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ORGANIC NUTRIENTS AND COMPONENTS USED BY THE HUMAN BODY

Energy, which is provided by the fat, carbohydrates and protein in the diet, is needed by the body to digest food, grow, repair itself, keep the body warm and move around. The amount of energy required depends upon the body size, gender, age and physical activity. Water and oxygen are also needed in abundant supply.

All biological processes in the human body are effected through four main groups of biologically active molecules. These four groups are: fats, proteins, nucleic acids (RNA and DNA) and carbohydrates. Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals. These are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. "Phyto" is the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, viruses, fungi, parasites, insects and other threats.

Phytonutrients assist with making vitamins, hormones, proteins, prevent illness, infections and disease and keep the body working properly. If the content of a single indispensable amino acid in the food is less than an individual's requirement, other amino acids cannot be used for normal protein synthesis even when the total nitrogen intake level is adequate. Thus, the "limiting amino acid" will determine the nutritional value of the total nitrogen or protein in the diet.

More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods. Whole grains, nuts, legumes, tea, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices contain them.

 

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Catabolism is the breakdown of proteins into amino acids and simple derivative compounds, for transport into the cell through the plasma membrane and ultimately for the polymerisation into new proteins via the use of ribonucleic acids (RNA) and ribosomes. Protein catabolism, which is the breakdown of macromolecules, is essentially a digestion process.

Anabolism is the phase of metabolism in which simple substances are synthesized into the complex materials of living tissue.

Elements and nutrients the human body requires to function in alphabetical order

The above groups contain the following elements:

Carbohydrates

Fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids

Protein is made up of these 20 amino acids

Vitamins

 

 

Some of the B vitamin are no longer called vitamins as they were removed once scientists discovered they were not actually vitamins. Two examples are vitamin B4 which is known as Adenine and vitamin B13 which is known as Orotic acid. An organic chemical compound (or related set of compounds) is called a vitamin when the organism cannot synthesise the compound in sufficient quantities, and therefore must be obtained through the diet. Consequently, the name vitamin is conditional upon the whether the organism’s body can manufacture the compound and the particular organism involved. For example, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a vitamin for humans, but not for most other animal organisms. It has been discovered that the human body can synthesise some of the B vitamins and hence they were declassed.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, as well as enzymes, that assist in chemical reactions. Find out what they are and their functions: Antioxidants

Nutrient storage

 

Human bodily stores for different vitamins vary widely; vitamins A (retinol), vitamin D and vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) are stored in significant amounts in the human body, mainly in the liver. However, an adult human's diet may be deficient in vitamins A and D for many months and B12 in some cases for years, before developing a deficiency condition.

 

Substances stored by the liver

Because water soluble vitamin C and most of the vitamin B complex dissolve in water upon entering the body they cannot be stored for later use. They are eliminated in the urine meaning a constant daily supply is required. Vitamins B3 (niacin and niacinamide) is not stored in the human body in significant amounts, so stores may only last a couple of weeks.

 

These vitamins are all essential for many important cellular processes involving the nervous system, the immune system and the production and maintenance of neurotransmitters, antibodies, hormones, cells, messenger proteins, tissues, bones, skin, teeth and blood vessels. They are also essential for the utilisation and manufacture of many other organic nutrients and non-organic minerals.

 

Vitamin D deficiency is a condition which those that avoid the sun, use sunscreens, cover up with clothing or stay indoors are particularly prone to. It can lead to a poor immune system and problems with bones, joints and teeth. Just 10-15 minutes of midday sunshine on the skin can provide all that is required. The suns action on the skin cannot work through windows. Foods rich in vitamin D must be consumed during the winter months. See Vitamin D

 

Mineral deficiency is on the rise due to intense farming techniques and a profit-led food industry that uses short cuts of nutritionally poor foods and additives. Medications and alcohol cause mineral loss too. Those taking part in intense physical activities also lose minerals faster and doctors rarely test for minerals unless a severe symptom is present which can happen after a long period of deficiency and is often mistaken for other health issues. See the A-Z of Minerals.

 

The history of vitamins

 

Scientists studying why animals failed to thrive (deficiency diseases) were the first to discover vitamins. In 1905, one of these early researchers, Cornelius Adrianus Pekelharing, discovered  that milk had some unrecognised substance, in very small quantities, that was necessary for normal growth and maintenance.
In 1912, while studying rice, Casimir Funk isolated an organic substance which he described as amine (like an amino acid). Because it was vital to life, he combined the two words to coin the term ‘vitamine’.

 

The idea to use the now-familiar lettering system can be traced to Cornelia Kennedy who, in her master’s thesis in 1916, was the first “to use ‘A’ and ‘B’ to designate the new dietary essentials.” Over time, others, including Kennedy’s mentor Elmer McCollum (credited with discovering vitamin A), began incorrectly citing McCollum’s early work as the original source for the classification.
At first, in addition to their alphabet letters, the ‘vitamines’ were also identified as either fat- or water- soluble. In 1920, Jack Cecil Drummond suggested dropping the “e” from vitamine to distinguish vitamins from amines and discarding the adjective soluble.

 

The five first vitamins discovered, between 1910 and 1920, were named A, B, C, D and E. Vitamin D was originally incorporated with A until it was later discovered that two separate substances were involved.

 

When a second, similar property to the vitamin originally named B1 (thiamine) was discovered in 1920, both were renamed to B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin). The remaining B vitamins were grouped together under the classification of “B complex” due to loose similarities in their properties, their distribution in natural sources and their physiological functions which often rely upon the others being present.

 

These B complex vitamins are not designated in chronological order, as B12 (cobalamins) was discovered in 1926, B5 (pantothenic acid) and B7 (biotin) in 1931, B6 (pyridoxine) in 1934, B3 (niacin) in 1936 and B9 (folic acid) in 1941. The missing B numbers are substances originally thought to be vitamins, but later reclassified.

 

Today’s vitamins skip from E to K because, like several of the Bs, substances that were once thought to be vitamins were reclassified. For example, vitamin F is today known as the essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). Similarly, vitamin G was reclassified as vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and vitamin H is now vitamin B7 (biotin)
 

Supplement dangers

 

There are two types of supplements:

  • Complete food supplements contain the whole foods without any added ingredients such as cod liver, krill or other oils in capsules or dried and powdered complete foods etc.

  • Nutrient supplements are the fundamental nutrients extracted or made synthetically such as multivitamins, iron etc.

Many individual natural foods already contain all the correct cofactors to enable utilisation of the nutrients to take place and the body is able to discern what it requires from whole foods and expels that which it does not need. The problem with taking nutrients already broken down into their absorbable form is that absorption will be forced whether required or not and lead to imbalances in the system. For instance, when taking extra vitamin C, the same amount of vitamin E is required or the levels of the minerals iron, manganese and zinc in the body will be affected.
The intensely intricate relationships and cofactors involved between all inorganic nutrients (minerals) and organic nutrients (amino acids, enzymes, fatty acids, proteins, starch, sugars, vitamins etc.) are so complicated that it is impossible to know what to take unless a serious deficiency has shown up in a blood or urine test etc. Then taking extra of that particular nutrient is obviously required but should be done with foods rich in the particular nutrient unless the deficiency is severe.

 

People often think that if they take a multivitamin everyday they are helping their body when in fact they are confusing it and causing imbalances. Also many supplements contain forms of the nutrients that cannot be absorbed and unhealthy artificial additives such as preservatives and sweeteners like aspartame. Healthy individuals should never take nutrient supplements until they have had a blood test to know if any are lacking and probably 99% will find they do not need any supplementation yet so many waste far too much money on these needless and cleverly marketed commodities. It may even do serious harm to the heath as in the case where it has been scientifically proven that if smokers take supplements containing beta-carotene and vitamin A there is a much higher risk of them developing lung cancer.

 

There is concern that the synthesising of some vitamins can leave traces of heavy metals which are detectable in the final product. Over the last decade a number of supplements, from individual vitamins to whey proteins, have been tested and traces of a number of heavy metals have been detected. As mandatory product testing is not enforced it is impossible to determine which vitamins may contain these heavy metals, and which do not. It is for this reason that many people do not recommend synthetic forms of vitamins, as heavy metals are linked to brain degeneration, liver toxicity and genetic mutations and could lead to the development of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease. For natural way to remove these toxins from the body see Heavy metals

 

Taking whole food supplements however, can often help the body, although eating the whole unprocessed food is mostly the best way to gain the best nutrients. Consuming too much of one type of food can also be damaging and cause imbalances in nutrients. Even too much water can caused complications by upsetting the balance of sodium and potassium in the body. The diet should be as varied in colours and types of food as possible over a period of two weeks as that is how long some nutrients can be stored in the body of an averagely active healthy person. This can then provide all the nutrients required to function correctly and avoid infections.
 

Search for a nutrient

 

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See also the A-Z of Minerals

A-Z of organic nutrients and components in the human body

Some nutrients in this section are measured in g which is the abbreviation for microgram and is equivalent  to a unit of mass equal to one millionth (110−6) of a gram or one thousandth (110−3) of a milligram. One IU is the biological equivalent of 0.3 μg or 0.3 micrograms.

A

Acemannan (Polysaccharide) Read about the health benefits of Acemannan

Natural source of acemannan

  • Aloe vera

Acetic acid (Carboxylic acid) Read about the health benefits of Acetic acid

Natural sources of acetic acid

  • Oranges

  • Bell peppers

  • Carrots

  • Tomatoes

  • Spinach

Actin and Myosin (Proteins) Read about the health benefits, functions and deficiency symptoms of Actin and Myosin

Highest sources of actin and myosin

  • Chicken

  • Cod

  • Halibut

  • Lamb

  • Salmon

  • Scallops

  • Soya beans

  • Tuna

  • Turkey

  • Venison

Adenine (Protein) See the health benefits, functions and deficiency symptoms of Adenine

Highest sources of adenine in alphabetical order

  • Alfalfa

  • Aloe vera

  • Apples

  • Avocado

  • Bananas

  • Blessed thistle

  • Blue cohosh

  • Brewer's yeast

  • Burdock

  • Caraway

  • Cascara sagrada

  • Catnip

  • Chilli pepper

  • Chlorella

  • Cloves

  • Couch grass

  • Cress

  • Ginger

  • Golden seal

  • Hawthorn

  • Honey

  • Hops

  • Jojoba

  • Kelp

  • Lady’s slipper

  • Mullein

  • Oranges

  • Propolis

  • Rose hips

  • Royal jelly

  • Sage

  • Spearmint

  • Spinach

  • Spirulina

  • Tangerines

Alanine (Amino acid) See the health benefits and important functions of Alanine

Highest sources of alanine in alphabetic order

  • Apples

  • Apricots

  • Avocado

  • Beans

  • Beef

  • Bran

  • Brown rice

  • Buckwheat

  • Chlorella

  • Cod

  • Corn

  • Dairy products

  • Egg white

  • Fish

  • Lamb

  • Plums and prunes

  • Quinoa

  • Rye

  • Millet

  • Mushrooms

  • Poultry

  • Salmon

  • Seaweed

  • Sesame seeds

  • Shellfish

  • Soya beans

  • Spirulina

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Veal

  • Venison

  • Watercress

  • Whelks

  • Whole grains

Allicin (Indole) For health benefits see Allicin

Natural food sources of allicin

  • Chives

  • Garlic

  • Leeks

  • Onions

  • Spring onions

Alpha-carotene (Carotenoid) For health benefits and functions see Alpha-carotene

Highest sources of alpha-carotene in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Pumpkin 4795 g

  • Carrots 3776 g

  • Chilli powder 2076 g

  • Parsley 1461 g

  • Squash 682 g

  • Plantains 437 g

  • Pimento 241 g

  • Tomatoes 101 g

  • Tangerines 101 g

  • Prunes 57 g

  • Red bell peppers 55g

  • Peas 53 g

  • Sweet potatoes 43 g

  • Red chilli peppers 36 g

  • Egg yolk 36 g

  • Jalapeno peppers 30 g

  • Raspberries 29 g

  • Avocado 28 g

  • Broccoli 25 g

  • Cabbage 25 g

  • Bananas 25 g

  • Star fruit 24 g

  • Green chillies 22 g

  • Apricots 20 g

  • Mango 16 g

  • Melon 15 g

Apha-lipoic acid (Antioxidant) For health benefits and functions see Alpha lipoic acid

Highest food sources of alpha-lipoic acid in alphabetical order

  • Brewers yeast

  • Broccoli

  • Brussel sprouts

  • Flaxseeds

  • Organ meats

  • Peas

  • Rice bran

  • Spinach

  • Swiss chard

  • Tomatoes

  • Watercress

Amino acids (Protein building blocks) See the important functions of Amino acids

Amylase (Digestive enzyme) See the functions of Amylase

Highest food sources of amylase in alphabetical order

  • Banana

  • Barley

  • Beetroot (roots, leaves and stems)

  • Brown rice

  • Cabbage

  • Corn

  • Eggs

  • Honey

  • Kidney beans

  • Milk

  • Oats

  • Reishi mushrooms

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Wheat

Anserine (Dipeptide antioxidant) See the functions of Anserine

Highest food sources of anserine

  • Oily fish (especially tuna)

  • Poultry

  • Pheasant

  • Venison

  • Wild rabbit

Anthocyanins (Bioflavonoids) See the functions of Anthocyanins

Highest sources of anthocyanins in alphabetical order

  • Acai berry

  • Apples (red)

  • Aubergine

  • Beans (black and red)

  • Beetroot

  • Bilberries

  • Blackberries

  • Black currants

  • Black rice

  • Blueberries

  • Broccoli tops (purple)

  • Cabbage (red)

  • Cherries

  • Chokeberries

  • Cranberries

  • Elderberries

  • Grapefruit (pink)

  • Grapes (red and black)

  • Kidney beans

  • Maqui berries

  • Mulberries

  • Onions (red)

  • Oranges (blood)

  • Pears (red)

  • Plums

  • Potatoes (red skinned)

  • Pomegranates

  • Radishes (red)

  • Raspberries

  • Rhubarb

  • Rosehips

  • Saw palmetto berries

  • Strawberries

  • Sumac

  • Sweet potato (purple variety)

  • Swiss chard

  • Winged beans

Anthoxanthins (Flavonoids) See the functions of Anthoxanthins

Highest sources of anthoxanthins in alphabetical order

  • Bananas (just ripe)

  • Butter beans

  • Butternut squash

  • Cauliflower

  • Celery

  • Chestnuts

  • Coconut

  • Garlic

  • Jerusalem artichoke

  • Leeks

  • Macadamia nuts

  • Mung beans

  • Mushrooms

  • Navy beans

  • Nuts, onions

  • Parsnip

  • Pine nuts

  • Potatoes

  • Radishes

  • Soya beans

  • Spring onions

  • Turnips

Antioxidants See the nutrients with antioxidant abilities and the health benefits of Antioxidants

Apigenin (Bioflavonoid) See the functions and health benefits of Apigenin

Highest sources of apigenin in alphabetical order

  • Artichoke

  • Basil

  • Celery

  • Chamomile

  • Cloves

  • Coriander

  • Grapefruit

  • Hops

  • Lavender

  • Lemon

  • Lemon balm

  • Lime

  • Liquorice root

  • Olives

  • Onions

  • Oranges

  • Oregano

  • Parsley

  • Peppermint

  • Rosemary

  • Spinach

  • Tangerines

  • Thyme

Arginine (Amino acid) See the functions and health benefits of Arginine

Highest sources of arginine in alphabetical order

  • Almonds

  • Amaranth

  • Apples

  • Apricots

  • Beef

  • Black seeds

  • Buckwheat

  • Egg white

  • Nuts

  • Fish

  • Pine nuts

  • Seaweed

  • Sesame seeds

  • Shellfish

  • Soya beans

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Peanuts

  • Pheasant

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Spirulina

  • Tofu

  • Walnuts

Asparagine (Amino acid) See the functions and health benefits and dangers of heating Asparagine

Highest sources of asparagine in alphabetical order

  • Apples

  • Asparagus

  • Beef

  • Eggs

  • Cheese

  • Chlorella

  • Milk

  • Potatoes

  • Poultry

  • Rabbit

  • Wheat

  • Yoghurt

 Aspartate (Amino acid) See the functions and health benefits of Aspartate

Highest sources of aspartate in alphabetical order

  • Apples

  • Apricots

  • Bamboo shoots

  • Beef

  • Buckwheat

  • Egg white

  • Lamb

  • Nuts

  • Oily fish

  • Pine nuts

  • Seaweed

  • Sesame seeds

  • Shellfish

  • Soya beans

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Parsley

  • Peanuts

  • Rabbit

  • Spirulina

  • Tofu

  • Venison

Aspartic acid (Amino acid) See Aspartate

Astaxanthin (Carotenoid pigment) See the powerful properties and health benefits of Astaxanthin

Highest sources of astaxanthin in alphabetical order

  • Crab

  • Crayfish

  • krill oil

  • Lobster

  • Prawns

  • Red sea bream

  • Red trout

  • Salmon and roe eggs

  • Shrimp.

Avenacin (Saponin) See the functions and health benefits Avenacin

Natural sources of avenacin

  • Barley

  • Oats

Search for a nutrient

 

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See also the A-Z of Minerals

B

Balenine (Dipeptide) See the functions of Balenine

Natural sources of balenine

  • Beef

  • Halibut

  • Oily fish

  • Poultry and game birds

  • Rabbit

  • Venison

Berberine (Alkaloid) See the functions and health benefits Berberine

Natural sources of berberine

  • Amur cork tree

  • Chinese goldthread

  • Goldenseal root

  • Huang lian

  • Oregon grape root

  • Tree turmeric

  • Uva ursi

Beta-carotene (Carotenoid) See the functions and health benefits Beta-carotene

Highest sources of beta-carotene in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Chilli pepper and paprika 26162 g

  • Sun dried chilli peppers 14844 g

  • Sweet potatoes 11509 g

  • Kale 8823 g

  • Carrots 8332 g

  • Pumpkin 6940 g

  • Romaine lettuce 5226 g

  • Parsley 5054 g

  • Marjoram 4806 g

  • Sage 4806 g

  • Butternut squash 4570 g

  • Cress 4150 g

  • Coriander 3930 g

  • Basil 3142 g

  • Broccoli 2720 g

  • Chives 2612 g

  • Watercress 1914 g

  • Leeks 1000 g

  • Passion fruit 743 g

  • Courgettes 670 g

  • Mango 640 g

  • Asparagus 604 g

NOTE: One g is one microgram.

Beta-cyanin See Betalains

Natural sources of beta-cyanins

  • Amaranth

  • Apples (red)

  • Apricots

  • Artichoke

  • Beetroot (purple)

  • Broccoli (purple top)

  • Whole grains

Beta-glucan (Polysaccharide)  See the functions and health benefits Beta-glucan

Natural sources of beta-glucan

  • Barley

  • Dates

  • Maitake, oyster, reishi, shimeji and shiitake mushrooms

  • Oats

Betaine (Amino acid derivative) See the functions and health benefits Betaine

Highest sources of betaine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Quinoa 630 mg

  • Spinach 577

  • Beetroot 256 mg

  • Rye flour (146 mg

  • Shellfish 144 mg

  • Kamut 113 mg

  • White fish 88mg

  • Bulgur wheat 83 mg

  • Wholegrain wheat flour 77mg

  • Barley 66mg

  • Sweet potato, sunflower seeds 35 mg

  • Oat flour 31 mg

  • Chicken breast 30 mg

  • Curry powder 29 mg

  • Chicken livers 21 mg

  • Veal 19 mg

  • Beef steak, venison, wild rabbit 18 mg

  • Basil (dried) 16 mg

  • Lamb 14 mg

  • Cashew nuts, mushrooms (Portobello), salmon 11 mg

  • Oregano, turkey, turmeric 10 mg

  • Duck, pork 8 mg

  • Cinnamon 4 mg

  • Ginger (ground powder) 3 mg

Betalains (Plant pigments) See the functions and health benefits of Betalains

Beta-sitosterol (Phytosterol) See the functions and health benefits of Beta-sitosterol

Natural sources of beta-sitosterol

  • Almonds
  • Amaranth
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia
  • Pecans
  • Pistachio
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Saw palmetto berries
  • Squash seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Winged beans

Beta-xanthins  See Betalains

Betulinic acid (Pentacyclic triterpenoid) See the functions and health benefits of Betulinic acid

Natural sources of betulinic acid

  • Birch bark

  • Chaga mushrooms

  • Winged beans

Bioflavonoids (Vitamin P) See the functions and health benefits of Bioflavonoids

Natural sources of bioflavonoids in alphabetical order

 
  • Alfalfa

  • Asparagus

  • Avocados

  • Beetroot

  • Bell peppers (green and red)

  • Berries (blue and red)

  • Blackcurrants

  • Broccoli

  • Brussel sprouts

  • Buckwheat

  • Cabbage

  • Cauliflower

  • Collard greens

  • Cress

  • Dandelion leaves

  • Garlic

  • Grapes (black and red)

  • Grapefruit (pink)

  • Green tea

  • Kale

  • Kiwi fruit

  • Lemons

  • Limes

  • Mango

  • Maqui berry

  • Melon

  • Mustard greens

  • Nectarines

  • Onions

  • Oranges

  • Rosehips

  • Pine bark

  • Propolis

  • Radishes

  • Rosehips

  • Strawberries

  • Tangerines

  • Watercress

  • Watermelon

NOTE: In citrus fruits, bioflavonoids are found in the white pith material just beneath citrus peel.

Bromelain (Proteolytic enzyme) See the functions and health benefits of Bromelain

Natural source of bromelain

  • Pineapple (fresh).

NOTE: Tinned pineapples lose their bromelain because of the heat treatment.

Butyric acid (Short-chain fatty acid)  See the functions and health benefits of Butyric acid

Natural sources of butyric acid

  • Brewer's yeast

  • Butter

NOTE: The bacteria in the intestines makes butyric acid naturally when fed high fibre foods such as beans, coconut, fruit, leafy vegetables, nuts, psyllium husks, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables and properly prepared whole grains

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See also the A-Z of Minerals

C

Caffeic acid (Hydroxycinnamic acid) See the functions and health benefits of Caffeic acid

Natural sources of caffeic acid

  • Apples

  • Artichoke

  • Barley

  • Berries

  • Chia seeds

  • Cucumber

  • Honey

  • Mesima mushrooms

  • Pears

  • Potatoes

  • Propolis

  • Wine

Capensinidin see Anthocyanins

Capric acid (Medium-chain fatty acid) See the functions and health benefits of Capric acid

Natural sources of capric acid

  • Aubergine

  • Coconut (flesh and oil)

  • Cow's milk (full cream)

  • Goat's milk

  • Palm kernel oil

Caprylic acid (Short-chain saturated fatty acid) See the functions and health benefits of Caprylic acid

Natural sources of caprylic acid in alphabetical order

  • Coconut and coconut oil

  • Cow's milk

  • Goat's milk

  • Pomegranate seed oil

  • Palm oil

Capsaican (Capsaicinoid)

Capsaicin is a natural irritant to mammals which is why chillies produce it to protect themselves from being eaten. It causes a burning sensation to any tissue it comes into contact with especially the sensitive eyes and nasal passages which is why it is used in pepper sprays. However, when consumed internally, it has been proven to protect DNA and cells from attack by toxic molecules from tobacco and other toxins. It can also prevent cancer by inhibiting the transformation of cells which eventually form cancer.

