Oct 28

Vitamin and Minerals – Functions and Deficiencies – Part B

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In this section, the most important information on the function of Vitamins and Minerals is addressed as well as their deficiencies.

General Symptoms of Vitamin Deficiencies

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Weight loss
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands and feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Personality changes
  • Unsteady movements
  • Mental confusion or forgetfulness


Vitamin A and Carotenoids

“Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!” This common saying has some truth: carrots are rich in Beta-carotene, which can be converted in the body into Vitamin A. The most usable form of Vitamin A is Retinol, which is essential to the proper function of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. However, that’s only one of the reasons the vitamin is needed. In addition to its role in healthy vision, Vitamin A aids bone growth and helps regulate the body’s infection-fighting abilities.

It can be easy to ingest more than 10,000 IU of Vitamin A if we eat a lot of cereals and liver in addition to taking a multivitamin containing Retinol or Retinol compounds every day. Plenty of evidence from earlier research shows that too much Vitamin A can harm bones and excess can have other effects as well. To protect ourselves, we should get most or all of supplemental Vitamin A in the form of Beta-carotene.

Vitamin A Deficiency
  1. Lack of Vitamin A in blood and tissues.
  2. Night blindness is one of the first signs of VAD.
  3. Complete blindness can also occur since Vitamin A has a major role in visual phototransduction
  4. Leading cause of preventable childhood blindness


B Vitamins

The B Vitamins perform a wide range of important functions throughout the body, such as helping to convert food into energy, maintaining the immune system, healthy skin, blood cells, the brain, and the nervous system.

The B List

B Vitamins consist of eight distinct Vitamins that assist cells to function optimally:

  • Vitamin B1: thiamine
  • Vitamin B2: riboflavin
  • Vitamin B3: niacin or niacinamide
  • Vitamin B5: pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B6: pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine, or pyridoxine hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B7: biotin
  • Vitamin B9: folate, folic acid
  • Vitamin B12: various cobalamins; commonly cyanocobalamin in vitamin supplements.

Missing from the list above are Vitamin B4, B8, B10, and B11, which were once thought to be important to human health, but were later discovered to be nonessential to humans. Therefore, they are no longer considered vitamins.

Vitamin B6

The body needs Vitamin B6 to break down protein and build red blood cells. It occurs naturally in a variety of foods, including meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits and vegetables.

Symptoms of Deficiencies
  1. Affects nerves, skin, mucous membranes, and circulatory system
Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is required for proper brain function and a host of chemical reactions within the body. It is found naturally only in animal foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk). Many fortified* cereals contain the synthetic form. Vegans, who avoid all animal-based foods, need to ensure they get enough of this vitamin through fortified foods or supplements. As one ages, it often becomes more difficult to absorb enough B12 from food. This problem usually reflects reduced production of stomach acid, which liberates B12 from food. Since this stomach acid isn’t needed for the body to absorb B12 from supplements or fortified foods, one can avoid a deficiency by getting enough B12 from these sources.

* Fortification. A fortified food simply has vitamins, minerals or other nutrients not normally present in the food added to it during processing. For example, milk does not naturally contain Vitamin D, but is often fortified because Vitamin D enhances Calcium absorption. Eating a well-balanced diet including foods fortified with vitamins may help to prevent nutrient deficiencies or long-term health complications. Observe food labels claiming that a product has health-promoting abilities due to a variety of added vitamins or minerals.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Can cause pernicious anemia (decrease in red blood cells occurring when the intestines cannot properly absorb Vitamin B12)

Memory Problems

Several epidemiological studies have shown that blood concentrations of Vitamins B6, B12, and Folic Acid are linked to people’s performance on tests of memory and abstract thinking.


Vitamin C

Vitamin C is perhaps best known for its reputation of preventing and treating the common cold. According to research, taking up to 2 grams of Vitamin C per day does not decrease the chances of catching a cold, although it may very slightly shorten the duration of the sniffles. Many experts, insisting on the cold-defying power of Vitamin C, state that even higher amounts are needed to achieve this effect. However, so far there is no evidence from randomized clinical trials to support this assertion. In the body, Vitamin C is crucial for making collagen, which lends structural support to tendons, ligaments, bones, and blood vessels. Even eye tissue contains large amounts of Vitamin C, and some studies suggest that the vitamin may help ward off cataracts, which cloud the eye’s lens and diminish vision.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Dry and splitting hair
  2. Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums
  3. Rough, dry, scaly skin
  4. Decreased wound-healing rate
  5. Easy bruising
  6. Nosebleeds
  7. Decreased ability to ward off infection
  8. Severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy (sailors in earlier years)


