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Vitamin B and Your Health

Bottle of Supplements

Roy De Souza

Stress is one of today's most wide-spread complaints. The pervasiveness of mass media has made it almost impossible not to be aware of natural disasters, street violence, and the ups and downs of the economy. As a result our stress level tends to rise and we need to look for ways to lower it and to ease its effects on our lives.

One of the ways that we can fight stress is by building up our resistance to its harmful effects. This can be done by including in our diet a supply of the vitamin B complex, which has been shown to benefit the nervous system as a whole. There are now over 12 members of the B complex, some of which are: vitamin-B1 or thiamine, B2 or riboflavin, B3 or niacin, and B12, which is made up of cyanocobalamin and two acids. The lack of any of these nutrients in the diet can cause a variety of illnesses. Fortunately, they are all present in any well-balanced meal.

Vitamin-B1 can be found in whole grains, meat, eggs, vegetables, and nuts. Its lack results in multiple neuritis that affects mainly the extremities. Formerly known as beriberi, its symptoms are tingling hands, numbness, itching, slow reflexes, and exhaustion. It was first recognized in 1880 by Admiral Tokaki of the Japanese Navy. The diet of his officers, who did not suffer the disease, included fish and meat, while that of the rest of the crew did not. When he added those items to the overall diet, the incidents of beriberi quickly ceased.

Vitamin-B2 is found mainly in milk and milk products. Its absence produces skin problems, anemia, cataracts, and defects in the mucous membranes. It was discovered in 1933 by Dr. Warburg and his team.

Vitamin-B5 is present in fish, chicken, potato skins and bananas. Its deficiency results in an illness called pellagra, also known as the disease of the three Ds: diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia. It was originally thought to be transmitted between poor people. In 1914 Goldberger studied it in an orphanage with a high incidence of the disease. He observed that the children were prone to the illness while the nurses and other staff were not. Their diet included meat, fish and dairy products while that of the orphans did not. The vital principle, he theorized, must be present in one diet and absent in the other.

Vitamin-B12 is found in meat, meat products, and fish. Its lack causes a defect in cell growth. As this affects the blood cells, one of the primary indications is anemia. This is preceded by neurological imbalance (multiple neuritis) and loss of memory. Pernicious anemia, found in patients with severe gastritis, is due to a vitamin-B12 deficiency.

Fortunately, diseases like these are rare nowadays due to the availability of meat and milk products. In certain cases, however, there is a need for supplements. Alcoholics, pregnant women, and elderly people are particularly at risk. In countries where a vegetarian diet is the norm, incidents of illness are high. This can be remedied by including a vitamin B supplement in the diet. 

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