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Nutrition Articles  ›  Nutrient Buzz

All about Vitamins

Sorting Through the Madness

-- By Zach Van Hart, Staff Writer
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It can be easy to lose track of all the vitamins out there. It's even easier to forget how exactly they help our bodies. Let’s see, vitamin A heals wounds and vitamin C improves eyesight, wait, what was it again?  There are so many, it feels like there should be a vitamin Z. Here are the basics for vitamins, what they do and how to get them in healthy amounts.

Vitamin A

Function: As well as being necessary to new cell growth, vitamin A helps fight infections, and is essential for healthy skin, good blood, strong bones and teeth. It also plays essential roles in the kidneys, bladder, lungs and membranes, as well as helping maintain good eyesight. Vitamin A also helps eyes adjust to changes in levels of light.

Sources: Fish liver oils, liver, dairy products, carrots, cantaloupe, peaches, squash, tomatoes, and all green and yellow fruits and vegetables can fuel the body with vitamin A. Note: Many plants contain beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Dark green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of beta carotene.

Recommended daily intake: It is recommended that women consume 800 mcg and men consume 1000 mcg of vitamin A daily. Like other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A can be harmful when too much is consumed. Too much can lead to toxicity and other health problems, including an increased risk of fractures in postmenopausal women, nausea, blurred vision, and irritation. In more severe forms of overconsumption, it can lead to hair loss, growth retardation, and an enlarged spleen and liver. Too little vitamin A (though rare in the United States) can lead to night blindness, eye inflammation, and diarrhea.

Vitamin B-6

Function: Vitamin B-6 helps the brain function at its peak and the body convert protein to usable energy. It is also needed for the production of red blood cells and antibodies.

Source: Meats, whole grain products, bananas, green leafy vegetables, pecans, eggs, and milk are excellent sources of B-6.

Recommended daily intake:  Women require 1.6 mg of B-6 daily, while men need 2 mg. Daily intake of over 250 mg can lead to nerve damage. Pregnant women should not take more than the recommended amount as it could harm a developing fetus. As a water-soluble vitamin, B-6 must be replenished each day. Any B-6 not used is eliminated in urine, thus new sources are always needed.
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About The Author

Zach Van Hart Zach Van Hart
Zach is a journalist who regularly covers health and exercise topics.

Member Comments

  • Funny how people differ. My mom has too much vitamin K. I have to bring her to Quest every couple of weeks to have her blood checked out. Her blood is thick with the stuff so we have to keep tabs on it. - 7/19/2014 6:15:15 PM
  • I was looking for vitamin K- not in the article, but it comes up at the second "resource" on Spark search for vitamin K. I haven't found anything yet on spark about vitamin K. - 6/13/2013 10:21:06 AM
  • Just as one example of a recent well-documented medical report on vitamin D, check out http://www.grassr
    ootshealth.ne
    t/garland02-11. This report established no negative side effects for 40,000 IU daily (an amount much higher than I would take). The article argues for new recommendations for vitamin D recommendations. Many doctors are arguing for 8000 IU daily as the recommended dose but this article gives good evidence that 14,000 IU may be better to reach the appropriate serum 25 D levels for 97.5% of the US population. It remains to be seen how long it will take for this kind of information to become more commonly known among the general M.D. population who don't have nearly enough time to read and keep up on research. - 12/8/2012 11:01:12 AM
  • This article was a bit of disappointment to me because it uses old and outdated information on dosages. For instance, there has NEVER been a documented case of vitamin D overdose. Women taking 60,000 IU daily intravenously for breast cancer treatments have experienced some nausea. (Vitamin D causes apoptosis -- the death of cancer cells.) Moreover, the article makes no mention of the fact that Vitamin D is not a vitamin but actually is a hormone. Medical doctors at grassrootshealth.
    net have documented no side effects at 10,000 IU / day. They currently recommend at least 8,000 IU / day for adults.

    With regard to vitamin C, many doctors recommend a dose of 3000 mg / day during flu season as an effective prophylactic. 1000 mg / day is a common dose with little danger of side effects. Because vitamin C is water soluble, your body excretes what it does not use. Those who take vitamin C regularly need to be aware that their body can "adjust" to the dosage. This can result in temporary adverse effects when they quit taking it (such as bleeding gums, easier bruising, etc.). (Vitamin C improves capillary integrity.) The best vitamin C comes with 10% of the dosage in citrus bioflavonoids. One word of caution to pregnant women: citrus bioflavonoids toughen the structure of the amniotic sack which can make it more difficult for your water to break during labor.

    The article is right to warn of the danger of Vitamin A megadoses and the cautions about vitamin B for pregnant and nursing women. I do, however, wish it would break down the B vitamins a bit more. For instance, folic acid (no more than 800 mcg / day) helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

    Many of the potential dangers of water-solube vitamins are mitigated by simply drinking plenty of water. Fat-soluble vitamins (such as A) need more caution regarding their use.

    I understand that articles like this are written to old published standards mainly out of a sense of legal caution. But it behooves all of us to study current medical (e.g. coming from a group of... - 12/8/2012 10:44:14 AM
  • Helpful article. Would like a more comprehensive article that includes more vitamins, but I guess SP needs to keep them at a certain length, or people might not read the whole thing. - 2/15/2012 12:28:57 AM
  • Helpful and informative. I stick with a multivitamin that I had checked by my doctor to make sure it's ok with my prescription drugs, but it's still good to know what vitamins do. - 7/17/2010 9:17:58 AM
  • STONEY1959
    doesnt ley u know if safe to take with antidepressents - 1/17/2010 11:16:54 AM
  • Many thanks for this info - however - on a technical point - it is quicker for me to print than to click thru to each page! And when I want the SparkPoints I have to use valuable costly internet time to get to it!!! would love to have Points on Page 1 and print the info - Pleeeeeeeeeeeeese
    ! - 11/1/2009 4:45:31 AM
  • Very informative! It gives us a basic knowledge of our daily needs and how to get them! - 8/26/2008 2:02:06 AM
  • Great article. - 8/22/2008 1:36:29 AM
  • Helpful to have a general overview like this...thanks. - 6/16/2008 12:30:12 PM