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VITAMIN A: CRUCIAL FOR VISION, NECESSARY FOR HEALTH
Written by , Article reviewed and edited by Dr. Fine M.D.
Published on 25 April 2014
A: Crucial for Vision, Necessary for Health
A is absolutely necessary for health - in fact, I'll go further:
it's absolutely necessary for human life. Without sufficient
Vitamin A, you could suffer poor night vision and in severe cases
total blindness; an impaired immune system and increased
susceptibility to infections, especially ear infections and urinary
tract infections; and deterioration of bones and tooth enamel,
possibly leading to loss of your teeth.
and breastfeeding women should take special care to get the right
amount of this crucial nutrient, as insufficient Vitamin A can
prevent proper fetal and infant development. (In fact, alcohol
consumption during pregnancy is thought to harm unborn children
specifically by preventing the proper metabolism of Vitamin A,
leading to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.) But consuming too much Vitamin A
when you're pregnant can lead to birth defects. So read on: I'll
be discussing just how much of this nutrient is needed below.
A comes in several forms, in two basic categories: among the types of
Vitamin A that come from plants, beta-carotene is the most common and
well known; types of Vitamin A from animal sources are called
- the word sounds a lot like the word "retina," doesn't it?
For good reason: Vitamin A is absolutely necessary for proper
functioning of your retinas, the "screens" at the back of your
eyes where your lenses focus the light from whatever you may be
looking at. In the retina, chemical reactions to the focused light
form nerve impulses that are then transmitted to the brain, allowing
you to see. In the eye, Vitamin A combines with the protein opsin to
form light-absorbing molecules. When you aren't getting enough
Vitamin A, your first symptom will be night blindness, although
daytime vision will at first seem unaffected. If the deficiency
continues for a prolonged period, total blindness may result.
A also plays a crucial chemical role in gene transcription, the
process by which DNA is replicated during the formation of new cells.
We have billions of cells in our bodies, and many of them die every
day and must be replaced by new cells. Each cell in your body carries
your entire genetic code (with the single exception of your sex cells
- sperm or eggs - which carry exactly half). New cells can only
come into being through cell division, and the DNA code from each
cell must be replicated every time. Without sufficient Vitamin A,
this necessary process falters or fails. This can prevent proper
fetal development, as I pointed out earlier, but it can also stunt
the growth of children at any age, and impair our health as adults,
A is also necessary for skin health, as it is a vital nutrient needed
for the proper development of skin cells. Topical preparations of
Vitamin A in the form of retinoids (and some high-dose oral
medications based on this nutrient) have powerful anti-acne
A is also an effective antioxidant - meaning it fights the free
radicals that cause cell damage and constitute one of the main
factors in aging - and contributes to bone and tooth health.
Vitamin A also helps the body's immune system fight off disease.
It's even used in some anti-HIV drugs.
the world, it's estimated that almost one third of infants,
toddlers, and children under six years old have Vitamin A deficiency
- causing over a quarter million of them to go blind every year. A
study in Africa also showed a major reduction in deaths from malaria
when children were given Vitamin A supplementation.
mothers to breastfeed their infants (assuming the mother has
sufficient supply of the nutrient, of course) can help stave off
Vitamin A deficiency in babies. You can get sufficient Vitamin A as a
part of a healthy, natural diet - in fact, that's the best way
you can do it, since there's a synergistic effect - where the
whole is greater than its component parts - when we consume many
nutrients and vitamins and trace elements together in the foods we
evolved to eat. Some foods rich in Vitamin A include spinach, liver,
dandelion greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli leaves, butter,
and kale. Most of the time, the stronger the color of the fruit or
vegetable, the more beta-carotene it contains.
you decide you need Vitamin A supplementation, it's important not
to take too much. For an average adult 900 micrograms (3,000 IU) per
day is about right.
A poisoning can happen if you consume very large quantities of of
vitamin A for many months - authorities say this would take a
prolonged exposure to over 4,200 micrograms (14,000 IU) a day. (There
are some exceptions to the 900 microgram rule of thumb: Ultra-high
Vitamin A doses - for very limited periods - are sometimes
prescribed for those with HIV or severe Vitamin A deficiency.) One
sign of too much beta-carotene consumption is a yellowish
discoloration of the skin, especially on the soles of your feet and
the palms of your hands. It's very unlikely you could ever get this
amount - of any variety of Vitamin A - from foods. It's a
supplementation issue. Supplements are useful in certain situations:
for example, when people are temporarily on a very restricted diet.
