Vitamin Rich Cures

Nutrition history is full of fascinating stories of nutrient-

deficiency diseases that confounded doctors of the past.

  • The scourge of scurvy, which plagued seafarers several hundred years ago, was finally cured by stocking ships with lemons, oranges, and limes; hence, British sailors were called "limeys." Scurvy is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, a nutrient that citrus fruits provide in abundance.
  • Night blindness, often caused by a deficiency of vitamin A, was known in ancient Egypt. The recommended cure of the day: eating ox or rooster livers. Today it's well known that liver contains more vitamin A than many other foods.
  • Giving children cod liver oil to prevent rickets was practiced in the nineteenth century. But not until 1922, when vitamin D was discovered, did scientists know what substance in cod liver oil gave protection.
  • Beriberi, a deficiency of thiamin, was noted in Asia as polished, or white, rice became more popular than unrefined, or brown, rice. The cure was discovered accidentally when chickens with symptoms of beriberi ate the part of rice that was discarded after polishing. It contained the vitamin-rich germ. Today the process of enrichment adds thiamin and other B vitamins back to polished rice; today rice is fortified with folic acid, too.

If you consume excess amounts: Because it's stored in your body, too much vitamin D can be toxic, possibly leading to kidney stones or damage, weak muscles and bones, excessive bleeding, and other problems. An overdose usually comes from dietary supplements, not food—and not from overexposure to sunlight. For that reason, an upper limit, or Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), of2,000 International Units (IU), or 50 micrograms, per day for people ages one and over was set.

How much you need: From birth through age fifty, Adequate Intake (AI) has been set at 5 micrograms cholecalciferol (which is the form of vitamin D in an animal-based food) or 200 International Units (IU) daily, with no increased need during pregnancy or breast-feeding. One microgram cholecalciferol = 40 IU vitamin D. To maintain healthy bones, advice for vitamin D goes up to 10 micrograms, or 400 IU, daily for adults over age fifty. Over seventy years, advice increases to 15 micrograms, or 600 IU, per day.

Vitamin D from plant-based foods is in a different form.

The Dietary Guidelines offer specific advice: for older adults, people with dark skin, and people exposed to insufficient ultraviolet band radiation (i.e., sunlight), consume extra vitamin D from vitamin D-fortified foods and/or supplements.

Where it's mostly found: Known as the "sunshine vitamin," your body can make vitamin D after sunlight, or ultraviolet light, hits your skin, even on cloudy days. That's no excuse for overexposure to sun from sunbathing. Ten to 15 minutes of sunlight without sunscreen on your hands, arms, and face (or arms and legs) twice weekly usually is enough. Darker skin needs more sun exposure; lighter skin, less. Caution: Routinely protect your skin after those 10 to 15 minutes with sunscreen having an SPF of15 or more!

Some fatty fish naturally supply vitamin D— another reason to enjoy salmon and tuna. As a public health strategy, most milk is vitamin D fortified, with 100 IU of vitamin D in an 8-ounce serving. Today's supermarkets also carry vitamin-D fortified yogurt, cheese, juices, soy drinks, breakfast cereals, breads, and cereal bars, as well as eggs from hens raised on vitamin D-fortified feed.

Vitamin D (International

Food Units) Salmon with bones, canned (3 oz.) 190-535

Milk, most types (1 cup) 100 Orange juice, vitamin D

fortified (1 cup) 50

Cornflakes (1 cup) 20

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