Make it Funky
Here is a little warm up for your next trivia night. Ready? Okay, without Googling the answer, how did Casimir Funk change the world? If you answered: it was a musical style that took over the charts after James Brown toured the Great Himalayan valley of Asia, well, first of all, that would be the soundtrack to an awesome dance party, but second of all, you would be wrong.
Perhaps it was the era when the price of wool collapsed and sent the world economy into a financial tailspin? The Casimir Funk, second only to the Great Depression in the history of economic crises that chilled the world! No, that’s not it either.
Casimir Funk was a Polish chemist and medical researcher who, even though he devoted his career to understanding diabetes and cancer, is still probably best known as the man who changed the color of human urine forever. I know what you are saying: you really wish it had been the Himalayan funk music. But seriously, in 1911 Casimir Funk isolated a substance in brown rice that made people less susceptible to the terrible neurological and cardiovascular disease known as beriberi and sent nutritional science on a new trajectory.
Since this substance contained an amine group –a chemical compound containing a nitrogen atom and a pair of unshared valence electrons, known as a lone pair— and appeared to be essential to life, which in Latin is “vita”, Funk named his discovery “vitamine.” It was later identified more specifically as niacin (vitamin B3), and somewhere in history the “e” got lost, but the term vitamin stuck around and Funk would go onto propose the existence of other vitamins including B1, B2, C and D.
So every time you take a multi-vitamin that turns your pee day-glow gold, you have Good Old Funk to thank.
Further research discovered there are two classes of vitamins: fat soluble ones like vitamin E and D, and water soluble ones like C and the B vitamins. As the names suggests, fat-soluble ones are absorbed in fat globules, through the circulatory system and are then stored in body tissue.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve into water once they enter the body and are expelled through urination. As a result, the body cannot store most water soluble vitamins for future use, so it is particularly important to maintain a regular intake of water soluble vitamins to ensure optimal health.
- All of the B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble
- Water soluble vitamins, except for B6 and B12, are excreted through urine fairly quickly
- Water soluble vitamins can be lost when food is overcooked
- Water soluble vitamins, especially they B family, affect metabolizing tissue including blood, skin, and the nervous system
- Overview: Folate is a form of folic acid that is also known as vitamin B9. It plays an important role in healthy fetal development and preventing birth defects. It also plays a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and is used to treat anemia.
- Best Food Sources: Folate is naturally found in many foods, particularly vegetables, fruits, nuts, dairy products, meat, eggs, grains, and seafood. Foods highest in folate include avocado, spinach, asparagus, liver, and Brussels sprouts. Many grain products are fortified with folic acid and are often the primary source of the vitamin in many diets. As with other water soluble vitamins, folate is vulnerable to high heat and much of the nutrient content can be lost if food is overcooked.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance: Daily intake guidelines for folate are listed as micrograms (mcg) of dietary folate equivalent (DFEs) which account for the amount of folate absorbed from different sources. People 14 years and older need 400 mcg DFE of folate daily. Mothers need 600 mcg DFE during pregnancy and 500 mcg DFE while nursing. Children from birth to 6 months require 65 mcg DFE and 80 mcg DFE from 7 to 12 months. Every two to four years, the required intake of folate roughly doubles for children younger than 14.
- Deficiencies: Folate deficiencies have been associated with depression, neural tube and other birth defects, as well as soreness, tongue ulcerations, hair and skin changes, fatigue, shortness of breath, and anemia
- Side Effects and Cautions: The primary concern with excessive intake of folate is the potential for exacerbating anemia and cognitive issues associated with B12 deficiency.
- Overview: Also known as B1, thiamine (also spelled “thiamin”) has a crucial role in energy metabolism and cellular growth.
- Best Food Sources: Many foods are good sources of thiamine, but generally at relatively low concentrations. These include yeast, yeast extract, pork, and whole grains. Since thiamine is found in the outer layers of grains, whole grains have significantly higher levels than refined flours do.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance: Daily intake guidelines are based on milligrams (mg). Males over 14 years of age need 1.2 mg; females 14 -18 years need 1 mg while those over 19 need 1.1 mg. Pregnant and lactating mothers need 1.4 mg daily. Children 6 months and under need .2 mg, those aged 7 to 12 months need .3 mg with the level increasing by .2 mg for children 1 to 3, 4 to 8, and 9 to 13 years of age respectively.