But one has to be careful. Some people believe that if one pill is
good, ten pills must be even better. But when it comes to nutrients,
that simply isn't true. Our bodies depend on multiple, complex
chemical processes, and having the right nutrients in the right
proportions is very important. Educate yourself. Make informed
decisions. And take charge of your health and your life!
Food Chemistry, CRC
Press, Taylor & Francis, pp. 454-455
S.A., ."Vitamin A: Biomarkers of nutrition for development,"
Journal of Clinical Nutrition
R.E. et al.; Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group (2008);
"Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional
exposures and health consequences". Lancet 371
Mateljan Foundation, The
World's Healthiest Foods,
accessed April 20, 2014
Clinic Online, "Vitamin A,"
, accessed April 19, 2014
VITAMIN D THE SUNLIGHT VITAMIN
Written by , Article reviewed and edited by Dr. Fine M.D.
Published on 23 April 2014
is Vitamin D and Why is It Important?
are nutrients that the body needs that it can't make on its own.
Vitamin D3 is unique, because the body has the ability to produce the
nutrient naturally, but most people still don't get enough of it.
body can produce its own Vitamin D using two primary ingredients:
Cholesterol and Sunlight. Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone, in
the same category as other hormones such as Testosterone, Cortisol,
and Estrogen. Vitamin D is important because it protects the body
from a number of medical conditions, and it also has a strong impact
on our genetic expression. Vitamin D is incredibly important for the
body to function properly, encouraging optimal health and wellness.
D Deficiency Common Throughout the World
have understood the importance of Vitamin D for decades, but new
research continues to unearth new benefits, showing that the nutrient
is vitally important for both preventing premature aging and
softening the effects of the aging process itself. Even though our
body does have the capacity to create its own Vitamin D, there are
millions upon millions across the world that experience negative
effects directly as a result of Vitamin D Deficiency.
just a 3rd world problem either, Vitamin D Deficiency is a major
problem in America and across the world. Medical research has shown
than if everyone on earth got the Vitamin D that they needed
throughout their lives, the risk of various forms of cancers would
drop by 50%!
Does Sunlight Produce Vitamin D?
vast majority of mammals, humans can produce their own Vitamin D3 as
long as they expose themselves to sufficient sunlight. This is an
effective way for most people to get sufficient Vitamin D, at least
until around the fifties. The problem with this method is that too
much exposure to ultraviolet light can lead to an increased incidence
of skin cancer, and it also prematurely ages the skin. Because of
these two reasons, most medical professionals and nutritionists
advise against getting Vitamin D primarily through sunlight, and
recommend Vitamin D supplements as a safer and healthier alternative.
was Vitamin D Discovered?
scientific name for Vitamin D3 is Cholecalciferol, and it is
undeniably important for optimal health. Like most complex nutrients,
Vitamin D was not discovered until just over one hundred years ago,
when physicians were attempting to discover a useful medical
treatment for rickets, which is a dangerous bone disease that
commonly affected pediatric patients.
D and Rickets
disease began to reach epidemic levels in the 19th century, in the
heart of the Industrial Revolution. During this period, agricultural
economies across the western world quickly converted from farming
work to factory work, and everyone, even children, began to work in
dark factories, away from sunlight. These factories were poorly lit
and dirty, and major industrial cities quickly became highly
polluted, diminishing the influence of sunshine, even outdoors.
scientists discovered that men, women, and children that lived and
worked in sunshine were at significantly less risk of rickets than
those that lived in industrial cities or cloudy cities further north.
Using this demographic evidence, doctors were able to deduce that
rickets was caused by a lack of sunlight, and they also found that a
prescription of cod liver oil could safeguard the patient completely
from the disease. Via this cure, physicians were able to prove that
Vitamin D deficiency was a condition of deficiency, rather than a
disease caused by a bacterium or virus. Although it would be years
before researchers discovered Vitamin D, effective treatment via
supplementation was already discovered.
