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Vitamins & Supplements: a Guide to Food Choices and Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin supplements

Note: If you struggle to eat a healthy and varied diet, you could consider one of the following vitamin supplements: Scitec Nutrition - Vita Fruits & Greens, Life Extension - Mix Tablets or other individual vitamin products.

According to a statement made by the DTU Foodstuff Institute on the evolution of dietary habits of the 15-75 year old Danes between 2003-2008 and 2011-2013, the average Danish diet still contains an overabundance of saturated fat and sugar, and still lacks dietary fiber [1].

The scapegoat food groups that contribute to this issue are pre-dominantly things such as soda, cake, candy and fast food.

Vita Fruits & Greens allows you to consume all of your daily fruits, vegetables and vitamins in one convenient shake. Try it NOW.

In the most recent conduction of the National Representative Health and Morbidity Studies (SUSY) series, 19,5% of 12.921 respondents said that they ate food from a pizzaria, burger- og shawarmabar etc. at least once a week, and 10,8% of 12.889 respondents said that they ate candy or chocolate at least five times a week [2].

 

While it does little to help substantiate the claim that Danes need to make better food choices, it's still worth mentioning that compared to the Americans, we're way ahead; one in four Americans eats fast food every single day, and they also consume 31% packaged food than fresh food [3].

Scitec Nutrition - Vita Fruits & Greens

The statistics speak, and even though there are quite some geographical and demographical differences that need to be taken into consideration, the point still remains the same: we need to make better food choices. The cost of these poor food choices we make? Weight gain, poor health and underconsumption of the micronutrients - vitamins and minerals - that are necessary to keep the body running optimally.

 

Op top of having room for improvement in terms of food choices, of course we also need to be cautious of our portion sizes, but the main focus point should still be the actual food choices. Fresh, whole and natural foods are filled with vitamins and minerals. Junk food and fast food, on the other hand, is lacking a substantial amount of the vital micronutrients that we need to fuel our bodies.

 

Vitamin- and nutrient deficiency is certainly not a thing of the past. While a proper diet does get us a long way towards staying healthy and happy, it's certainly not a guarantee that our body is in fact getting the vital vitamin building blocks that it needs to function properly.

Vitamin deficiencies can have a negative impact on basic cellular function and health, proper water balance, nerve signalling, metabolism, digestion, recovery, brain health and much, much more.

 

The following section contains information on individual vitamins and their role in the human body, vitamin deficiency and daily recommend vitamin dosages. Before we dive into this, let's have a quick look at some of the most common vitamin deficiencies. [3]

 

I. Vitamin D - Deficiency will cause the bones to not get fully mineralised: Children will suffer from rickets disease, adults will have soft bones and bone pain (osteomalacia). To address a vitamin D deficiency, it's generally recommended that you get more sun exposure, and eat more fatty fish such as salmon, liver or trout.

 

II. Vitamin B12 - Deficiency will cause anaemia and central nervous system damage. Vitamin B12 is essential for proper neurotransmission in the brain. To increase your vitamin B12 intake, consume more chicken, milk, and fish.

 

III. Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) - Deficiency will cause anaemia. Folic acid is essential for proper childbearing. Beans, oranges, and leafy green veggies are rich in folic acid.

 

 

13 Essential Vitamins - Recommended Intake and How to Supplement

Note: Intakes are based on the reference intake (RI) values for adults and children over 11 years of age as set by the Danish Foodstuff Regulation for the Executive Order on Dietary Supplements [4].

 

#1 - Vitamin A

 

Vitamin A is a group of organic, unsaturated nutritional compounds that include retinal, provitamin A carotenoids such as beta-carotene, and retinoic acid. It can be found naturally in dairy products sich as milk, cream and cheese. Foods that contain beta-carotene, which generates vitamin A in the body, include mango, cantaloupe, carrots, pink grapefruit, sweet potato, broccoli, and spinach.

Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy skin, proper immune system function, vision, and for proper care, repair, and growth of fingernails, bones, hair, and teeth. Beta-carotene works as an antioxidant.

 

Vitamin A works synergistically with vitamins E and C. It's also found in fish oils alongside vitamin D.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 800 µg per day.

 

Vitamin A deficiencies are very rare in Denmark, but common in developing countries. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness, which can lead to permanent blindness. They can also increase the risk of serious and fatal infections. A low intake of vitamin A intake can lead to more frequent infections, dry skin, and weakened night vision.

 

#2 - Vitamin C

 

OrangeVitamin C, also known as ascorbate or L-ascorbic acid, is a nutrient that is essential for the human body. It can be found naturally in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, strawberries, citrus fruits, papaya, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and red bell peppers. Since orange juice is pasteurised, much of its' vitamin C bioavailability is compromised, meaning that it has little active effect in the body.

 

Vitamin C is essential for skin, collagen production, teeth and gum health, and immune system function. This vitamin also works as an antioxidant.

 

Vitamin C assists in iron absorption, and works together with vitamin E in amplifying the effectiveness of vitamins B12, B6 and B9.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 80 mg per day.

 

Severe vitamin C deficiency, or scurvy, is extremely rare. A mild case of vitamin C deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, joint and muscle pain, and bruising. People who smoke tobacco, individuals on fad diets, and heavy drinkers or drug users may be at risk for vitamin C related issues.

 

#3 - Vitamin D

 

Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that improve the intestinal absorption of minerals such as zinc, calcium, phosphate, iron, and magnesium. The best way to produce it is by getting exposed to UV-rays from sunlight.

 

Vitamin D is essential for the strength and formation of bones and teeth, and is required for proper calcium absorption.

 

Vitamin D occurs naturally in fish oils with vitamin A and helps to regulate the proper metabolism of the minerals phosphorus and calcium.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 5 µg for adults and children over the age of 11, 10 µg for children age 0-2, pregnant women, children and adults with dark skin, children and adults who cover up their skin with clothes during the summer, and people who rarely get outdoors or avoid sunlight. 20 µg for people over the age of 70, people living in nursery homes, and people who are at risk for osteoporosis.

 

In Denmark, Vitamin D deficiencies are usually seen in elderly people who are often also living in nursery and thus get little to no sunlight exposure (typically because of age-related impairment). Rickets disease is very rare here, but an increasing number of cases has been seen in dark skinned children and adolescents who wear clothes that cover their skin up.

 

#4 - Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a group of compounds that includes tocotrienols as well as tocopherols. It can be found naturally in olive oil, almonds, almond milk, sunflower seeds, leafy green veggies, asparagus, olives, and spinach.

 

This vitamin is essential for proper immune system function, prolonged red blood cell life and proper metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It too works as an antioxidant.

 

Vitamin E works synergistically with vitamin A and selenium.

 

Recommended Intake - 12 mg per day.

 

Vitamin E deficiency typically comes from the malabsorption of fat. Symptoms include neuromuscular issues, anaemia, retinopathy (damage to the retina of the eyes) or impairment of the immune system.

 

Asparagus

 

#5 - Vitamin K

 

Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins that the human body needs for the synthesis of specific proteins that are required for proper blood coagulation. It can be found naturally in basil, green leafy veggies, scallions, brussels sprouts, chili powder, asparagus, okra, cucumbers, soybeans, olive oil and prunes.

 

Vitamin K is essential for proper clotting of the blood and works to prevent excessive bleeding.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 75 µg per day.

 

Even though they are very rare, vitamin K deficiency is still possible. Symptoms can include reduced problematic bleeding or blood clotting, bruising, and calcification of cartilage. Healthy people never experience vitamin K deficiency, but patients who're undergoing treatment with antibiotics that kill the natural gut bacteria, and at the same time don't eat a sufficient amount of vitamin K, can experience it.

