Nutrition 1/22/2021

Why Do I Need Vitamins?

Why Do I Need Vitamins?

In this course, you learn why you need vitamins. But first, can you solve this mysterious case of vitamin deficiency?

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In 2008, a man walked into an emergency room with a mysterious mix of symptoms.

The man was confused, tired and very skinny. He was covered in bruises and a rash.

The doctors gave the man a blood transfusion to help with his symptoms.

The doctors then started running tests. All of the tests came back negative.

He didn’t have an infection. His liver was healthy. His blood pressure was good.

The doctors even scanned the man’s head with an X-ray machine. But there was no sign of brain injury.

But while doctors were running tests, a nutritionist who had seen the man was taking notes.

When the man had first arrived at the hospital, the nutritionist had asked about his diet.

Like many of us, the man knew what he liked to eat and he stuck to the basics.

For breakfast he drank coffee. For lunch he ate a simple sandwich with some milk.

He liked sandwiches with ham and cheese, or peanut butter and banana.

For dinner he usually ate a frozen lasagna dinner or steak.

The man admitted to snacking on crackers and drinking beer every day.

The man’s diet was lacking something very important: fresh fruits and vegetables!

The doctors finally discovered the problem when they ran a skin test.

The man’s skin was thick and inflamed. Hair on his body was also twisty and broken.

These are symptoms of... vitamin C deficiency, known as scurvy! In the 1700’s, sailors often suffered from scurvy.

Vitamin C helps your body make collagen, a building block protein for your skin, joints and blood vessels.

You also need vitamin C to make chemicals that send messages between your brain cells.

A few months without vitamin C can cause bone pain, depression and slow healing of wounds.

The man who came into the hospital with scurvy was cured with vitamin C tablets.

But it is best to get vitamin C, and the other 13 vitamins you need, from your diet.

Without enough of all 13 vitamins - vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B-vitamins - you can get very sick.

For thousands upon thousands of years, humans have needed vitamins.

Your ancestors consumed vitamins in their best, original form - food.

This is why it is so important to eat a wide variety of foods!

Eating one orange per day will give you the vitamin C you need. But oranges also have vitamin A and B-vitamins.

If you are a picky eater or drink alcohol, you are more at risk of vitamin deficiency.

Some people on a vegan diet don’t get enough vitamin B-12, found in meat, fish and eggs. They may need to take a supplement.

To get the vitamins you need, eat from a variety of food groups. Eat fruit, green veggies, whole grains, fish and other meats.

Remember: You can’t survive without vitamins. But you can also get sick with too many.

Ask your doctor before you start taking a multivitamin. Try to eat vitamin-rich food instead!

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  • Leger, 2008, PMCID:PMC2567249;
  • National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
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