Five Major Vitamin Deficincies & How to Avoid Them

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Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
Five Major Vitamin Deficincies & How to Avoid Them

There are five vitamins that, when lacking in a human diet, are associated with deficiency diseases: Vitamins A, B1, B3, C, and D.

Since vitamins don't store well, how can you avoid vitamin deficiency diseases by eating right?

Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, lower immune fuction, and can cause total blindness. While fortified foods and supplments are now cheaply and readily avilable, it's good to know that diet can also keep you healthy regarding vitamin A. Animal protien is a good source. But if that's scarce carrots--and other orange and yellow vegtables and fruits-- contain beta carotene. In fact, non-animal sources of vitamin A which contain pre-formed vitamin A account for greater than 80% of intake for most people in the developing world.

So most of us can manage to grow or get enough vitamin A. It's important to note that you can overdo it vitamin A - too much is toxic. Since vitamin A is fat-soluble, disposing of any excesses you ingest is much harder than with water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C. But it's extrordinarily hard to get a toxic dose of vitamin A from food (unless you are eating polar bear, seal, walrus or husky livers. Yuck.)

Vitamin B1 (Also known as thiamine) deficiency can cause beriberi. Breiberi can cause difficulty walking, pain, edema, mental confusion, paralysis, and death. It's an evil disease that we rarely see in the developed world, but if there is a long economic decline, or an economic crash it might make a comeback. One way to avoid pellegra is not to live on white rice: add other foods or use whole grains. My family has brown rice in our emergency pantry for this reason. Also good sources: other unrefined grains, fresh meat, legumes, green vegetables, fruit, and milk.

Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) deficiency cause pellagra (warning, graphic images at the link).  Pellagra is usually described by "the four D's": diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia and death. Other symptoms include a high sensitivity to sunlight, aggressive behavior, weakness, skin problems of epic propotion (everything from incredible dermatitis to red shiny skin to red skin lesions), paralyiss of extremities, and a weakened and enlarged heart.

Corn that has been treated with lime will release availalbe vitaimn B3. Without it, a diet of mostly corn can led to pellagra. Niacin is found in MANY foods, listed below by category.

Animal products containing niacin:

  • liver, heart and kidney
  • chicken
  • beef
  • fish: tuna, salmon
  • eggs

Fruits and vegetables:

  • avocados
  • dates
  • tomatoes
  • leaf vegetables
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • asparagus

Seeds:

Fungi:

  • mushrooms
  • brewer's yeast

Vitamin C deficiency casues scurvy. Scury's symptoms include lethargy, spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from mucous membranes. Spots are most common on the thighs and legs, and a person with the ailment looks pale, feels depressed, and is partially immobilized. As scurvy advances, it can cause open sores, tooth loss, jaundice, fever, numbness in the extremities, and death. Humans cannot make thier own Vitamin C, so they have to get it from their diet. Vitamin C is widespread in plants, especially citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits), tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, and green peppers. Believe it or not, saurkraut has a higher concentration of vitamin C than fresh cabbage.

Vitamin D deficiency is especailly dangerous to children. It causes rickets,  and although it is thought of as a childhood disease it can also occur in adults. It causes malformed bones and is usually associated with malnutrition.

Prevention (and treatement) involves increasing dietary intake of calcium, phosphates and vitamin D. Exposure to sunshine when the sun is highest in the sky (darker-skinned people need longer exposures) and cod liver oil are sources of vitamin D. Foods high in phosphorus include fruits, nuts, whole grains, leafy vegetables, meats, milk and eggs.  Calcium can come from dairy products, blackstrap mollasses, canned salmon or sardines (because of the softened bones),  dried beans, and nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, or hazelnuts.

___________

A varied diet is the key. Keep these nutritional tips in mind when building a deep larder and the permaculture garden that supplements it and you can avoid the five major viatmin deficiency diseases.

 

JAG's picture
JAG
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 26 2008
Posts: 2492
Don't Take Vit. A If You Smoke

Hi SW,

LOL, before I clicked on this thread I thought it was SPAM.

Here are some tidbits that you might enjoy..

