Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential to the functioning of the body... which the body can not normally synthesize.
Vitamins are not very toxic and have very high LD-50 levels (the level at which they can kill someone). The worst that usually happens is irritation.
Many experts suggest that for optimal health we need more than the published RDA's (Recommended Daily Allowances) for vitamins: RDA's are determined by establishing at what level people don't get sick. Optimal health is not considered when setting RDA's.
Vitamins can be broadly divided into two categories: 1) Water soluble 2) Fat soluble
Water soluble Vitimins
The water soluble vitamins are C and the B's and must be replaced in the body daily.
- Is essential in the building of collagen, protective of eyes and adrenals (which have high VitC levels).
- Helps prevent oxidation of fats... which leads to heart disease (arterial plaque).
- Is a very safe, cheap and effective method of chelating excess copper.
- Is an excellent anti-histamine
Try taking it, the way described below, for a sunburn or other inflammatory reaction... and watch the pain and swelling disappear.
Many scientists are slowly realising that larger amounts of VitC may be indicated in many disease processes. It has slowly been recognised that a lot of research did not obtain a positive result simply because the amount of Vitamin C used was insufficient. Thus testing with larger amounts is more likely to obtain positive results.
Understanding Nutrition (textbook for nutritionists) by Whitney and Rolfes (2008) recognises an upper limit of 1g/day VitC and double this when ill. However much research suggests that in certain circumstances a lot more can be useful NB. There are no known toxic levels for VitC. One of the keys to understanding VitC is that it is an anti-oxidant in low doses and becomes a pro-oxidant in high doses. Both of these properties are very useful when used appropriately.
The mode of administration is also important. Much of the early research was done using IM and IV routes. Yet later research was done only with tablets (a more convenient route). Not surprisingly the results differ markedly.
The order of effective administration of VitC is:
1) Oral - Tablets (16-30 % absorbed)
2) Oral - Buffered liquids (~75 % absorbed)
3) Oral - Lipospheric (~ 99% absorbed)
4) IM -Intra Muscular (100 % absorbed)
5) IV - Intra venous (100% absorbed)
60 minutes did a story on how VitC was used against Swine flu and hairy cell leukemia:
Synthetic or Natural?
Ascorbic acid comes in two forms l (levo = left) and d (dextro = right). L-ascorbic acid is the only form that occurs in nature. Thus D-ascorbic acid is not normally available unless specially synthesised. As l-ascorbic acid works better than d-ascorbic acid only the "l" form is sold for human consumption.
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Ascorbic acid is most readily absorbed, cheap and most effective when consumed in soluble form (oral, IM or IV).
It is very easy to make your own (watch the video). Special thanks to Emeritus Professor Gerrard Judd for sharing this:
For Ascorbate: The science of VitC Hickey and Roberts have done an excellent job of putting all the research in one place:
However VitC was most famously championed by Linus Pauling:
NB. Linus Pauling won a Nobel prize in chemistry.
Vitamin B complex
There are 8 vitamins in the B complex Group.
- B1 (Thiamine)
- B2 (Riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (Pantothenic acid)
- B6 (Pyridoxine)
- B7 (Biotin)
- B9 (Folic Acid)
- B12 (Cobolamin)
Symptoms of a B2 deficiency include cracks in the corner of the mouth (angular cheilitis/stomatitis).
B2 is good for eyes, skin, nails and hair.
B2 is responsible for the strong yellow colour in B-complex vitamins.
Niacin (top left), niacinimide (no-flush: top right) and inositol hexaniacinate (no-flush: bottom) are the 3 common forms.
Niacin has proven extremely effective at improving cholesterol profiles (excluding the niacinimide form). Niacinamide has the hydroxyl (OH) group in niacin replaced by an primary amine (NH2) group. Inositol hexaniacinate is a 6 sided ring with 6 niacins hanging from each corner via the OH group (which loses the H).
Flushing (turning bright red) due to vasodilation occurs if a larger amount of niacin is taken... which is why no-flush formulations are popular. Larger amounts (~3 g/day) are commonly taken to obtain therapeutic effects.
