Vitamins for Life

Vit, life.

Amine, amino acid/protein, because vitamins were thought by Polish biochemist Casimir Funk, who coined the term vitamin, to contain amino acids (they do not.)

Like many things, vitamins can be good for you in moderate amounts. Lets talk about the ones you should NOT take too much of, to avoid toxicities and complications, first. 

Unlike water soluable vitamins that you can pee out, vitamins A, D, E, & K are fat soluable and can accumulate in the body, sometimes to dangerous levels. It's pretty hard to eat your way to toxic levels, however--over-supplementation is usually the cause for toxicity.

Vitamin A (Retinol): stored in the liver, good for the eyes and skin, vitamin A is abundant in dairy, meat, fish oil, fish, spinach, and orange stuff like carrots, cantaloupe, mangoes, and sweet potatoes. The recomended daily intake is 700-900 mcg/dL, and the upper limit is 3000 mcg a day. Above that dose, vitamin A can cause birth defects (pregnant/child-bearing women beware), liver injury, and bone related disorders.

Vitamin D: critical to bone health, deficiency can manifest as rickets (soft bones) in children and osteomalacia (bad bones) in adults. Some studies show vitamin D may protect against arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and certain cancers due to its ability to regulate immune response.

Vitamin E: available in multiple forms, present in vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, and mustard greens, vitamin E has antioxidant actions and rare deficiencies may be associated with neurologic issues. More than 200 mg a day increases the risk of hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke by making platelets less sticky.

Vitamin K: needed to produce factors that help blood clot (the opposite of bleeding); deficiencies can increase bleeding. Babies are born without the bacteria that synthesizes vitamin K in the gut, therefore get a shot (wahhh!) of vitamin K1 soon after birth. People on blood thinners such as Warfarin have to watch their dietary vitamin K intake.

Vitamin C: required to produce collagen, is an antioxidant, helps iron absorption, and regulates the respiratory cycle in mitochondria (helps cells use sugar). Deficiency (usually seen in pirates...not so many of those these days) causes scurvy with bleeding gums, bad bones, & loose teeth. Taking no more than 2gm a day is recommended.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): coenzyme (facilitator) for carb metabolism, present in enriched grain products and pork. Deficiency produces beri-beri, which comes in two flavors. Wet beriberi involves water retention and heart failure, whereas dry beriberi involves neurologic and motor problems. Deficiency in the U.S. occurs commonly with chronic alcoholics, manifesting as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, with symptoms of vision, motor and memory issues.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): coenzyme for metabolising proteins, deficiency can lead to neuro issues including nerve pain/tingling, depression, confusion, and convulsion. Deficiency can be due to genetic errors, alcoholism, or isoniazid therapy (for tuberculosis). Extremely large doses over 100mg a day can cause neurologic injury. B6 interferes with levodopa therapy for Parkinson's disease. 

Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic Acid): low levels of B9 can cause anemia, and deficiency during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects such as spina bifida (like Meredith's kid in Grey's Anatomy) or anencephaly (no brain, like Amelia's baby). It is enriched in grain products. Avoid more than 1000 mcg a day.

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin): also causes anemia if deficient.

You've been waiting for me to say something about covid, haven't you?

DISCLAIMER: no medical advice is provided here, and you should speak to your doctor or pediatrician about covid-related concerns and seek immediate medical treatment for emergency symptoms such as severe difficulty breathing, confusion, blue lips or face, and chest pain. 

There have been unofficial recommendations for covid home care involving moderate doses of vitamin C, vitamin B1 (to prevent kidney stones from vitamin C), vitamin D, zinc, and melatonin--feel free to ask your doctor, not me, about those, and remember that supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. I'm not recommending anything, though healthy eating, hydrating, quitting smoking and exercise as tolerated can't hurt!


Lehne's Pharmacology for Nursing Care, 9th ed. (Not going to bother with APA today.)


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