It can also be used to relieve the pain of peripheral neuropathy and post-herpetic neuralgia caused by shingles. Clinical trials have proven that it can successfully treat those suffering with nasal allergies such as allergic rhinitis when applied as a nasal spray. Capsaicin also increases metabolic activity promoting natural weight loss.

NOTE: Pepper sprays should be used sparingly because, in large quantities, capsaicin can cause death. Symptoms of overdose from inhalation include difficulty breathing, blue skin and convulsions. The large amount needed to kill an adult human and the low concentration of capsaicin in chillies make the risk of accidental poisoning by chilli consumption virtually impossible.

Natural sources of capsaicin

Carbohydrates (Fibre, starch and sugars)

The body uses carbohydrates to make glucose which is the fuel that provides energy. The body can use glucose immediately or store it in the liver and muscles as fat for when it is needed. The confusion about carbohydrates when trying to lose weight means many people avoid the wrong type and end up putting on weight and suffering from bowel, digestive and intestinal problems because the wrong type of carbohydrate (sugar) feeds the pathogenic bacteria, fungi, viruses and yeasts fungi instead of the beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

The right type of carbohydrates (fibre, fructans and starch) feed the commensal (beneficial) bacteria which reside in the gastrointestinal tract and these are responsible for keeping the body in good health, manufacturing many vital nutrients and this can aid in weight loss. Avoiding these carbohydrates will have the opposite effect.

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Simple carbohydrates (Monosaccharides and disaccharides) Sugars.

  • Short-chain carbohydrates (Oligosaccharides).

  • Complex carbohydrates (Polysaccharides) Starch.

A monosaccharide is the singular base unit of all carbohydrates as follows:

Carnosine and Carnitine (Dipeptides)

Arterial stiffness caused by glycation is one of the key underlying causes of aging and has been shown to contribute to increased risk of heart disease, dementia, DNA damage and metabolic dysfunction. The aging process accelerates as blood sugar levels slowly increase as a result of poor dietary choices; this can cause damage to proteins. Protein structures are rendered useless as they are bound with sugar as combined units known as advanced glycation end products (AGE`s).

Carnosine and carnitine are natural compounds that have been shown to prevent the damage caused by excess sugar, and they can reverse the development of advanced glycation end products that lead to disease proliferation. The heart muscle and vascular system are very sensitive to the effects of free radical damage and protein degradation from sugar glycation. When critical proteins become non-functional from AGE accumulation, the heart and endothelial structures lose their elasticity and blood pressure rises.

Elevated glucose causes destructive changes to vital enzymes and proteins that set the stage for metabolic syndrome and tissue damage. This problem is particularly devastating in diabetics as blood sugar levels remain elevated throughout the day and sugar-protein cross links wreak havoc with renal health, vision and the nervous system.

Carnosine a dipeptide which is formed by the chemical combination of two amino acids, alanine and histidine. Carnosine occurs naturally in animals and humans, and is especially predominant found in high levels in skeletal muscle, but also exists in the brain and cardiac muscle. It improves blood flow and has been shown to stall and possibly prevent asthma, migraine and septic shock. It may help boost memory and aid in fighting Alzheimer’s, protect the body from harsh cancer treatments, bind itself to harmful metal compounds and deactivate them and protect the body’s cells from harmful free radicals.

Carnosine has multiple physiological functions associated with anti-oxidation and anti-aging and has shown to provide significant improvement in the following conditions: aging, cell stem production, memory, ADHD, autism, skin care, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, bone health, arthritis, muscular disorders and may increase life span.

Carnitine is made in the body from the two amino acids lysine and methionine and is essential to lipid metabolism. Research has shown that carnitine is able to lower the damaging effects of free radical damage to the arteries, prevent deterioration of the heart and reduce arterial stiffening. These processes are common in aging individuals and are a key cause of heart disease and heart attack, especially in diabetics.

The European Journal of Clinical Investigation explains how carnitine (Acetyl-l-carnitine) improves arterial flexibility by helping to prevent AGE cross-links that cause hardening of the delicate endothelial structures. The study authors theorize that carnitine may lower levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol that is known to provide the `glue` for compounds that develop into arterial plaque.

Carnosine and carnitine levels in the body naturally decrease with age. The main dietary source for both compounds is from meat and dairy products and because many health conscious people limit their consumption of these foods hey may be lacking in these vital nutrients.

Any deficiency state related to carnosine and Beta-Alanine could also be called a general 'protein deficiency' associated with the essential amino histidine and can be rectified by consuming more protein.

Natural sources of carnosine and carnitine

Carotenoids (Antioxidants) See the functions, health benefits and natural sources of Carotenoids

Carvacrol (Monoterpenoid phenol)

Carvacrol is very effective in lowering blood pressure. It reduces the heart rate, mean arterial pressure and both the diastolic and systolic blood pressures as well. Carvacrol also  inhibits the growth of several bacteria strains such as Bacillus cereus and Escherichia coli.

Natural sources of carvacrol

Catalase (Antioxidant enzyme)

Catalase is present in all body organs being especially concentrated in the liver. Catalase works closely with superoxide dismutase to prevent free radical damage to the body. Hydrogen peroxide is a naturally occurring but destructive waste by-product of all oxygen-dependent organisms. It is produced in the human body when fatty acids are converted to energy and when white blood cells attack and kill bacteria. Catalase, which is located in the cell’s peroxisome, prevents hydrogen peroxide from harming the cell during these processes. It also helps prevent the conversion of hydrogen peroxide to hydroxyl radicals, potentially dangerous molecules that can attack and even mutate DNA.

Superoxide dismutase converts the dangerous superoxide radical to hydrogen peroxide, which catalase then converts to harmless water and oxygen. Catalases are some of the most efficient enzymes found in cells; each catalase molecule can convert millions of hydrogen peroxide molecules every second.

It also aids in immune responses and has the ability to effectively oxidise harmful toxins in the body before they invade the cells. Catalase can be produced in the body or formed from the fungus Aspergillis niger .

Catechins (Flavonoid) See the health benefits of Catechins

Natural sources of catechins

  • Apples

  • Apricots

  • Berries

  • Cherries

  • Cocoa beans

  • Green tea

  • Grapes

  • Legumes

  • Peaches

  • Pears

  • Persimmons fruit

  • Pomegranates

  • Strawberries

  • Wine (red).

Cellulose, cellulase and hemicellulase (Plant tissues and enzymes)

Cellulase is an enzyme that splits cellulose, a common substance that is contained in all plant tissues. The body’s digestive system cannot break down cellulose and it is regarded as roughage. Cellulase makes cellulose soluble, breaking it down into beta-glucose (blood sugar) and improving digestibility of plant-based foods. Although contained naturally in all plants, cellulase must go through a fermentation process with a variety of fungi and bacteria to be usable by the body. It is used in combination with other enzymes to manufacture juice and other beverages and in the production of wine and other alcoholic drinks.

Hemicellulase is an enzyme found naturally in the human body. It is produced by micro-organisms in the digestive tract and helps break down indigestible fibre in grains, fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that an increase in this enzyme can help prevent and reduce yeast infestations such as Candida and improve the health and can also reduce bloating and flatulence.

Natural sources of cellulase

Chalcones (Antioxidant)

Chalcones are often responsible for the yellow pigment of many types of flowers such as daisies and sunflowers. They are a class of flavonoid compounds which are potent antioxidants, protecting cells from free radical damage, which is associated with accelerating the ageing process and with many disorders, including cancer, as well as degenerative diseases. They also suppress the excessive secretion of gastric juice in the stomach, which is often caused by stress and can lead to stomach ulcers.

In addition they help strengthen the immune system, regulate blood pressure and cholesterol and exhibit anti-viral and antibacterial activities. Chalcones have also been found to stimulate the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which is synthesised in minute amounts in the body and is essential in the development and survival of certain neurons (nerve cells) in the peripheral and central nervous system.

NGF is believed to have the potential to alleviate Alzheimer's disease and peripheral neuropathy (a common neurological disorder resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves, which originate from the brain and spinal cord). In an animal study conducted by the Biomedical Group, in Takara, Japan, there was a 20 per cent increase in NGF concentration after taking Ashitaba for just four days.

Natural sources of chalcones

Chlorogenic acid (Antioxidant)

Chlorogenic acid is a natural antioxidant cinnamic acid derivative of caffeic acid and quinic acid. It is an important biosynthetic intermediate and it can slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal. It can reduce body weight, lipid metabolism and obesity-related hormones levels. Chlorogenic acid, in conjunction with pelargonidin chloride and malvidin chloride is a critical co-factor in the anti-proliferation of colon cancer and liver cancer cells, but without the other two co-factors the process will not take place.

Over consumption can cause digestive upsets and toxic exhaustion of the liver, pancreas and adrenal glands and may cause diarrhoea especially where coffee and prunes are concerned. Coffee, due to processing techniques and pesticide use, has many other detrimental affects on the body such as causing deficiencies in many minerals and other nutrients. See Dangers of Coffee.

Natural sources of chlorogenic acid

CHLOROPHYLL (Antioxidant)

Chlorophyll is the green pigment present in plants that is responsible for collecting and storing energy from the sun. It is a molecule that absorbs sunlight and uses its energy to synthesise carbohydrates from CO2 and water in a process known as photosynthesis. Because the chlorophyll molecule is almost identical to the haemoglobin molecule in red blood cells it is often referred to as 'nature's blood'.

One of its many attributes includes its ability to stimulate the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body's tissues. It is also an excellent agent for cleansing the blood, bowels and liver and promotes the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. It can also bind with heavy metals and remove them from the body and strengthens immunity. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, alkalises the blood, helps fight off diseases and protects against cancer.

Natural sources of chlorophyll

CHOLESTEROL (Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL)

Specialised tissues in the body require cholesterol as a precursor to make vitamin D, steroid hormones and the bile acids needed for digestion. The main function of phospholipids is to form the membrane that surrounds the body's cells and their internal structures. Although cholesterol is also a component of cell membranes, it mainly helps maintain their fluidity. Phospholipids can also act as the following: reservoir for chemical messengers within the cell, anchors for some proteins to attach to a cell surface and components of lung surfactant, a substance that reduces tension on the inner surface of the lungs. As essential components of bile, phospholipids also help make cholesterol soluble in water.

Although the liver plays a greater role, the synthesis of phospholipids and cholesterol occurs in nearly all human tissues. Phosphatidyl-ethanolamine and phosphatidylcholine are the most abundant phospholipids in the human body. Their production begins with pre-existing choline and ethanolamine. Choline is considered an essential nutrient because the body does not produce enough of it to meet all its needs. However, the body's needs in phosphatidylcholine are so important that, if choline levels become too low, the liver uses another substance called serine as a precursor. In contrast, cholesterol synthesis begins with two compounds called acetate and NADPH.

Because of its inability to dissolve in blood, cholesterol must either be transformed in the bile, or associated with special carrier molecules known as lipoproteins. The major types of lipoproteins are low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. LDL carries cholesterol away from the liver, to various organs. HDL removes excess cholesterol from arteries to return it to the liver. Although lipoproteins also contain phospholipids they do not require lipoproteins to circulate in the blood.

The human body cannot break the ring structure of cholesterol down to its single components. It first has to convert the intact steroid nucleus to bile acids and bile salts, which are then excreted in the stool. The body also secretes some of the cholesterol into the bile, which then carries it to the intestine for elimination. A group of enzymes called phospholipases, along with pancreatic juice, are responsible for degrading phospholipids. All human tissues contain phospholipases.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin) and lecithin rich foods can naturally raise the body's level of HDL cholesterol and lower the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Click the blue links to find out what natural foods are good sources of these nutrients and also visit the Heart page for more information.

Natural sources of cholesterol

Beef, eggs, cheese, lamb, milk (full cream), octopus, pork, poultry, shellfish and squid.

CHOLINE (Lipotropic)

Choline is a chemical similar to the B vitamins. It works with vitamin B9 (foliate) and an amino acid called methionine. Although the human body can produce choline from lecithin it is generally recognised that it is important to get dietary choline as well. Choline serves various functions in the body; in the structure of cell membranes, protecting the liver from accumulating fat, as the precursor molecule for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and more. Because of rapid development in foetuses and infants, there is a greater need for choline in early life. Human milk has high levels of choline.

Choline is found, not only in the pancreas and liver, but is also a component of every human cell. It has a fat modifying effect similar to bile and, without it, many fat-based nutrients and waste products could not pass in and out of the body's cells. Choline can be helpful in cases of liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis. Choline, vitamin B8, also known as inositol, and methionine belong to a group of compounds called lipotropics which help the liver to process fat in the body. Choline has been shown to protect the liver from certain types of damage and can help reverse damage that has already occurred.

Choline is essential, not only for the brain development of foetuses and infants, but may help prevent memory loss associated with aging and Alzheimer's disease and can help with depression. Additionally, it can help lower LDL cholesterol and homocysteine levels associated with cardiovascular disease and may also help protect against some types of cancers. It is also useful in the treatment of asthma.

Choline also improves athletic performance and stamina and speeds up recovery.

Natural sources of choline

CITRIC ACID (Crystalline acid)

Citric acid is crucial in the krebs cycle ( tricarboxylic acid cycle or citric acid cycle) which is part of cellular respiration involved in human metabolism, which helps with the oxidation of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It is a series of enzyme-catalysed chemical reactions that form a key part of the aerobic respiration in cells and break down glucose into usable energy.

Despite being an acid  citric acid is an alkalising agent. It is able to decrease the level of acidity in body fluids and it binds with excess calcium allowing it to leave the body. The citric acid in lemonade prevents the formation of kidney stones and ensures proper functioning of the kidneys. Citric acid’s ability to chelate calcium and its alkalising properties make it useful as a method for preventing kidney stones as well as treating several other kidney ailments. It also associates itself with other minerals and metals easily, a trait which accelerates their absorption into the body.

Consuming juices from any of the following food sources, which are rich in citric acid, can quickly and effectively eliminate nausea by reducing the gastric acidity.

Natural sources of citric acid

Apples, artichokes, asparagus, citrus fruits, cleavers, cherries, cranberries, gooseberries, grapes, kiwi fruit, lettuce, mushrooms, pears, peaspineapples, potatoes, raspberries, strawberries and tomatoes.

CITRULLINE (Non-essential amino acid)

Citrulline is one of the three main amino acids in the urea cycle, along with arginine and ornithine. Once it passes the liver and intestines, it goes to the kidneys to be turned into arginine. Citrulline is taken up to a much greater degree in the gut than its counterpart arginine, and results in a higher plasma level of arginine via the arginine/ornithine/citrulline cycle. It is absorbed through numerous sodium dependent transporters.

The mechanism of which citrulline exerts its benefits is via aiding in ammonia detoxification. Ammonia is a by product from muscle metabolism during exercise. Citrulline, via arginine and nitric oxide synthase activity, reduces the oxygen cost of muscle processes and delays this process and enhances performance. It is implicated at increasing recovery rates during exercise and delaying time to exhaustion. Citrulline rich foods can help to improve erectile dysfunction in men suffering from impotency and lower blood pressure, help the body to overcome fatigue and stress. The right amount of citrulline levels in the body promote increased energy and ensures the normal functioning of the immune system.

Natural sources of citrulline

Butternut squash, cucumber, kidney beans, melon, oily fish, organ meats, peanuts, pumpkin, rabbit, soya beans, tofu, watermelon and venison.

COENZYME A (Enzyme)

Coenzyme A is notable for its role in the synthesis and oxidation of fatty acids and the oxidation of pyruvate in the citric acid cycle. The body manufacture coenzyme A from alenine, cysteinevitamin B4 and vitamin B5. Coenzyme A is the most active metabolic enzyme in the human body. It operates in the body's cells and blood where it initiates hundreds of important processes in the body. Coenzyme A is expended by the metabolic processes of the body and constantly needs replenishing.

COENZYME Q6 (Enzyme)

Coenzyme Q6 monooxygenase is an enzyme required for the biosynthesis of coenzyme Q10 which is an essential component of the mitochondrial electron transport chain, and one of the most potent antioxidants for the protection of cell damage by reactive oxygen.

COENZYME Q10 (Enzyme)

 

Under 30 years old, the human body makes about 500 mg of CoQ10 daily. This is needed to maintain the general body pool of about 2000 mg. By age 65 most people have 50-60% less CoQ10 in their body, the decline of which may be among the myriad of factors contributing to the aging process. 

 

The human body manufactures CoQ10 from amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine which are converted into CoQ10. Proper functioning of this process depends upon adequate amounts of all the precursors being present and the conversion processes working correctly. These amino acids begin to transform to CoQ10 in the presence of the pyridoxal-5-phosphate form of vitamin B6. The vitamins B2, B3, B5, B9 (folic acid) vitamin C, selenium and several trace mineral elements must also be present. An additional 10 mg of CoQ10 is gained from a healthy diet which includes the foods below.

 

Altogether there are 17 steps in the bio-synthesis of this vitamin-like fat-soluble substance found in higher concentrations in high energy areas such as the heart, brain, liver, muscles, pancreas, immune cells, gums, stomach lining, but still in every single cell.

 

Two types of coenzyme Q10 are ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Ubiquinone is the oxidised state of the coenzyme, while ubiquinol is the fully reduced form. The advantage of ubiquinol over ubiquinone is that it will also neutralise free radicals, including those of lipid peroxides that can damage cells and tissues. This occurs because it provides electrons that free radicals are missing and hence neutralising those molecules before they damage the body's cells and tissues. Studies have found that ubiquinol plus creatine can significantly reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Deficiency of coenzyme Q10

Normal healthy people consuming a diet of foods rich in vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and C plus trace elements of selenium and other minerals will rarely be deficient in Coenzyme Q10. However, medications such as diuretics, beta blockers, cholesterol lowering drugs such as Statins like Lipitor, atorvastatin or drugs for lowering blood sugar such as metformin will deplete their system of this vital component with the following potential side effects: heart failure, muscle pain and weakness, irritability, mood swings, depression and impotence. The last few side effects may also be due to lack of cholesterol, which is needed for brain cell and hormone production. See the Medication Dangers page.

 

Beta-adrenergic blockers also deplete CoQ10 by interfering with the production of this essential enzyme for energy production. This lack of CoQ10 is particularly dangerous, considering that the target condition is cardiovascular disease. Since the heart is particularly rich in CoQ10-hungry mitochondria, the energy factory of the cell, the end result can be heart failure.

Highest sources of coenzyme Q10 in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Venison 158 g

  • Beef heart 113 g

  • Soybean oil 92 g

  • Rapeseed oil 65 g

  • Sardines 64 g

  • Mackerel 43 g

  • Pork 24 - 41 g

  • Beef liver 39 g

  • Beef 31 – 37 g

  • Sesame oil 32 g

  • Soybeans 30 g

  • Peanuts 27 g

  • Cuttlefish 24 g

  • Sesame seeds 23 g

  • Chicken 14 - 21 g

  • Mackerel 21 g

  • Pistachios 20 g

  • Walnuts 19 g

  • Soybeans (dried) 19 g

  • Adzuki beans, hazelnuts 17 g

  • Tuna fish (tinned), herring 16 g

  • Pollack, almonds 14 g

  • Eel 11 g

  • Spinach 10 g

  • Perilla leaves 10 g

  • Broccoli, rainbow trout 9 g

  • Chestnuts 6 g

  • Rice bran 6 g

  • Sunflower oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sweet potato, wheat germ 4 g

  • Garlic, peas, radish leaves,  3 g

  • Aubergine, beans, bell peppers, blackcurrants, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cheese, eggs, yoghurt 2 g

  • Apples, buckwheat, Chinese cabbage, millet, onions, oranges, radish roots, strawberries 1 g

NOTE: CoQ10 is fat-soluble and will be absorbed best if eaten with fat rich foods such as olive and other cold-pressed oils, fish, nuts or avocado.

COUMARIN (Antioxidant)

Coumarins are aromatic and potent antioxidants, which have been found to contain anti-carcinogenic compounds and have multi-biological activities such as being anti-arrhythmia, anti-asthma, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-HIV, anti-hypertension, anti-osteoporosis, antiseptic, anti-tumour and pain relieving.

Moulds such as penicillium nigricans, p.jensi and the aspergillus metabolise coumarin into dicoumarol. Dicoumarol is similar in structure to vitamin K. When consumed by livestock it inhibits vitamin K production. Vitamin K is necessary in the body to activate prothrombin. When tissue is damaged, thromboplastin is released and converts prothronin to thrombin. Thrombin alters the solubility of fibrinogen in blood and causes it to clot and seal the tissue damage. Dicoumarol prevents this process and is used in blood thinning medications such as warfarin.

Coumarin is also used in 90% of perfumes.

NOTE: Over consumption of coumarin can cause liver damage in susceptible individuals.

Natural sources of coumarin

COUMESTAN (Phytoestrogens)

Coumestan is an organic compound that is a derivative of coumarin. Coumestan forms the central core of a variety of natural compounds known collectively as coumestans. These and isoflavones, flavones, deoxybenzoins and lignans are all classes of phytoestrogens.

Consuming foods rich in this compound can help treat menopause symptoms and lowers the risk of hip fractures, breast cancer and heart disease.

Natural sources of coumestan

Alfalfa, butterbeans, clover, soya beans and split peas.

CREATINE (Nitrogenous organic acid)

Creatine is naturally produced in the human body from amino acids, primarily in the kidneys, pancreas and liver. It is a high-energy compound found in the muscles. It provides a small but readily available reserve of energy that can be used during the first few minutes of intense muscular contraction. The amount of creatine in the body is proportional to the muscle mass: the more muscular, the more creatine the body can store. Creatine as energy buffer plays an important role in cellular metabolism and shows protective effects in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Creatine significantly increases fat-free mass and total body mass for both men and women and reduces power decline and enhanced performance in exercise involving speed and power.

Creatine also lowers levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a marker of potential heart attacks and strokes and can increase the amount of energy available to the brain for computational tasks, improving mental ability.

Creatine provides neuro-protection of the degenerative diseases amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease and traumatic brain injury by preventing the depletion of adenosine triphosphate, (ATP) in the brain. Creatine is twice as effective as the prescription drug riluzole in extending lives.

About half of the supply of creatine is made within the body by the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Using a combination of essential and non-essential amino acids, including glycine, arginine and methionine, the kidneys manufacture a precursor, guandinoacetic acid, and sends it to the liver, which converts it to creatine. The creatine is then transported to the muscles through the bloodstream.

Natural sources of creatine

Beef, lamb, oily fish, organ meats (except poultry), pork, rabbit, venison and wild game birds.

CRYPTOXANTHIN (Carotenoid)

Cryptoxanthin refers to a substance composed of two related molecules, alpha-cryptoxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin which are carotenoids that protect the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. They are two of the carotenoids that the body can use to manufacture vitamin A which protects the eyes. They also reduce the risk of inflammatory polyarthritis, lung cancer (especially in smokers) and  rheumatoid arthritis. See Carotenoids.

Natural sources of cryptoxanthin

Alfalfa, apples, apricots, avocado, basil, beef,  bell peppers, black beans, broccoli, caraway seeds, carrots, chicken, chilli peppers, chokeberries, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, corn, cucumber, dandelion greens, egg yolk (chicken, duck and goose), grapefruit, green beans, kumquats, lemon rind, mango, marjoram, mung beans, mustard, nutmeg, olives, orange rind, oregano, organ meats, papaya, paprika, parsley, passion fruit, peppercorns, persimmons fruit, peaches, plums, prickly pears, prunes, pumpkin, raspberries, sage, split peas, soya beans, squash, tangerines, thyme, turkey and watermelon.

