The pressure to put restrictions on over-the-counter sale of vitamins may affect you if you have a marginal deficiency, according to Smart Food: Diet and Nutrition for Maximum Brain Power by Arthur Winter, MD and Ruth Winter, MS, just reissued by ASJA Press.
Marginal deficiency, by definition, is a state of gradual vitamin depletion in which there is evidence of personal lack of well being associated with impairment of certain chemical reactions in the body. The reactions impaired are those that depend on sufficient amounts of vitamins.
How do you know if you have a marginal deficiency?
One of the pioneers in the effects of this condition, Herman Baker, PhD of the University of Medicine of New Jersey, described the symptoms:
• You'll always feel tired.
• You may have insomnia
• You may a loss of appetite.
• A decreased ability to concentrate.
• Your brain does not function well.
• You complain to your physician, "I feel under the weather. I don't know what is
bothering me but I keep getting colds."
You doctor examines you and tells you he or she can find nothing wrong. So your doctor may say, 'take some vitamins!’ If you have an absorption problem or the liver cannot bind or store vitamins, you can take a ton of vitamins but you will just enrich the sewage system. You can take one tenth or three tenths of a milligram of vitamin B 12, and you won't absorb anymore than one tenth milligram since that is all your body can absorb at one time. The rest is wasted. But if you break the dose into three times a day, you can absorb a total of three tenths of a milligram of thiamine a day."
Vitamin B12, according to Dr. Winter, director of New Jersey Neurological Institute’s Memory Clinic, Livingston, NJ, is one vitamin which is vitally needed for the aging brain. It is known to be necessary normal growth, a healthy nervous system, and normal red blood cell formation. It can be found only in animal and dairy products. A B12 deficiency produces pernicious anemia, a severe anemia similar to that caused by a B6 deficiency. Vitamin B12, anemia is rarely the result of dietary deficiency, except in vegans (vegetarians who consume no animal food or dairy products), since the liver stores sufficient quantities to sustain the body's needs for three to five years. Vegetarians may obtain vitamin B12 by eating fermented foods such as tamari or tofu or who eat large amounts of raw food. It is believed that they can manufacture B12 in their own systems with the aid of friendly bacteria. Like the other B vitamins, a deficiency in this one can lead to brain and nerve damage. In most patients, the symptoms develop insidiously and progressively as the large liver stores of B 12, are depleted. As has been noted, as we grow older, there is less stomach acid to process B 12 and taking the vitamin by mouth is often ineffective. It must be given by injection about once a month.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
• Loss of appetite,
• Intermittent constipation and diarrhea,
• Stomach pain.
• Patchy, diffuse, and progressive nerve degeneration. There may be a loss of
Balance, numbness and weakness of the limbs
• Mild depression
• paranoia, a condition known as megaloblastic madness.
Alcohol, estrogen, and sleeping pills can lower B 12 levels in the body. Vitamin C, however, does not destroy vitamin B 12, as some medical reports have proposed. Dr. Baker and associates tested Nobelist Linus Pauling, an advocate of massive doses of vitamin C, and Dr. Pauling's colleagues, all of whom had taken large amounts of vitamin C for years. Dr. Baker found that all of the vitamin C takers had normal levels of B 12.
The RDA's for B 12 are 6 micrograms for adults and 0.5 to 3 micrograms for infants and children.
Dr. Baker says taking vitamins with food will aid absorption, while mineral supplements are best absorbed when taken between meals. "Not only lay persons but physicians are often unaware of these simple facts," he maintains.
Vitamin deficiency is not something that occurs abruptly or acutely and it is very difficult to diagnose. There are four basic stages:
The preliminary stage. Body stores of a micronutrient are gradually depleted. When there is not enough of a particular vitamin to work for the body, the body's chemistry is impaired. In this preliminary stage, there is no indication of depletion in clinical terms of growth or appearance.
The physiological stage. These changes are ones that you might not associate with nutrient deficiencies for example, loss of appetite, depression, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, or sleepiness. The person is not sufficiently ill to seek medical care or go to the hospital, yet his or her general health is less than optimal. If the deficiency continues, symptoms of classic deficiency disease will appear.
The clinical stage. Something is obviously seriously wrong and if left untreated the person progresses to the next stage