Hoffer, Saul and Foster's book on niacin is a good resource for more information:
Vitamin B12 (cobolamin)
There are four types of B12. Methyl (CH3), hydroxo (OH) and adenosyl B12 are normally found in the body. Cyano (CN) B12 is not normally found in the body.
Hydroxo, methyl and adenosyl Cobolamin are the most bio-available forms of B12.
Yes B12 really does have a Cobalt (Co) atom at the centre of it.
Yes the most popular synthetic form really does have a cyanide (CN) molecule hanging off it!
The hydroxo form is usually given by injection. It is an antidote to cyanide poisoning.
CN, OH and adenosyl can replace the methyl (CH3) group. Surprisingly the CN form of B12 is usually the only one you can buy despite it being less bio-available N.B. B12 is not available from vegetables or fruits (no vegan sources) only meat.
B12 deficiency is characterised by paranoia restless legs and paranoia (as often seen in the elderly).
For more information read Pacholok and Stuart's book on B12:
Fat Soluble Vitamins
Fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K and are stored in the body so they do not have to be eaten every day.
VitE can be split into two major groups Tocopherols and Tocotrienols. Both groups are then further split into alpha, beta, delta and gamma which refers to how many -CH3's (methyl groups) there are on the aromatic ring and where they are. This makes a total of 8 types of VitE. The basic difference between the two forms is that tocotrienols have more double bonds and this makes them much more susceptible to oxidation (more prone to be destroyed). These double bonds also makes tocotrienols more biologically active (more double bonds is better). Cold pressed oils will retain these delicate vitamins but processed (heat or solvent extracted) oils do not.
Synthetic VitE comes in a further two forms d (dextro) and l (levo): l=left and d=right. The "d" form of VitE is the natural form and the "l" form is the synthetic (making a total of 16 possible VitE forms). The d and l forms look almost identical except they can not be interchanged... just as left and right hands can not be overlaid. These are known as isomers of VitE. In most cases the isomers of a product do not behave the same way in the body (or in a reaction) and often have undesirable side effects (thalidomide is the most famous instance). Such molecules work like door keys: if they are only minimally different they can not open the door (they will not work in the body).
The most commonly studied VitE is alpha-tocopherol. Research has recently shown that the synthetic dl-VitE appears to have a negative effect on health. The natural d-VitE has long been associated with good health.
Vitamin D is essential to the absorption of caclium and is only produced by exposure to sunlight (UV-B). Cholesterol is an essential precursor to VitD and healthy cholesterol is essential to all cell structure and function. Synthetic D2 or D3 (above) lasts only half as long as naturally produced VitD. There around 10 compounds produced when we create VitD naturally (from the sun)... which probably accounts for the difference in persistence.
Dr Michael Holick a former professor of dermatology shows we need more sunlight than we are getting because the VitD levels of many people are dangerously low.
For Holick's engaging and informative presentation on the essential nature of VitD
Holick's book is excellent reading and he cites a lot of research to show that we have under-estimated the RDA for VitD significantly.
Vitamin K comes in 2 forms K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone).
Vitamin K1 is responsible for blood clotting.
The food sources of K1 are green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin K2 is responsible for moving calcium into the bones (and thus complements VitD).
The food sources of K2 are Natto (fermented soy) or grass fed foods e.g. eggs, milk, butter, cream, meat (especially organ meats).
Vit K2 is further divided into Mk4 and Mk7 forms (the number describes how many double bonds there are):
1) The Mk4 form has a short half life and needs to be taken 3 times a day (~15-35 mg/day). It is found in dairy foods.
2) The Mk7 form has a much longer half life and can be taken just once a day (~100 ug). It is found in Natto.
Vit K2 has until recently been the forgotten vitamin and poorly understood.
The role of K2 is engagingly illustrated in a recent book by Kate Rheaume Bleue:
The precursor to VitA (Retinal) is Beta Carotene: One betacarotene makes two VitA's:
Betacarotene is found in carrots (and other orange coloured vegetables) and will only be converted to VitA as required so you can not eat too much. VitA is very good for the eyes NB. The straight lines --- sticking out have CH3 (methyl groups) on the end of them. This is an abbreviation used in chemistry.