CYANIDIN  See Anthocyanins

CYSTEINE and CYSTINE (Amino acid)

Cysteine is a sulphur containing amino acid that occurs naturally in foods and can also be manufactured by the body from the amino acid methionine. In the production of cysteine, methionine is converted to S-adenosyl methionine, which is then converted to homocysteine. Homocysteine then reacts with serine to form cysteine. Cysteine is also found in the body and in food as cystine, an amino acid that contains two cysteines joined together. Cysteine, which can be formed from serine through the trans-sulfuration pathway, is the precursor for proteins, glutathione, taurine, coenzyme A and inorganic sulphate.

Glutathione, formed from cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine, is found in all human tissues, with the highest concentrations found in the liver and eyes. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant, protecting fatty tissues from the damaging effects of free radicals. The antioxidant activity of glutathione is attributed specifically to the presence of cysteine in the compound.

Cysteine rich foods can help to detoxify the body of chemicals and heavy metals, protect cells from free radical damage and breakdown extra mucous in the lungs. It is especially beneficial for those suffering with coughs and colds. Because it has the ability to breakdown proteins found in mucous that settles in the lungs it can be useful in the treatment of asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.

Cysteine may play a role in the prevention and treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, cancer, cataracts, hair loss, heart disease, heavy metal toxicity or exposure, HIV/AIDS, liver disease, Parkinson's disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and viral infections.

It is scientifically recommended that all individuals 1 years of age or greater should consume 25 milligrams of cysteine plus methionine (combined) for every 1 gram of food protein.

Cysteine often gets destroyed in the gastrointestinal tract as a potentially toxic free molecule. Cystine is two cysteine molecules bonded by a sulphur molecule and is used to survive the GI Tract or blood serum and get into the cells that can break the bisulphide bond to utilize the freed cysteine molecules.

Deficiency of cysteine

Deficiency is relatively uncommon, but may be seen in vegetarians with low intake of the plant foods containing methionine and cysteine. Low cysteine levels may reduce one's ability to prevent free radical damage and may result in impaired function of the immune system and neurodegenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis, amylotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and Alzheimer's disease.

Because the production of cysteine involves several nutrients a deficiency of methionine, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) and s-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) may decrease the production of cysteine. Certain medications can cause deficiencies of these nutrients which will in turn cause a deficiency in cysteine. See the Medication Dangers page.

Highest sources of cysteine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Rabbit (wild) 1243 mg

  • Soya beans 1046 mg

  • Sesame seeds 1012 mg

  • Pheasant 1007 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 952 mg

  • Chlorella (dried) 770 mg

  • Safflower seeds 685 mg

  • Mustard seeds 680 mg

  • Spirulina (dried) 662 mg

  • Oat bran 576 mg

  • Winged beans 545 mg

  • Calf’s liver 490 mg

  • Black walnuts 462 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 451 mg

  • Watermelon seeds 438 mg

  • Peanuts 433 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 404 mg

  • Chicken 397 mg

  • Quail 394 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 389 mg

  • Peanuts 375 mg

  • Whelks 374 mg

  • Brazil nuts 367 mg

  • Sesame seeds 358 mg

  • Flaxseeds 340 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 320 mg

  • Wheat 317 mg

  • Mussels 312 mg

  • Pine nuts 289 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 278 mg

  • Rabbit (wild) 274 mg

  • Eggs 272 mg

  • Soya beans 268 mg

  • Mackerel  (tinned) 249 mg

  • Salmon (Atlantic farmed) 237 mg

  • Black beans 235 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 234 mg

  • Walnuts 209 mg

  • Squid 204 mg

  • Quinoa 203 mg

  • Venison 202 mg

  • Almonds 189 mg

  • Turkey 178 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 125 mg

  • Brown rice 96 mg

CYTOSINE (C)

Cytosine (C) is one of four chemical bases in DNA, with the other three being adenine (A), guanine (G) and thymine (T). Cytosine is a derivative of pyrimidine. Cytosine is made by the body and incorporated into the cells to improve cellular function and repair.

Natural sources of cytosine

Chlorella, halibut, nuts, octopus, oily fish, shellfish and squid.

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D

DELPHINIDIN (Anthocyanin)

Delphinidin is a powerful antioxidant that may slow down age-related motor changes, such as those seen in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. It prevents the oxidisation of certain compounds and fight attacks on the body from harmful chemicals. The health benefits of antioxidants include anti-carcinogen qualities, better heart health and a range of other positive effects. Anthocyanins in particular have been shown to have a positive effect on collagen, the tissues under the skin.

Natural sources of delphinidin

Blueberries, chokeberries, maqui berry and winged beans.

DEOXIBENZOIN (Polyphenol)

Deoxybenzoins are potent antioxidants and tyrosinase inhibitors with the ability to relax arteries in the human body and protect the heart. They are also intermediates in the syntheses of isoflavones and have antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

Natural sources of deoxybenzoins

Liquorice root, red clover and rest harrow.

DEOXYRIBONUCLEIC ACID (DNA)DNA Diagram

There are four chemical bases in DNA, adenine (A), cytosine (C) which are called purines and guanine (G) and thymine (T) referred to as pyrimidines. Within the DNA molecule, adenine bases located on one strand form chemical bonds with thymine bases on the opposite strand. The sequence of four DNA bases encodes the cell's genetic instructions. A form of adenine called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) serves as an energy storage molecule and is used to power many chemical reactions within the cell. DNA is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA and most of it is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria, where it is called mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).

The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases. Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people. The order, or sequence, of these bases determines the information available for building and maintaining an organism, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences.

DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands (two chains running in opposite directions) that form a spiral called a double helix. The DNA that constitutes a gene is this double stranded molecule.  The chemical nature of the bases in double-stranded DNA creates a slight twisting force that gives DNA its characteristic gently coiled structure.

The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.

An important property of DNA is that it can replicate, or make copies of itself. Each strand of DNA in the double helix can serve as a pattern for duplicating the sequence of bases. This is critical when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell.

THE HUMAN GENOME

Life is specified by genomes. Every organism, including humans, has a genome that contains all of the biological information needed to build and maintain a living example of that organism. The biological information contained in a genome is encoded in its deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and is divided into discrete units called genes. Genes code for proteins that attach to the genome at the appropriate positions and switch on a series of reactions called gene expression.

Inside each of the body's cells lies a nucleus, a membrane-bounded region that provides a sanctuary for genetic information. The nucleus contains long strands of DNA that encode this genetic information. Each base has a slightly different composition, or combination of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen. In a DNA chain, every base is attached to a sugar molecule (deoxyribose) and a phosphate molecule, resulting in a nucleic acid or nucleotide. Individual nucleotides are linked through the phosphate group and it is the precise order, or sequence, of nucleotides that determines the product made from that gene. See the Protein page for more information.

DEXTRIN (Polysaccharide carbohydrates)

Dextrins are a group of low-molecular-weight water-soluble carbohydrates produced by the hydrolysis of starch or glycogen and also known as soluble fibre. Hydrolysis involves splitting water up into its basic components and allowing those components to attach to other molecules. Dextrin is often used as a glue due to this ability. The health benefits of consuming dextrin rich foods are:

  • Expels toxins from the body.

  • Helps fight colon diseases.

  • Keeps defecation regular.

  • Increases health-promoting digestive bacteria.

  • Increases satisfied appetite.

  • Reduces blood sugar levels, and regulates insulin response.

  • Reduces cholesterol.

  • Reduces risk of coronary heart disease and related diseases.

For food sources see Soluble Fibre.

DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID (DHA) and  DOCOSAPENTAENOIC ACID (DPA)

Like eicosapentaenoic acid , DHA and DPA are omega-3 fatty acids that are primary structural components of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles and retina. They can be synthesised from alpha-linolenic acid or obtained directly from food. They smoothes muscle cell proliferation which can prevent the development of atherosclerosis and restenosis. They also reduce triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) and are anti-inflammatory being particularly effective against arthritis and other joint disorders and allergies like hay fever.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids are among the most documented in nutrition research. However, a third key fatty acid, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) has recently been shown to play probably the most powerful role in key health outcomes. DPA is an elongated version of EPA and has drawn the attention of scientists because it is present in relatively high levels in the diets of the Greenland Inuit people, a population group with exceptional cardiovascular health.

There are links between the consumption of fish and cognitive development as well as reducing age related losses in memory and cognition. These fatty acids can also help those suffering with back, joint and skeletal problems as they reduce inflammation. There are significantly lower amounts of these fatty acids in the cells of patients who attempted suicide, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may actually play a role in suicide.

Expecting mothers consuming foods rich in fatty acids during the course of pregnancy reduces the chances of birth defects drastically. Defects related to the brain and spine can be reduced and also the deficiency of vitamin B9 (foliate) in the mother’s body can be reduced.

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency

Essential fatty acid deficiency and omega-6 and omega-3 imbalances have been linked to serious health conditions, such as accelerated aging, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, asthma, attention deficit disorder, cancer, depression, diabetes, heart attacks, insulin resistance, obesity, Parkinson's disease and stroke. The western diet consists of far more of the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than the anti-inflammatory omegy-3 fatty acids and it is therefore recommended that more oily fish and a daily krill oil capsule is consumed. Hemps seeds are one of the rare foods that contain the correct ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids which should be around 4:1.

See also Fatty Acids.

Natural sources of DHA, DPA and EPA fatty acids

Anchovies, carp fish, cod, cod liver oil,  halibut, herring, krill oil, menhaden, oily fish, octopus, shellfish, spirulina, squid and swordfish.

NOTE: Menhaden fish are a prime source of docosapentaenoic acid more so than most other oily fish.

DOPAMINE (Neurotransmitter)

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter the body makes from the amino acid tyrosine. Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that motivate or sedate, focus or frustrate. The amino acids tyrosine and  tryptophan must both cross the blood-brain barrier along the same pathway. If tryptophan crosses the barrier, it will have a calming effect. If tyrosine gets through then the body and mind will be energised and alert. Stress, infection, and drugs tend to diminish neurotransmitter levels, as does impaired digestion and circulation.  Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which must be consumed in the diet as the body cannot make it whereas tyrosine can be manufacture by the body from another of the essential amino acids phenylalanine.

A high-carbohydrate meal can increase the brain's tryptophan levels, and hence the serotonin that promotes contentment and normal sleep. Therefore, a carbohydrate-rich meal may be more appropriate for the evening meal. On the other hand, an individual can be energised for hours after a morning meal high in protein, because it raises tyrosine levels in the blood and brain, causing neurons to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine, the two neurotransmitters that promote alertness and activity.

Norepinephrine, also called noradrenalin, is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter needed for motivation, alertness and concentration. Like a hormone, it travels in the bloodstream to arouse brain activity with its adrenalin-like effects. The brain requires norepinephrine to form new memories and to transfer them to long-term storage. This neurotransmitter also influences the metabolic rate.

Both norepinephrine and dopamine are manufactured from the non-essential amino acids tyrosine in the presence of adequate oxygen, vitamins B3, vitamin B6, vitamin  B9 and vitamin C, iron and copper.
Tyrosine is synthesised in the body from the essential amino acid phenylalanine.

Dopamine is easy to oxidise and nutrients with antioxidant properties, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and carotenoids, can reduce free radical damage to the brain cells that produce dopamine.  Without enough dopamine in the brain, an individual can feel depressed, sluggish and uninterested in life.

Broad beans are a natural source of L-dopa which has shown to be pharmacologically active in patients with Parkinson's disease and can be incorporated into dietary strategies to manage Parkinsonian motor oscillations. L-dopa can help to correct the underlying deficiency of endogenous dopamine release in the striatum.

Natural foods that can increase dopamine levels

Almonds, avocados, bananas, broad beans, cheese, eggs, butter beans, milk, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

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E

EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID ( EPA - Omega-3 fatty acid) See DHA, DPA and EPA Fatty acids

ELLAGIC ACID (Phenol antioxidant)

Ellagic acid protects against cancer  through several different ways. It can activate detoxifying enzymes in the liver, resulting in the clearing of cancer causing substances in the serum. It can also prevent carcinogens from attaching to cellular DNA. It has been shown to stimulate the immune system to effectively fight cancer cells and triggers apoptosis (self-destruction of cancerous cells)

Additionally, ellagic acid has antioxidant properties which allow it to attack potentially cancer causing free radicals. The body converts ellagitannin into this cancer combating compound present in many black and red fruits and berries, raspberries being a particularly good source.

Natural sources of ellagitannin

Bilberries, blackberries, maqui berry, peanuts, plums, pomegranates, raspberries and strawberries.

NOTE: Raspberries are the richest source of ellagitannin.

ENZYMES

Enzymes are a group of chemical substances that are produced by living cells and cause particular chemical reactions to happen while not being changed themselves. For example, they break down ingested foods so the body can use them. Blood clotting is another example of enzymes at work. Enzymes are complex proteins needed for all body functions and are found in every organ and cell in the body, including:

  • Blood

  • Intestinal fluids

  • Mouth (saliva)

  • Stomach (gastric juice)

Enzymes are highly selective catalysts, greatly accelerating both the rate and specificity of metabolic reactions, from the digestion of food to the synthesis of DNA. Most enzymes are proteins, although some catalytic RNA molecules have been identified. Enzymes adopt a specific three-dimensional structure, and may employ organic (e.g. biotin) and inorganic (e.g. magnesium ion) cofactors to assist in catalysis. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates sufficient for life. Since enzymes are selective for their substrates and speed up only a few reactions from among many possibilities, the set of enzymes made in a cell determines which metabolic pathways occur in that cell.

Types of enzymes

Catalase, glutathione peroxidase, methionine reductase and superoxide dismutase are all vital enzymes manufactured in the body and recent studies have linked them with longevity. It seems that, as the body ages, less of these enzymes are produced so damage from free radicals occurs more frequently. It may be that human aging  is a result of exposure to free radicals rather than the passage of time. Digestive enzymes and probiotics work by balancing the delicate flora of the digestive tract which is also vital for optimum health and longevity.

To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells drinking fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and consuming some raw vegetables two or three times a day is vital. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

EPICATECHIN (Flavonoid) See Catechins

EPIGALLOCATECHIN GALLATE (Flavonoid) See Catechins

ERUCIC ACID (Omega-9 fatty acid)

 

Erucic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid which is a constituent of many plant oils. It is a powerful tumour fighting compound which can also protect against cardiovascular disease by helping to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

 

In the 1970’s it was reported that erucic acid caused heart problems in rats but there has never been a documented case of any toxicity of erucic acid in humans. Rapeseed and mustard seed oils are high in erucic acid but have been used for centuries in India and many other countries. However, when cooking with any kind of plant oil, (whether they contain erucic acid or not) it is best to keep the temperature below 180C (356F).

 

NOTE: It is not advisable for nursing mothers or babies to eat too much food that contains erucic acid.

 

Natural sources of erucic acid

 

Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, mustard, rapeseed oil and winged beans.

ETHANOLAMINE (2-aminoethanol or monoethanolamine)

Phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is an important phospholipid that makes up cell membranes and organelle membranes. It is also called cephalin because it is abundant in the brain, spinal cord, and other nervous tissues. Cephalin is postulated to play a main role in keeping the nervous system intact and healthy because of its multitude of functions and its significant contribution to neural tissues. Plants synthesise ethanolamine by direct decarboxylation of serine using a pyridoxal phosphate enzyme.

Animals and humans obtain most of the ethanolamine part of PE from dietary sources. The body then makes phosphatidylethanolamine through a series of enzymatic steps. A class of antihistamines is identified as ethanolamines which includes carbinoxamine, clemastine, dimenhydrinate, diphenhydramine and doxylamine. 

PE helps stabilise the sarcolemmal membranes of the cardiac tissues when there is an inadequate supply of oxygen, such as what happens in coronary heart disease. It also plays a role in the hepatic secretion of very-low-density lipoproteins as well as in membrane fission and fusion. It undergoes reactions to donate its ethanolamine component for the production of a membrane protein-anchoring compound called glycosylphosphatidylinositol. PE can also be converted to phosphatidylcholine by phosphatidyl ethanolamine methyltransferase, an enzyme present in the liver.

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F

FATTY ACIDS

Fatty acids used to be known as vitamin F but were then re-categorised as fats. Fatty acids are often ignored in a world obsessed with dieting. Fat is every bit as important in the diet as are other nutrients. Many nutrients are fat-soluble and need to be consumed alongside fatty foods in order to be absorbed and utilised. Carotene is one such nutrient.

Sixty percent of the brain is fat. Fat and foods rich in fatty acids allow the nervous system to function well. The various types of cells in the body, including the cells in the eyes, brain and heart require fat in order to survive and function properly. Fat is also necessary to keep the immune system working and keep a host of diseases away.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

The body does not have the enzymes to produce linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acids) and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acids) as these are made by plants not animals but they are required by the human body so must be consumed in the diet and are therefore essential.  Essential fatty acids are necessary to make cell membranes and for many of the important hormones and other chemical messengers that tell the body what to do.

They are especially important for making prostaglandins in the body which are  hormone-like substances that regulate many activities including inflammation, pain and swelling (some cause swelling and others relieve it) which can help with preventing  arthritis and autoimmune diseases. They also play a role in controlling the blood pressure, heart, kidneys, the digestive system and body temperature and are related to allergic reactions, blood clotting and making other hormones.

Omega-3 fatty acid is a primary structural component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles and retina. It can be synthesised from alpha-linolenic acid or obtained directly from food. It supports muscle cell proliferation which can prevent the development of atherosclerosis and restenosis. It also reduces triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

Although there are a number of omega-3 fatty acids, the primary one responsible for so many biological functions is alpha linolenic acid. It is responsible for the formation of healthy cell walls by making them flexible and supple while also improving circulation in the bloodstream. The omega-3 fatty acids also support mental acuity, a healthy nervous system, immunity, reduction in blood clots, reduction in triglycerides, reduction in LDL cholesterol, regular heart rhythm and healthy growth in children. In some cases omega-6, linoleic acid, works in conjunction with the omega-3 fatty acids to carry out some of these processes.

A diet low in essential fatty acids could result in skin problems such as dandruff, eczema, splitting nails and dull brittle hair.  Fatty acids influence the structure of the cells lining the intestinal tract, as well as the villi through which absorption of nutrients takes place. They increase the thickness and surface area of the digestive-absorptive cells that line the inside of the intestine. This results in more effective digestion, better absorption of nutrients, less absorption of allergens and better health.

Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, while omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation is essential for survival as it protects the body from infection and injury, but it can also cause severe damage and contribute to disease when the inflammatory response is inappropriate or excessive. Therefore a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is required. Most experts recommend that the omega 6:3 ratio should be around 4:1 but the optimal ratio may vary if there is a particular condition or disease present. Today’s diet in the developed world can have a far higher level of omega-6 to omega-3 and may be responsible for the rise in many conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Symptoms of deficiency of fatty acids in the diet may include:

  • Allergies

  • Depression

  • Hyperactivity

  • High blood pressure

Drops in brain DHA levels are known to be associated with cognitive impairment or slower neurological development in children. Nervous system deficiencies of DHA have been associated with a wide variety of problems, including neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease; cognitive problems including reasoning ability in children and the severity of multiple sclerosis.

There are significantly lower amounts of EPA in the cells of patients who attempted suicide, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may actually play a role in suicide. EPA also smooths muscle cell proliferation which can prevent the development of atherosclerosis and restenosis. It also reduces triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) and is anti-inflammatory being particularly effective against arthritis and other joint disorders and allergies like hay fever.

It is difficult to get all the necessary fatty acids from ingested food, so the body also relies on the process going on in colon to make these fats. They are also important in keeping the cells of the colon healthy and preventing such conditions as ulcerative colitis, colon cancer and diverticular disease. They also help regulate cholesterol and insulin responses, can reduce risk of heart disease, assist those with some types of autoimmune disorders and act as a mood regulation for those who suffer from manic depression. There are links between the consumption of fatty acids and cognitive development as well as reducing age related losses in memory and cognition.

Essential fatty acid deficiency and omega-6 and omega-3 imbalances have also been linked to the following health conditions:

Expecting mothers consuming foods rich in fatty acids during the course of pregnancy reduces the chances of birth defects drastically. Defects related to the brain and spine can be reduced and also the deficiency of vitamin B9 (foliate) in the mother’s body can be reduced.

The three types of fatty acids

1. Saturated fatty acids

  • Butanoic acid

  • Decanoic acid

  • Dodecanoic acid

  • Hexadecanoic acid

  • Hexanoic acid

  • Octadecanoic acid

  • Octanoic acid

  • Tetradecanoic acid

2. Monounsaturated fatty acids

  • Docosenoic acid

  • Eicosenoic acid

  • Hexadecenoic acid

  • Octadecenoic acid

3. Polyunsaturated fatty acids

  • Docosahexaenoic n-3 acid

  • Docosapentaenoic n-3 acid

  • Eicosapentaenoic n-3 acid

  • Eicosatetraenoic acid

  • Octadecadienoic acid

  • Octadecatetraenoic acid

  • Octadecatrienoic acid

Linoleic and linoleic acids are polyunsaturated octadecatrienoic acids. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids are among the most documented in nutrition research. However, a third key fatty acid, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) has recently been shown to play probably the most powerful role in key health outcomes. DPA is an elongated version of EPA and has drawn the attention of scientists because it is present in relatively high levels in the diets of the Greenland Inuit people, a population group with exceptional cardiovascular health. Menhadon fish are a prime source of docosapentaenoic acid more so than most other oily fish but, unfortunately, these have been overfished and are increasingly rare.

Deep sea mercury contamination

The decline in arctic foxes is now known to be due to their diet of mercury contaminated fish from the north Atlantic ocean. To avoid absorption of heavy metals, such as mercury, which has been found to have contaminated some sea foods, especially deep water fish, chlorella, coriander, dulse, green tea or spirulina should be consumed when eating fish as they all have the ability to bind to heavy metals and expel them from the body. Krill oil is a good source of the omega-3 fatty acids and because krill are so short-lived they do not have time to absorb mercury so is a good dietary choice to improve levels of these vital fatty acids.

For natural resources of fatty acids see also Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids

FIBRE See Carbohydrates, fats and fibre

FLAVONOIDS (Antioxidants)

A large number of phytonutrients fall into the flavonoid category. They reduce people's risk of asthma, certain types of cancer and coronary heart disease. Quercitin is a well-studied type of flavonoid. Others include catechins, hesperidin and resveratrol.

Flavonoids, including apigenin, prevent in vitro LDL oxidation which can help to prevent atherosclerosis.

Natural sources of flavonoids

Apples, apricots, artichoke, ash gourd, basil, berries, black tea, celery, cocoa beans, cranberries, dill, grapefruit, grapes, green tea, horny goat weed, maqui berry, mulberries, kiwi fruit, olives (in brine), onions, parsley, peppermint, potatoes, prickly pear, red wine and thyme.

FRUCTANS (Carbohydrates)

Sandwiched in between simple carbohydrate, sugars (monosaccharides) and complex carbohydrate, fibre and starch (polysaccharides) are another group of carbohydrates called fructans like inulin and oligofructose. They are a zero calorie, sweet inert carbohydrates and do not metabolise in the human body but do help to feed the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. The term fructans refers to two types of soluble fibre, inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides.

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G

GALACTOSIDASE (Enzyme)

Galactosidase refers to a group of enzymes that catalyse the hydrolysis of a galactoside. It occurs in two forms: alpha and beta, both essential to metabolising glucose in the body.

