Vibrant good health leading to a happier and longer life is a goal most of us would embrace. Even though we live in America and are exposed to state of the art medical procedures and progressive drugs and medicine, we rank dead last when our health statistics are compared to 21 other industrialized countries. Ironically, with these very poor results, we are also spending twice as much on health care as other nations.
What are we doing wrong that there is such an increase in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis? Close to 40 percent of Americans are obese and that number is rising. Autoimmune disorders are increasing too. These statistics can be alarming and intimidating. Quite possibly the disintegration of our health goes back to the very basics of who we are and the food supply that sustains us. Our foods are denatured long before they even make it to our table. Our topsoil has been depleted and pesticides contaminate our food and water sources. Food processing renders what we eat to be devoid of the nutrition necessary to maintain health.
Studies have shown that a high percentage of adults in America eat less than the minimum daily allowances of 10 or more necessary nutrients. Adequate amounts and proper balance of nutrients are needed for maintaining good health and the optimum functioning of the immune system. While a balanced diet can go a long way toward supplying essential vitamins and minerals, very few people eat right every day. Many Americans do not even come close to the minimal amounts set by the Reference Daily Intakes. The RDl’s are a set of dietary references used by the FDA which are low to begin with.
As far back as 2002, a study from the Harvard School of Medicine published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed 35 years of research on vitamins and chronic diseases. They concluded that every adult should take a multivitamin daily as a safe and inexpensive way to optimize health.
We live in a world where there is real lemon in our cleaning products but fake lemon flavor in our foods. Processed foods destroy the sacredness of the foods we put into our bodies and we are killing ourselves with our forks.
Understanding Nutrients and Health
To share a better understanding of how important these nutrients are to health, this section of the website explains the benefits of good nutrition and why eating whole and nutrient dense foods and supplementing with vitamins and minerals contribute to overall health and wellness. “Undernutrition” from processed, chemicalized food is the base of most “unwellness”. We certainly have learned from experiences with scurvy and beriberi that nutritional deficiencies can kill. Our nutritional deficiencies today are more subtle. Here’s why they are so important!
B vitamins primarily convert carbohydrates to glucose, improve metabolism, normalize nerve function, prevent fatigue and stress, relax the nervous system and bring energy to most body systems. The primary areas of influence are the skin, hair, eyes, liver, lining of the GI tract and heart health.
B vitamins are not stored well in the body and are absorbed mainly in the small intestine. B vitamins are easily destroyed by heat from cooking foods, sunlight, coffee, tea, nicotine, sugar, alcohol, the processing of food, fasting and dieting and imbalances of the pH in the Gl tract.
The primary food sources of B vitamins are liver, brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast, rice (bran), cereal grains (germ and bran), “raw milk,” animal brains, molasses, pork, beef, brazil nuts, pecans, pine nuts, avocados, dried fruits, corn, organ meats, tongue, trout, mackerel, herring, seaweed, carrots, cucumbers, apples, figs, berries and grapes. Many Americans do not eat a selection of foods on the “B List”. Furthermore, during the refinement process of wheat we lose:
- Thiamine (B1) 85%
- Riboflavin (B2) 70%
- Niacin (B3) 87%
- Folic Acid (B9) 75%
- Pantothenic Acid (B5) 56%
- Pyridoxine (B6) 90%
- Biotin 90%
The family of B vitamins was discovered together at the beginning of the 20th century. As nutritional knowledge advanced, however, it was learned that they are in fact a family of compounds, each with a distinct role to play in promoting health.
- Vitamin B1, known as Thiamine is needed for energy production, heart function, and the health of the brain and nervous system. B1 is often depleted in people who eat processed food. If you eat a lot of refined sugar and white flour, it is likely that you are deficient in thiamine. Thiamine is also destroyed in the body by some medications, such as diuretics. People who are thiamine deficient tend to fall asleep for a short time and wake up, unable to go back to sleep. They are also prone to be obsessed with negative thoughts, often having feelings of impending doom. Often they have low blood pressure.