Vitamin D

This fat-soluble vitamin is unique because its primary natural source is sunlight, not food. In fact, it is found naturally in only a few foods. And fatty fish, the main food source of Vitamin D, isn’t something we eat on a daily basis. Milk, which doesn’t naturally contain Vitamin D, has been helping to fill the gap; however, dairy products made from milk (such as cheese and ice cream) contain only small amounts and likewise some brands of yogurt, juices, and breakfast cereals. Most people don’t have to rely on their diets for Vitamin D because exposing the skin to sunshine – more specifically, ultraviolet B (UVB) rays – enables the body to make Vitamin D, which is the reason it’s also called the sunshine vitamin. Nevertheless, the skin’s production of Vitamin D depends on a number of factors, some we cannot control. Age, skin color, the amount of skin exposed and sunscreen used, influence the production of Vitamin D (people in countries where sunlight is less available have to make sure they receive adequate levels). One of the most important and best-known roles is to signal the intestines to absorb Calcium into the bloodstream. Without sufficient Vitamin D, the body breaks down bone to get the essential Calcium – no matter how much Calcium is consumed through food and supplements. There is evidence supporting the role of Vitamin D in helping to prevent osteoporosis, which diminishes bone density and increases the risk of broken bones (fractures). Vitamin D helps not only by building bone strength but also by shoring up muscles, which lessens a person’s chances of falling.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities
  2. Inadequate levels can lead to muscle weakness (getting enough may improve muscle function)


Vitamin E

Despite evidence that Vitamin E supplements don’t help and may even be harmful, some people still take these supplements. More than 800 mg per day can lead to side effects such as bleeding, headache, fatigue, and blurred vision.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Nerve problems due to poor conduction of electrical impulses along nerves due to changes in nerve membrane structure and function
  2. Neuromuscular problems
  3. Absence of deep tendon reflexes,
  4. Loss of vibratory sensation and proprioception,
  5. Anemia due to oxidative damage to red blood cells
  6. Retinopathy (persistent or acute damage to the retina of the eye)
  7. Impairment of the immune response


Vitamin K

This relatively unknown vitamin got its name from Koagulation, German for coagulation (blood clotting) because Vitamin K is essential for that process. It also helps produce a key protein used in bone remodeling and blocks substances that speed the breakdown of bone. Moreover, it helps regulate Calcium excretion from the body in urine. The vitamin is contained in green leafy vegetables, certain fruits, and commonly used cooking oils. People who shy away from salads and other greens may be low in this vitamin (and many younger athletes do not eat enough green and yellow type vegetables!).

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Heavy menstrual bleeding
  2. Gum bleeding,
  3. Nose bleeding, and
  4. Easy bruising
  5. Bleeding within the digestive tract and blood in the urine




Calcium is a vital mineral. The body uses it to stabilize blood pressure and build strong bones and teeth. It is true that Calcium builds strong bones and teeth, but it also helps muscles to contract, blood to clot, and nerves to send signals to one another. People who eat a couple of servings of dairy products along with some fruits and vegetables every day probably get close to the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance).

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Risk of developing diseases like osteoporosis, osteopenia (reduced bone mass of lesser severity than osteoporosis)
  2. Calcium deficiency disease (hypocalcemia)
  3. Doctors often advise women to take Calcium and Vitamin D supplements to ward off osteoporosis – the bone-weakening disease that is a common cause (now also identified as an issue for men)
  4. Athletes in non-weight bearing sports (such as swimming) are more susceptible and should therefore, engage in additional programming or cross-training

Eating whole-grain bread and drinking tap water that is referred to as ‘hard’ – contains relatively high levels of minerals – we consume more Magnesium than persons favoring white bread and drinking ‘soft’ water. The refining process used to make white flour strips away the magnesium-rich germ and bran layer of the wheat, along with a number of other nutrients. The mineral is also found in legumes (beans and peas), nuts, and seeds, as well as many vegetables. The amount of Magnesium taken in is also important because it is the key for proper muscle, nerve, and immune function, and the mineral plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure and blood sugar. It may also influence the release and control of Insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. People with Type 2 diabetes (the most common form of the disease) have high blood sugar levels because their bodies have become resistant to insulin or are not producing enough insulin. They also frequently have low Magnesium levels. Athletes may also suffer muscle cramps due to a deficiency in both Magnesium and Potassium.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Hyper-excitability
  2. Muscular symptoms (cramps, tremor, fasciculations, spasms, tetany, weakness)
  3. Fatigue
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Apathy
  6. Confusion
  7. Insomnia
  8. Irritability
  9. Poor memory
  10. Reduced ability to learn