Alpha-galactosidase is an enzyme that breaks down complex carbohydrates in the intestinal tract. Complex carbohydrates are found in beans, grains and vegetables and contain sugars such as polysaccharides (fibre and starch). These cannot be metabolised without being reduced to simple sugars, such as glucose and galactose. With enough alpha-galactosidase the sugars are hydrolysed (broken down with the use of water molecules). Without enough, the complex sugars pass undigested into the large intestine where intestinal microorganisms digest them, causing fermentation and producing gases. Alpha-galactosidase is useful in treating complex carbohydrate intolerance and a deficiency is linked to Fabry’s disease which causes dermatological symptoms, body pain and kidney failure.

Beta-galactosidase is a digestive enzyme found in the intestines which is activated when glucose levels are low or in the presence of lactose. It is essential for the digestion of milk. Its main function is hydrolysing lactose (milk sugar) into two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. These simple sugars can then be metabolised by the body. An inadequate amount of beta-galactose results in lactose intolerance. Severe hereditary deficiencies of the enzyme produce serious defects that usually become noticeable shortly after birth. There are no food sources to boost beta-galactosidase, but a reduction in consumption of lactose containing dairy products will obviously reduce symptoms.

GLUCANASE (Enzyme)

 

Glucanase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down cellulose in natural plant fibres known as glucan. Glucans are a polysaccharide made of glucose molecules linked together into long chains that humans cannot readily digest such as cellulose plant fibre, cereal bran fibre and parts of certain types of bacteria, fungi and yeast. As a kind of indigestible fibre, they may become viscous in the intestinal tract and slow peristalsis (intestinal contractions). Consumption of glucanase rich foods can help to avoid this and will help with better digestion of heavy cereal grains such as wheat, barley and rye. This can relieve acid reflux, bloating, flatulence, heartburn and indigestion, and keep the bowel movements regular.

 

Glucanase is also a powerful antifungal compound against infections such as candida and thrush and can help with the prevention and treatment of Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Once they are broken down into glucans by glucanase, grain and plant fibres can help with preventing and treating colon disorders, diabetes and high LDL cholesterol. The human body cannot naturally produce glucanase, therefore it has to be incorporated in the diet through foods.

 

Natural sources of glucanase

 

Barley, coffee beans, mushrooms, oats and yeast products.

 

GLUCONIC ACID (Crystalline acid) and GLUCOSE OXIDASE (Enzyme)

 

The enzyme, invertase, converts sucrose into glucose and fructose. A small amount of the glucose is also attacked by another enzyme, glucose oxidase and converted into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. The gluconic acid makes an acid medium with a low pH that is inhospitable to bacteria, mould, and fungi known as microbes and the hydrogen peroxide also kills these microbes which is why gluconic acid is effective against many yeast infections such as candida and thrush.

 

Glucose oxidase is an antioxidant with an antibacterial effect that prevents food spoilage. It is used in combination with catalase to preserve egg products in mayonnaise and in baked goods. Catalase splits the hydrogen peroxide and glucose oxidase converts the glucose sugar into gluconic acid. This enzyme is also used to improve the stability and elasticity of dough and to remove oxygen in wine or beer manufacturing.

 

Glucose oxidase has the potential for use in diabetes as a glucose sensor. The antiseptic and antibiotic properties can also contribute to a range of health benefits, including cancer treatment and upper respiratory tract infections. It is derived from fungus and mould cultures and is commonly found in honey and bee pollen.

 

Natural sources of glucose oxidase

GLUCOSINOLATES (Glucosides)

Glucosinolates are sulphur-containing glucosides found in cruciferous vegetables. They are the mustard oils which give these vegetables their pungent odour and flavour and turn into other chemicals,  such as indoles and isothiocyanates, when cut or damaged and during the cooking process and while the food is digested. These chemicals increase the liver’s ability to detoxify carcinogens which can help hold in check the development and growth of cancer.

Glucosinolates also act as natural antibiotics against different types of infections because of their known toxicity to specific bacteria and fungi, as well as their ability to increase blood flow to the infected area and more rapidly remove the waste products from that region of the body. This gives them the ability to treat bronchitis and respiratory disorders, sinusitis and urinary tract infections. One of the most powerful glycosides found in horseradish, sinigrin has also been found to relieve the symptoms of water retention, due to its stimulating effect on the blood capillaries.

Foods containing sulphur should be consumed raw or very lightly cooked as the glucosinolates are water soluble and can be lost in the water used for cooking the vegetables.

Natural sources of glucosinolates.

NOTE: Horseradish and wasabi are the richest sources of glucosinolates.

GLUTAMINE and GLUTAMIC ACID (Non-essential amino acids)

The amino acids, glutamine and glutamic acid, are closely related in a chemical sense. The human body is able to produce glutamine from glutamic acid through the glutamate ammonium ligase. Glutamine is the amino acid with the highest concentration in blood plasma, musculature and cerebral and spinal fluid.

Glutamine is the most abundant building block of protein in the body. It is also involved in more metabolic processes than any other amino acid and is converted into glucose by the body as it is needed. It also strengthens and improves the intestinal lining and eliminates excess ammonia from the body. This amino acid is stored primarily in the muscles and secondarily in the lungs and the human body produces enough glutamine, on its own, for every day maintenance. However, extensive work outs, prolonged stress, injuries and infections can deplete the supply.

Glutamine is used to treat HIV/ AIDS along with other nutrients to help sustain body mass. It also aids in T-cell formation. It is also used on patients to strengthen the immune system and help recovery of severe burns. It has been recognised for muscle preservation, intestinal health and regulating the immune system. It can also help to increase mental prowess and energy and speed the healing of tumours in the brain and assists in brain capacity and memory function. Glutamine is also used to reduce the effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients as it protects the liver and the lining of the intestines from the toxicity of chemotherapy.

Gastrointestinal damage and stomach ulcers caused by the Helicobacter pylori can be addressed with the amino acid glutamine, found in many foods. The body requires both amino acids glutamine and glutamic acid to function correctly and therefore, consuming unprocessed foods rich in both these amino acids on a daily basis is necessary.

Excitotoxins are formed due to too much glutamic acid which is necessary in small amounts but toxic when present in high amounts. Combine the glutamate amino acid with sodium and it becomes mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) which is often used in Chinese foods as a flavour enhancer and may lead to headaches and other allergic reactions due to the over consumption of glutamic acid.

Foods that contain mono-sodium glutamate

The following food labels indicate that mono-sodium glutamate are part of the ingredients:

Always contain MSG

MSG, Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein, Vegetable Protein, Hydrolysed Plant Protein, Plant Protein Extract, Sodium Caseinate, Calcium Caseinate, Yeast Extract, Textured Protein, Autolysed Protein, Autolysed Yeast and Hydrolysed Oat Flour.

Frequently contain MSG

Malt extract, Malt Flavouring, Maltodextrin, Bouillon, Broth, Stock, Flavouring, Natural Flavouring, Natural Beef or Chicken Flavouring, Seasoning and Spices.

Sometimes contain MSG

Carrageenan, Enzymes, Soy Protein Concentrate, Soy Protein Isolate and Protein Concentrate.

Foods to watch out for include: Soybean milk (naturally high in glutamate and often has hydrolysed vegetable protein added to it), kombu, miso and soy sauces all contain MSG.

Glutamate receptors exist throughout the body and especially in the brain. Eating MSG foods can increase levels twenty times higher than is normal. This is over-stimulatory and damages many cells in the body. Humans are more sensitive than any other animal and newborns are four times more sensitive than adults. Glutamate and aspartate also pass through the placenta and alters brain formation in the foetus.  The effects of a baby in utero has been directly linked to hormonal problems later on in life such as low testosterone and growth hormone in boys and low oestrogen and growth hormone in girls, also leading to early onset menses, premenstrual tension and even infertility.

However, the body does require glutamine and glutamic acid to function correctly and therefore, consuming unprocessed foods rich in these amino acids, can be beneficial.

Natural sources of glutamine

Natural sources of glutamic acid

GLUTATHIONE (Non-essential amino acid) See the functions and health disorders that can be treated by Glutathione

Natural sources of the precursors needed for the body to make glutathione

  • Asparagus

  • Avocado

  • Balloon flower root

  • Broccoli

  • Brussel sprouts

  • Dill

  • Garlic

  • Milk thistle

  • Organ meats

  • Peas

  • Ricotta cheese

  • Spinach

  • Tomatoes

  • Turmeric

  • Walnuts

  • Watermelon

  • Whey

NOTE: All these foods must be unpasteurised, organic and eaten raw or juiced when possible.

GLUTATHIONE PEROXIDASE (Enzyme)

Glutathione peroxidase is an antioxidant enzyme that catalyses the reduction of hydroxyperoxides created during the metabolism of glutathione. Its main function is to protect the cell against the oxidative damaging effect of these endogenously formed hydroxyperoxides. Endogenous substances are those that originate from within a living organism, tissue or cell. The antioxidant mineral selenium is a co-factor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase.

GLYCINE (Non-essential amino acid)

Glycine was the first amino acid that was found in a comet supporting the theory that some of life's ingredients formed in space and were delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite and comet impacts. It is the smallest of the 20 amino acids commonly found in proteins and is synthesised in the liver from the amino acids serine  and threonine. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, especially in the spinal cord, brainstem and retina. Glycine acts alone by binding to the glycine receptor on the post-synaptic membrane or together with  glutamate as a co-agonist.

Glycine is also found to be useful in assisting with the absorption of calcium in the body. It helps in retarding degeneration of muscles as it helps to supply extra creatine in the body. It is also important in the body’s manufacture of hormones responsible for a strong immune system and for correct functioning of the prostate gland which contains glycine in fluid produced there.

It is also involved in the body's production of DNA, phospholipids and collagen. Glycine reduces oxidative stress and increases antioxidant levels in the liver and brain and blood levels of vitamin E and vitamin C. It provides the liver and brain protection against alcohol-induced damage and may be a possible treatment for schizophrenia.

Natural sources of glycine

Alfalfa, apples, apricots, beef, buckwheat, cheese, chlorella, halibut, legumes, milk, oily fish, organ meats, poultry, rabbit, seaweed, spirulina and venison.

NOTE: The average adult should ingest 3 to 5 grams of glycine daily.

GLYCOGEN (Polysaccharide)

Glycogen is the storage form of glucose in animals and humans which is equivalent to the starch found in plants. Plants make starch and cellulose through photosynthesis and then animals and humans consume the plants. Digestion is a process of hydrolysis where the starch is broken down into the various monosaccharides such as fructose, galactose and glucose.

Glucose can be used immediately for metabolism to make energy. The glucose that is not used immediately is converted in the liver and muscles into glycogen for storage by the process of glycogenesis. Any glucose in excess of the needs for energy and storage is converted to fat. Polysaccharides are carbohydrate polymers consisting of tens to hundreds to several thousand monosaccharide units. All of the common polysaccharides contain glucose as the monosaccharide unit. Polysaccharides are synthesised by plants, animals and humans to be stored for food, structural support or metabolised for energy.

GRAMINE (Indole alkaloid)

Gramine, also called donaxine, is derived from tryptophan and it is thought it acts as a defence as it is toxic to many organisms. In humans gramine can be a powerful free radical scavenger and has antifungal and antioxidant properties.

Natural sources of gramine

Barley sprouts.

GUANINE (G)

Guanine (G) is one of four chemical bases in DNA, with the other three being adenine (A), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). Guanine is produced with cytosine.

Natural sources of guanine

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H

HESPERIDIN (Flavonoid)

Hesperidin works as an antioxidant which reduces inflammation in the body and can reduce symptoms of hay fever. It may also help reduce the risk of cancer. It improves the health of capillaries by reducing the capillary permeability and is good for treating varicose veins. It also lowers serum and hepatic cholesterol and inhibits bone loss.

Natural sources of hesperidin

NOTE: Hesperidin is most concentrated in the white pith beneath the skin.

NOTE: Grapefruit can react with many types of medication especially those that lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

HIPPURIC ACID (Benzoyl glycine)

Hippuric acid, also known as benzoyl glycine, is produced from benzoic acid and is detoxification and excretory product found in the urine of humans and many herbivorous animals. Quinic acid is also turned into hippuric acid while in the gastrointestinal tract. Hippuric acid is a normal component of urine and is typically increases with consumption of phenolic compounds such as fruit juices, tea and wine. The normal level of hippuric acid produced by the human body is 0.1 mg/mL per day.

HIRSUTIDIN See Anthocyanins

HISTIDINE (Amino acid)

Histidine is a basic, genetically coded amino acid which is essential for human development. Histidine is also a precursor of histamine and carnosine, which play important roles in immunity, vasodilatation, gastrointestinal health and antioxidant activity. Alanine combines with histidine to help form carnosine. Histidine can help with gastrointestinal problems including ulcers. It also protects the arteries from cholesterol build up, which can lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Highest sources of histadine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Chlorella (dried) 1100 mg

  • Spirulina (dried) 1085 mg

  • Whelks 977 mg

  • Pheasant 971 mg

  • Chicken 963 m

  • Pumpkin and quash seeds 914 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 877 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 874 mg

  • Quail 857 mg

  • Calf’s liver 829 mg

  • Turkey 754 mg

  • Tuna (tinned) 751 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 718 mg

  • Mackerel  (tinned) 683 mg

  • Cod 676 mg

  • Peanuts 655 mg

  • Salmon (Atlantic farmed) 651 mg

  • Lamb and venison 646 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 632 mg

  • Rabbit (wild) 611 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 607 mg

  • Black beans 601mg

  • Almonds 557 mg

  • Turkey 533 mg

  • Sesame seeds 522 mg

  • Flaxseeds 472 mg

  • Mussels 457 mg

  • Soya beans 449 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 425 mg

  • Quinoa 407 mg

  • Walnuts 391 mg

  • Brazil nuts 386 mg

  • Lobster 382 mg

  • Crab 372 mg

  • Rye 367 mg

  • Pine nuts 341 mg

  • Crayfish (wild) 324 mg

  • Wheat 317 mg

  • Eggs 309 mg

  • Crayfish (farmed) 302 mg

  • Squid 299 mg


See also the Daily Requirements of Amino Acids

HOMOCYSTEINE (Non-essential amino acid)

Homocysteine is an amino acid created in the body from the metabolism of methionine, an essential amino acid obtained from animal protein. Because high levels of homocysteine are toxic, it is normally broken down in the bloodstream and converted back into methionine with the help of vitamin B6, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12. Homocysteine is converted back into methionine by a process called methylation. Trimethylglycine, also known as anhydrous betaine, is associated with this process. Without enough of the three B vitamins and betaine in the diet, the recycling process becomes faulty, causing homocysteine levels in the blood to rise. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common amongst vegetarians who are therefore more at risk of developing high homocysteine levels.

Some people also have a genetic tendency to build up toxic levels of homocysteine that damages the walls of their blood vessels. Cholesterol then gets deposited in the arteries impaired by homocysteine, which can lead to blockage and stroke or cardiovascular disease. If the blood flow to the brain is interrupted, the individual can suffer a brain attack also known as a stroke. When blood fails to reach any area of the brain, brain cells die rapidly and set off a chain reaction that kills other brain cells. A stroke is an emergency medical situation and can permanently impair speech, movement and memory. Stroke prevention may be as simple making sure that adequate levels of the three B vitamins and betaine involved with homocysteine's metabolism are consumed.

Psychological stress can temporarily increase homocysteine levels and higher levels of hostility are usually associated with higher levels of homocysteine.

To lower homocysteine levels foods rich in vitamin B6, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12 must be consumed.

HYALURONAN (Polysaccharide)

Hyaluronic acid, also known as hyaluronan, is found in virtually all of the body's cells. HA clusters most densely, however, in the skin, cartilage and other connective tissue and in the synovial fluid that lubricates the body's joints. Hyaluronan is a high molecular mass polysaccharide found in the extracellular matrix, especially of soft connective tissues. Hyaluronan seems to play an important role during development and differentiation and has other cell regulatory activities. It plays a key role in cushioning and lubricating the body and is abundant in the eyes, joints and heart valves. A powerful antioxidant, hyaluronic acid is best known for its ability to bond water to tissue. The body's hyaluronic acid levels decrease with age. In theory, sustaining optimal hyaluronic acid levels could retard the aging process, prolong a youthful appearance and sustain life.

Hyaluronan has, through its tissue protective properties, become a device in ophthalmic surgery. Analysis of serum hyaluronan is promising in the diagnosis of liver disease and various inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. It has been found in high levels in the naked mole rat which live a particularly long life and never develop cancer.

Magnesium is needed in the body to synthesise hyaluronic acid, so consuming foods rich in magnesium can keep hyaluronic acid levels from dropping too low.

Foods rich in hyaluronan should be consumed with foods rich in vitamin C and vitamin E to keep skin looking young, wrinkle free and smooth.

Oestrogen and hyaluronic acid have a symbiotic relationship. When the level of one rises, so does the level of the other. Soy products, like tofu and soy beans, have been shown to increase oestrogen levels, making them an indirect source for hyaluronic acid.

Zinc deficiencies seem to coincide with low hyaluronic acid. Consuming zinc rich foods could alleviate the problem. Some medications and alcohol make the body expel zinc in the urine.

Natural foods that will produce higher levels of hyaluronan

Avocado, broccoli, brown rice, chicken soup (made from boiling whole chicken), organ meats (especially calf's liver), peanuts, pumpkin seeds, root vegetables, soy beans, spinach, spirulina and sweet potato.

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INDOLES (Aromatic heterocyclic organic compounds)

Indoles are compounds obtained from coal tar and indigo and produced by the decomposition of tryptophan in the intestines, where it contributes to the peculiar odour of faeces. It is excreted in the urine in the form of indicant.

The effect of this phytonutrient on the immune systemise anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-atherogenic. Phytonutrients such as indole may exert such effects either by direct or indirect methods. Furthermore, many of the phytonutrients are shown to direct their actions by exerting a regulatory effect on the immune system. Regulation of the immune system while maintaining its function is considered quite essential in the control of many disorders.

Indoles may act directly on cancer cells or may influence the actions of immune cells inducing them to attack any abnormal cells. Indoles help in the cell response, natural killer cell (NK) activity and proliferation of immune cells. The immune system plays a vital role in controlling the growth of cancer cells, and modifications in the functioning of immune cells can hasten the spread of cancer.

Natural sources of indoles

Brassicas; bok choy, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, Swede (kohlrabi) and turnips.

INULIN (Fructans)

Inulins belong to a class of dietary fibres known as fructans and are a group of naturally occurring long-chain polysaccharide carbohydrates produced by many types of plants. The term fructans refers to two types of soluble fibre, inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides. Unlike simple carbohydrates, which are broken down in the small intestines and turned into fuel for the body, inulin passes through the small intestines to the colon where it stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria and is fermented by bacteria. It also increases calcium absorption. Inulin is used by some plants as a way to store energy and is mostly found in roots or rhizomes.

Prebiotic inulin supports bone health, immune function and gut balance by encouraging a healthy intestinal environment to benefit probiotic intestinal flora which helps to produce many nutrients required by the body. It also promotes normal development of epithelial tissue, supports absorption of calcium and magnesium, supports immune cell function and antibody production in the gut, promotes a healthy pH in the lower gastrointestinal tract and promotes healthy waste elimination. Regular consumption of inulin-rich food also helps to reduce visceral fat that is stored around organs like the liver and heart as people age.

Natural sources of inulin

Agave, asparagus, banana, burdock root, chicory root, dandelion root, elecampane, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, mugwort, leeks, lentils, onions, rampion, salsify, wheat, yam and yacon root.

NOTE: Daily recommended amount of inulin is at least 5 mg. Pregnant woman should not consume chicory root.

Some people recommend consuming inulin powder but this can cause many side effects such as abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, digestive issues, flatulence and headaches and lead to an overgrowth of yeast and a leaky gut. It is always best to consume the whole natural foods rich in the nutrient rather than extracted or synthetic forms.

INVERTASE (Enzyme)

Invertase, also known as beta-fructofuranosidase, is an enzyme that helps break down sucrose into fructose and glucose and is the same as sucrase which is normally found in the human digestive tract. Invertase is usually derived from baker’s yeast, but it is also contained in honey and is produced by a number of other microorganisms. Invertase has a protective function against a number of metals poisonous to the body, such as lead and mercury. It has antioxidant, antibacterial and antiseptic properties and is a natural immune booster.

Natural sources of invertase

Baker’s yeast and honey.

ISOFLAVONES (Phytoestrogen)

Isoflavones consist of genistein, daidzein, glycitein and equol. Their structure is similar to the human hormone oestrogen and they may provide protection against breast and prostate cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis and reduce menopausal symptoms. However, there is some speculation that they may interfere with the receptors of human oestrogen and cause problems such as epithelial hyperplasia, goitre and hyperthyroidism. This may or may not be proved in due course.

Natural sources of isoflavones

Chickpeas, red clover and soybeans.

ISOLEUCINE (Essential amino acid)

Isoleucine has the second most important role in the branch chain amino acids combination. The others being leucine and valine. This amino acid is beneficial to the repair of muscles and increases endurance. It is broken down within muscle tissue making it available to the muscle as needed. This amino acid also assists in keeping blood sugar levels normal and aids in blood clot formation.

Deficiency can prevent the body from utilising protein efficiently as it is consumed. Signs of a deficiency are dizziness, fatigue, headache and irritability. Deficiency may be caused by Maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) which is the inability to metabolise leucine, isoleucine and valine. The disease is so named because urine from affected people smells like maple syrup.

Highest sources of isoleucine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Spirulina (dried) 3209 mg

  • Chlorella (dried) 2300 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 1698 mg

  • Whelks 1655 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 1546 mg

  • Pheasant 1369 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 1316 mg

  • Calf’s liver 1274 mg

  • Quail 1233 mg

  • Tuna (tinned) 1175 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 1171 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 1142 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 1139 mg

  • Lamb 1090 mg

  • Mackerel  (tinned) 1069 mg

  • Cod 1057 mg

  • Mussels 1036 mg

  • Rabbit (wild) 1034 mg

  • Salmon (Atlantic farmed) 1018 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 1014 mg

  • Lobster 994 mg

  • Peanuts 978 mg

  • Black beans 954 mg

  • Venison 929 mg

  • Flaxseeds 896 mg

  • Crab 887 mg

  • Turkey 876 mg

  • Chicken 851 mg

  • Crayfish (wild) 847 mg

  • Soya beans 807 mg

  • Crayfish (farmed) 718 mg

NOTE: The intake of isoleucine must be balanced with foods containing the amino acids  leucine and valine which are also protein rich foods.

See also the Daily Requirements of Amino Acids

ISOTHIOCYNATES See Glucosinolates
 

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KAEMPFEROL (Flavonoid)

Kaempferol is an important anti-oxidant which helps to protect the body from cancers, infections, heart disease, high cholesterol, stroke, aging and other degenerative diseases. Kaempferol provides protection to the linings of the blood vessels, particularly against free radicals or reactive oxygen species. Kaempferol can also induce the increased production of nitric oxide, a substance that acts as a natural dilator and relaxant of the blood vessels allowing the blood vessels to rest and decreasing the risk of hypertension.

Natural sources of kaempferol

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L

LACTASE and LACTOSE (Enzyme and carbohydrate)

Lactase is an enzyme that digests lactose which is the sugar in milk and breaks it down to simpler sugars, galactose and glucose. Without lactase the body cannot digest milk and this condition is called lactose intolerance. Infants produce plenty of lactase as they depend on milk for nourishment. Most adults have little to no lactase production and have problems digesting milk.