If you smoke, or have a family history of lung cancer, you may want to forego supplementing your diet with Vitamin A, or its beta-Carotene precursors. From the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements:

 In the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene (ATBC) Cancer Prevention Study, more than 29,000 men who regularly smoked cigarettes were randomized to receive 20 mg beta-carotene alone, 50 mg alpha-tocopherol alone, supplements of both, or aplacebo for 5 to 8 years. Incidence of lung cancer was 18% higher among men who took the beta-carotene supplement. Eight percent more men in this group died, as compared to those receiving other treatments or placebo [35]. Similar results were seen in the Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET), a lung cancer chemopreventionstudy that provided subjects with supplements of 30 mg beta-carotene and 25,000 IU retinyl palmitate (a form of vitamin A) or a placebo. This study was stopped after researchers discovered that subjects receiving beta-carotene had a 46% higher risk of dying from lung cancer [36-37].

PubMed Links:

 

Also, if you take Vitamin E to promote Cardiovascular health, think again...

The most recent published clinical trial of vitamin E and men's cardiovascular health included almost 15,000 healthy physicians ≥50 years of age who were randomly assigned to receive 400 IU synthetic alpha-tocopherol every other day, 500 mg vitamin C daily, both vitamins, or placebo [24]. During a mean followup period of 8 years, intake of vitamin E (and/or vitamin C) had no effect on the incidence of major cardiovascular events, myocardial infarction, stroke, or cardiovascular morality. Furthermore, use of vitamin E was associated with a significantly increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

Link

PubMed Link:

 

And if an increased risk of stroke wasn't enough, how about prostate cancer...

Several studies have examined whether vitamin E intake and/or supplemental vitamin E affects the risk of developing prostate cancer. A prospective cohort study of >29,000 men found no association between dietary or supplemental vitamin E intake and prostate cancer risk [27]. However, among current smokers and men who had quit, vitamin E intakes of more than 400 IU/day were associated with a statistically significant 71% reduction in the risk of advanced prostate cancer. In a clinical trial involving 29,133 male smokers, men randomly assigned to take daily supplements of 50 IU synthetic vitamin E for 5–8 years had 32% fewer prostate cancers compared to subjects who did not take the supplements [28]. Based in part on the promising results of this study, a large randomized clinical trial, called the SELECT trial, began in 2001 to determine whether 7–12 years of daily supplementation with synthetic vitamin E (400 IU, as dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate), with or without selenium (200 mcg, as L-selenomethionine), reduced the number of new prostate cancers in 35,533 healthy men age 50 and older. The trial was discontinued in October 2008 when an analysis found that the supplements, taken alone or together for about 5.5 years, did not prevent prostate cancer [29]. Results from an additional 1.5 years of follow-up from this trial (during which the subjects no longer received vitamin E or selenium), showed that the men who had taken the vitamin E had a 17 percent increased risk of prostate cancer compared to men only taking placebos, a statistically significant difference [30]. The risk of developing prostate cancer was also slightly increased in subjects taking vitamin E plus selenium or selenium alone, but the differences were not statistically significant.

Link

PubMed Links:

So, if you smoke or are a former smoker, take Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) but avoid Vitamin A or beta-Carotene. 

Of course, the idiots that designed most of these Vitamin E studies used a synthethic isomer of Vit. E (dl-alpha tocopherol) which doesn't exist in nature, so who knows.

I've used nutritional supplements for my entire adult life, but now I'm focused on growing select nutrients in my garden. Learning what plants to grow for certain micronutrients, and how to grow them to maximize their micronutrient content is truly fascinating to me. Someday I will do a huge post about it in the Permaculture thread.

Best...Jeff

Saffron's picture
Saffron
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 29 2009
Posts: 250
brown rice
safewrite wrote:

 

 My family has brown rice in our emergency pantry for this reason.

You want to be careful storing brown rice. It still has its essential oils and so can go rancid after about 6 months. Best to freeze it if you have that kind of freezer space.

~ s 

ao's picture
ao
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
some comments

JAG,

You made a good point about the synthetic vitamin E.  I don't have the reference on the tip of my tongue but when the Finnish vitamin E study came out that showed a possible increase in risk in cardiovascular disease, my first thought was ... poppycock.  Why would an essential nutrient increase the risk of disease?  Then it turns out that they used dl-alpha tocopherol rather than d-alpha tocopherol.  Plus they used alpha tocopherol in isolation rather than with the other tocopherols and the tocotrienols.  No wonder they obtained those results.  My suspicions are that the same effects were operative with the cancer studies. 

