Vitamins: Water-Soluble Every Day
> 6/16/2008 11:31:00 AM


Water-Soluble Vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins are essential nutrients that must be consumed frequently because they are quickly flushed out of the body and cannot be stored in fat for future famine. The nine water-soluble vitamins are described below. There are some gaps in the numbering of B vitamins because newer research necessitated the removal of some classifications.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that maintains and grows ligaments, tendons, teeth, gums, skin, and cartilage. It is crucial to include Vitamin C into your diet every day because of its many uses, and the speed with which it is flushed from the body. The recommended daily allowance is 90 milligrams. Levels below this can cause scurvy and a wide range of medical problems such as bleeding, itching, swelling, bruising, slower healing, and depressed immune system.

Vitamin C overdoses are rare and usually result in nothing more than an upset stomach.

Vitamin C can be obtained from the following common foods:

  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Turnip and other greens
  • Sweet and white potatoes
  • Cantaloupe

The B vitamins were once thought to be one chemical entity, but have now been delineated into eight different water-soluble vitamins that facilitate a variety of functions.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Vitamin B1 helps convert carbohydrates into energy. It also keeps heart, muscle, and nerve tissue functioning properly. The recommended daily allowance is 1.1 milligrams. Failure to reach this level can result in beriberi, a breakdown of the nervous system that can cause emotional and perceptual disturbances as well as heart-failure and death. This deficiency is most common in Asia, where many people subsist on polished white rice.

There are no known dangerous upper limits for Vitamin B1.

Vitamin B1 can be obtained from the following common foods:

  • Fortified breads, cereals, and pasta
  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Dried beans
  • Peas
  • Soybeans
  • Dairy products
  • Fruits and vegetables

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 is important for body growth and the production of red blood cells. The recommended daily allowance is 1.3 milligrams. Failure to meet this level can result in ariboflavinosis, a deficiency especially common in alcoholics because of their impaired ability to absorb Vitamin B2.

Some of the symptoms of ariboflavinosis are cracked lips, sore throat, discolored tongue, scaly skin around the genitals, and fewer red blood cells.

There is no danger of toxicity, as Vitamin B2 is quickly excreted, giving urine a strong yellow coloring.

Vitamin B2 can be obtained from the following common foods:

  • Lean meats
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Green vegetables
  • Dairy products

Vitamin B2 is destroyed by sunlight, so it should not be stored near windows or in clear containers.

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

Vitamin B3 sustains the health of nerve and skin cells. It is also able to lower cholesterol levels. The recommended daily allowance is 16 milligrams. Mild deficiencies can slow the metabolism but do not cause significant health problems. However, large deficiencies can lead to pellagra, which causes severe physical and mental deterioration. Physical symptoms include weakness in the extremities, diarrhea, skin lesions, and sensitivity to sunlight. Mental symptoms include insomnia, dementia, and aggression. If left untreated, pellagra usually leads to death within five years.

Taking too much Vitamin B3 can also be dangerous. Levels over 35 milligrams in one day can damage the liver.

Vitamin B3 can be obtained from the following common foods:

  • Dairy products
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Lean meats
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Enriched breads and cereals

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Vitamin B5 is necessary to properly break down and use food. It also facilitates the production of cholesterol and hormones.

The recommended daily allowance is 5 milligrams. Failure to consume this much each day may result in paresthesia, which is a prickling sensation on the skin. While not connected to any serious health problem, it is distinctly unpleasant. As there is no upper level at which Vitamin B5 becomes toxic, it is acceptable to include large amounts in your daily diet.

Vitamin B5 can be obtained from the following common foods:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk products
  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Legumes
  • Yeast
  • Broccoli and other vegetables in the cabbage family
  • White and sweet potatoes
  • Lean beef

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Vitamin B7 is essentially the same as B5 in its function and sources. However, the recommended daily allowance is much smaller, at 30.0 µg (micrograms). Failure to reach this level can result in the inflammation of the skin and intestines. There is no upper toxicity level.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 facilitates the production of red blood cells, and maintains the brain and the immune system. It is also crucial for getting the most out of protein, so its dosage should increase along with protein consumption.

The recommended daily allowance is 1.3-1.7 mg. Failure to consume within this range can result in anemia and mouth soreness, as well as mental symptoms such as confusion, depression, and irritability.

Too much Vitamin B6 can be extremely harmful. Toxic levels can destroy nerves and neurons, leading to a variety of disorders.

Vitamin B6 can be obtained from the following common foods:

  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Whole grains

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 maintains healthy metabolism, immune system, and nervous system. The recommended daily allowance is 2.4 µg. As Vitamin B12 comes almost exclusively from animal products, vegans may need to take supplements. Failure to consume enough Vitamin B12 can cause anemia, as well as a variety of neurological problems such as tingling sensation, loss of balance, and weakness. While these symptoms are frightening, they are unlikely because Vitamin B12, unlike all of the other water-soluble vitamins, can be stored in the liver for years.

There is no upper limit at which Vitamin B12 becomes toxic.

Vitamin B12 can be obtained from the following common foods:

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Milk products

Vitamin B9 (folic acid)

Vitamin B9 works together with Vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells, but it also has an extremely unique function: the production of DNA. The recommended daily allowance is 400 µg. Failure to reach this level can result in anemia, deficient growth, gray hair, swollen tongue, diarrhea, and ulcers. These symptoms are alarming, but even worse are the problems that can occur during pregnancy. Children born under deficiency conditions can have a variety of deformities such as spina bifida.

There is no clearly established risk of taking large doses of Vitamin B9.

Vitamin B9 can be obtained from the following common foods:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Wheat bran and other whole grains
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Poultry, pork, shellfish
  • Liver

Make sure to plan your diet so that the right levels of these essential water-soluble vitamins are included every day.


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