There is no natural food source for lactase, however, the beneficial bacteria found in raw milk (unpasteurised) can help the body produce this enzyme. Commercially produced lactase come from yeast and fungi and dairy yeasts have been used for centuries in making fermented food products, like yogurt.

NOTE: Some drugs contain lactose, including prescription medications such as birth control pills and over-the-counter medications for excess stomach acid and gas.

See also Lactose Intolerance

LACTIC ACID (Carboxylic acid)

Lactic acid is naturally present in many foods and is formed by natural fermentation in products. Consuming foods that contain lactic acid such as brine pickles is highly beneficial to the intestines and digestion due to the beneficial bacteria involved in the fermentation process.

In the human body, lactic acid is formed from glycogen by muscle cells when the oxygen supply is inadequate to support energy production. Lactic acid has been blamed for causing cramps, fatigue and sore muscles, however it is the hydrogen ion build up that causes this. When the body produces lactic acid it splits into lactate ion (lactate) and hydrogen ion.

Lactic acid and lactate help delay the onset of fatigue and improve sport performance. Hydrogen ions lower the blood pH and make the muscles acidic. This acidity irritates muscle nerve endings and causes that pain, heaviness, and burning mistakenly attributed to lactic acid. The consumption of an alkaline solution can quickly put right the acidic state of the muscles. A teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in water or milk can help to rebalance the acid/alkaline balance in the body.

Lactic acid is an evolutionary feedback which was a useful tool for ancient man on the hunt for food. The hydrogen ions are a way of signalling that energy is in poor supply. If more energy is going to be used up when chasing after an animal to eat it then it needs to be worth the effort.

Lactate is an extremely fast fuel that is preferred by the heart and muscles during exercise and is vital for ensuring that the body gets a steady supply of carbohydrates, even during exercise that lasts for many hours. Lactic acid provides fuels for many tissues, helps use dietary carbohydrates and serves as fuel for liver production of glucose and glycogen.

Natural sources of lactic acid

Brine pickles, cheese and yogurt.

LACTOFERRIN (Glycoprotein)

Lactoferrin is an iron binding glycoprotein and the second most abundant protein in human milk, being found in most exocrine secretions including tears, nasal secretions, saliva, intestinal mucus and genital secretions. It acts as a natural antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory agent boosting the immune system and kills protozoa and parasites. It preserves good bacteria whilst destroying pathogenic bacteria and is able to break through the cell walls of bacteria with tough outer cell walls, which are able to evade antibiotics.

It also suppresses cancer and tumour growth and prevents the spreading of cancer to the lungs and liver and is especially effective against skin cancer and leukaemia. It also modulates cell growth  It also increases bone density thus reversing osteoporosis.

Excessive amounts of iron in the diet may increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Many diseases and cancers need iron to reproduce and grow. By starving cancer cells of iron, lactoferrin helps deprive them of life.

Cow's and goat's milk are a good source but only if unpasteurised and the animals has been naturally raised and fed on grass and/or alfalfa.

Natural sources of lactoferrin

Cottage cheese, cow's milk (organic unpasteurised), goat's milk (organic unpasteurised), kefir milk, yoghurt and whey.

LAURIC ACID (Saturated fatty acid)

Lauric acid is a type of fatty acid found in only a handful of foods and is valued for both its health benefits and its convenient melting point properties. This medium-chain compound is solid at room temperature but has a low melting point, making it useful in the food industry. As for health benefits, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin in the body, which has antivirus, antifungal and antibacterial qualities.

Lauric acid, together with capric acid and caprylic acid, other medium-chain fatty acids, help to increase levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLcholesterol) relative to low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol). HDL helps protect children from infections and toxins. Breast feeding mothers who consume pure virgin coconut oil have high levels of these healthy fatty acids in their milk which is of great benefit to the infant because it protects them from infections and toxins.

Lauric acid is useful for treating viral infections including influenza including avian and swine flu; blisters, cold sores, the common cold; fever and genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV); genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV); and HIV/AIDS. It is also used for preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to children. Other uses include treatment of bronchitis, gonorrhoea, yeast infections, chlamydia, intestinal infections caused by a parasite called Giardia lamblia and ringworm.

Lauric acid is also used to make soap and shampoo.

Natural sources of lauric acid

NOTE: Coconut oil is the richest source of lauric acid.

LECITHIN (Phospholipid)

Lecithin is a naturally occurring group of phospholipids found in nearly every living cell. Lecithin is a natural dietary source of essential phospholipids, phosphatidyl choline, phosphatidyl ethanolamine, phosphatidyl inositol and phosphatidyl serine. These phospholipids are the building blocks of life and are vital for healthy function of every cell membrane in the body.

Lecithin consists of fatty acids and the nutrient choline. Because choline deficiency causes abnormal liver function, the scientists thought lecithin's protective effect might be due to choline. However, they found that only lecithin, not its choline or fatty-acid components, protected the liver. Another liver disorder is cirrhosis a life-threatening condition, which the liver becomes filled with fibrous tissue, and as the result functions poorly. The researchers showed that lecithin may act by increasing the liver's breakdown of the fibrous tissue that causes cirrhosis. Lecithin aids in the absorption of vitamin B1 (thiamine) by the liver and is needed to help repair the damage to the liver caused by alcoholism.

The body naturally produces lecithin in the liver. Whether consumed in food or produced by the body, lecithin is used to break down bile, remove fat deposits from the liver and transport fats through the bloodstream and into the cells. Lecithin is also used to produce choline, which helps to metabolize fats, transmit nerve impulses and preserve the myelin sheaths protecting the nerves. Because of these roles, lecithin and choline are used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, high cholesterol levels and liver disorders.

Natural sources of lecithin

LEUCINE (Essential amino acid)

Leucine is a branch-chained amino acid and the fourth most concentrated amino acid found in the musculoskeletal system. Each branch chained amino acid (leucine, isoleucine and valine) is a vital key to the effectiveness of the others. Leucine is known for enhancing endurance and increasing energy. It also aids in the breakdown of proteins and is absorbed during exercise when energy is needed most. This amino acid is most effective in preventing muscle catabolism and muscle shrinking. During intense work outs leucine is quickly broken down and converted into glucose. This provides readily available energy and stops muscle breakdown.

Leucine is known as an essential amino acid, which means it cannot be produced by the body.

Deficiency of leucine

A lack of this amino acid can prevent the body from utilising protein efficiently as it is consumed. Signs of a deficiency are dizziness, fatigue, headache and irritability. Deficiency may be caused by maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) which is the inability to metabolise leucine, isoleucine and valine. The disease is so named because urine from affected people smells like maple syrup.

Highest sources of leucine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Spirulina (dried) 4947 mg

  • Chlorella (dried) 4700 mg

  • Whelks 3807 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 2793 mg

  • Calf’s liver 2507 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 2497 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 2385 mg

  • Chicken 2328 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 2074 mg

  • Tuna (tinned) 2073 mg

  • Pheasant 2063 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 1956 mg

  • Quail 1938 mg

  • Mackerel  (tinned)1885  mg

  • Cod 1865 mg

  • Peanuts 1812 mg

  • Salmon (Atlantic farmed) 1796 mg

  • Black beans 1725 mg

  • Rabbit 1698 mg

  • Crayfish (farmed) and mussels 1676 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns and sunflower seeds 1659 mg

  • Venison 1645 mg

  • Lobster 1627 mg

  • Almonds 1488 mg

  • Crab 1452 mg

  • Turkey 1360 mg

  • Sesame seeds 1358 mg

  • Soya beans 1355 mg

  • Lamb 1279 mg

  • Flaxseeds 1235 mg

  • Walnuts 1170 mg

  • Brazil nuts 1155 mg

  • Squid 1096 mg

  • Eggs 1088 mg

  • Pine nuts 991 mg

  • Rye 980 mg

  • Wheat 926 mg

  • Quinoa 840 mg

  • Brown rice 657 mg

NOTE: The intake of leucine must be balanced with foods containing the amino acids isoleucine and valine which are also protein rich foods.

See also the Daily Requirements of Amino Acids

LEVODOPA (Amino acid)

Levodopa is produced in the human body via biosynthesis from the amino acid tyrosine. Levodopa, also called L-dopa, is converted to the neurotransmitters epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) by the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase in the brain. Levodopa, phenylalanine and tyrosine are precursors to the biological pigment melanin.

Levodopa is used pharmacologically in patients with Parkinson's disease and can be incorporated into dietary strategies to manage Parkinsonian motor oscillations. However, there are many adverse side effects from taking levodopa on its own.

Natural sources of leva-dopa

  • Broad beans

  • Chinese cinnamon (cassia bark)

  • Velvet beans.

LIGNANS (Polyphenol/Phytoestrogen) For health benefits see Lignans

Natural sources of lignans

  • Algae

  • Asparagus

  • Bamboo shoots

  • Barley

  • Berries

  • Bran

  • Broccoli

  • Carrots

  • Cashew nuts

  • Fagara

  • Flaxseeds and oil

  • Garlic

  • Kale

  • Lentils

  • Nutmeg

  • Pears

  • Prunes

  • Sesame seeds and oil

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Triticale

  • Wheat

LINALOOL (Terpene)

Linalool is is an aromatic essential oil produced by plants to attract certain insects for pollination. It is also emitted by some plants when they are damaged by herbivores so is also used as a defence against them. Some plants such as rice emit linalool to attract parasitic wasps to kill the larvae which has attacked the plant. In humans, the aroma of linalool in essential oils can slow down the heart rate and reduce stress and anxiety levels. Linalool has been shown to kill cancer cells at a very low concentration. The essential oil from some plants can be applied topically or added to warm bath water to be absorbed. Because of its pleasant smell, it is sometimes used to adulterate poor quality lavender oil, to pass it off as a superior product which commands a much higher price. Linalool is a critical precursor in the formation of Vitamin E. See Terpenes

LINOLEIC ACID (Omega-6 fatty acid) Read about the health benefits, functions and deficiency symptoms of Linoleic acid

 

Highest sources of linoleic acid in alphabetical order

 

  • Amaranth

  • Black seeds

  • Brazil nuts

  • Buckwheat

  • Eggs

  • Chia seeds

  • Coconut and coconut oil

  • Corn oil

  • Cottonseed oil

  • Evening primrose oil

  • Grape seed oil

  • Hemp seeds

  • Maqui berry

  • Pecans

  • Pine nuts

  • Poppy seed oil

  • Poultry

  • Safflower oil

  • Salicornia oil

  • Sesame seeds and oil

  • Soya bean oil

  • Spirulina

  • Sunflower oil

  • Whole grains

 

See also Fatty acids

 

LINOLENIC ACID (Omega-3 fatty acid)

 

Linolenic acid is a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid which is found in plants. It is similar to the omega-3 fatty acids that are in fish oil called eicosapentaenoic acid. The body can change alpha-linolenic acid into eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis. They may be also important for brain health and development, as well as normal growth and development.

 

It supports the body's manufacture of hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins which help regulate functions of the circulatory system. GLA assists the body with its energy processes and is a structural component of the brain, bone marrow, muscles and cell membranes.

Marine mammals (such as whale, seal, and walrus) and the oil derived from cold-water fish (cod-liver, herring, menhaden, and salmon oils) provide eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are fatty acids that are made from linolenic acid in marine animals. A lot of interest in the omega-3 fatty acids was created when researchers reported that there is a lower incidence of heart disease in some populations (e.g. Greenland). Diet patterns showed high fish consumption in these people, which lead to greater omega-3 fatty acid intake and a reduced incidence of heart disease. In addition, there are links between the consumption of fish and cognitive development as well as reducing age related losses in memory and cognition.

Highest sources of linolenic acid in alphabetical order

See also Fatty acids.

LIPASE (Enzyme)

Lipase is an enzyme that the body uses to break down fats in food so they can be absorbed in the intestines and is primarily produced in the pancreas but is also in the mouth and stomach. Fats require special digestive action before absorption because the end products must be carried in a water medium (blood and lymph) in which fats are not soluble.

Lipase hydrolyses lipids, the ester bonds in triglycerides, to form fatty acids and glycerol. It has essential roles in the digestion, transport and processing of dietary lipids in most organisms. It is produced primarily by the pancreas, but also found in the mouth and stomach. Lipase also needs its cofactor chloride in order to work.

The process of emulsification of large fat molecules is achieved by the action of bile produced by the liver and must take place to enable smaller droplets of fat for the lipase to work on. This action takes place in the small intestine and the lipase is a part of the pancreatic secretion.

When a diet is vegetarian, low in protein or high in refined carbohydrates, little bile can be produced by the gall bladder. If the amount of bile is insufficient or the gall bladder is not made to empty itself, or the liver is not stimulated to produce bile, fats remain in such large particles that lipase enzymes cannot combine readily with them; hence fat digestion is incomplete and fat absorption markedly reduced. This is also why people who have had their gall bladders removed often have difficulty digesting fats. While most people generate enough lipase on their own, those with digestive disorders like celiac and Crohn’s disease may be lipase-deficient.

Incomplete digestion of fat allows fat to coat food particles and therefore interferes with the breakdown of other food components such as protein and carbohydrates. It can also lead to high LDL cholesterol causing clogged arteries, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Natural sources of lipase

Almonds, apples, avocado, coconut, corn, flaxseeds, milk, peaches, persimmons fruit, rice, rape seed, romaine lettuce, soya beans, spinach and wheat germ.

LUTEIN and ZEAXANTHIN (Carotenoids)

Lutein and zeaxanthin protect the retina from damage caused by the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and high-energy visible (HEV) light. Prolonged exposure to UV and HEV rays may increase the risk of developing macular degeneration. Zeaxanthin is an important dietary carotenoid that is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea, where it thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions. Lutein and zeaxanthin also reduce the risk of cataracts later in life. These antioxidants also have the ability to protect cells and other structures in the body from harmful effects of oxygen-free radicals. Lutein can also help to reduce the risk of breast cancer and heart disease and supports healthy skin, tissue, blood and the immune system.

Natural sources of lutein and zeaxanthin

NOTE: Lutein and zeaxanthin are fat-soluble, so eating foods such as avocado, fish, nut, olive or seed oils at the same time will make them easier to absorb and four times more effective.

LUTEOLINIDIN See Anthocyanins

LYCOPENE  (Carotenoid)

Lycopene is the bright red phytochemical that is found in fruits and vegetables. It does not convert to vitamin A, but has important cancer fighting properties and other health benefits. While it is not an essential vitamin, it is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants reduce the amounts of free radicals found in the body.

Consuming lycopene helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, cancers of the prostate, stomach, lungs and breast and osteoporosis and protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which prevents heart disease.

Lycopene is non-toxic and can be consumed in large amounts, although eating too much lycopene can give the skin a temporary red tint known as lycopenodermia. This condition is considered harmless and will go away on its own when lycopene is no longer consumed. Some people may have an intolerance to lycopene. Symptoms as similar to gastroenteritis, with onset delayed 12-24 hours from ingestion.

Lycopene is fat soluble, so eating the foods containing a small amount of olive oil, nuts or avocado will make it easier to absorb and four times more effective.

Natural sources of lycopene

Apricots, asparagus, basil, bell peppers (red), chilli peppers (red), citrus fruits, grapefruit (pink), guava, lettuce (romaine), papaya, parsley, persimmons, red cabbage, rosehips, tomatoes, and watermelon.

NOTE: Grapefruit can react with many types of drugs especially those that lower cholesterol and blood pressure. See Medications

LYSINE (Essential amino acid)

Lysine helps the body to form collagen to grow bones, cartilage, skin and tendons. Amino acids like lysine are the building blocks of protein. Lysine helps to produce carnitine, which converts fatty acids into energy and lowers cholesterol. Lysine can prevent recurring outbreaks of cold sores from the herpes simplex virus and shingles.

Vitamin C is required to change proline into hydroxyproline (collagen) and lysine into hydroxylysine (collagen) which both help to repair tissue damage and keep the skin and nails healthy..

Lysine also plays an important role in preventing bone loss in people with osteoporosis. It helps the body absorb calcium and decreases the amount of calcium that is lost in urine. Lysine with an amino acid called arginine can increase collagen production and boost the activity of bone-building cells.

Deficiency of lysine

Low levels of lysine can cause bone density loss, cold sores, hair loss, poor nails, shingles attacks and skin disorders.

Highest sources of lycine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Spirulina (dried) 3025 mg

  • Chlorella (dried) 3000 mg

  • Whelks 2930 mg

  • Chicken 2635 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 2463 mg

  • Tuna (tinned ) 2343 mg

  • Pheasant 2230 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 2211 mg

  • Calf’s liver 2141 mg

  • Mackerel  (tinned) 2130 mg

  • Cod 2108 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 2072 mg

  • Quail 1977 mg

  • Rabbit (wild) 1908 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 1820 mg

  • Lobster 1784 mg

  • Venison 1756 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 1699 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 1653 mg

  • Turkey 1609 mg

  • Crab 1592 mg

  • Black beans 1483 mg

  • Crayfish (wild)1388 mg

  • Crayfish (farmed) 1253 mg

  • Mussels 1179 mg

  • Squid 1164 mg

  • Soya beans 1108 mg

  • Peanuts 945 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 937 mg

  • Eggs 914 mg

  • Flaxseeds 862 mg

  • Quinoa 766 mg

  • Rye 605

  • Almonds 580 mg

  • Pine nuts 540 mg

  • Brazil nuts 492 mg

  • Walnuts 424 mg

  • Wheat 378 mg

  • Brown rice 303 mg

 

 

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MALIC ACID (Dicarboxylic acid)


Malic acid is an acid found naturally in foods, especially unripe fruits. It was first isolated from fruit juice, and one of the best sources of this naturally-occurring acid is apples. It is malic acid that gives green apples their tart taste. Malic acid is also found in a number of other fruits and vegetables and wine. As fruits ripen, the malic acid they contain is converted to lactic acid, which makes the fruit less tart.

 

Malic acid is also found inside cells where it is an important intermediate for the production of cellular energy. A combination of malic acid and magnesium is available as a treatment for the symptoms of fibromyalgia, a condition characterised by muscle pain and generalised fatigue. Because of its involvement in cellular energy production, it helps to boost the energy level of people with this condition.

 

Malic acid also helps to reduce uric acid in the body so can therefore be useful in treating certain types of bladder and kidney stones and gout.

 

It also appears to have a blood pressure-lowering effect and the ability to bind to heavy metals and remove them from the body.

 

Malic acid is also important for oral hygiene. It stimulates the production of saliva, helping to reduce the risk of dental caries and gum disease and is used in the body’s detoxification process.

 

Malic acid is classified as an alpha hydroxy acid and promotes shedding of the outer layer of cells of the epidermis by loosening the "glue" that holds them together. This helps to thin the epidermis, which improves skin texture. It can also penetrate more deeply into the skin and boost collagen production in the dermis, the deeper layer of skin that lies beneath the epidermis. Collagen is a protein that supports skin and prevents wrinkling and skin laxity. Therefore, alpha hydroxy acids like malic acid have anti-aging benefits. They also help to lighten skin pigmentation and improve the symptoms of acne. Other alpha hydroxy acids include glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid and mandaleic acid.

 

Natural sources of malic acid

 

Apples, apricots, berries, corn silk, grapes and pineapple.

 

MALTOSE and MALTASE (Enzyme)

 

Maltase converts complex sugar found in malt and grains into glucose. The enzyme is found in plants, bacteria and yeast. In humans and other vertebrates it is thought to be synthesized by cells of the mucous membrane lining the intestinal wall. During digestion, starch is partially transformed into maltose by the pancreatic or salivary enzymes called amylase.

 

Then maltase, secreted by the intestine, converts maltose into glucose. The glucose is then either utilised by the body or stored in the liver as glycogen (animal starch). Maltase enzymes can become lowered in the body through poor diet, antibiotics and other medications.

 

Natural sources of maltase

 

Banana, barley, green plants, brewers’ yeast, mushrooms, rice, sugar beet leaves and sugar cane.

 

MALVIDIN (Anthocyanin)

 

Malvidin and its glycosides are responsible for the red to blue colour of many food items and for the colour of primroses. It is a powerful antioxidant that can slow down age-related motor changes, such as those seen in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. It prevents the oxidisation of certain compounds and fight attacks on the body from harmful chemicals.

 

The health benefits of antioxidants include anti-carcinogen qualities, better heart health and a range of other positive effects. Anthocyanins in particular have also been shown to have a positive effect on collagen, the tissues under the skin.

 

Malvidin, in conjunction with chlorogenic acid and pelargonidin chloride, is a critical co-factor in the anti-proliferation of colon cancer and liver cancer cells, but without the other two co-factors the process will not take place.

 

Malvidin is cytotoxic to human leukaemia cells by stopping the cancer cell cycle and inducing apoptosis (cell death).

 

Natural sources of malvidin

 

Blueberries, chokeberries, cranberries, maqui berry and grapes (red) and rice (black).

MELATONIN (Hormone)

 

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body by the pineal gland and also produced in the gastrointestinal tract. This hormone plays a key role in synchronising circadian rhythms and helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle in mammals. In addition to this function, melatonin is a potent antioxidant that protects the body and brain from free-radical damage. 

 

Natural sources of melatonin

 

Banana, grape skins, olive oil, tart cherries, tomatoes, walnuts and wine.

METHIONINE (Essential amino acid)

Methionine is one of the essential amino acids needed for good health but cannot be produced in the body, and so must be provided through the diet. One of the important functions of methionine is its ability to be a supplier of sulphur and other compounds required by the body for normal metabolism and growth. Sulphur is a key element and vital to life. Without an adequate intake of sulphur, the body will not be able to make and utilize a number of antioxidant nutrients. Methionine is also a methyl donor, capable of giving off a molecule with a single carbon atom with 3 tightly connected hydrogen atoms, called a methyl group which is required for a wide variety of chemical and metabolic reactions inside the body.

Choline, inositol and methionine belongs to a group of compounds called lipotropics which help the liver to process fat in the body. Once in the liver, methionine is converted into SAM (s-adenosyl methionine) and SAM is therefore the metabolite of the amino acid methionine. As much as 8 grams of SAM is produced in the liver each day when conditions are ideal. However, the amount of SAM produced in the body can be reduced significantly when the liver function is compromised.

Methionine is a valuable nutritional compound that can treat depression, inflammation, liver diseases and certain muscle pains. Methionine is an especially important nutrient beneficial for those suffering from oestrogen dominance, where the amount of oestrogen in the body is excessively high when compared to its opposing hormone called progesterone. Similarly, those who are on oral contraceptives or oestrogen replacement therapy will find methionine to be helpful. Since oestrogen is cleared through the liver, an enhanced liver function will reduce the body’s oestrogen load. Specifically, methionine converts the stronger and carcinogenic estradiol (E2) into estriol (E3) which is the “good” oestrogen as compared to estradiol.