Common is Vitamin D Deficiency?
today, Vitamin D deficiency is still remarkably common. A French
study demonstrated that fourteen percent of adults were suffering
from exceptionally low Vitamin D levels. In another piece of
research, it was discovered that more than forty percent of
physicians that did not take Vitamin D supplements had clinically low
levels of Vitamin D by the last days of winter. Physicians that did
supplement their natural Vitamin D production over the course of the
winter only experienced Vitamin D Deficiency at a rate of around ten
D Deficiency Easily Prevented
the history of Vitamin D, it is crystal clear that Vitamin D
Deficiency is a significant medical condition. Even though this
condition is highly preventable, there are millions across America
that don't get the Vitamin D that they need. Rickets may be the most
obvious symptom of Vitamin D Deficiency, but there are many other
issues related to the condition as well. As mentioned earlier,
Vitamin D Deficiency can cause the body to age more quickly.
vitamin also has significant anti-inflammatory benefits as well, and
the nutrient also impacts psychological health and can reduce the
effects of depression. There is even strong evidence that Vitamin D
can enhance the human lifespan and even increase the longevity of the
neurons in the nervous system and the brain.
following is just a short list of the benefits of Vitamin D3:
is one of the most life-changing issues faced by aging women, which
significantly increases frailty and the danger of experiencing bone
fractures and breaks. The most dangerous of these breaks is hip
fracture, which severely increases mortality among aging patients.
In one piece of research, financed by the Women's Health Initiative,
it was discovered that older female patients taking both calcium
carbonate and Vitamin D3 supplements experienced twelve percent
fewer fractures of the hip than patients in the control group. The
dose which produced these benefits was 800 IU daily.
D3 is an integral nutrient which protects the health of the immune
system, and helps the body ward off a wide variety of diseases. Each
of the active cells of your immune system have receptors for Vitamin
D, and there is clear evidence that Vitamin D deficiency impairs the
body's resistance to infection and boosts the chances of symptoms of
a number of autoimmune disorders.
particular, Vitamin D is effective and protecting the respiratory
system from viral infection. Patients with Vitamin D Deficiency are
more likely to come down with the flu, and are also more likely to
become a victim of tuberculosis. Deficiency also impacts the
severity of both diseases.
is a growing body of evidence that suggests that Vitamin D has the
ability to prevent cancer cells from proliferating. Although it is
true that excessive exposure to sunlight increases the chances of
experiencing skin cancer, there are many types of cancer that are
mitigated by sunlight therapy which enhances Vitamin D synthesis.
Among the types of cancer which sunlight therapy proves beneficial
include cancers of the kidneys, pancreas, and small intestine, as
well as myeloma and Hodgkin's lymphoma. Vitamin D Supplementation
and sun exposure are also valid aspects of the treatment of
prostate, rectal, stomach, uterine, bladder, colon, and cancer of
D Supplementation also reduces the risk of both Alzheimer's and
Parkinson's Disease, although the connection is not yet fully
understood. In one survey, fifty-five percent of patients with
Parkinson's Disease experienced Vitamin D Deficiency, and over forty
percent of Alzheimer's patients experienced a similar deficiency.
D supplements also prove beneficial for patients with Multiple
Sclerosis. Patients treated with Vitamin D were more able to walk
and engage in daily activities. They also had fewer lesions.
Patients with Vitamin D Deficiency are also more likely to
experience Multiple Sclerosis relapses. There is demographic
evidence that people that live closer to the equator are less likely
to experience Multiple Sclerosis, which also suggests a strong
connection between Vitamin D and the condition itself.
Get Enough Vitamin D
obvious way to make sure you get sufficient Vitamin D is to make sure
you get a reasonable amount of sunlight each day. It's important to
be cautious when utilizing this natural method, however. Spend no
more than fifteen minutes in unscreened, direct sunlight. More has
been shown to increase the risk of experiencing skin cancer.
recommend getting in direct sunlight around 5-10 minutes three times
per week. You don't have to walk around with your shirt off, however.
Sunlight exposure to your face, hands, and arms should be sufficient
to provide for optimal Vitamin D Synthesis.
D Boosting Foods
also increase your body's capacity for Vitamin D if you consume
particular foods. Fatty fish are some of the best options, and they
include sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna, catfish, and eel. If you
don't eat meat, some of the best sources include egg yolks and
fortified foods such as milk, cheese, and cereal.
Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
groups have different recommendations for optimal Vitamin D
supplementation. The International Osteoporosis Foundation suggests
800-1000 IU of Vitamin D per day, and the U.S. Institute of Medicine
suggests 600 IU of Vitamin D for individuals up to seventy years of
age, and 800 IU for older men and women.
your best interest to take the maximum daily recommendation that you
find from a respected source, because Vitamin D has a very low
toxicity. It is considered dangerous to take 10,000 IU daily for
three months, or 300,000 IU in a single day, far above any
recommended dose. When taking any supplement, it's important to
understand that too much of even the most beneficial medication can
be harmful to your health.
D: An Easy Way to Safeguard Your Health and Enhance Longevity!
pharmaceuticals, Vitamin D is a natural nutrient. It's absolutely
vital to your health, and you have the ability to make it on your own
in the presence of sunlight. We need the vitamin all throughout our
lives, and our need for supplementation grows as our body becomes
less efficient at naturally producing the nutrient. Luckily, it's
cheap and easy to get all the Vitamin D you need to maximize your
vitality and minimize the associated health risks!
Aranow, C. "Vitamin D and the immune system." Journal of
Investigative Medicine. 2011 Aug;59(6):881-6
Evatt, M.L., et al. "Prevalence of Vitamin D Insufficiency in
Patients With Parkinson Disease and Alzheimer Disease." Archives of
Neurology 2008; 65(10):1348-1352
Holick, M.F. "Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention
of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease."
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004 December; 80(6
Jackson RD, et al. "Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the
risk of fractures." New England Journal of Medicine.
Mohr, S.B. "A brief history of vitamin D and cancer prevention."
Annals Epidemio. 2009 Feb; 19(2):79-83.
Regulska M, et al. "Involvement of PI3-K in neuroprotective effects
of the 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 analogue - PRI-2191." Pharmacology
Reports. 2006 Nov; 58:6,900-907
Rejnmark, L., et al. "Vitamin D with Calcium Reduces Mortality:
Patient Level Pooled Analysis of 70,528 Patients from Eight Major
Vitamin D Trials." Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and
Metabolism. 2012 May 17
Schleithoff S.S., et al. "Vitamin D supplementation improves
cytokine profiles in patients with congestive heart failure: a
double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial." American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006 Apr; 83:4, 754-759
Tangpricha V, Pearce EN, et al. "Vitamin D insufficiency among
free-living healthy young adults." American Journal of Medicine
Vitamin D Council, "Am I getting too much Vitamin D?",
retrieved 22 March, 2014
JUICING PROS AND CONS
Written by , Article reviewed and edited by Dr. Fine M.D.
Published on 12 April 2014
Pros and Cons
machines, books about juicing - even juice bars - are starting to
pop up all over the place. And the claims made about juicing are
amazing, enticing, and provocative. People in the developed world eat
far too few fruits and vegetables (and way too much processed and
junk foods), and juicing can make up for that by making it possible
to get the food value of many, many servings of fruits and vegetables
in a single glass. The proponents of juicing - which involves
removing all or almost all pulp and fiber from these foods and making
them into a drinkable "juice" - have said that drinking these
juices allows greater nutrient intake and density, more exposure to
antioxidants (which can retard the aging process), can kill pain, and
reduce the need for medication. What's the real story?
Some people simply don't like to eat fruits and vegetables. So they
avoid them as much as possible, missing out on a lot of good basic
nutrition and trace elements. Such people also tend to fill up on
other foods to compensate, which in some cases can lead to excessive
calorie intake, weight gain, and nutritional imbalance. Juicing can
make it quick and simple to get many servings' worth of vegetable
or fruit goodness in a single quickly-prepared glass. For example,
it's quite possible for a large serving of juice to contain all the
enzymes, calories, water, trace elements, and natural sugars from
of fruits and vegetables. Can you imagine trying to eat five pounds
for breakfast - and succeeding? I didn't think so.
Not only are the "juiced" nutrients more densely packed than they
are in the whole fruit or vegetable, but for many people juicing is
easy and fun and encourages them to try out new and potentially
healthy additions to their diets that they wouldn't have tried
otherwise. There are now a huge number of juicing recipes that you
can find on the Internet, and thousands of other juicing enthusiasts
have discovered combinations that, they say, make the most prosaic of
veggies taste delightful. And, whatever recipes you might find, you
can add your favorite ingredients to the blend and find the mix
that's just right for you!