- Deficiencies: Thiamine deficiency can lead to anorexia, memory loss, muscle weakness, and cardiovascular problems. Extreme deficiencies can lead to beriberi which is characterized by peripheral neuropathy.
- Side Effects and Cautions: Since the body excretes thiamine through urine rather quickly, there are few indications that excessive thiamine intake poses a health risk, although high doses have been linked to drowsiness.
- Overview: Also known as B2, riboflavin has a role in cellular respiration, maintaining healthy skin, and preventing migraines.
- Best Food Sources: Riboflavin is found in many foods including dairy products, eggs, leafy vegetables, legumes, almonds, and mushrooms.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance: Daily intake guidelines are based on milligrams (mg). Males over 14 years of age need 1.3 mg; females 14 -18 years need 1 mg while those over 19 need 1.1 mg. Pregnant and lactating mothers need 1.4 mg daily and 1.6 mg respectively. Children 6 months and under need .3 mg, those aged 7 to 12 months need .4 mg with the level increasing by .1 mg for children 1 to 3, 4 to 8 respectively. Children between 9 and 13 years of age need .9 mg.
- Deficiencies: Riboflavin deficiency is rare, but can lead to endocrine system issues, edema of the mouth and throat, hair loss, and degenerative liver and nervous system disorders. Extreme deficiencies can lead to anemia and cataracts.
- Side Effects and Cautions: Since the body excretes riboflavin through urine and absorbs it into the gastrointestinal tract, it has no known toxicity from excessive intake
- Overview: Niacin, or B3, helps the body convert carbohydrate to glucose and assist the adrenal system with the production of hormones.
- Best Food Sources: Niacin is found in many foods with some of the best sources being peanut butter, salmon, mushrooms, sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance: Daily intake guidelines are based on milligrams (mg). Males 16 and older need 16 mg daily, and women need 14 mg. Pregnant women need an average intake of 18 mg while breastfeeding mothers need 17 mg. Infants up to 3 years of age need between 2 and 6, and children 4 to 8 years need 8 mg respectively.
- Deficiencies: Niacin deficiency affects the body’s hormonal functions leading to symptoms such as fatigue, depression, skin lesions, and poor digestion.
- Side Effects and Cautions: Excessive intake of niacin can result in insomnia, dizziness, muscle pains, itching, and digestive issues.
- Overview: Biotin, also known as B7, is involved in the body’s production of fatty acids and metabolism of amino acids. It is also believed to help in maintaining normal blood sugar levels.
- Best Food Sources: Biotin is available in many different foods, but there are only a few that contain sufficient levels for human dietary needs. Of these, peanuts, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens are the most readily available. Liver and certain berries are also good sources.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance: Daily intake guidelines are based on micrograms (mcg). Adults 19 years of age and older need 30 mcg. Pregnant women need an average intake of 30 mcg while breastfeeding mothers need 35 mcg. Infants up to 12 months of age need between 5 and 6 mcg. Between 1 to 18 years of age, a child’s required intake increases with age from 8 to 25 mcg per day.
- Deficiencies: Biotin deficiency is fairly rare, but it can lead to symptoms that include anemia, hair loss, rashes, depression, and even hallucinations.
- Side Effects and Cautions: Biotin has not been associated with adverse side effects, even when taken in high doses. There is a possibility of adverse interaction with some medications used treat seizures as well as antibiotics.
- Overview: Vitamin B6 actually refers to a group of compounds that are interconverted by the body, making them all essentially equivalent in biological function. The active form of B6 is called pyridoxal phosphate which is a coenzyme in metabolic reactions involving amino acids, glucose, and lipids.