Methionine can help to fight hepatitis and cirrhosis, alleviate depression, has anti-inflammatory effects which can treat osteoarthritis and can reduce lymph rigidity and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Highest sources of methionine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Sesame seeds 1331 mg

  • Chlorella (dried) 1300 mg

  • Whelks 1205 mg

  • Spirulina (dried) 1149 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 1033 mg

  • Brazil nuts 1008 mg

  • Chicken 859 mg

  • Tuna fish (tinned) 755 mg

  • Calf’s liver, Pumpkin seeds and squash seeds 740 mg

  • Quail 716 mg

  • Pheasant 710 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 694 mg

  • Mackerel  (tinned) 686 mg

  • Cod 679 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 664 mg

  • Salmon (Atlantic farmed) 654 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 652 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 589 mg

  • Lobster 577 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 553 mg

  • Rabbit 545 mg

  • Mussels 537 mg

  • Crab 515 mg

  • Venison 505 mg

  • Turkey 495 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 494 mg

  • Eggs 380 mg

  • Flaxseeds 370 mg

  • Squid 351 mg

  • Quinoa 309 mg

  • Peanuts 291 mg

  • Pine nuts 259 mg

  • Rye 248 mg

  • Walnuts 236 mg

  • Soya beans 224 mg

  • Wheat 212 mg

  • Brown rice 179 mg

  • Almonds 151 mg

METHIONINE REDUCTASE (Enzyme)

Methionine reductase is an enzyme involved in antioxidant defence, protein regulation and prevention of aging-associated diseases. Evidence has accumulated suggesting that methionine oxidation may play an important role in the development and progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. By their action, the methionine sulfoxide reductase enzymes can regulate protein function, be involved in signal-transduction pathways and prevent cellular accumulation of faulty proteins.

The eventual product of the demethylation of methionine is homocysteine and its re-methylation is catalysed by the vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (foliate) and vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) dependent enzyme, methionine reductase. Any interruption of the methylation cycle, which involves methionine reductase, resulting from a deficiency of the B vitamins may have serious long-term risks. It can lead to the degeneration of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves and, if left untreated, will lead to ataxia, paralysis and ultimately death. High homocysteine levels can also lead to heart attacks and strokes and strict vegetarians are at most risk as their diet is often lacking in vitamin B12.

NOTE: Natural foods rich in the B complex of vitamins is vital for methionine reductase production. See vitamin B6, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12.

METHYL CAFFEATE (Polyphenol)

 

Methyl caffeate is an ester of hydroxycinnamic acid, which is a naturally occurring polyphenol that has antibiotic, anti-diabetic, antiviral and anticoagulant properties. It can help to fight off infections by bacteria such as Klebsiella, Pseudomonas and Mycobacterium. It also hinders HIV replication but shows weaker anticancer and chemo-preventive activities than other caffeic acid esters. It is being studied as a treatment for diabetes.

Natural sources of methyl caffeate

MONOSACCHARIDES (Simple carbohydrates)

Monosaccharides are sugars found naturally in foods which can provide instant energy but they can also be all too easily over consumed and the energy is not used up and so they get stored as fat. Simple carbohydrates also include sugar added during food processing and refining. In general, foods with added sugars have fewer nutrients than foods with naturally occurring sugars and so much sugar in the diet can lead to diabetes, infection, obesity and many other serious ailments. See Sugar Dangers. For more information about natural sugars in foods see Carbohydrates.

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NAD AND NADPH (Coenzyme dinucleotides)

The cellular respiration processes of all living cells make use of the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). It plays a key role in energy metabolism by accepting and donating electrons. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate or NADPH is a reduced coenzyme that plays a key role in the synthesis of carbohydrates in photosynthetic organisms. It can be found in the plasma membrane as well as in the membranes of phagosomes (vesicles) used by neutrophil white blood cells to engulf micro-organisms

Plant mitochondria require NADPH for anti-oxidant protection and for specific biosynthetic pathways. It used in anabolic reactions, such as lipid and nucleic acid synthesis, which require NADPH as a reducing agent. NADPH provides the reducing equivalents for biosynthetic reactions and the oxidation-reduction involved in protecting against the toxicity of reactive oxygen species, allowing the regeneration of reduced glutathione.

It is also used for anabolic pathways, such as lipid synthesis, cholesterol synthesis and fatty acid chain elongation. The NADPH system is also responsible for generating free radicals in immune cells. These radicals are used to destroy pathogens in a process termed the respiratory burst. It is also involved in the cytochrome hydroxylation of alcohols, aromatic compounds, drugs and steroids.

NASUNIN (Antioxidant)

Nasunin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage. Nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, letting nutrients in and wastes out and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell which activities it should perform. Its free radical fighting properties are particularly important for the health of brain tissue and it may help to slow the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

In addition, nasunin also serves as an iron chelator to prevent iron accumulation in the body, which if unregulated, can spur free radical production. In regulating this accumulation, nasunin also protects blood cholesterol from peroxidation, prevents cellular damage that can lead to cancer and heart disease and reduces the accumulation of iron in the joints, which is thought to be a primary cause of rheumatoid arthritis.

Natural sources of nasunin

Aubergine (skin), cabbage (red), radishes (purple) and turnips (red).

NATTOKINASE (Enzyme)

Nattokinase is a powerful anti-clotting enzyme that is effective in preventing heart attack and stroke by normalising blood pressure and dissolving blood clots. It is extracted from a traditional Japanese soy cheese food called <ital>natto</ital> and has been used in as a medicine by the Japanese for hundreds of years.

Nattokinase is created when the bacterium <ital>Bacillus natto</ital> is added to boiled soybeans to initiate the fermentation process. Research has found nattokinase effective for a number of cardiovascular conditions, as well as in pain treatment and for other ailments such as beriberi, cancer and endometriosis.

NITRATES (Polyatomic ion)

Incorporating vegetables naturally high in nitrates into the diet can help lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension as they relax the blood vessels.

There are several studies that suggest that over-consumption of nitrates in the form of preserved meats, are linked to cancer. It is not a simple issue but in general vegetable and fruit sources of nitrates are considered healthy whereas preserved meat sources are not. 70-80% of human consumption of nitrates is thought to be from plant sources as well as from water.

Nitrates (and their precursors nitrites) are both naturally occurring substances and are produced by living cells. They’re involved in many important chemical reactions in the body. In themselves they are not dangerous, but they can react with other compounds found in food or in the body to form carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines. These reactions are more likely to occur in the presence of protein, which is why preserved meats can be problematical.

The formation of nitrosamines is much less likely in the presence of antioxidants such as vitamin C which is found in vegetables. This is thought to be one reason why a diet high in vegetables is good for the heart and is helpful in lowering the risk of certain cancers.

CAUTION In early life nitrate-rich foods can cause blue baby disease (methemoglobinemia). They are fine for babies over 4 months of age, but spinach and beetroot should be fed in moderation until the infant reaches the age of one year. Symptoms of blue baby syndrome are shortness of breath, the skin will turn blue due to lack of oxygen in the blood) and the baby may lose consciousness.

Natural sources of nitrates

Aubergine, avocado, cabbage, bananas, beetroot, broccoli, carrots, chard, cucumber, fennel, garlic, grapes, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce (especially rocket, iceberg, cos), pumpkin, radishes, spinach, strawberries, string beans, tomatoes and turnips.

NITRIC OXIDE (Cellular-signalling molecule)

Nitric oxide, or nitrogen oxide, also known as nitrogen monoxide, is a molecule with chemical formula NO. In humans, NO is an important cellular signalling molecule involved in many physiological and pathological processes. It is a powerful vasodilator with a short half-life of a few seconds in the blood. Low levels of nitric oxide production are important in protecting organs such as the liver from ischemic damage.  It is a key vertebrate biological messenger, playing a role in a variety of biological processes. It is a known bio product in almost all type of organisms, ranging from bacteria to plants, fungi, and animal cells.

Nitric oxide increases the flow of blood to the heart and inhibits the process of atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque on the walls of the arteries). The body produces the majority of nitric oxide in the skin cells lining the walls of the blood vessels. The nitric oxide gas stimulates blood vessels to dilate, prevents fats and cholesterol from depositing on blood vessel walls and inhibits the aggregation of platelets within vessels and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Nitric oxide, working in tandem with arginine, is very effective in the treatment of colds, dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, erectile dysfunction and impotence by enhancing the capacity to dilate blood vessels and increase the flow of blood.

Nitric oxide, known as the 'endothelium-derived relaxing factor', or 'EDRF', is biosynthesized endogenously from L-arginine, oxygen, and NADPH by various nitric oxide synthase enzymes. Reduction of inorganic nitrate may also serve to make nitric oxide. The endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels uses nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax, thus resulting in vasodilation and increasing blood flow. Nitric oxide is highly reactive (having a lifetime of a few seconds), yet diffuses freely across membranes. These attributes make nitric oxide ideal for a transient paracrine (between adjacent cells) and autocrine (within a single cell) signalling molecule.

The production of nitric oxide is elevated in populations living at high altitudes, which helps these people avoid hypoxia by aiding in pulmonary vasculature vasodilation.  Nitroglycerin and amyl nitrite serve as vasodilators because they are converted to nitric oxide in the body. The vasodilating antihypertensive drug minoxidil contains an NO moiety and may act as an NO agonist. Similarly, Sildenafil citrate, popularly known by the trade name Viagra, stimulates erections primarily by enhancing signalling through the nitric oxide pathway in the penis.

Nitric oxide contributes to vessel homeostasis by inhibiting vascular smooth muscle contraction and growth, platelet aggregation, and leukocyte adhesion to the endothelium. Humans with atherosclerosis, diabetes, or hypertension often show impaired nitric oxide pathways. A high salt intake was demonstrated to lower nitric oxide production in patients with hypertension.

Watermelon is rich in the amino acid L-citrulline that is one of the best natural compounds to increase the production of nitric oxide, proven by many studies. Co-enzyme Q10 also boosts the production of nitric oxide.

Natural foods required for the body to produce nitric oxide

Beef, beetroot, black tea, broccoli, brown rice, cayenne pepper, cocoa (raw), collard greens, cranberries, garlic, kale, nuts, onions, organ meats, peanuts, pheasant, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, pork, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, salmon (wild), sesame seeds, shellfish, spinach, walnuts and watermelon.

NUCLEIC ACID (DNA and RNA)

 

Nucleic acid works with the body aiding healthy cell regeneration. The nucleic acids, DNA and RNA, are required for the storage and expression of genetic information. Nucleic acids are made up of purines and pyrimidines, which are carbon and nitrogen containing molecules derived from carbon dioxide and amino acids like glutamine. Because they are formed in the body, nucleic acids are not essential nutrients. Nucleotides are the building blocks for two important nucleic acids – deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA. The other four bases are adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Uracil pairs with adenine to form RNA along with the paired cytosine and guanine. Nucleic acids code for protein synthesis and enzymatic action, as well as direct the expression of genetic information and communication among cells. They can be found in all plant and animal cells.

When nucleic acids are taken in through diet, they are catalysed, or broken down, to their component parts. The purine bases are further catalyzed by the kidney and excreted as uric acid. Pyrimidines, however, are not broken down and excreted. They are incorporated into body cells.

 

Natural sources of nucleic acid

Asparagus, cauliflower, chlorella, legumes, mushrooms, organ meats and spinach.

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OLEIC ACID (Omega-9 fatty acid)


Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid that helps lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Some compounds of oleic acid act as anti breast cancer agent by blocking a cancer causing oncogene. High concentration of oleic acid lowers blood pressure levels and cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and can obstruct the progression of Adrenoleukodystrophy. Oleic acid also aids brain development in unborn children and has been linked to reduced rates of premature birth and low birth weights.

The human body has the ability to produce oleic acid but it requires the presence of linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6) to do so. The main benefits are that it generally enhances immune function, helps to regulate blood sugar by lowering resistance to insulin and can reduce hardening of the arteries by lowering cholesterol. It can also aid in protection against certain types of cancer.

NOTE: To absorb carotenoids from food, they should be consumed alongside foods rich in oleic acid.

 

Highest sources of oleic acid in alphabetical order

 

OLIGOSACCHARIDES (Carbohydrates)

Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates which have three to ten simple sugars linked together. They are found naturally, in small amounts, in many plants and help to feed the beneficial bacteria in the colon but are not metabolised by the body itself. They can be very beneficial because they nurture the beneficial bacteria at the expense of pathogenic bacteria such as E Coli.

Most oligosaccharides have a mildly sweet taste and have certain other characteristics, such as the texture they give to food, which has drawn the interest of the food industry as a partial substitute for fats and sugars in some processed foods as well as improved texture. Because of this, more and more of the oligosaccharides in non-natural food are synthetically produced. The term fructans refers to two types of soluble fibre, inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides.

Fructo-ogilosaccharides

These consist of short-chains of fructose molecules and are present in agave, banana, burdock root, chicory root, dandelion root, elecampane, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, mugwort, leeks, onions, rampion, salsify, wheat, yam and yacon root. They can also be synthesised from the fungus Aspergillus niger acting on the disaccharide sucrose.

Galacto-ogilosaccharides

These consist of short-chains of galactose molecules and are present in soya beans. They can also be synthesised from the disaccharide lactose.

Mannan-ogilosaccharides

These are normally obtained from the yeast cell walls of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and used in animal feeds to improve gastro-intestinal health, energy levels and performance. Unlike the other oligosaccharides, the mannan type are not fermentable, instead they act upon the immune system and help to eliminate pathogens.

NOTE: Daily recommended amount of oligosaccharides is at least 5 mg.

OMEGA-3 AND OMEGA-6 (Fatty acids)

The body does not have the enzymes to produce linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acids)  or linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acids), previously known as vitamin F, as these are made by plants not animals but they are required by the human body so must be consumed in the diet and are therefore essential.  Essential fatty acids are necessary to make cell membranes and for many of the important hormones and other chemical messengers that tell the body what to do.

They are especially important for making prostaglandins in the body which are  hormone-like substances that regulate many activities including inflammation, pain and swelling (some cause swelling and others relieve it) which can help with preventing  arthritis and autoimmune diseases. They also play a role in controlling the blood pressure, heart, kidneys, the digestive system and body temperature and are related to allergic reactions, blood clotting and making other hormones.

A diet low in essential fatty acids could result in skin problems such as dandruff, eczema, splitting nails and dull brittle hair.  Fatty acids influence the structure of the cells lining the intestinal tract, as well as the villi through which absorption of nutrients takes place. They increase the thickness and surface area of the digestive-absorptive cells that line the inside of the intestine. This results in more effective digestion, better absorption of nutrients, less absorption of allergens and better health.

Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, while omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation is essential for survival as it protects the body from infection and injury, but it can also cause severe damage and contribute to disease when the inflammatory response is inappropriate or excessive. Therefore a balanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is required. Most experts agree that the omega 6:3 ratio should range from 1:1 to 5:1 but the optimal ratio may vary with any particular condition or disease under consideration. Today’s diet in the developed world can have a far higher level of omega-6 to omega-3 and may be responsible for the rise in many conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease and inflammatory conditions like arthritis.

Many foods contain both omega-3 and omega-6 but the western diet tends to have far higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratios. Hemps seeds are one of the few foods to contain the correct ratio. The other way to correct it is to consume more foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in omega-6.

Highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Krill oil 36000 mg

  • Flaxseed oil 22813 mg

  • Chia seeds 17552 mg

  • Walnuts 9079 mg

  • Caviar (fish eggs) 6789 mg

  • Cloves (ground) 4279 mg

  • Oregano (dried) 4180 mg

  • Marjoram (dried) 3230 mg

  • Tarragon (dried) 2955 mg

  • Mackerel 2670 mg

  • Herring 2365 mg

  • Salmon (wild) 2018 mg

  • Lamb 1610 mg

  • Basil (dried) 1509 mg

  • Sardines 1480 mg

  • Anchovies 1478 mg

  • Soya beans 1433 mg

  • Trout 1068 mg

  • Pecans, sea bass 986 mg

  • Pine nuts 787 mg

  • Bell peppers (green) 770 mg

  • Oysters 740 mg

  • Radish seeds sprouted 722 mg

  • Purslane 400 mg

  • Basil (fresh leaves) 316 mg

  • Rabbit 220 mg

  • Kidney beans 194 mg

  • Wakame seaweed 188 mg

  • Alfalfa sprouts 175 mg

  • Brussel sprouts 173 mg

  • Rocket 170 mg

  • Cauliflower 167 mg

  • Spinach 138 mg

  • Broccoli 129 mg

  • Raspberries 126 mg

  • Lettuce 113 mg

  • Blueberries 94 mg

  • Summer squash 82 mg

  • Strawberries 65 mg

  • Milk 75 mg

  • Eggs 74 mg

  • Chinese cabbage (pak choy) 55 mg

  • Parsnips 49 mg

See also Fatty acids

For more natural food sources see:

OMEGA-7 FATTY ACID

 

Omega-7 is a newly discovered fatty acid, also known as palmitoleic acid, that has tremendous health benefits for diabetics and those at a risk of developing heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Palmitoleic acid is the first fatty acid found to act as a hormone in the body and this class of hormones has been called “lipokine”. Prior to this finding, all known hormones were either proteins (like growth hormone) or steroids (like oestrogen and testosterone).

 

Omega-7 can reduce risk of type II diabetes, prevent the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque, increase beneficial HDL and lower an inflammation marker called C-reactive protein, which is associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

 

In metabolic syndrome, as well as in type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to the sugar-lowering effects of insulin. This results in a rise in sugar and insulin levels, both of which are toxic in large quantities. Omega-7 counteracts this by doubling glucose uptake by muscle cells, increasing their ability to burn sugar for energy and store it in quick-release, non-toxic glycogen.

 

Pancreatic cells that produce insulin are damaged by high levels of glucose, eventually resulting in still higher sugar levels and worse tissue damage. Omega-7 protects the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and enhances proliferation of pancreatic beta-cells which helps the body optimise blood sugar control with its own natural insulin.

 

Liver fat deposition is a key factor in metabolic syndrome and is a leading cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and omega-7 has been shown in studies to reduce this also.

 

NOTE: Unfortunately, the natural sources of omega-7, such as macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn, also contain very high levels of palmitic acid which raises the risk of heart attack and stroke by increasing arterial stiffness, triggering abnormal platelet clumping and raising LDL cholesterol levels. Sea buckthorn and macadamia oils can contain between 11 to 27% omega-7 but they also contain around 9 to 40% palmitic acid, which can cancel out any benefits of the omega-7.

 

Anchovies contain far more of the healthy omega-7 fatty acids than macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn and far less palmitic acid so are a good choice but they also contain a lot of sodium so are not advised when high blood pressure is an issue. Soaking in cold water for 30 minutes then rinsing well and patting dry with kitchen paper can reduce the sodium level a little.

OROTIC ACID (Pyrimidine-carboxylic acid)

Orotic acid used to be known as a vitamin B13 however it has since been declassed and is no longer considered to be a vitamin. This compound is manufactured in the body via a mitochondrial enzyme, dihydroorotate dehydrogenase. It is produced by the body’s intestinal flora and is used for the metabolism of vitamin B12 and vitamin B9. It aids the absorption of many vital nutrients especially calcium, lithium, magnesium, potassium  and zinc. It also aids the production of genetic materials such as pyrimidine bases inside the body. 

Orotic acid is known as a heterocyclic compound and as pyrimidine-carboxylic acid. As an organic insoluble fat, orotate is formed when the pyrimidine-carboxylic acid is bonded with potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc and other minerals. Such minerals are conveyed into the blood from the digestive tract by the orate salts being separated in the blood stream. It also helps in improving the pyrimidine and myocardial purine levels by stimulating the blood stream to release uridine.

It is also required for efficient brain functioning and health of the nervous system and has a positive effect on foetal development during pregnancy. It improves reproductive health as well and is effective in treating skin diseases such as ichthyosis, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and eczema. It is also beneficial after a heart attack and is used in conditions such as chronic hepatitis and multiple sclerosis. It also helps prevent premature aging and liver-related complications and is a partial substitute for vitamin B12 deficiency.

A build-up of orotic acid in the body can lead to orotic acidemia and aciduria. It may be a symptom of an increased ammonia load due to a metabolic disorder, such as a urea cycle disorder. Excess carbamoyl phosphate is converted into orotic acid. Excess orotic acid can cause mutations in mammalian somatic cells that make up all the internal organs and bones, blood, connective tissues and skin. It can also cause mutations in bacteria and yeast.

Deficiency of orotic acid

Deficiency of orotic acid can be caused by drug abuse, dysfunction of the liver, gastrointestinal bleeding, high alcohol intake or viral infection. It may lead to premature aging, cell degeneration and liver disorders. Orotic acid deficiency is an important indicator of ammonia metabolism or any genetic disorders that may lead to death.

Natural sources of orotic acid

Beetroot, Brewer's yeast, calf's liver, carrots, cheese, cow's milk, goat's milk, root vegetables such as parsnips and turnips, whey and yoghurt.

ORNITHINE (Non-essential amino acid)

Ornithine is an amino acid that forms three other amino acids, citrulline, glutamic acid, and proline, that are responsible for supplying energy to every cell in the body. Ornithine helps to build muscles, promotes tissue repair, reduces body fat and fights off the signs of aging. This is done by the role it plays in stimulating growth hormone production. Growth hormones are needed to build and maintain muscle, especially during intense physical training.

Ornithine also enhances fat metabolism, regulates salt levels in the body and supports healthy sexual function. It is also vital for removing toxic ammonia from the liver as well as excess nitrogen content in the body. Ornithine is a non-essential amino acid meaning that the body is able to produce the supply that is needed however, it may help to consume foods rich in this amino acid when in training.

Natural sources of ornithine

Cheese (non-pasteurised), eggs, milk (whole), organ meats, oily fish, yoghurt and venison.

OXALIC ACID (Crystalline acid)

Oxalic acid, or dicarboxylic acid, is a naturally occurring substance found in plants, animals and in humans. In chemical terms, oxalates belong to a group of molecules called organic acids and the body's cells routinely convert other substances into oxalates such as vitamin C. Oxalic acid is a chemical compound of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. It is a colourless, crystalline substance that is poisonous to humans in its pure form or when it is dissolved in a liquid to make a concentrated solution. Toxic levels of oxalic acid are found in products such as certain wood cleaners, metal cleaners, rust treatments, bleaches, disinfectants and pesticides.

Oxalic acid is found in many plants, but at much lower concentrations than in synthetic products. Most of these plants are completely safe for human consumption, but some contain enough oxalic acid to cause health problems in certain people such as the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Without oxalic acid, foods such as spinach and kale would have a much higher, bio-available calcium content than they do because it is bound up with oxalic acid and, in most people, it is passes out through the urine.

Oxalic acid often exists in the form of oxalates in plants. When an oxalic acid molecule loses its two hydrogen atoms it forms an oxalate ion. Oxalate ions join with certain metal ions to form oxalate salts, such as calcium oxalate and magnesium oxalate. Calcium oxalate has very low solubility in water and tends to form crystals instead of dissolving and this is why, in some people, these crystals form large stones in the kidneys that cause excruciating pain and require medical attention.

People at risk for forming calcium oxalate kidney stones are generally advised to follow a low oxalate diet. However, the formation of kidney stones containing oxalate is an area of controversy in clinical nutrition with respect to dietary restriction of oxalate. Recent research studies have shown that intake of protein, calcium and water influences calcium oxalate stone formation as much as, or more than, the intake of oxalate. Some foods, that have traditionally been assumed to increase stone formation because of their oxalate content (like black tea) actually appear, in more recent research, to have a preventive effect.

When the oxalic acid has become inorganic by cooking or processing the foods that contain it, then this acid forms an interlocking compound with the calcium even combining with the calcium in other foods eaten during the same meal, destroying the nourishing value of both. Therefore, in its raw form, oxalic acid is beneficial and not going to cause kidney stones and when oxalic acid is in the blood it kills bacteria and viruses and decalcifies the material in plaque in arteries and is present in the blood of all warm blooded mammals. Oxalic acid encourages the cellular production of energy and is a natural preservative. There has also been some evidence to suggest that having adequate levels of oxalic acid in the blood eliminates abnormal cells in the body effectively with no harmful side effects which may reduce the risks of tumours and cancer.