It's possible to add protein to the mix for more complete nutrition
and even better flavor. Some high-protein ingredients are yogurt,
flax seed, peanut butter, finely ground nuts, and almond milk.
(and things to watch out for):
Juiced fruits and vegetables can go bad very quickly. The same good
stuff that your body craves is attractive to microorganisms too. And
juiced veggies and fruits don't have the chemical preservatives
that processed foods and drinks do, so they start to rot almost
immediately. So, to prevent your new juice blend from going bad, make
sure and make just enough for you and your family to drink that same
day (and immediately freeze whatever portion you're going to drink
later). In fact, for maximum freshness it's best to make just
enough to consume right there on the spot (and make sure your
sources, like your farmers' market or grocery store, provide
absolute freshness too). Frozen juice can keep its full food value
for up to three days.
Though juicing fanatics might regard this as blasphemy, consider
blending (yes, in a common kitchen blender) instead of juicing on
some occasions. Blenders retain the fiber, unlike juicers which
remove it. And fiber is very, very good for you. So why eliminate
all of it, all the time? Fiber adds bulk and helps fill you up too
(especially important if you're trying to lose weight).
Be very skeptical of "too good to be true" claims: they probably
are "too good" and "not true." High-pressure sales of juicing
products, even sometimes with celebrity endorsements and multi-level
marketing, accompanied by claims of "total life-changing" or
"cheating death" experiences, should make you leery. These kinds
of sales pitches are almost always linked with wildly overpriced
juicing products. And you should discount claims that you ought to
avoid solid food and subsist only on juice; that could lead to
serious nutritional deficiencies. Claims that juicing gives you more
nutrients than you'd get from eating the same foods whole (because,
supposedly, the fiber that juicing removes "gets in the way" of
absorption) are also suspect, and decrease the credibility of those
Look around the major online marketplaces like Ebay and Amazon to see
what price ranges the different kind of juicing supplies are falling
into these days. Then you'll know what's out there and how much
it usually costs if you decide to explore the many juicing specialty
sites that are online these days.
Don't neglect health and juicing discussion forums on the Internet.
There you can find uncensored and (usually) unbiased personal stories
and reviews by those who've tried juicing and juicing products.
If you concentrate your juicing efforts mainly on fruits (and many
do), you'll be getting a lot of sugar in your diet, and that can
add up. Try to strike a balance between fruits and vegetables. (And
nutritionists recommend varying the colors of the foods you choose,
too, to get a good mix of nutrients.) These days, there are many
sites on the Internet which give calorie counts for almost any
conceivable food. Remember, you're in charge, and you're doing
this to take control of your own nutrition, so take the job seriously
and do the research.
Make sure and thoroughly clean your juicer after each use. The bad
bacteria that can make your juice start to go bad after sitting out
for even as little as half an hour also start working - just as
fast - on the food residues and particles in all the nooks and
crannies of your juicing machine. You don't want to be adding this
morning's bacteria population to this evening's juice! Also wash
all utensils, wash the fruits and vegetables themselves to remove any
dirt, pesticides, or bacteria, and also keep all your implements and
cutting boards scrupulously clean at all times.
line: Juicing doesn't give you anything that eating non-juiced
whole veggies or fruits wouldn't give you. And there's a lot of
healthy fiber that you don't get if you just consume juiced fruits
and vegetables - the juicing process removes it all. But, if you
already have enough fiber in your diet, and if you have historically
been doing very poorly at eating a healthy number of servings of
these essential foods, then juicing can be an easy way to ramp up
your consumption of some of the healthiest foods you can eat, and you
can have a lot of fun in the process! Just don't go too hog wild on
the fruits and ignore the vegetables, since many fruits have a high
sugar content that can lead to weight gain and other problems if
carried to excess. Juice away!
Anna. "Juicing for Health and Weight Loss," WebMD,
retrieved April 5, 2014.
C.E., et al. "100% Orange juice consumption is associated with
better diet quality, improved nutrient adequacy, decreased risk for
obesity, and improved biomarkers of health in adults," National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2006. Nutrition
Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed.
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
G. "A comparison of nutrient density scores for 100% fruit juices,"
of Food Science.
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