It is a well known fact that a little child can ask many questions which a grown-up cannot answer. In our present state of knowledge regarding Vitamins the questions that a layman asks his physician are likely to be equally embarrassing. The first thing he asks is,
“What are Vitamins?”
Though we know many things about Vitamins we do not know exactly what they are. We know much about what happens when they are absent from the diet. We know much about their occurrence in various foods. Many interesting experiments upon animals have been conducted in this field of dietetics. Much information has been collected from various parts of the world in consequence of Nations or masses of people choosing or happening upon a diet lacking in some Vitamin.
It is to these experiments and to experience of various people that the author will refer in the present chapter, but he cannot answer definitely the question, “What are Vitamins?”
E. V. McCollum, who has recorded in his book, ” The Newer Knowledge of Nutrition,” most of the experimental work on this subject carried on during the last fifteen or more years, describes an experiment in which cows were fed, the first group, upon corn including grain husk and stalk; the second group upon wheat including grain and straw; the third group upon oats in the same way.
Those fed upon corn were entirely healthy, their calves arrived at full term and were entirely well and supplied with milk sufficient and of excellent quality.
The cows fed upon wheat were not so well; their calves were mostly born before term and were either born dead or died within a few hours. Those fed upon oats ranged between the corn fed and the wheat fed. This was the beginning of a large number of experiments upon the diet of animals.
Feeding experiments upon cows are longer and more tedious because of the longer life of the cow. Therefore experimenters have turned to such animals as rats and guinea-pigs and have thereby reached their conclusions more quickly.
Through such experiments three Vitamines have thus far been shown to exist, and the symptoms described as appearing when they are absent from the diet give the greater part of our information about them. In the following lines the author has drawn freely from the admirable book of Robert McCarrison, entitled, ” Studies in Deficiency Diseases.”
The first Vitamine to be considered is called Vitamine A, or Fat Soluble Vitamine. It occurs in many of the fats which we eat and gives us a new criterion by which to judge of their value. Cream and butter are much better fats than olive oil because of the presence of this vitamine. The value of cod liver oil, which has for years been so highly prized, though there have been those who questioned its value because they did not understand why it was so beneficial, owes much of its efficiency to Fat Soluble Vitamine A, containing even more than cream.
Animal fat also contains this Vitamine. The presence of Vitamine A explains the value as food of such organs as liver, heart and kidney, for it is here present in great abundance. It is also present in abundance in salmon, herring, and other fat fish. Margarines made from vegetable oils do not contain it. Those prepared from animal fat contain a fair amount. Green leaves are rich in this Vitamine, especially spinach, lettuce, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. The grains do not contain it in anything like the proportion that leaves do. The tomato is very rich in this as well as both of the other Vitamines. Orange juice is valued for the other Vitamines, though it contains A in relatively small amount. The discovery of Vitamine A has placed the egg upon a higher plane, for its yolk contains an abundance thereof. It also contains much calcium and phosphorus in addition to its well known content of fat and protein. This Vitamine does not occur plentifully in potatoes and carrots.
Vitamine C has probably been known longer than any of the others by the symptoms that its absence in the diet produces. There have al-ways been sporadic outbreaks of scurvy among groups who were compelled to live upon canned rather than fresh foods; for example, men on long cruises or in mining camps away from garden stuff. It is more easily destroyed than other Vita-mines either by cooking or aging.
Milk contains this Vitamine, but varies with the time of year and with the character of the cow’s food. The summer pasture increases the amount of Vitamine C in milk, and the symptoms of its absence are more common among bottle fed babies during the Winter and early Spring months. So again the value of milk over various Infant Foods not containing it is explained, for the latter are lacking in this Vitamine.
Green vegetables and fresh fruits have great value as carriers of Vitamine C. The four articles at the head of the list are lemon-juice, orange-juice, onion-, and cabbage-juice, though fresh and raw tomato-juice is not far behind, for it contains sixty per cent. as much as orange-juice.
The symptoms of scurvy (called scorbutus when applied to infants), are bleeding gums and mucus membrane, swollen, sore gums, bleeding about the joints and soreness of the bones. It is not necessary, when the diet is only slightly lacking in the Vitamines, to have all the symptoms its absence may produce, but ill-health of the mild grade is probably explained in many instances by these deficiences in diet when it cannot be recognized from the symptoms just what is wrong.
Vitamine B is present in whole grain products. This Vitamine is refined out of many articles of food, thereby depriving us of an important element in the diet., It is almost absent from polished rice, white flour, corn flour, and tapioca, but it is found in whole wheat and other whole grains, their cereal products and breadstuffs, eggs, peas, beans, liver, sweet-breads, and fish-roe. Cabbage, spinach, lettuce, carrots, and potatoes are likewise rich in Vitamine B. The fruits are an important source of this vitamine. Tomatoes contain all vitamines in notable quantities.
The ill effects of Vitamin Deficiency in diet are especially manifested in growing periods and bear a relation to the rate of growth. The same is true, in all probability, of lime and other salts and of minerals. This explains why babies, whose rate of growth during the first year is so great that normally they triple in weight, are so sensitive to dietary deficiency. Thus, winter milk often produces rickets because cows do not receive enough green food at that time of year.
Some temperaments suffer more quickly from vitamin deficiency than others. Those who are more alert and more active correspond to those who are growing more rapidly; i e., their tissue changes are at a more rapid rate and they need more Vitamins, Salts and Minerals than do the phlegmatic.
So much for what we know about Vitamins. The reader will find a guide to his own use of Vitamines in the Vitamine column included in each of the eighty-four days’ menus. When there is so little of a Vitamine in an article of food that it is apt to be destroyed in cooking, it is not mentioned. It must be remembered that not all articles of food have been tested thoroughly for Vitamines, and therefore the table cannot be as complete as it would otherwise be made.
From what is written here it can easily be seen that abundant provision has been made in these menus for all the Vitamines. Whole grain products are recommended. Salads are used generally twice daily. Fruit and green vegetables are given a prominent place in nearly every meal.