- Best Food Sources: B6 is readily available in many foods, with some of the best sources being pork, turkey, beef, chickpeas, bananas, potatoes, and pistachios. Processing foods through cooking or preparation for canning can reduce the B6 content.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance: Daily intake guidelines are based on milligrams (mg). Men and women between 19 and 50 years of age need 1.3 mg daily. From 51 years of age men require 1.7 mg and women 1.5 mg. Pregnant women need an average intake of 1.9 mg while breastfeeding mothers need 2.0 mg. Infants up to 6 months need .1 mg, between 7 and 12 months children need .3 mg while infants between 1 and 3 yeas need .5 mg, and those between 4 and 8 years need .6 mg. Children 9 to 13 years of age require 1.3 mg daily.
- Deficiencies: Vitamin B6 deficiencies are rare, and when they do occur they are usually associated with inadequate levels of other B-complex vitamins such as B12 and folic acid. Symptoms can include depression, anemia, weakened immune function, and dry, cracking skin.
- Side Effects and Cautions: Excessive intake of B6 from food sources is very rare, but it is possible to consume potentially dangerous levels from supplements leading to adverse effects. These can include pain and numbness in the extremities leading to motor neuropathy causing difficulty walking and maintaining balance.
- Overview: Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is important for maintaining normal brain and nervous system function. It is involved in cellular metabolism impacting DNA synthesis, and fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. B12 is exclusively synthesized by bacteria and archaea rather than by plants, animals, or fungi.
- Best Food Sources: The only natural food sources for B12 are animal products such as meat, eggs, fish, shellfish, and dairy products. Other foods are fortified with B12 including breakfast cereals, energy bars, and nutritional yeast.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance: Daily intake guidelines are based on micrograms (mcg). Men and women 14 years and older need 2.4 mcg of B12 daily. Pregnant women need an average intake of 2.6 mcg while breastfeeding mothers need 2.8 mcg. Infants up to 6 months need .4 mcg. Between 7 and 12 months, children need .5 mcg while infants between 1 and 3 yeas need .9 mcg, and those between 4 and 8 years need 1.2 mcg. Children 9 to 13 years of age require 1.8 mcg daily.
- Deficiencies: Vitamin B12 deficiencies can lead to severe damage to the brain and nervous system that can potentially be irreversible. Even slight deficiencies can lead to fatigue, depression, poor memory, and even mania and psychoses.
- Side Effects and Cautions: Excessive intake of B12 from supplements can result in symptoms such as headaches, itching, swelling, and anxiety or agitation. High doses of B12 can also interact with prescription drugs including H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors used to treat peptic ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease and metformin for treating type 2 diabetes.
- Overview: Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an essential nutrient that helps the body repair tissue. Historically used to treat scurvy, vitamin C can be found in immune cells which quickly consume the nutrient to deal with infections. Supplementing with vitamin C helps the body’s immune response, although scientist still are not sure why.
- Best Food Sources: Fruits and vegetables are the most abundant sources of vitamin C, although organ meats contain relatively high concentrations as well. Guavas, parsley. Kiwifruit, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts have especially high levels of vitamin C as do red and green chili peppers. Some species of exotic plums, which have been used in folk medicine for centuries, have vitamin C levels nearly 100 times as high as oranges.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance: Daily intake guidelines are based on milligrams (mg). Men and women 19 years and older need 90 mg and 75 mg respectively. Pregnant women need an average intake of 85 mg while breastfeeding mothers need 120 mg. Infants up to 6 months need 40 mg. Between 7 and 12 months, children need 50 mg while infants between 1 and 3 yeas need 15 mg, and those between 4 and 8 years need 25 mg. Children 9 to 13 years of age require 45 mg daily. While 14 to 18 year old boys need 75 mg and girls in the same age group need 65 mg.
- Deficiencies: Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C and is characterized by spots on the skin, pale, spongy gums, and bleeding from mucous membranes. Extreme cases involve tooth loss, pus-filled wounds, and death. Fortunately, scurvy is extremely rare and Western diets are high enough in vitamin C that it is all but impossible to acquire the disease.
- Side Effects and Cautions: Large doses of vitamin C can lead to indigestion and diarrhea. Flushing of the face, headache, fatigue and insomnia can also be caused by excessive vitamin C intake.
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Some Words of Caution
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, treatment or advice. If you have questions about a vitamin deficiency or supplementation it is recommended you work with a qualified medical professional.