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Vitamins: Way More Than Dietary Supplements

By Stephanie Shkolnik

Vitamin deficiency may not be on the forefront of your health concerns, but maybe it should move up the priority list just a little bit.  Granted, scurvy and rickets don't hold the world in a grip of terror, but there are other diseases and illnesses associated with not getting enough of the right kinds of vitamins.  Let's do a quick refresher on what happens when you do and don't take your vitamins.


Vitamin A

Vitamin A is perhaps most famously in carrots, which do in fact make your eyesight better, just like grandma told you years ago as a coercion tactic to get you to eat your orange vegetable.  However, a lack of Vitamin A can lead to blindness, cracked, hardened skin and mucus membranes, including lungs, digestive tract, and the urinary tract.  Vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem in some parts of Asia still, child blindness and adult immune problems being huge issues.

Vitamin B

Any regular energy drinker can tell you the main ingredient responsible for the energy kick itself (besides sugar), is Vitamin B12, B6 and Niacin, also a B Vitamin.  Given the pervasiveness of B Vitamins in most foods, you shouldn't worry about being at risk for a deficiency unless you're cutting your food intake sharply.  A deficiency of B Vitamins can lead to anemia, weakness, weight loss, heart murmurs and loss of appetite.  People most at risk for B Vitamin deficiencies include adults 65 and older, as well as vegans whose diets do not include foods rich in B Vitamins such as dairy products and some meat products.  

Vitamin C

Most commonly known for being linked to the immune system, Vitamin C is found most commonly in citrus fruits and other more acidic fruits such as strawberries and pineapple.  The most famous disease resulting from a lack of Vitamin C is scurvy, which causes bleeding gums and generally anemia.  Given its prevalence in lots of food, scurvy shouldn't be keeping you up at night; you would have to be Vitamin C-starved for several weeks before your body's stores would be used up.

Vitamin D

Generally associated with milk and dairy products, as is appropriate given Vitamin D is responsible for regulating and maintaining the body's calcium levels, including its absorption.  Vitamin D deficiency in children can lead to rickets, a disease that leads to skeletal deformities.  Osteoporosis can occur in adults with a Vitamin D deficiency.  

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is responsible for helping your blood clot, and therefore a lack of it means you're at risk for anemia, bruising easily and heavy periods.  Vitamin K is found in dark leafy greens, broccoli and collard greens etc.  Since Vitamin K works to help the blood congeal, people on anti-coagulants shouldn't have a diet rich in Vitamin K-foods.

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