Potassium (an electrolyte) is necessary for normal functioning of all cells. It regulates the heartbeat, ensures proper function of muscles and nerves, and is vital for synthesizing protein and metabolizing carbohydrates. Researchers state that the so-called Paleolithic diet (ice age) delivered about 16 times more Potassium than Sodium. Today, most people get barely half of the recommended amount of Potassium in their diet, which contains twice as much Sodium because of hidden salt in processed or prepared foods. This imbalance is thought to be a major contributor to high blood pressure. Bananas are often touted as a good source of Potassium, but other fruits (such as cantaloupe and orange juice) and vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli) also contain this often-neglected nutrient.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Weakness as cellular processes are affected
  2. Constant fatigue
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Eating primarily out of bags and boxes!
  5. Muscle soreness, cramping
  6. Heartbeat skips
  7. Feeling faint or dizzy
  8. Constipation
  9. Tingling and numbness
  10. Kidney function (the kidney is the main organ that controls the balance of potassium by removing excess potassium into the urine)

Selenium is a trace mineral known for its antioxidant properties. It also helps regulate thyroid function and the immune system. Very low intakes cause Selenium deficiency and very high doses cause Selenium toxicity. The amount of Selenium in foods varies widely, as it depends on the Selenium content of the soil where plants are grown or animals are raised. People who snack on Brazil nuts (found in some canned nut mixtures) may also have high selenium levels because just an ounce of these nuts contains as much as 10 times the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) – a value so high that one shouldn’t eat them on a regular basis. Meats, breads, and other nuts are the most common sources of Selenium.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Hypothyroidism
  2. Extreme fatigue
  3. Mental slowing
  4. Goiter (swelling of the neck resulting from enlargement of the thyroid gland)

Found in cells throughout the body, Zinc helps to fight off bacteria and viruses, which is the reason it’s been investigated as a potential treatment for the common cold. The body relies on Zinc for wound healing as well the ability to taste and smell. However, it is is one of the micronutrients with a small difference between an adequate dose and a harmful one. Most people get the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) from their diets since the mineral is found in seafood, meat, poultry, dairy products, and nuts. However, I had swimmers identified with Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, and Copper deficiencies.

Getting too little of essential micronutrients can be harmful to one’s health, especially over the long haul. Getting too much can have equally worrisome effects, many of which show up more swiftly. Most troublesome are excesses of fat-soluble vitamins from supplements, which the body may stockpile to the point of reaching toxic doses. The ones most likely to cause trouble are Vitamins A, E, and K (D is also fat-soluble, but an excess doesn’t tend to cause problems). High doses of supplements – usually from taking individual vitamin and mineral supplements in addition to a powerful multivitamin – are often at fault. It’s much more difficult to get dangerous amounts of micronutrients from food, partly because of the body’s natural checks and balances. When Iron stores are full, for example, the body normally absorbs less Iron from food unless a genetic disorder or other problem interferes. The body also slows the conversion of Beta-carotene to Vitamin A when it already has enough Vitamin A from supplements or food sources. It is, however, still possible to overdo it. Many consumers are prompted to take excessive supplement doses by overenthusiastic news stories on the potential benefits of certain vitamins and minerals.

One should remember that the good news from the latest study might be refuted by other studies. Sometimes, exciting results from initial observational studies aren’t confirmed by randomized controlled trials, which are considered the gold standard of research, and even those studies often have their limitations. Don’t take more than the recommended dose of any micronutrient through supplements unless there is a good reason to do so, such as specific advice from your doctor.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Growth and development problems
  2. Hair loss
  3. Diarrhea, impotence
  4. Eye and skin conditions, and even acne
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Weight loss
  7. Delayed wound healing
  8. Taste changes
  9. Mental slowness
  10. Poor Neurological Function
  11. Weak Immunity
  12. Allergies: Food & Environment
  13. Leaky gut (intestinal permeability) – Crohn’s disease

There is some evidence that a high intake of calcium may increase the risk of prostate cancer and may also increase heart attack risk, though no randomized trials have specifically tested the latter. There are two types of Calcium deficiency. Dietary Calcium deficiency exists in individuals who are not getting enough Calcium intake through their daily nutrition or supplement intake. The natural Calcium storage within the bones becomes depleted. As a result, the bones begin to weaken and thin at an alarming rate. This deficiency can also lead to osteoporosis, a disease of the bones that triggers bone degeneration, a ‘humped’ back, a major increased risk of fractures, and other serious concerns.

Symptoms of Deficiency

  1. Back or neck pain
  2. Bone pain or tenderness
  3. Bone fractures as a result of minor or no trauma
  4. Loss of height
  5. Stooped or humped posture


Unlike dietary Calcium deficiency, the second type, hypocalcemia, has to do with low levels of Calcium within the blood. Whereas the former is a result of inadequate nutritional intake, the latter is usually caused by certain medications or even medical conditions like hypoparathyroidism. Hypocalcemia is particularly concerning as the body readily pulls Calcium from the bones in the event of blood Calcium deficiency in orders to support the proper function of the brain, heart, nerves, and muscles.

