it the ginseng of India. There are some other herbs too as well as Oregano.

The problem with assessing the herbs mentioned is that we do not know how much of each is present because it is simply labeled a proprietary blend of 2455 mg.

Enzymes

Enzymes are proteins that make things happen –like digestion. There's Bromelain from pineapple present and Papain from Papaya both powerful aids to digestion, cleansing and detox.

Other specialist enzymes included are cellulase, lipase, amylase and ficin. The first 3 on this list are from fungi and ficin is from figs.

Amino acids

These are the workhorses of detox that few people are aware of. So we get Taurine, Methionine, NAC, glutamine and Cysteine – all powerful detoxers.

Glandulars

One of the first things I noticed on the ingredients list is "Cholesterol 5mg".

This is surprising in a nutritional or detox product because cholesterol is an animal product and is your first clue that further down the list you'll find glandular products.

So we find 150 mg of Pancrelipase (Porcine) which is a small amount from the Pancreas of a Pig.

Added to that we find Parotid tissue (bovine) 10 mg – a tiny amount from the Salivary gland from a cow.

If you are OK with animal parts in your supplements that is fine I guess but clearly this is a "deal breaker" for vegetarians and vegans.

Added to the long and pretty impressive ingredients in Bio-Detox there are some that don't fit neat bullet points – like Alpha lipoic acid ( one of my fave supplements) and Co Q10 ( likewise).

There is also fish oil stated to be from Tuna, Anchovy or Tuna.

Whew! That's a long list of ingredients!

 

Summing Up On Bio-Detox

This is a detox formulation with an impressive range of ingredients. The only deficiency in my opinion is in the B vitamins, so to use this you'd need to take a B complex as well or a separate multi. I wonder too if there is a significant amount of magnesium in the "Blend".

I was surprised to find Bio-Detox to have Glandulars.

To my mind the use of glandulars is a fad.

They used to be much more common and frankly I think the use of ingredients that exclude a significant and growing section of the population – vegetarians, is unwise.

The encapsulation is also questionable with old fashioned glycerin rather than use vegecaps.

The power of this detox formula is probably going to depend on the "Black box" of the Proprietary Blend. Judging by the rest of the formula I'd expect it to be effective but who knows?

If you believe in the use of glandulars then this detox supplement may well be on your shortlist for consideration. And if you don't then you'll find it easy to find several detox supplements without glandular products.

You may get more info on Bio-Detox from the Biotics Research website and compare the price you see there with the price at Amazon.