In the first four installments of this series, I covered B-complex Vitamins, Vitamin C and the Fatties, Electrolytes, and Trace Metals, respectively. In this fifth and final(!) part of the vitamin and mineral series, I will be focusing on three important yet very different nutrients: biotin, phosphorus, and selenium. I know this is a lot of information, but having a functional understanding of nutrition at the micro level (i.e. micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals) is very valuable once the larger picture of health is considered. So, while these building block are cool, what we can potentially build with them is much cooler: a model of salubriousness.
(*Note: This information can be found in many forms. Throughout the following series I will be referencing information found in Vitamins and Minerals – A Basic Guide by Karen Sullivan, but there are plenty of great sources of this information online and elsewhere.)
(**Note: I include sections which foods are good sources of each vitamin. This DOES NOT mean that I am recommending you eat those foods specifically. Those just happen to be some of the foods that contain a significant amount of the vitamin or mineral in question.)
Biotin – Coenzyme R, Vitamin H, Vitamin B7
U.S. S.A.I. (Safe Adequate Intake): 100-200 mcg
Biotin is a vitamin-like substance considered to be part of the B-Complex family (and the one I left out of that post!) It is a complex organic acid containing sulfur, is synthesized by intestinal bacteria, and is widespread in food products. It is a water-soluble vitamin and and is essential for fats and proteins to be metabolized by the body. While deficiency is rare, it has therapeutic uses.
- Necessary for the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
- Needed for growth, and health of skin, hair, nerves, bone marrow, and sex glands
- Necessary for the metabolism of energy
Deficiency symptoms: A natural deficiency in humans is unusual, but symptoms of deficiency include depression, severe eczema and dermatitis, hair loss, premature graying, impairment of fat metabolism, and anorexia
Goods sources: Meat, dairy produce, whole grains, liver, egg yolk, nuts, fruits, unpolished rice
Therapeutic uses: Helps prevent some hair loss and hair from turning prematurely gray, used for muscle pains, eczema, dermatitis, skin problems, some diabetes
- There are no known toxic effects of biotin
- Raw egg whites prevent the absorption of biotin
- Long-term use of antibiotics will increase the requirements for biotin, since the body’s natural bacteria, necessary for the synthesis of biotin, are destroyed by antibiotics
- Alcohol, food processing, sulfur drugs, and estrogen all work to destroy biotin
- Biotin works with vitamins B2, B3, B6 and A to maintain healthy skin, and for best effect, they should be taken together
Phosphorus – P
U.S. R.D.A (Recommended Daily/Dietary Allowance): 800 mg
Phosphorus is a mineral that is essential to the structure and function of the body. It is present in the body as phosphates, and in this form aids the mineralization and helps to create the structure of the bones. Phosphorus is also essential for communication between cells, and for energy production. Although it is an important mineral, it is also widespread, so deficiency is rare. It is however, crucial that calcium and phosphorus are balanced. Phosphorus is commonly found in “fast foods” and food additives, so a diet high in such things can result in extremely high levels, leading to a calcium imbalance.
- Forms bones, teeth, and cell membranes
- Burns sugar for energy
- Acts as a cofactor for many enzymes and activates B-complex vitamins
- Increases endurance
- Forms R.N.A. and D.N.A.
Deficiency symptoms: Phosphorus appears in many foods–including soft drinks and a numbr of food additives–and deficiency is rare. Some chronic conditions can, however, lead to low levels of phosphorus in the body. Symptoms of this type of deficiency include debility, mental confusion, weakness, loss of appetite, speech problems, irritability, anemia, lowered resistance to infection, and osteomalacia
Good sources: Meat, fish, yeast, whole grains, cheese, soy products, nuts
Therapeutic uses: Phosphorus is used therapeutically for conditions listed above that are caused or exacerbated by a disease-related phosphorus deficiency
- Toxicity may occur with dosages or intake above 1 g per day, and may cause diarrhea, calcification of organs and soft tissues, and prevent the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium
- Studies show that long-term imbalance between phosphorus and calcium can cause osteoporosis
- When phosphorus intake is too high, the parathyroid hormone secretion is stimulated, which caused phosphorus to be excreted from the body and calcium to be mobilized
Selenium – Se
U.S. R.D.A.: 70 mcg
Selenium is an essential trace element that has recently been recognized as one of the most important nutrients in our diet. It is an antioxidant and is vitally important in human metabolism. Selenium has been proven to provide protection against a number of cancers, and other diseases. Studies have shown that selenium can help protect against such age-related diseases as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, and may also be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of immune-deficient conditions, including H.I.V. and A.I.D.S. The body requires only tiny amounts of selenium each day, but it is crucial, particularly for its role in protecting the cell membranes and improving their overall function.
- Necessary for the repair of D.N.A.
- Required for a healthy immune system
- Prevents many cancers
- Improves liver function
- Maintains healthy eyes and eyesight
- Maintains healthy hair and skin
- Protects against heart and circulatory diseases
- May impede the aging process
- Can detoxify alcohol, many drugs, smoke, and some fats
- Increases male potency and sex drive
Deficiency symptoms: Cataracts, impaired growth, heart disease, reduced immunity and resistance to infections, inflammation of the muscles, reduced fertility in men, cancerous changes, age spots, and reduced ability to detoxify
Good sources: Brazil nuts, Wheatgerm, wheatbran, tuna fish, onions, whole wheat bread, tomatoes, broccoli
Therapeutic uses: Dandruff, acne, cancers, arthritis, asthma, sperm motility, thyroid function, kidney problems, A.I.D.S., muscular dystrophy, hepatitis, epilepsy
- Toxic in small doses; beware of blackened fingernails or garlic odor on skin or breath
- Diets that are high in refined foods are more likely selenium deficient
- Cereals are dependent upon the amount of selenium in the soil for their selenium content, and countries with low soil-selenium levels include the U.K., Finland, and other parts of Europe, New Zealand, and Chine. Experts recommend that you try to eat breads baked with grains from countries such as Canada, where the soil is selenium rich–but experts can be hosers, eh? ;)
So that wraps up the five-part Vitamins and Minerals series. I hope you found it useful and informative, even if for just a few vitamins or minerals. We eat food all the time without even considering all the individual nutrients we’re consuming and the specific roles of each one. Our bodies are amazing in that they constantly break down and utilize all those molecules without our awareness. Imagine what even a little extra awareness of what we’re consuming can do for our well-being. Salube Up!