- Vitamin B2 is also known as Riboflavin. It helps the body turn food into energy by facilitating the use of oxygen in our cells. B2 is also a powerful antioxidant. Riboflavin supplementation may help prevent migraine headaches. People with low thyroid function may have an increased need for vitamin B2.
- Vitamin B3 is also known as Niacin. Vitamin B3 is needed to metabolize food — carbohydrates, fats and proteins — into energy.
A new study found that Niacin reduced arterial plaque significantly better during an eight month period than did prescription medications. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine recently discovered that Niacin improves protective HDL cholesterol levels and therefore helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Clinical signs of early deficiency include lack of appetite, muscular fatigue, indigestion, depression, insomnia, headaches and skin problems.
Vitamin B6 is also known as Pyridoxine. It promotes red blood cell production and normal cellular growth, and aids in the absorption of vitamin B12. It is no surprise that B6 plays a key role in so many health issues including immune function, hormone function, cognitive function, the prevention of heart disease, depression, kidney stones and breast and prostate cancers. Nearly 120 enzymes in the body need B6 to function properly. High levels of vitamin B6 have been associated with better memory.
Deficiencies in B6 have been associated with high homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid, the end product of the breakdown of protein digestion. It serves as a marker for heart disease. Scientists found that B vitamins play an essential role in keeping homocysteine levels lower. Homocysteine damages arterial walls and that is why it is a contributing factor in heart disease. B6, along with its fellow B’s, B12 and Folate act as cofactors in keeping homocysteine levels in check. If the right cofactors are present, homocysteine eventually converts to a beneficial compound. If it cannot be converted, it enters the bloodstream where it can wreak havoc. Homocysteine promotes free radical damage to the arterial walls and causes platelets to stick together forming plaque that clogs the arteries.
Research in the Framingham Heart Study linked elevated homocysteine levels to low levels of B vitamins. Later research comparing the extent of artery narrowing with homocysteine and vitamin status found men with the most severe arterial blockage had the highest homocysteine levels and lowest B vitamin levels. Deficiencies of B-Complex vitamins and minerals lead to heart muscle weakness and damage. In its simplest terms, research has shown that most heart disease is caused by nutritional deficiencies and imbalances.
Folic Acid, sometimes referred to as vitamin B9, is extremely important for proper brain function and plays a crucial role in mental and emotional health. It works in conjunction with vitamin B12 to regulate the formation of red blood cells and help iron function properly in the body. Deficiencies of Folic Acid are associated with birth defects and certain cancers. High doses of Folic Acid may help reduce uric acid levels. It has also been linked to the prevention of age-related hearing loss.
Vitamin B12, also known as Cyanocobalamin is required for proper digestion and food absorption. The role of vitamin B12 in memory and cognition is pretty well established. Research appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 looked at 1,648 subjects over the age of 65 over a 10-year period. High vitamin B12 levels were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline. Vitamin B12 has been found useful as a treatment for asthma, depression and for promoting mental wellness.
Vegetarians – LowB12
Vegetarians are particularly susceptible to low B12 levels, as B12 is the only B vitamin found exclusively in animal products. Vitamin B12 is a large molecule and is difficult to assimilate into the body. People who use antacids are often B12 deficient because B12 requires stomach acid to assimilate from food.
Biotin helps us maintain healthy skin and aids in cell growth. Biotin can improve blood sugar control.
Pantothenic Acid, also known as Vitamin B5, helps immune function, energy generation, and the body’s production of certain hormones. This vitamin may help those with rheumatoid arthritis, although more research is needed. When we are deficient in Vitamin B5, symptoms like fatigue, headaches, nausea, tingling in the hands, depression, personality changes and cardiac instability have been reported.
Choline is considered by nutritional scientists to be a B vitamin although it is not always listed as one. It is essential for the integrity of the myelin sheaths that cover and protect our nerves. It’s important for fat metabolism. Choline has been studied with patients with Alzheimer and Parkinson disease, gall bladder symptoms and migraines.