Vitamins have a long history and a very interesting one. In the medieval days, even before chemistry as a science was born, thinkers surmised that there must be something potent in food that affects health. The Crusaders in the thirteenth century suffered from vitamin deficiencies that were caused by what we know today to be dietaries deficient in vitamin C. Later on, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, leaders of long-distance sea voyage expeditions were confronted with the same problem of food deficiencies.
In this chapter, we shall deal with the high points about vitamins in relation to food and health.
There are some vitamins that are known as fat-soluble. Others are water-soluble. For example, some vitamins are found in fat media, such as cream and oils; other vitamins are found in watery media. The class of fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. The water-soluble vitamins are vitamin B-complex and C.
Since we are interested in the practical aspects of vitamins, we shall give briefly the important facts of personal value to the individual.
Vitamin A is found in butter fat, cream, and egg yolk, in green leafy vegetables, in yellow vegetables, apricots and other fruits, sweet potatoes and carrots. A deficiency of vitamin A in the diet causes hardening of the epithelial cells, the cells which compose the external part of the skin and the transparent outer membrane of the eye and the cornea. Inadequate amounts of vitamin A cause night blindness, retarded growth, general debility and weakness. A diet that contains sufficient amounts of milk, cream, butter and the above-mentioned vegetables will assure adequate vitamin A nutrition.
Vitamin B-complex is divided into a number of different vitamin entities. Since they are commonly advertised and recommended, we shall review the vitamin B-complex factors.
Vitamin B, is also known as thiamine. Thiamine is found in wheat germ, in rice polishings, in natural brown rice, and other whole grain foods. It is also found in podded vegetables, legumes, egg yolks, milk, nuts and fruits. In other words, this vitamin B factor has a wide distribution.
Those who live on adequate, well-balanced and well-prepared mixed dietaries can never suffer from a shortage of thiamine, or B1, Deficiency causes beriberi, or polyneuritis (muscular atrophy or shrink-age), or edema (collection of abnormal amounts of fluids between tissue cells of the body).
Another factor of vitamin B-complex is nicotinic acid, also known as niacin. This is likewise found in such common foods as whole grains, peas, tomatoes, turnip greens and milk. Deficiency of this vitamin causes pellagra. Pellagra is a disease that is characterized by abnormal pigmentation of the skin, soreness and increased redness of the mouth and tongue, and nervous disturbances leading to insanity.
A third factor of the vitamin B complex is known as riboflavin. (Sometime ago riboflavin was known as vitamin G.) This factor is found in kale, spinach, eggs, milk and wheat germ. Deficiency of riboflavin may cause inflammation of the tongue, baldness, and congestion of blood vessels in the eye leading to dim vision.
Factor number four of vitamin B-complex is known as pyridoxin hydrochloride or B6. This is found in wheat germ, yeast and peanuts. A deficiency causes abnormal changes in nerve control, affecting the skeletal muscles of the body.
Another B-complex factor is pantothenic acid. This is found in yeast, eggs, peanuts, rice, peas, wheat and other grains. Deficiency causes poor cellular growth.
There are other vitamin B-complex factors which have been given new alphabetical names, such as vitamin H, vitamin L, and vitamins U and M.
A brief summary of vitamin B-complex that will be of practical value is as follows:
Include in your diet a liberal mixed vegetarian and dairy food intake without eating to excess or without taking food when in distress, and the body will not be deficient in the B vitamins.
Vitamin C is present in all raw fruits, raw vegetables and berries- This vitamin is very unstable. Heat and staleness destroy it, which means that cooked fruit as well as cooked vegetables are devoid of vita-min C. When raw fruits and raw vegetables grow stale by standing, this vitamin evaporates- The lesson to be derived is to eat fresh fruits and fresh vegetables every day.
Deficiency of vitamin C causes bleeding of the gums, nose bleed, pin-point hemorrhage under the skin, weakness, and other manifestations of malnutrition and anemia. The newer name of vitamin C is ascorbic acid or cevitamic acid.
Vitamin D is also commonly recognized. This vitamin is associated with ultra-violet light or sunlight. Vitamin D also has a very interesting history in relation to human and animal nutrition. The commonly known nutritional deficiency, rickets, is caused by absence or deficiency of vitamin D in the diet.
Vitamin D is also found in milk, cream, butter, egg yolks, green vegetables and fruits. When there is vitamin-D disturbance of metabolism and nutrition, there is usually disturbance also of calcium and phosphorus metabolism and nutrition- In other words, the body may sometimes fail to be in fit condition to assimilate that important vita-min and the minerals calcium and phosphorus. Lots of sunshine and rest would help- Food alone or vitamins alone often fail.
These may be taken into consideration in cases of fractures that fail to form a new bone union, or in osteomalacia, which is a disease-caused softening of bone. The knowledge, then, that we have about vitamin D points to the fact that good health depends upon sunshine, freedom from pains and aches, as well as proper food intake.
Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, has three varieties: alpha tocopherol, beta tocopherol, and gamma tocopherol. This is generally recognized as the fertility or reproductive vitamin. It is found in oils of wheat germ, corn, olives, cotton seed, and palm. It is also found in fresh lettuce leaves and in whole grain foods- Deficiency may cause the abortion habit or tendency and lowered fertility.
Vitamin K is found in greens, such as spinach, alfalfa, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, carrot tops, egg yolks, soybeans and soybean oil.
Deficiency of vitamin K can cause a tendency to abnormal bleeding or subnormal clotting of the blood.
Now that we know the nature of vitamins in relation to human health and well-being, we will stress applied principles of correct eating and living.
The ordinary breakfasts, luncheons and dinners that most people subsist on are decidedly poor in vitamins. It is doubtful if the vitamin concentrates that are prepared by the modern scientific vitamin manufacturers can supplement the ordinary American diet as adequately as a well-planned diet that is initially rich in vitamins. Conventional meals that are prepared of white bread, white cereal, hashes, mashes, puddings and pastries are just a burden on the digestive and nutritional economy of the body. And of course they are poor in vitamins.
Study, for example, the menu features in your daily paper and you will agree that these menus are deficient, if not lacking, in essential vitamins for bodily health. Study your own diet, the one that you are accustomed to eating and living on every day, and determine if it contains any vitamins.
A diet that is vitamin-rich, that contains an adequate supply for the body’s needs, must be planned in such a manner that the maxi-mum amount of food is chosen from what are appropriately called “protective” foods (so called by Professor E. V. McCollum). Daily menus must be planned to include raw fruits and raw salads in liberal amounts on the day’s bill of fare.
Professor H. C. Sherman, in his recent books Food and Health and Essentials of Nutrition (Macmillan Company-), stresses that the body can store vitamins, and that they should be furnished in a supply several times that of immediate needs, as a health safety measure. This does not mean that Professor Sherman would encourage gluttony. It means that the foods which are rich in vitamins should be chosen in preference to those which are poor or lacking in vitamins.
The raw salad, a large plate of it, should be the main dinner or luncheon course rather than a small side dish, as it usually is. Young children, as soon as they are able to chew, should be trained and educated to cat raw salad because it is good health insurance- Children suffering From vitamin deficiencies and also from mineral deficiencies are usually accustomed to eating devitaminized food mixtures. Candy, puddings and white cereals are poor in vitamins.
The modern milling process of commercial food manufacturers impoverishes the foods of American children and adults. Alfred W. McCann, Sr., in his startling book Starving America, published over a quarter of a century ago, brought out these facts very forcefully- Were the American people impressed? How many Americans know that such a book exists and can be found on the shelves of public libraries? Starving America should be read by every American high school boy and girl and by every parent.
Commercial food producers take the road that is easiest. They pre-pare devitaminized and demineralized foods because these can keep longer without spoiling in the packages.
It is time that the consumer knew the real truth and facts. Then he would change his helpless attitude toward faulty nutrition and ill health. Let the consumer demand freshly milled whole-grain cereals and whole-grain flour; let the consumer demand properly made bread, crackers and pastries. Bakeries could quite easily mill their own flour freshly; they could use honey instead of refined sugar. In cake baking they could use natural flavorings such as fruits and fruit juices rather than extracts of coal-tar chemicals. For years it has been possible to buy “dated” coffee. It should also be possible to buy “dated” flour as well as cereals that are freshly milled, unbolted and undegerminated.
In time to come, if the human race is really to improve in habits of healthful living, scientific discoveries regarding the prevention of disease must be applied in every-day living habits. Today scientific knowledge of health and disease is hidden in the field of medical science. It is necessary to popularize knowledge concerning correct and scientific every-day eating and living in order to improve the health and well-being of children and adults in this wonderful age of discovery and invention.
The human body can be compared to a house. It can be well-built or poorly built. A blueprint for the building of a healthy human body exists in the New Knowledge of Nutrition and health and in related sciences. A blueprint is not enough. The materials for the building of a healthy body must be well-chosen for the best architectural results.
The majority of children who are born into this world and who thrive for the first year have a good hereditary foundation. In order to grow, the building materials (food) must be well-chosen. The choice depends upon a knowledge that every individual must acquire along with a general education.
Every child must grow up health-conscious and food-conscious. Teachers of schools must first be healthy, as well as health-conscious, and must have a thorough knowledge of nutrition and health in order to impart correct information about right food in relation to good health. The school candy store and the school neighborhood cake shop, as well as home dietary practices, must be changed in many ways for the better. It is very simple indeed to build healthy bodies, to enjoy the fruits of modern science and invention, by living right and eating right. Vitamin-rich diets will make vital individuals, capable of maximum development and achievement physically, mentally, and socially.