Symptoms of Deficiency

  1. Muscle cramps
  2. Numbness
  3. Poor appetite
  4. Large bruised areas
  5. Bleeding under the skin that looks like tiny red dots

Large doses of Iron supplements, multiple blood transfusions, and some rare metabolic disorders can also trigger an Iron overload, which can damage body tissues and raise risks for infection, heart disease, liver cancer, and arthritis over time. In addition, taking high doses of Vitamin C allows the body to absorb more Iron than it normally would accept and releases more stored iron than necessary. This causes an upswing in free iron, which attacks DNA, cell lipids, and protein. Free Iron also results when abnormally high levels of Iron accumulate in the body for other reasons. Excess Iron is not easily discarded. More men than women suffer from an overabundance of Iron; in fact, men are twice as likely to have Iron overload. Since most of the body’s Iron circulates in the blood as part of hemoglobin, menstruating girls and women can lose substantial amounts of Iron during their monthly periods.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. General fatigue
  2. Weakness
  3. Pale skin
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Dizziness
  6. Strange cravings to eat items that aren’t food, such as dirt, ice, or clay
  7. Tingling or crawling feeling in the legs
  8. Tongue swelling or soreness.

Copper is an essential micromineral that benefits bone, nerve, and skeletal health; therefore, although it is not that common, a deficiency can actually harm the body in multiple ways. Copper is important for the production of Hemoglobin and red blood cells, as well as for the proper utilization of Iron and oxygen within the blood. It plays an important role in maintaining a healthy metabolism, as well as contributing to bodily growth and repair. It is needed for the body to properly carry out many enzyme reactions and to maintain the health of connective tissue. It is the third most prevalent mineral in the body but it cannot be made by the body itself and has to be obtained through certain foods. Since the body uses Copper frequently and cannot store it in sufficient amounts, eating copper-rich foods like liver, oysters, nuts and seeds, wild seafood and fish, beans, certain whole grains, and certain vegetables is the best way to prevent a copper deficiency. Copper is also involved in the maintenance of cells related to almost every part of the body’s tissues and is important for preventing joint and muscle pain, which is the reason it is sometimes used as a natural remedy for arthritis.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. Serious digestive disorders that impair nutrient absorption such as Crohn’s disease
  2. Hematological manifestations, such as myelodysplasia, anemia, leukopenia (low white blood cell count) and neutropenia (low count of neutrophils, type of white blood cell often called the ‘first line of defense’ for the immune system)
  3. Absorption of copper can be impaired from very high intakes of iron or zinc, usually from supplements
  4. Chronic Fatigue
  5. Paleness
  6. Low body temperature, or always feeling cold
  7. Anemia
  8. Arthritis, joint pain
  9. Osteoporosis
  10. Brittle bones
  11. Frequently getting sick
  12. Muscle soreness
  13. Stunt in growth
  14. Hair thinning or balding
  15. Unexplained weight loss
  16. Bruising
  17. Skin inflammation and sores

Manganese is a mineral naturally occurring in the body in very small amounts. It is a powerful antioxidant that seeks out the free radicals in the human body and neutralizes these damaging particles, thereby preventing many of the potential dangers. Some of the health benefits include healthy bone structure, bone metabolism, and helping to create essential enzymes for building bones. It also acts as a co-enzyme to assist metabolic activity in the human body. Apart from these, there are other health benefits including the formation of connective tissues, absorption of Calcium, proper functioning of the thyroid gland and sex hormones, regulation of blood sugar level, and metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

The most important sources of Manganese are raspberries, pineapples, garlic, grapes, beetroot, green beans, rice, peppermint, oats, nuts, watercress, mustard greens, strawberries, blackberries, tropical fruits, lettuce, spinach, molasses, cloves, turmeric, leeks, tofu, whole wheat, bananas, cucumbers, kiwis, figs and carrots. The best sources of naturally abundant are green vegetables, brown rice, coconuts, almonds, and hazelnuts since they maximize the absorption of this important mineral. Even though some medical experts argue that Manganese deficiency is quite rare, more than 35 % of the world population is thought to be deficient. Poor dietary habits are the leading cause of such deficiencies. In some cases, Calcium and Iron are believed to interfere with the appropriate use of Manganese in the human body.

Symptoms of Deficiencies

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Heart ailments,
  3. Muscular contraction
  4. Bone malformation
  5. High cholesterol
  6. Poor eyesight
  7. Hearing trouble
  8. Shivers and tremors
  9. Sweating
  10. Fast heartbeat
  11. Weakness
  12. Severe cramps
  13. Memory loss


1 comment

  1. Ginna

    This is great information. Thank you

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