The Ecology of Humans – Vitamins


A vitamin is an organic substance essential to metabolism, albeit in minute quantities. Vitamin are classed by their bodily retention.

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fat cells. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Water-soluble vitamins are eliminated from the body the day they are digested. B and C are water-soluble.

The various vitamins were discovered by biochemists in the first decades of the 20th century. Some molecules originally thought to be vitamins turned out otherwise.

The vitamin formerly known as B4 is the nucleobase adenine. Erstwhile vitamin B11 was found to be a derivative of B9, and so scratched from the vitamin list.

Chronic vitamin deficiencies cause various diseases, every one gruesome in its own way.


Vitamin A is fat-soluble group of compounds, bifurcated into carotenoids and retinoids. Carotenoids are the pigments in plant chloroplasts: the organelles that conduct photosynthesis. Retinoids are compounds chemically related to vitamin A. Carotenes come from consuming plants, whereas retinoids are obtained from eating animals. Carotenoids can be converted into vitamin A, so one can obtain adequate vitamin A from a vegan diet.

Vitamin A is important for vision, a healthy immune system, and for epithelia and other cells.

Foods high in vitamin A include dandelion greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli leaves (florets have much less), kale, butter, and liver.

A small glass of carrot juice daily offers a healthsome intake of vitamin A that helps keep the skin and internal epidermal tissues young. You will know if you are drinking a bit too much if your palms and soles of your feet turn an orangish tint – but the effect is harmless.


B is a complex of water-soluble vitamins. There are 11 different B vitamins.

If taken in a supplement, B vitamins should be taken as a balanced multi-vitamin, such as suggested in the table below. High-dose supplementation of a single B vitamin can cause imbalances of other B vitamins.

Since the functions of various groups of B vitamins are often closely related, deficiencies of the B complex are especially likely to result in malfunctions of the nervous system. Anemia is also likely to occur. A sore mouth with cracks at the corner, a burning sensation inside the mouth and a tongue which is swollen, shiny, purple, and cracked are all symptoms of vitamin B deficiency. ~ American physician Rudolph Ballentine


Vitamin B1 (C12H17N4OS; aka thiamin or thiamine) is employed in biosynthesizing certain neurotransmitters. All living organisms require thiamin, but only bacteria, fungi, and plants can make it themselves. Animals must obtain B1 from their diet.

Thiamin is available in a wide variety of foods in low concentrations. Whole grains, oatmeal, flax, sunflower seeds, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, and eggs are relatively high in thiamin.


Vitamin B2 (C17H20N4O6; aka riboflavin) is an easily absorbed colored micronutrient required for many cellular processes. B2 plays a key role in metabolism. Riboflavin is best known for the orange color it imparts to B-complex vitamin capsules. Riboflavin is found in leafy vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, and almonds.


Vitamin B3 (C6NH5O2; aka niacin) is an essential nutrient – but in a sense, is not really a vitamin at all, as B3 need not be in the diet. Niacin can be manufactured from the essential amino acid tryptophan (C11H12N2O2). Niacin is found in a variety of foods, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, avocados, and fish.


Vitamin B5 (C9H17NO5; pantothenic acid) is necessary to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and to synthesize ATP, the universal cellular energy molecule.

Small quantities of B5 are found in nearly every food. Broccoli and avocado offer B5 in abundance, as does meat and whole grains. As B5 is largely found on the outer layers of grains, refining removes over half of the vitamin.


Vitamin B6 (C8H10NO6P; pyridoxal phosphate (active form)) is instrumental in metabolism, gene expression, and synthesis of neurotransmitters, histamine, and hemoglobin.

Many foods contain vitamin B6. Foods high in B6 include sunflower seeds, soybeans, walnuts, lentils, beans and peas, bananas, avocados, leafy greens such as kale and spinach, and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines).


Vitamin B7 (C10H16N2O3S; aka biotin) is necessary for metabolism of proteins and fats, and cell growth. B7 deficiency is rare, as gut flora produce biotin. Soybeans, black-eyed peas, rice, barley, oats, egg yolk, mushrooms, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, and almonds provide a biotin bounty.