 

#6 - Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

 

Vitamin B1 is an essential sulfur-containing vitamin that must be ingested via the diet. It can be found naturally in trout, pork, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, wheat bread, green peas, acorn squash, asparagus, edamame, and navy beans.

 

Vitamin B1 is essential for proper metabolism of carbohydrates, coordination of muscle fibers, appetite control, proper digestion, nerve activity, and production of energy.

Vitamin B1 works hand in hand with the other B vitamins.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 1.1 mg per day.

 

B1 is one of the absolute most important members of the B vitamin family Vitamin B1 deficiencies can lead to development of severe diseases including Beriberi; a cardiovascular and neurological disease. Vitamin B deficiency can also lead to brain abnormalities, weakness, weight loss, unusual heart rate and abnormal emotional conditions such as panic attacks and night terrors.

 

#7 - Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

 

Vitamin B2 is needed for a number of flavoprotein enzyme reactions: also including activation of other essential vitamins. Vitamin B2 can be found in goat cheese, almonds, beef, lamb, mackerel, eggs, pork, mushrooms, sesame seeds, squid, and spinach.

 

It's essential for maintaining healthy eyes and skin, and assists in converting protein, fats, and carbohydrates into energy.

 

Vitamin B2 works hand in hand with other B vitamins.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 1.4 mg per day.

 

Vitamin B2 deficiency symptoms can be experienced at intakes less than 0.6 mg per day. Those who have a vitamin B2 deficiency may experience things such as bloodshot eyes, sore lips and tongue, mouth and throat infections, light sensitivity, and chapped lips.

 

#8 - Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

 

Sunflower Seeds

Vitamin B3 is an organic compound and an essential nutrient. It can be found naturally in foods such as tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, pork, liver, peanuts, portobello mushrooms, green peas, sunflower seeds, and avocado.

 

It's essential for the protein-, fat- and carbohydrate metabolism, and assists with bile and stomach fluid secretion.

 

Vitamin B3 works hand in hand with the other B vitamins.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 16 mg per day.

 

An early indicator of vitamin B3 deficiency is a decrease in appetite. Individuals with a mild deficiency may experience sores in the mouth, a coated tongue, dizziness, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), or chronic headaches. Severe cases of vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to anaemia, skin lesions, insomnia (sleeplessness), and irritability.

 

#9 - Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

 

Vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin and an essential nutrient. It can be found naturally in foods such as mushrooms, feta cheese, salmon, trout, tuna, avocados, eggs, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, sunflower seeds, and sweet potatoes.

 

Vitamin B5 is essential for proper formation of hormones in the body. It helps to properly regulate the nervous system and is required to assist in the release of energy from carbohydrates.

 

Vitamin B5 works hand in hand with the other B vitamins.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 6 mg per day.

 

Vitamin B5 deficiencies are rare, but when they occur, they can lead to insomnia, fatigue, depression, vomiting, irritability, stomach pains, and upper respiratory infections.

 

#10 - Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

 

Vitamin B6 is a group of chemically substances that are very similar chemically speaking, and it functions as a coenzyme in numerous enzyme reactions in glucose-, amino acid-, and lipid metabolism. It can be found naturally in foods such as sunflower seeds, pistachios, tuna, turkey, chicken, pork, prunes, beef, bananas, avocados, and spinach.

 

Vitamin B6 is essential for the production of red blood cells and antibodies , and assists in the metabolism of fats, protein, and carbohydrates.

 

It also assists in the metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids and works hand in hand with all of the other B vitamins.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 1,4 mg per day.

 

Eating a monotonous diet as well as a high alcohol consumption can cause a mild vitamin B6 deficiency, but it does not usually lead to symptoms.

 

Deficiency symptoms in the form of mouth sores, irritability, depression, confusion and anaemia are rare, but are seen every now and then.