Foods rich in oxalic acid in alphabetical order

  • Almonds

  • Aubergine

  • Beans (green, runner)

  • Beetroot

  • Bell peppers (green)

  • Berries

  • Blackcurrants

  • Bran

  • Cabbage

  • Carrots

  • Cashews

  • Celery

  • Citrus peel

  • Chives

  • Chocolate

  • Cinnamon

  • Cocoa

  • Coffee

  • Collard greens

  • Corn silk

  • Dandelion

  • Figs

  • Fizzy drinks

  • Grapes (purple)

  • Gooseberries

  • Kale

  • Kiwifruit

  • Leeks

  • Legumes

  • Mustard (greens)

  • Nuts

  • Okra

  • Parsley

  • Parsnips

  • Peanuts

  • Pecans

  • Pepper

  • Plums

  • Potatoes

  • Prunes

  • Quinoa

  • Red currants

  • Rhubarb

  • Sesame butter (tahini)

  • Sorrel

  • Soya beans

  • Spinach

  • Squash

  • Strawberries

  • Swede

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Swiss chard

  • Tangerines

  • Tea (black)

  • Tomatoes

  • Walnuts

  • Watercress

  • Wheat

  • Yams

 

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See also the A-Z of Minerals

P

PALMITIC ACID (Saturated fatty acid)

Palmitic acid is a naturally occurring saturated fatty acid made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It is found in fats, waxes, body lipids, and several plant oils, the most prolific being palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil and has antioxidant and anti-atherosclerotic properties.

NOTE: It has been declared that excessive palmitic acid consumption may have a negative effect on health and that, as a saturated fat, it can raise the levels of low-density cholesterol in the bloodstream. However, it does not raise cholesterol if it is combined with linoleic acid (omega-6). When palmitic acid is combined with trans-fatty acids and not linoleic acid, LDL cholesterol levels rise and HDL cholesterol decrease. This is significant because linoleic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid, is always found with palmitic acid in olive, palm and coconut oils. In other words, palmitic acid is virtually never consumed apart from other healthier fats, so its negative impact on health might have been over-estimated previously.

When the body notices that sugar is elevated, it is a sign that there is more than is needed; it is not being burned so it is accumulating in the blood. So insulin will be released to take that sugar and store it. The body stores very little glycogen at any one time. All the glycogen stored in in the liver and muscle will not last an individual through one active day. Once the glycogen stores are full, that sugar is stored as saturated fat, 98 percent of which is palmitic acid. Excess palmitic acid is toxic to skeletal muscle cells, impairing glucose uptake and increasing insulin resistance. It also induces inflammation and disrupts insulin signalling which can lead to diabetes.

The salt form of palmitic acid is called palmitate, which is an oral form of vitamin A that is added to fat free and low fat milk to add back some of the vitamins that are removed from the milk along with the fat during skimming. There are concerns that this may have adverse effects on cardiovascular health.

NOTE: Over consumption of palmitic acid can cause arterial stiffness, trigger abnormal platelet clumping and raise LDL cholesterol levels resulting in heart attacks and strokes.

Natural sources of palmitic acid

Amaranth, beef (alfalfa and grass fed), black seeds, carrots, coconut and coconut oil, green vegetables, corn silk, curry leaf, liver, macadamia nuts, milk (full cream), olive oil, palm and palm kernel oil, poultry and game birds, rabbit (wild), sea buckthorn and venison.

PANCREATIN (Enzyme)

Pancreatin is comprised of three different enzymes that are produced in the pancreas: amylase, lipase and protease. This combination forms the pancreatic acid or ‘pancreatic juice’ as it is often called which also includes another enzyme known as trypsin. Pancreatin is essential for the body, to aid in the digestion of foods, especially fats. This enzyme often used in the treatment of cancers, food allergies and immune disorders.

PAPAIN (Enzyme)

Papain is a digestive enzyme present in papaya also known as papaya proteinase. It can relieve digestive upset and speed digestion, since its enzymatic activity accelerates break down of protein nutrients. It is also a powerful anthelmintic for destroying parasites in humans as well especially roundworms. Papain is also used to treat skin conditions and wounds.

NOTE: Some scientific studies have found that papain may have blood thinning effects. People who take blood-thinning medications should avoid foods or supplements that contain papain.

Natural sources of papain

Papaya fruit (unripe).

PECTIN and PECTINASE (Polysaccharide and pectinolytic enzyme)

Pectin is a structural non-cellulose polysaccharide found in the cell walls of plants and fruits. Pectinase is the enzyme that breaks down pectin in fruits and vegetables leading to weakening of the cell wall. When this process happens during ripening, it makes fruits and vegetables softer. Pectinase is often fed to livestock to help them digest food better.

Pectin acts as a natural chelating agent, which is a compound that has an affinity for other molecules and has the ability to bind to radioactive residues and remove them from the body. Chelating agents bind to other compounds, dragging them out of tissues or the bloodstream, so they can be removed from the body in urine or faeces. See Cancer for more information about radiation and how to remove radioactive residues.

Natural sources of pectin

Apples, apricots, baobab fruit, chilli peppers, citrus fruits, gooseberries, guavas and plums.

NOTE: Pectin is found in the skins of fruits.

PELARGONIDIN See Anthocyanins

PEONIDIN See Anthocyanins

PEPSIN (Enzyme)

Pepsin was the first enzyme to be discovered in the human body and is the main digestive enzyme found in the stomach. This is where the term ‘peptic ulcers’ comes from. It is responsible for the beginning process of the breakdown of proteins in the body. It starts the process in the stomach so that other enzymes can take over once the food reaches the intestines.

Pepsin production is often halted due to the ingestion of antacids and when pepsin levels are too low, the absorption of proteins is delayed due to the process not being able to start in the stomach, where it should. Pepsin is found in large quantities in raw meat, but it is not recommended that humans consume meat that has not been cooked.

PETUNIDIN See Anthocyanins
 

PHENOLS AND POLYPHENOLS (Aromatic plant compounds)

Phenols are a broad class of aromatic organic compounds manufactured by plants that can be strong systemic poisons for organisms including animals, bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses. Phenolic compounds are stored in the tissues of plants to deter plant browsers and are released when plant material decomposes or is damaged. Various polyphenols are antioxidants and provide the colours of ripe plums and berries and the intense colours of geraniums and delphiniums. Read more

PHENYLALANINE (Essential amino acid)

Phenylalanine is an amino acid used by the human body for cellular activity. The body uses it by converting it to tyrosine, another amino acid, using a gene enzyme called phenylalanine hydroxylase. An enzyme can be thought of as a biological catalyst that helps a chemical reaction, but is not destroyed in the process. Phenylalanine serves in the body as a precursor to the catecholamine family of hormones. The catecholamines include adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are activating substance in the central and peripheral nervous systems as well being produced by the adrenal medulla (adrenal gland). The human body manufactures CoQ10 from amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine

Tyrosine is used to create various hormones, to produce energy in the body, and to create the skin pigment melanin. The chemical process that creates tyrosine involves the hydroxylation, or addition of an oxygen-hydrogen group, to part of the phenylalanine molecule. This process takes place in the liver and involves the interaction of iron and other enzymes in a complex reaction.

Phenylalanine is also used to produce a number of neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Neurotransmitters are chemicals the brain and nerves use to communicate.

Deficiency of phenylalanine

The body can normally regulate the excess through the phenylalanine hydroxylase reaction, with some exceptions. Some people have a lack of phenylalanine hydroxylase or abnormalities that can prevent the normal processing of the amino acid. People having a phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency can experience severe mental retardation if the disease is not recognized early.

Excess phenylalanine will appear in the urine, a condition called phenylketonuria. People with the deficiency will often have a musty odour, particularly in their urine. They may also have pale skin, because the body is not producing tyrosine needed for melanin. Epilepsy and other nerve diseases can also occur from the disease due to the lack of key hormones needed for nerve functions.

Children with non-diagnosed phenylalanine hydroxylase disease will test lower on intelligence tests than healthy children. If it remains untreated, severe mental problems and other medical conditions will occur over time. A strict diet avoiding artificial sweeteners and using low protein intake can prevent the developmental issues from the phenylalanine hydroxylase condition.

Highest sources of phenylalanine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Chlorella (dried) and spirulina (dried) 2777 mg

  • Whelks 1648 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 1642 mg

  • Peanuts 1427 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 1385 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 1311 mg

  • Almonds 1185 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 1169 mg

  • Black beans 1168 mg

  • Calf’s liver 1140 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 1092 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 1028 mg

  • Almonds 1120 mg

  • Tuna fish (tinned) 996 mg

  • Quail 980 mg

  • Flaxseeds 957 mg

  • Pheasant 951 mg

  • Sesame seeds 940 mg

  • Turkey 935 mg

  • Mackerel (tinned) 905 mg

  • Cod 896 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 883 mg

  • Lobster 866 mg

  • Salmon (farmed) 863 mg

  • Mussels 853 mg

  • Venison 818 mg

  • Crab 773 mg

  • Walnuts 711 mg

  • Eggs 681 mg

  • Rye 674 mg

  • Chicken 665 mg

  • Wheat 656 mg

  • Brazil nuts 630 mg

  • Quinoa 593 mg

  • Soya beans 559 mg

  • Squid 558 mg

  • Pine nuts 524 mg

  • Brown rice 410 mg

See also the Daily Requirements of Amino Acids on the Nature Cures Protein page.

PHLORIDZIN (Flavonoid)

Phloridzin causes inhibition of sodium/glucose co-transporters in the kidneys and intestine which lowers absorption of glucose. It can help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics naturally and prevents bone loss associated with menopause.

Natural sources of phloridzin

Apples, apricots, cherries, papaya and pears.

NOTE: Phloridzin is found in the skins of fruits.

PHOSPHOLIPIDS (Cell membrane)

The main function of phospholipids is to form the membrane that surrounds the human body's cells and their internal structures. Although cholesterol is also a component of cell membranes, it mainly helps maintain their fluidity. Phospholipids can also act as the following: reservoir for chemical messengers within the cell, anchors for some proteins to attach to a cell surface and components of lung surfactant, a substance that reduces tension on the inner surface of the lungs. As essential components of bile, phospholipids also help make cholesterol soluble in water.

Phospholipids are amphipathic, meaning they are both water loving and water hating. They contain two hydrophobic fatty acid tails attached to a hydrophilic, (water loving) head. The hydrophilic head is attached to a phosphate group and may be based on glycerol or an amino alcohol named sphingosine.

Although the liver plays a greater role, the synthesis of phospholipids occurs in nearly all human tissues. Phosphatidyl-ethanolamine and phosphatidylcholine are the most abundant phospholipids in the body. Their production begins with pre-existing choline and ethanolamine. Choline is considered an essential nutrient because the body does not produce enough of it to meet all its needs. The body's needs in phosphatidylcholine are so important that, if choline levels become too low, the liver uses another substance called serine as a precursor.

A group of enzymes called phospholipases, along with pancreatic juice, are responsible for degrading phospholipids. All human tissues contain phospholipases.

Natural sources of phospholipids

Beef, eggs, lamb, organ meats, oily fish, poultry, rabbit, seed oils, shellfish, venison and whole grains.

PHYTIC ACID and PHYTASE (Phytate and enzyme) Phytic acid in grains, legumes, nuts and seeeds can bind to minerals and cause deficiencies. See how to reduce Phytic acid

PHYTOESTROGENS (Phyto-hormones)

There are 20 categories of phytoestrogens. Isoflavones, flavones, deoxybenzoins, coumestans and lignans are all classes of phytoestrogens.

Many plants produce chemicals called phyto-hormones, which mimic or interact with hormones in humans and animals. Phytoestrogens are plant-produced chemicals that mimic oestrogen, the primary sex hormone in women. Oestrogen is manufactured mainly in the ovaries and is responsible for the menstrual cycle. Men's bodies produce oestrogen to a lesser degree. Oestrogen is crucial to the female reproductive cycle.

Phytoestrogens can behave in the body like the hormone oestrogen. They can also block the effects of the body's natural supply of oestrogens. Some evidence suggests that soy foods may be linked to lower risk of endometrial. prostate, breast and bowel cancers, brain disorders and a lowered risk of bone loss osteoporosis in women. Phytoestrogen also exhibits beneficial effects in regard to obesity and diabetes. In obese individuals, dietary soy intake increased high-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol and decreased low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol.

Natural sources of phytoestrogens

Alfalfa, apples, anise, barley, carrots, cherries, dates, fennel, fenugreek, flaxseeds, ginseng, hops, legumes, lentils, liquorice root, mint, mung beans, oats, pomegranates, potatoes, rice (brown), rice bran, soybeans, tofu, wheat germ and yams.

PHYTOSTEROLS (Plant sterols and stanols)

Phytosterols are plant-derived compounds that are similar in structure and function to cholesterol. All phytosterols in human blood and tissues are derived from the diet because humans cannot synthesise phytosterols. The modern diet provides far less phytosterols than it used to.

Because phytosterols inhibit the intestinal absorption of cholesterol, daily consumption of foods with at least 0.8 g of plant sterols or stanols lowers human serum LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They can also reduce inflammation and improve urinary tract symptoms related to benign prostatic hyperplasia (noncancerous enlargement of the prostate) .

High intakes of phytosterols, particularly sitosterol, can inhibit cancerous tumours. Unlike normal cells, abnormal (cancerous) cells lose their ability to respond to death signals that initiate apoptosis (programmed cell death). Foods rich in phytosterols have been found to induce apoptosis in human prostate, breast and colon cancer cells.

Natural sources of phytosterols

Almonds, amaranth, apples, apricots, ash gourd, asparagus, bamboo shoots, baobab fruit, beetroot, bell peppers (green), brussel sprouts, cabbage, capers, cloves, cucumber, dill, legumes, lemon peel, lettuce, macadamia nuts, mung beans, okra, olive oil (unrefined cold pressed), oranges, oregano, paprika, peanuts, pumpkin and seeds, rapeseed oil (unrefined cold pressed), rice bran oil, rye, safflower, sage, sesame seeds and oil (unrefined cold pressed), sunflower seeds, thyme, tomatoes, wheat germ and whole grains.

NOTE: Beetroot, cauliflower, cucumber (with peel), lemon peel, lettuce, okra, rice bran oil, sage, sesame seeds and oil (cold-pressed), sunflower seeds and oil (cold-pressed) and thyme are the richest sources. Phytosterols are sensitive to heat therefore cooking, milling and refining processes all remove a lot of the sterols in processed foods.

PINENE (Terpenoid)

Pinene is is known as a terpenoid which is the essential oil which gives plants a protective shield against attack from microbes and parasites and gives off a pine like aroma which is a repellent warning to insects. It has powerful anti bacterial, antifungal and antivirus properties and can also relieve stress and fatigue when ingested and inhaled. See Terpenes

Natural sources of pinene in alphabetical order

PINOLENIC ACID (Fatty acid)

Pinolenic acid is often referred to as a "free fatty acid" meaning that this type of acid is not attached to other molecules. Pinolenic acid is useful in weight loss by curbing the appetite because it triggers the release of hunger suppressant enzymes cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide-1 and has LDL lowering properties by enhancing hepatic LDL uptake.

Natural source of pinolenic acid

POLYPHENOLS

POLYSACCHARIDES

PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS

The right type of carbohydrates (fibre, fructans and starch) feed the commensal (beneficial) bacteria which reside in the gastrointestinal tract and these are responsible for keeping the body in good health, manufacturing many vital nutrients and this can aid in weight loss. These foods are known as prtebiotics.

Probiotic foods contain commensal (beneficial) bacteria and come from the fermentation process that the food has been allowed to undergo. Prebiotic foods containing complex carbohydrates which encourage a healthy intestinal environment to benefit probiotic intestinal flora. Prebiotic is a fairly recently coined name to refer to food components that support the growth of certain kinds of bacteria in the colon (large intestine). Fermentable fibre, inulin, oligosaccharides and resistant starch  feeds these bacteria who have an important influence on the rest of the body.

The human digestive system has a hard time breaking down many of these carbohydrates. Almost 90% escapes digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon where it performs a different function: that of a prebiotic. The bacteria that feed on fermentable carbohydrates produce many beneficial substances, including short-chain fatty acids, vitamins A and K and certain B vitamins. They also promote further absorption of some minerals that have escaped the small intestine, including calcium and magnesium. 

During and after any treatment with antibiotics, it is advisable to include more probiotic foods in the daily diet to replenish the friendly bacteria that are wiped out by antibiotics. It is advisable to consume probiotics at least an hour before other foods to enable enough beneficial bacteria to survive and pass through the strong stomach acids. For more about probiotic 'good' and pathogenic 'bad' bacteria and the diseases they can cause see Bacteria.

Prebiotic foods that feed the existing beneficial bacteria

  • Agave

  • Apples

  • Asparagus

  • Banana

  • Beans

  • Bran

  • Broccoli

  • Burdock root

  • Cabbage

  • Cauliflower

  • Celeriac

  • Chicory root

  • Cocoa (raw)

  • Coconut flesh

  • Dandelion root

  • Elecampane

  • Elephant foot yam

  • Garlic

  • Jerusalem artichoke

  • Jicama root
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lentils
  • Mashua
  • Mugwort
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Rampion
  • Salsify
  • Turnip
  • Swede
  • Sweet potato
  • Whole grains
  • Yacon root
  • Yams

Probiotic foods that contain beneficial bacteria

  • Brine pickles (eggs, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables that have been fermented by lactic acid bacteria)

  • Kefir (fermented milk drink)

  • Kimchi (a fermented, spicy Korean side dish)

  • Kombucha (fermented black or green Asian tea)

  • Miso (a Japanese fermented seasoning made with soya beans, salt and a type of fungus called koji)

  • Sauerkraut (finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria)

  • Tempeh (fermented soya beans)

  • Yoghurt (plain with live cultures)

PROLINE (Non-essential amino acid)

Proline is one of the twenty DNA-encoded amino acids that makes up protein but is actually known as an 'imino acid' as it differs from amino acids. When proline is not consumed in the diet it is made by ornithine and glutamic acid and the kidneys release it into the blood stream. Proline works with vitamin C to promote healthy connective tissue, maintain and heal cartilage and the strengthen joints, tendons and muscles (including the heart muscle).

Collagen is one type of fibre found within connective tissue. Collagen fibres are made from protein and they have large amounts of the two amino acids hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline. These two amino acids seem to be important for formation of all types of collagen and are needed to provide the different collagen types with their appropriate amount of strength and flexibility. Vitamin C is required to change proline into hydroxyproline (collagen) and lysine into hydroxylysine (collagen) which both help to repair collagen connective tissue damage and promote healthy skin.

Collagen is the most common protein in the body and comprises approximately 20-30% of all body proteins. It is found in tendons, ligaments and many tissues that serve structural or mechanical functions. Glycine and proline account for about 50% of the amino acids in collagen.

Proline works in conjunction with lysine, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin P (bioflavonoids), copper and iron

Hyperprolinemia

Hyperprolinemia, also referred to as prolinemia or prolinuria, is a condition which occurs when proline is not broken down properly by the enzymes proline oxidase or pyrroline-5-carboxylate dehydrogense, causing a build up of proline in the body.

It is difficult to determine the prevalence of hyperprolinemia type I, as many people with the condition are asymptomatic. People with hyperprolinemia type I have proline levels in their blood between 3 and 10 times the normal level. Some individuals exhibit seizures, mental retardation or other neurological problems.

Hyperprolinemia type II results in proline levels in the blood between 10 and 15 times higher than normal, and high levels of a related compound called pyrroline-5-carboxylate. This rare form of the disorder may appear benign at times, but often involves seizures, convulsions, and mental retardation.

Hyperprolinemia can also occur with other conditions, such as malnutrition or liver disease. In particular, individuals with conditions that cause elevated levels of lactic acid in the blood, such as lactic acidemia, are likely to have elevated proline levels, because lactic acid inhibits the breakdown of proline.

Natural sources of proline

Apples, apricots, buckwheat, cheese (unpasteurised), chlorella, egg whites, halibut, organ meats, oily fish, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, soya beans, spirulina, teff, whole grains, venison and yoghurt.

PROTEASE (Enzyme)

Protease is an enzyme that is part of the pancreatic juice and breaks down proteins in the body to form amino acids allowing them to enter the bloodstream. This then makes them available to build all the proteins the body needs. Protease is also useful in the body by helping to fight bacterial infections and parasites. It is used in the treatment of arthritis, cancer and immune disorders.

Deficiency of protease

A deficiency in protease can cause many disorders such as constipation, digestive disorders, high blood pressure, hypoglycaemia and pancreas disorders.

Natural sources of protease

Cheese, papaya and pineapple.

PROTEIN See the Protein page.

PULCHELLIDIN See Anthocyanins.

PURINE and PYRIMIDINE BASES

There are many naturally occurring purines. Two of the five bases in nucleic acids, adenine (A) and guanine (G), are purines. In DNA, these bases form hydrogen bonds with their complementary pyrimidines thymine (T) and cytosine (C), respectively. This is called complementary base pairing. In RNA, the complement of adenine is uracil (U) instead of thymine. Very rarely, thymine can appear in RNA and uracil in DNA. Other than the three major pyrimidine bases, thymine, cytosine and uracil, some minor pyrimidine bases can also occur in nucleic acids and it is thought they have a regulatory role. In DNA, the pyrimidine base content equals that of the purine bases, while RNA usually contains somewhat fewer pyrimidine bases than purine bases

The bases only pair with one other base. Purine bases bond with only pyrimidine bases. Purine bases never bond with other purine bases and pyrimidine bases never bond with other pyrimidine bases. Specifically, cytosine (C) always pairs with guanine (G) and adenine (A) pairs with thymine (T) as a DNA molecule or uracil as a RNA molecule. This pairing is referred to as specific base pairing.

Specific base pairing keeps the molecule a lot more uniform and stable. By having purine bases only bond with pyrimidine bases, the distance between the two strands of a DNA molecule will be uniform, a double ring and a single ring. If a purine base were to bond with another purine base, there would be double ring bonded to a double ring. If a pyrimidine base were to bond with another pyrimidine base, a single ring would be bonded to a single ring. If this were the case, the structure of the DNA molecule would not be uniform, it would bow in and out depending on what bases were paired.

The specific pairing is determined by the structure of each base. The structure affects how well the bases bond together and the number of hydrogen bonds that are formed. When cytosine bonds with guanine, three hydrogen bonds form between the two bases. When adenine bonds with thymine or uracil, only two hydrogen bonds are formed. Only these base pairs are capable of forming the required hydrogen bonds in a DNA molecule.

The sequence of bases along a DNA molecule forms the code to instruct a cell to make particular proteins or genes. Triplets of the bases code for specific amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The sequence determines what amino acids are to be joined together and in what order. Proteins in a cell determine a cell’s structure and function, so the nitrogenous bases carry the genetic code for a cell.

Nucleotides that contain pyrimidine bases are also important in metabolism, for example, uridine diphosphate in carbohydrate metabolism and cytidine diphosphate in lecithin metabolism. Pyrimidine bases are synthesized in the cell from derivatives of orotic acid.

Defects in enzymes that control purine production and breakdown can severely alter a cell’s DNA sequences, which may explain why people who carry certain genetic variants of purine metabolic enzymes have a higher risk for some types of cancer.