Likewise, the problems with synthetic vitamin A are well known.  My guess is that the so-called "beta-carotene" used in the studies you cite is not the beta-carotene found in sweet potatoes for example.  If just beta-carotene was the problem, then sweet potato eaters should have a significantly increased risk of cancer.  As far as I know, they don't.  When looking at those studies, one always has to know who is funding them and why.  Cui bono.  

That being said, your approach of getting the most nutrition from your food is obviously the best.  But it can be challenging in some soils with some water supplies to get all that is needed.  Wild plant foods will typically be much more nutrient rich than cultivated, domesticated plant foods so, to me, they are preferred above all else (and cheaper and less work).  They are naturally going to grow in the soils and areas that are most favorable to them and therefore, will be most likely to be the most efficient in extracting the needed nutrients from the soil.  Nature is the ultimate permaculturalist. 

I no longer take any synthetic vitamins and pretty much stick to food based vitamins such as the Mega-Foods brand for vitamin supplementation.  The el cheapo, crap One A Day and Centrum would be last on my list.  The food based are signficantly more expensive but you can feel the difference.

 

Safewrite,

Did you write this article yourself or take it from the Internet?  I'm just wondering how you selected these 5 nutrients since a lack of ANY essential nutrient will cause a deficiency disease.  Obviously, anything that is essential, be it vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, etc., must be considered when planning one's food supply.  For example, folate is important for pregnant mothers while Vitamin B12 is very important for the elderly (since vitamin B12 deficiency will cause neurological problems and can eventually even kill you).  Even the types of macro-nutrients and their ratios are important.

As you said, a varied, diversified diet is the key.  One of the unfortunately problems with a larder though, is the lack of freshness.  Typically, the more preserved a food is and the less it deteriorates over time, the less likely it is to be healthy for you, especially with long term use.  But then again, any food beats starvation every time.;-)

As a references on vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients, these are two books I'd recommend.

http://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Based-Approach-Vitamins-Minerals-Recommendations/dp/1588901246

http://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Based-Approach-Dietary-Phytochemicals/dp/1588904083/ref=pd_sim_b_1

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
not nicked

Dear AO,

I wrote the article myself (didn't you see a glaring error? I could not edit it as it was the first post in this thread.)

Note that I said the five major diseases from vitamin defiiciencies. There are, of course, all sorts of deficiecy diseases. And your point about stored food (deep larder) is well taken: the main reason we have a garden is to supplement that with fresh tihings.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
ps on whole grains

Saffron - I understand that whole grains with the germ are more likely to spoil, but we have our larder on a 3-year rotation and each bucket has the oxygen removed to retard spoilage. Frankly, I was shocked that the LDS pantry was all white rice and mashed potaotoes and other processed things. I do, however, give them points for dried beans and dried apples and carrots.

ao's picture
ao
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2009
Posts: 2220
Vitamin A heads up
safewrite wrote:

Note that I said the five major diseases from vitamin defiiciencies. There are, of course, all sorts of deficiecy diseases. And your point about stored food (deep larder) is well taken: the main reason we have a garden is to supplement that with fresh tihings.

Yep, same here.  It's one of the reasons we have a generator.  We can do without electric lights, electric stove, and even electrically pumped water from the well due to other alternatives but we've got a lot of goodies in the freezers we don't want to risk losing.  Certain things like our potatoes and carrots keep well in our cool room but things like organic lamb, chicken, fish, garden greens, basil, wild edibles, etc. all are frozen.  Wintertime, we don't have to worry about our temperatures since they'd stay frozen anyway where we have them but we don't want any warm weather losses (and we came close to that last year with a power outage that we weren't yet prepared for).

P.S.  One thing about the Vitamin A.  If you are regularly eating dark green leafy vegetables, orange/yellow carotenoid containing vegetables, etc. in abundance plus supplementing with Vitamin A, it's not difficult to see Vitamin A overdosing.  I've seen a few cases.

 

 

 

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