Vitamin B8 (C6H12O6; aka inositol) is employed in gene expression, cell membrane functioning, fat metabolism, and intercellular signaling. Foods high in the bioavailable form of B8 are fruits, beans, grains, and nuts.


Vitamin B9 (C19H19N7O6: aka folic acid) is essential for numerous cellular functions, especially cell growth, DNA synthesis and maintenance, and red blood cell production.

Folate is naturally occurring B9, whereas folic acid is the synthesized (vitamin pill) form.

Abundant B9 is found in various vegetables, particularly dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lentils, and peas. Foods especially high in folate include black-eyed peas, lentils, spinach, asparagus, lettuce, broccoli, oranges, and tropical fruits such as mango.


Vitamin B10 (H2NC6H4CO2H; para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)) is essential to the body: instrumental to gut flora in producing vitamin B9. PABA is involved in protein metabolism and blood cell formation. Vitamin B9 is important to skin health. Green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, and whole grains are good sources of B10.


Vitamin B12 (C63H88CoN14O14P; cobalamin) is unique in several ways. Only 3 micrograms per day, a tiny amount, is necessary. The body uses cobalamin to produce red blood cells.

B12 is made by many bacteria and yeasts. Eggs contain B12. In contrast, any food of plant origin, not fermented, and free of all bacteria and insects, will not contain B12. Unprocessed organic produce invariably contains trace amounts of B12.

In cultures where food is organically grown and consumed, B12 deficiencies are rare, even if no animal products are consumed. Further, the flora in a healthy gut produce B12.

The typical first symptom of B12 deficiency is chronic low energy. Prolonged deficiency causes anemia and psychological symptoms, including confusion, irritability, and paranoia.

Ingestion is not the only cause of B12 deficiency. Absorption is a problem with some people.

The right level of stomach acid is important for B12 absorption. As chronic anxiety affects digestion, it can play a role in creating a B12 deficiency.


Though it lacks numeric designation, choline (C5H14NO) is usually grouped in the complex of B vitamins. Choline is essential for constructing the body’s cell membranes.

The body can synthesize choline, but not in sufficient quantities to meet bodily needs. Owing to self-synthesis, choline is not strictly a vitamin.

Cauliflower, broccoli, and spinach are high in choline.


Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps repair and regenerate tissues, and aids absorption of iron. Citrus fruit, potatoes, tomatoes, and red peppers are especially high in vitamin C.

Extensive research indicates that vitamin C plays no especial role warding off the common cold. (Nobel laureate Linus Pauling started the myth about vitamin C curing the common cold in 1970.) While dietary intake is important, vitamin C supplements are ill-advised because of their side effects, most notably indigestion.


Vitamin D enhances digestive absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc.

Although vitamin D is obtained through foods, the main source is sunshine. The skin produces vitamin D via exposure to ultraviolet light. Hence, vitamin D is not strictly a vitamin. Nonetheless, sufficient vitamin D cannot be biosynthesized, so it must be partly obtained in the diet.

Numerous studies link vitamin D levels with overall health. In elderly people, lack of vitamin D is instrumental in accelerating decrepitude.

Few foods offer ample vitamin D. Mushrooms are high in vitamin D – somewhat odd, considering they grow in the dark. Alfalfa sprouts, fatty fish, and egg yolks also contain considerable vitamin D.


Vitamin E comprises a group of lipid-soluble compounds. Vitamin E has many biological functions, including gene expression and enzymatic activity. Its antioxidant activity is one of the most important.

Various vegetable oils excel in vitamin E, as do nuts. Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens, beet greens, and turnips, contain decent vitamin E.


Vitamin K is a group of structurally similar, fat-soluble vitamins. Mammals need vitamin K for the cardiovascular system, building strong bones, and in some tissues.

Green leafy vegetables – such as spinach, collard greens, kale, asparagus, broccoli, and lettuce – contain vitamin K, as do soybeans, whole wheat, oats, seaweed, yogurt, and eggs.