Vitamins

Vitamins are calorie free, organic, essential molecules needed by the body in minute amounts. Vitamins belong in two groups: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Vitamins C and B are water-soluble and dissolve in water, while excesses are excreted by the body. Fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K dissolve in fat and excesses are stored in our fat cells. Tables 1 and 2 list the type of vitamins, their function, food sources, and deficiency symptoms.7

Table 1. Water-soluble Vitamins: C, Bs.

Vitamin Source Deficiency
C-Ascorbic acid
  • Necessary for clotting and collagen formation
  • Important antioxidant
  • RDA doubles if you are a smoker
  • Aids with calcium and iron absorption
  • Citrus fruits
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Scurvy
  • Anemia
  • Capillary fragility
  • Easy bruising, slow healing
  • Bleeding tissue
B1-Thiamin or thiamine
  • Helps produce energy from carbohydrates
  • Meats, organs products, grains, yeast
  • Beriberi (loss of appetite, muscle weakness, burning tongue)
B2-Riboflavin
  • Helps produce energy within your cells
  • Milk products, meat, poultry, fish, whole grains
  • Ariboflavinosis: angular cheilosis, glossitis
B3-Niacin
  • Can also be synthesized in the body from tryptophan
  • Helps your body use sugars and fatty acids
  • Animal products, grains, green leafy vegetables
  • Pellagra (dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia)
B6-Pyridoxine
  • Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
  • Formation of blood cells
  • Animal products, fish, fruits and vegetables
  • Microcytic anemia;
  • Depressed immunity, irritability, glossitis
B12-Cobalamine
  • Needs intrinsic factor from stomach for absorption
  • Works with folate to make RBCs
  • Animal products exclusively. Need supplementation if you follow a vegan diet
  • Pernicious anemia
Folate/folic acid
  • Manufacture RBCs, may protect against heart disease
  • Liver, green leafy vegetables, fruits
  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Spina bifida
  • Commonly seen in alcoholics
Biotin
  • Egg yolk, liver, cereals
  • Pallor of tongue
  • Atrophy of lingual papillae
Pantothenic acid
  • Animal foods, whole-grain cereal, digestive track
  • N/A

Table 2. Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, K.

Vitamin Source Deficiency
Vitamin A and Beta Carotene
  • Protects from infections
  • Keeps skin, oral tissues, stomach, and intestine healthy
  • Important antioxidant
  • Yellow/orange vegetables, fruits
  • Dairy products
  • Atrophy of oral mucosa
  • Xerostomia, oral leukoplakia
  • Night blindness
Vitamin D
  • Aids in the absorption of calcium, phosphorus, and deposition of these minerals in bones and teeth
  • Made by the body from cholesterol in the skin and ultraviolet light
  • Sunlight
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fortified dairy products
  • Adults-osteomalacia
  • Kids-rickets
  • Delayed dentition, enamel hypocalcification
Vitamin E-Tocopherol
  • Important antioxidant
  • Protects RBCs
  • Vegetable oils
  • Leafy greens
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Anemia (breakdown of RBC)
Vitamin K
  • Used in prothrombin formation for clotting
  • Absorption inhibited by excessive Vitamin E
  • Intestinal microflora
  • Leafy greens
  • Liver
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Failure of wounds to stop bleeding