 

#11 - Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

 

Vitamin B7 is a water-soluble B vitamin. It can be found naturally in foods such as almonds, sweet potato, eggs, onion, oats, tomatoes, peanuts, carrots, walnuts, and salmon.

 

Biotin is necessary for the body to be able to metabolise the macronutrients it needs to produce energy.

 

Biotin is absorbed in the small intestine. When high doses are ingested, the excess biotin is segregated with the urine.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 50 µg.

 

Those who are deficient in biotin may experience rashes around the openings of the face, and nerve inflammation. Biotin deficiencies usually happen after ingesting raw egg white, which contains avidin, which is a substance that binds and inactivates biotin.

 

#12 - Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

 

Vitamin B9 is a B vitamin that's also referred to as vitamin M or folic acid. It can be found naturally in foods such as black-eyed peas, lentils, spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, avocado, broccoli, mango, oranges, and wheat bread.

 

Alongside vitamin B12, folic acid is required for having a normal function of DNA in the chromosomes found in the body's cells. Folic acid is also involved in the metabolism of homocysteine together with vitamins B12 and B6. The absorption happens largely in the small intestine. A large quantity is segregated in the bile to the intestine and is reused by the body.

 

Folic acid works hand in hand with the other B vitamins as well as vitamin C.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 200 µg per day for adults and children over the age of 11 in general. For women in the fertile age as well as pregnant and nursing women, the recommended daily intake is 400 µg per day.

 

In cases of folic acid deficiencies, a very characteristic anaemia with enlarged blood cells is seen. You cannot distinguish between this and the anaemia that is seen in cases of vitamin B12 deficiencies. Symptoms of folic acid deficiency also include an increased amount of the aminoacid homocysteine in the blood, which leads to an increased risk of a blood clot in the heart and brain.

 

#13 - Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for a proper function of the DNA in the cell chromosomes. It's also necessary for a proper function of the nervous system.

 

In humans, there is an effective re-usage of this vitamin. Therefore, deficiencies are developed slowly; often after as much as 20-30 years in vegetarians (given that they do not ingest any vitamin B12 via their diet). Deficiency symptoms include a certain type of anaemia called pernicious anaemia, which can also be accompanied by the patient having trouble walking as a result of the damaged neural tracks in the spinal cord.

 

  • Recommended Intake - 2.5 µg per day.

 

Vitamin Supplements

 

Over the past few years, Danes have made dietary supplements a lucrative billon Danish kroner industry.

 

The vitamin supplements first saw the light of day back in the 1940's. Numbers from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) show that 59% of the Danish population take dietary supplements in the form of vitaminer and/or minerals on a daily basis. One survey also conducted by the DTU showed that multivitamin/multimineral supplements accounted for 43% of the total dietary supplement intake in Denmark.

 

The data also show that Danish women have a highly consumption of vitamin and mineral supplements than men, and that 60% of all children aged 4-10 take a daily vitamin-/mineral pill.

 

References

 

I. Pedersen AN, Christensen T, Matthiesen J, Knudsen VK, Rosenlund-Sørensen M, Biltoft-Jensen A, Hinsch H-J, Ygil KH, Kørup K, Saxholt E, Trolle E, Søndergaard AB, Fagt S. Danskernes kostvaner 2011-2013. Søborg: DTU Fødevareinstituttet, Afdeling for Ernæring, 2015.

II. Jensen HAR, Davidsen M, Ekholm O, Christensen AI. Sodavand, slik, chokolade og fast food. Sundheds- og sygelighedsundersøgelsen 2017. København: Statens Institut for Folkesundhed.

III. Min.medicin.dk [Viewed 05.06.2019] Vitaminmangel [Updated: 01.04.2019] Available from: http://min.medicin.dk/sygdomme/sygdom/99

IV. Bekendtgørelse om kosttilskud [Viewed 05-06-2019] [Updated 13.01.2016] Available from: https://www.retsinformationdk/forms/r0710.aspx?id=176969