Other purines are hypoxanthine, xanthine, theobromine, caffeine, uric acid and isoguanine.

In August 2011, a report, based on NASA studies with meteorites found on Earth, was published suggesting purine and related organic molecules (including the DNA and RNA components, adenine and guanine) may have been formed elsewhere in outer space. Pyrimidine is also found in meteorites, but scientists still do not know its origin. Pyrimidine photolytically decomposes into uracil under UV light.

Natural sources of purines

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)

Pyrroloquinoline quinone is a vitamin-like nutrient found in plant foods that has been found to have an important role in the growth of new mitochondria (mitochondrial biogenesis) which helps provide energy and increases the metabolism. It also protects the brain against neurotoxicity induced by various toxins including mercury, glutamate and oxidopamine and reverses cognitive impairment caused by chronic oxidative stress and improves the memory which can protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It also protects nerve cells from the damaging effects of the beta-amyloid-protein linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

To protect against heart attacks and strokes, in people over the age of 45, PQQ-rich foods need to be consumed every day along with foods rich in coenzyme Q10 and foods that provide the nutrients needed to increase glutathione levels. Those taking cholesterol lowering drugs or medications for diabetes need extra coenzyme Q10 in their diet as these drugs reduce levels in the body.

Natural sources of pyrroloquinoline quinone

Green tea, kiwi fruit, papaya, parsley, peppers (green) and tofu.

These foods contain 2-3 mcg per 100 grams and three cups of green tea provides about the same.

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QUERCETIN (Flavonoid)

Benefits derive from the antioxidant activity of quercetin, especially when it teams up with another antioxidant, vitamin C, to bolster the body's immune defences. This dynamic antioxidant duo provides another way (in addition to fibre) to protect against cancer and also helps prevent the free radical damage to LDL cholesterol that promotes heart disease. It also helps the body defend itself against harmful micro-organisms and can improve the tissue health of the intestinal wall which can help when there is an overgrowth of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the intestines. Quercetin is also known for its iron-chelating and iron-stabilising properties and has powerful antibacterial properties against the Escherichia coli.bacteria.

Quercetin has also shown in studies to be a powerful antiviral substance against herpes, mengo, parainfluenza, polio, pseudorabies and rabies viruses. Quercetin, together with vitamin C, helps to boost the immune system so that the body can defend itself.

Natural sources of quercetin

NOTE: Cooking reduces the quercetin levels.

QUINIC ACID (Carbohydrate)

Quinic acid is a sugar found in  plants which is not produced by the human body. In  humans quinic acid is turned into hippuric acid while in the gastrointestinal tract. The presence of quinic acid has been shown to aid in the metabolism of tryptophan and nicotinamide by stimulating these antioxidants and increasing the levels of them. Tryptophan serves as a precursor for, and raises levels of, serotonin which is the calming neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate appetite, sleep patterns and mood and promotes contentment and relaxation. In studies, quinic acid shows promise in the treatment of radiation exposure.

Natural sources of quinic acid

Apples, apricots, cherries, chia seeds, choke berries, coffee beans, cranberries, peaches, pears, plums and tea.

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RESVERATROL (Polyphenol)

This powerful antioxidant promotes heart health and overall vitality. Polyphenols, like resveratrol, protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Consuming foods rich in resveratrol can have an anti-inflammatory effect and increase energy levels, improving the immune system and speeding up metabolism. It can also lower blood sugar levels, protect against cancer and has anti aging properties so can extend life.

NOTE: It has been proven that, especially in older men, resveratrol as a supplement blocks many of the cardiovascular benefits of exercise and can reduce aerobic fitness and vitality. Its benefits only come when consuming the whole foods that contain it.

Natural sources of resveratrol

NOTE: No more than one glass red wine should be consumed per day. See Alcohol Dangers

RIBONUCLEIC ACID (RNA)

In RNA, the complement of adenine (A) is uracil (U) instead of thymine (T), so the pairs that form are adenine, uracil and guanine (G) : cytosine (C). Just like DNA, ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a chain, or polymer, of nucleotides with the same 5' to 3' direction of its strands. However, the ribose sugar component of RNA is slightly different chemically than that of DNA. RNA has a 2' oxygen atom that is not present in DNA. For the most part, RNA is a single-stranded molecule. DNA directs the synthesis of a variety of RNA molecules, each with a unique role in cellular function. For example, all genes that code for proteins are first made into an RNA strand in the nucleus called a messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA carries the information encoded in DNA out of the nucleus to the protein assembly machinery, called the ribosome, in the cytoplasm. The ribosome complex uses mRNA as a template to synthesise the exact protein coded for by the gene. See more on the Protein page.

RIBOSE (Monosaccharide)

Ribose is a constituent of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) which helps the body's cells to utilise oxygen. B2 is water soluble and contributes to good vision and healthy hair, skin and nails. Riboflavin is the vitamin responsible for the yellow green fluorescent glow or hue commonly seen in urine after taking a B-complex supplement. Ribose also plays a structural role in the formation of two very important nucleic acids known as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). It also contributes to the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the primary energy source for muscular contraction and without ribose, the cells cannot manufacture ATP.

Ribose is used as a treatment for muscle cramping and the elimination of severe stiffness, pain and muscle soreness experienced in response to physical exertion.

Natural sources of ribose

Almonds, cheese, milk and chicken.

ROSINIDIN See Anthocyanins.

RUTIN (Flavonoid)

This is a flavonoid that has anti-thrombotic properties by preventing venous clots that can cause deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms. Rutin acts on the circulatory system to strengthen blood vessels, especially the tiny capillaries in the eyes. Rutin is very effective in easing bleeding and circulation problems, such as glaucoma, cataracts, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, canker sores in the mouth, poor circulation, cirrhosis of the liver and hay fever.

Foods rich in rutin in conjunction with foods rich in vitamin E benefit people suffering from chronic venous insufficiency where leg veins cannot pump enough blood back to the heart. This results in varicose veins, ankle swelling and leg cramping. Rutin also works better in conjunction with foods rich in vitamin C and hesperidin.

Natural sources of rutin

Apples (especially the peel), apricots, asparagus, buckwheat (especially the leaves), capers, cherries, citrus fruits and prunes.

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SALICYLATES (phenols) See Salicylates

SAPONINS (Glycosides)

Triterpenoid and steroidal glycosides, collectively referred to as saponins, are bioactive compounds present naturally in many plants. Interest in saponins has emerged due to increased knowledge of their diverse properties as natural detergents and foaming agents, cardiac, immune stimulating and anticancer activity and other health-promoting functions.

Saponins, like flavonoids, tannins, and terpenes, are defensive secondary metabolites that allow plants to cope with the environmental conditions (storing and conserving water, resisting predators and surviving severe weather conditions). Saponins have detergent and surfactant properties because they contain both water soluble (the sugar moiety) and fat-soluble (sapogenin) subunits.

The cholesterol-binding property of saponins relates to their ability to inhibit the growth of, or kill, cancer cells, while leaving normal cells unaffected. That cancer cells have more cholesterol-type compounds in their membranes than normal cells and that saponins binding membrane cholesterol interfere with cell growth and division provide clues toward understanding the anticancer selectivity of saponins.

The binding to bile acids by saponins has important implications. Bile acids excreted in the bile (primary bile acids) are metabolized by bacteria in the colon, producing secondary bile acids, which may promote colon cancer. By binding to primary bile acids, saponins reduce the formation of the secondary bile acids and, hence, the risk of colon cancer.

Since 2012, saponin in agave schottii is being investigated for cancer treatment. Cactus plants growing on low nutrient soils and/or under harsh climatic conditions, such as extreme temperatures, intense solar radiation, and water scarcity, are particularly susceptible to attack from reactive oxygen species and have evolved efficient antioxidation defence systems. The high concentrations of defensive metabolites in desert plants impart antioxidant as well as antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, insecticidal, anthelmintic and antimutagenic capabilities to the plant.

The many examples of desert plants displaying anticancer effects  indicates that the same defensive secondary metabolites protecting them against the harsh environment may also play a protective or a curative role against cancer, as they also do against diabetes, neurodegenerative and other acute and chronic diseases. Since many of the native tribes in America, who have been using cactus in their diets for thousands of years have never developed cancer, this may be the reason why.

See also Anti-nutrients.

Natural sources of saponins

Agave (pure unrefined), alfalfa, aloe vera, ash gourd, baobab fruit, chickpeas, corn silk, horse chestnuts, potatoes and soybeans.

Other plants rich in saponins are: asparagus fern (Asparagus officinalis), cactus, christmas rose (Helleborus niger), daisies (Bellis perennis), mesquite, ironwood trees, ocotillo, greasewood, creosote bushes and yucca.

SALICYLIC ACID

Salicylic acid is a monohydroxybenzoic acid, a type of phenolic acid that has antibiotic properties.

Natural sources of salicylic acid

White willow

SERINE (Non-essential amino acid)

Serine is biosynthesised from a glycolytic intermediate, 3-phosphoglycerate (3-PG), in a three-step process involving the enzymes: 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase, phosphoserine aminotransferase, and phosphoserine phosphatase. it can also be derived in a reversible reaction from glycine; through degradation of protein and phospholipids and through dietary intake.

Serine plays a role in cell growth and development (cellular proliferation). The conversion of L-serine to glycine by serine hydroxymethyltransferase results in the formation of the one-carbon units necessary for the synthesis of the purine bases, adenine and guanine. These bases when linked to the phosphate ester of pentose sugars are essential components of DNA and RNA and the end products of energy producing metabolic pathways, ATP and GTP. In addition, serine conversion to glycine via this same enzyme provides the one-carbon units necessary for production of the pyrimidine nucleotide, deoxythymidine monophosphate, also an essential component of DNA.

Serine is a precursor for the neurotransmitters glycine and D-serine and indirectly through cysteine, for the neurotransmitter taurine. Cysteine, which can be formed from serine through the trans-sulphuration pathway, is the precursor for proteins, glutathione, taurine, coenzyme A and inorganic sulphate.

The condensation of serine with palmitoyl-CoA is the first step in the synthesis of sphingosine. Sphingosine serves as the core of sphingolipids, which include the sphingomyelins (primarily in brain and other nervous tissue) and glycosphingolipids. Sphingolipids are abundant in the myelin sheath and are present in all membranes. Phosphatidylserine, which is derived from L-serine, is an important messenger for apoptosis. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, plays a critical role in the normal development of the nervous system.

Serine plays roles in protein, fatty acid, genetic code carriers (DNA and RNA) synthesis, and muscle build-up. Serine is a constituent in the brain and protective covers of nerves. Therefore, serine is an important amino acid for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Furthermore, serine boosts healthy immune system by aiding the production of antibodies. Serine is also a component of all cell membranes.

Additional serine’s health benefits come indirectly through its effect on other biochemicals. For example, serine is a precursor for the production of amino acids such as glycine, cysteine and tryptophan. Tryptophan, necessary for the synthesis of serotonin and functioning of neurotransmitters, is known to help relieve stress, anxiety and depression.

Deficiency of serine

Deficiency symptoms include slow or delayed cognitive and physical skills (psychomotor retardation), seizures and microcephaly. Microcephaly refers to health condition in which the head size is smaller than normal and is caused by underdevelopment of the brain. Serine deficiency is a rare, inherited, metabolic disorder of L-serine biosynthesis. Children with apparent neurological disorders are rarely, if ever, tested for a metabolic disorder and unlikely to be tested for L-serine deficiency.

It is likely that serine deficiency is grossly under-diagnosed. Children with L-serine deficiency can manifest the following symptoms and signs: cerebral palsy, epilepsy, seizures, epileptic encephalopathy , encephalopathy, cortical visual impairment (limited vision due to brain involvement rather than a primary eye disorder, cortical blindness, spastic quadriparesis (spasticity or stiffness and muscle weakness at the same time), infantile spasms, congenital microcephaly (small head size from birth), muscle weakness, hypotonia, poor head control, poor brain growth, white matter abnormalities (brain), spasticity, megaloblastic anaemia, failure to thrive, reflux.

In particular, the triad of congenital microcephaly, spastic quadriparesis (cerebral palsy) and seizures should be an important clue to test for this disorder.

Natural sources of serine

Apples, apricots, asparagus, beef, buckwheat, chlorella, eggs, goat's milk, halibut, legumes, nuts, organ meats, oily fish, seeds, shellfish, spirulina and venison.

SEROTONIN (Neurotransmitter)

Serotonin is the calming neurotransmitter important to the maintenance of good mood. It promotes contentment and is responsible for normal sleep. In addition to the central nervous system, serotonin is also found in the walls of the intestine (the enteric nervous system) and in platelet cells that promote blood clotting. Serotonin plays an important role in regulating memory, learning and blood pressure as well as appetite and body temperature.

The B complex of vitamins and the amino acid tryptophan is required by the body to produce serotonin and often there is a deficiency of the B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, in people that drink alcohol, limit meat consumption or those that take drugs (prescribed or recreationally). Ironically, many of the drugs prescribed to treat depression and other brain disorders often caused by low serotonin levels, also reduce levels of the B vitamins. The ideal solution would be to first increase consumption of foods that contain all the B vitamins. See below.

Deficiency of serotonin

Low serotonin levels produce insomnia and depression, aggressive behaviour, increased sensitivity to pain and is associated with obsessive-compulsive eating disorders. Serotonin levels in the brain are often decreased in people with depression and in those experiencing PMS symptoms. Low levels of seratonin can also be responsible for causing fibromyalgia.

NOTE: Bright lights can help to increase serotonin levels in the brain.

Natural sources of serotonin

Banana, cocoa beans and the common stinging nettle.

NOTE: The St John’s wort herb prevents the breakdown of serotonin in the brain.

SERRAPEPTASE (Enzyme)

Serrapeptase is an enzyme produced by the silkworm that eats away at the cocoon when the moth is ready to emerge. In the human body as a supplement it has been found to digest non-living tissues. It consumes dead cells, blood clots, fatty deposits, inflammation and plaque that forms in the arteries which helps to prevent heart attacks.

It is also beneficial in reducing varicose veins and the healing of wounds, because it dissolves blood clots and helps to remove bruising and scabbing that is no longer needed by the body. It is useful because it does not thin the blood and cause bleeding as other anti-inflammatory medications can.

SILYMARIN (Flavonoid)

A unique type of flavonoid like compound considered the active ingredient of milk thistle. It is a potent antioxidant which prevents harm from free radicals and lends nutritional support to the liver. It is a natural liver detoxifier and protects the liver from many industrial toxins such as carbon tetrachloride and more common agents like alcohol.

Natural sources of silymarin

Artichoke and milk thistle.

STARCH (Polysaccharides)

Starch must be broken down through digestion before the body can use it as a glucose source for energy. Starch also provides food for the colon bacteria. Different ‘bacteria food’ produces different kinds of short chain fatty acids and other products, so it is important to consume a wide variety of fibre and starch in food.

The commensal bacteria in the large intestines breaks down starch in the diet into short-chain fatty acids which can then be absorbed by the large intestine by passive diffusion. The bacteria also produce gas (flatus), which is a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, with small amounts of the gases hydrogen, methane and hydrogen sulphide. These result from the bacterial fermentation of the undigested polysaccharides.

Foods rich in a carbohydrate called resistant starch pass through the body without counting calorically because they “resist” immediate digestion while still giving a full feeling. Plus they help burn fat fast, improve digestion and fight disease.

Natural sources of starch

Acorns, arrowroot, arracacha, bananas (barely ripe), barley, black eyed peas, breadfruit, buckwheat, burdock root, canna, chestnuts, chick peas, chicory root, colacasia, dandelion root, flax seed, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, katakuri, kudzu, legumes (beans that have been dried), lentils, maize, malanga, millet, mung beans, oats, oca, onions, peas. Polynesian arrowroot, potatoes, rice, rye, sago, sorghum, sweet potatoes, taro, chestnuts, water chestnuts, wheat, yacon root and yams.

SUCROSE and SUCRASE (Disaccharides and enzymes)

Sucrose or table sugar is obtained from sugar cane or sugar beets Sucrase is a group of several enzymes that help to break down sucrose into the usable forms of fructose and glucose in the human body. It is produced by the epithelium of the small intestines.

Deficiency of sucrose

A deficiency of sucrase can cause digestive irritation and food sensitivities known as Fodmaps (carbohydrates) Intolerance. Over consumption of sucrose can have many adverse side effects such as diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and an increase in bacterial, yeast and viral infections. See Sugar Dangers.

Sucrose is found naturally in many food plants along with the monosaccharide fructose.

NOTE: People with diabetes type 2 should limit their consumption of foods high in sucrose.

Natural sources of sucrose

Apricots, bananas, butter beans, dates, figs, grapes, mango, maple syrup, peaches, pears, peas, pineapple, raisins, sugar beets, sultanas and sweet corn. BACK TO INDEX OF NUTRIENTS

SUGARS (Monosaccharides and disaccharides)

Monosaccharides are also called simple sugars and are the common base unit of all carbohydrate molecules including disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides are usually colourless, water-soluble, crystalline solids and some have a sweet taste. Examples of monosaccharides include fructose (levulose), glucose (dextrose), galactose, maltose and sucrose. The two main categories of sugars are monosaccharides and disaccharides.

Monosaccharides

  • Fructose is also known as fruit sugar and is found in ripe fruits and honey.

  • Galactose is found in mammalian milk.

  • Glucose is very important for animals and humans physiology as it is the form of sugar that is used by the body for energy. All carbohydrates are converted in glucose in the digestive system. Glucose is found in many types of vegetation including beetroot, onions and ripe fruit.

Disaccharides

  • Lactose is composed of one glucose molecule and one galactose molecule and is found in mammalian milk and dairy products.

  • Maltose, also known as malt sugar, consists of two glucose molecules joined together and is found in cereals such as barley.

  • Sucrose consists of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule and is found in sugar beet, sugar cane and many fruits and vegetables.

SULFORAPHANE

Sulforaphane is a  molecule within the isothiocyanate group of compounds that exhibits anticancer, anti-diabetic and antimicrobial properties. It also enhances the phase two detoxification pathway in the liver. Sulforaphane has also been found to block mammary tumour formation in rats.

Glucoraphanin and myrosinase react and transform into sulforaphane in the body and block a key destructive enzyme that damages cartilage. Consuming plenty of these cruciferous vegetables can protect the joints and help to treat arthritis.

Sulforaphane inhibits extracellular, intracellular and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori and prevents benzo-a-pyrene-induced stomach tumours.Sulphoraphane improves the liver's ability to detoxify carcinogens and pollutants in the body because it activates enzymes that take up these toxins and flushes them out in the urine. Its powerful properties also improve antioxidant capacity, glutathione synthesis, mitochondrial function and will also lower neuro-inflammation. The richest form has been found to come from broccoli sprouts and so this is a useful addition to the daily diet for all brain disorders. Broccoli sprouts can be grown from seed at home and added raw to meals or sandwiches etc like a salad green.

Sulforaphane also helps with the detoxification in the liver and may prevent, or even cure, breast and prostate cancer. It also is known to lower LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure if consumed regularly.

The precursors for sulforaphane production are found in brassicas and regular consumption can boost the immune system, prevent spina difida in newborns (if consumed during pregnancy) It also prevents heart disease and many forms of cancer and flushes out heavy metals ingested through smoking tobacco and pollution ny improving the liver's ability to detoxify carcinogens and pollutants in the body because it activates enzymes that take up these toxins and flushes them out in the urine. Its powerful properties also improve antioxidant capacity, glutathione synthesis, mitochondrial function and will also lower neuro-inflammation. The richest form has been found to come from broccoli sprouts and so this is a useful addition to the daily diet for all brain disorders. Broccoli sprouts can be grown from seed at home and added raw to meals or sandwiches etc like a salad green.

Natural sources of sulforaphane in alphabetical order

NOTE: Broccoli sprouts are the richest source of sulforaphane.

SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE (Antioxidant enzyme)

Superoxide dismutase is a powerful antioxidant enzyme that helps to manage levels of superoxide in the body by converting it to hydrogen peroxide, which can then be neutralised by catalase. Superoxide is the most common free radical in the body which can damage cells and cause precancerous cell changes, premature aging and wrinkles and healthy levels of superoxide dismutase can act as an anti-inflammatory in the body neutralizing these free radicals.

The absorption of superoxide dismutase is increased by eating foods rich in copper, manganese and zinc. Drinking alcohol can expel zinc from the body which in turn can affect levels of superoxide dismutase.

Natural sources of superoxide dismutase

Barley grass, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, corn, melons, soya sprouts and wheatgrass.

A - Z Index of all nutrients and components covered by this website
 

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TANNINS (Tannic acid)

Tannins are water-soluble polyphenols that are present in many plant foods. These chemicals can affect the nutritional value of foods or beverages because they bind to proteins. While generally safe for humans, in animals, tannins can impair the digestibility of food. They can contribute an astringent taste to the foods in which they are found, but also play a role in the pigment of flowers and leaves. They are known to possess anti-infective, anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic (prevent easy bleeding tendencies) properties.

While tannins can be found in some fruits used in wine making, the tannins in wine are slightly different than those in fruit because the chemical makeup of the tannins in grapes and grape seeds is changed during the winemaking process; the wine tannins are more complex than the ones found in grapes. Tannins in wine, especially red wine, can cause an astringent or bitter taste.

The tannins in chocolate may have beneficial effects on dental health. Cocoa beans contain tannins that inhibit the effects of bacteria on teeth, aiding in cavity prevention. White and milk chocolate contain less tannins than dark, making dark chocolate the healthiest choice. Tannins can also be found in black tea and in the fruit of plants, the leaves, bark, roots and fruit pods. The tannin compounds are widely distributed in many species of plants, where they play a role in protection from predation, and perhaps also as pesticides, and in plant growth regulation.

Tannin toxicity to rumen microorganisms has been described for several bacteria species such as Streptococcus bovis, Butyvibrio fibrosolvens, Fibrobacter succinogenes, Prevotella ruminicola and Ruminobacter amylophilis.

The growth of many bacteria, fungi, viruses and yeasts are inhibited by natural food tannins but eating too much of them without vitamin C can cause headache, migraine and kidney problems.

If ingested in excessive quantities, tannins inhibit the absorption of minerals such as iron, which may, if prolonged, lead to anaemia. In order to prevent these problems, it is advised to drink tea between meals, not during. Foods rich in vitamin C help neutralise tannin's effects on iron absorption. Adding lemon juice to tea will reduce the negative effect of tannins in iron absorption as well.

NOTE: In sensitive individuals, a large intake of tannins may cause bezoar formation, bowel irritation, eczema rashes, gastrointestinal pain, irritation of the stomach, kidney irritation, liver damage, migraine and pemphigus.

See Food Allergies

Natural sources of tannins

  • Apples

  • Arrowroot

  • Aubergine

  • Avocado

  • Bananas

  • Beans (red)

  • Beer

  • Betel nut

  • Blackberries

  • Blueberries

  • Cherries

  • Cranberries

  • Cocoa

  • Coffee

  • Corn

  • Corn silk

  • Cranberries

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Grapes

  • Hazelnuts

  • Mango

  • Peanuts

  • Pecans

  • Persimmon fruit

  • Raspberries

  • Soft drinks

  • Strawberries

  • Tea

  • Walnuts

  • Wine (red)

With the exception of tea, long-term or excessive use of foods, especially herbs, containing high concentrations of tannins is not recommended. A correlation has been made between oesophageal or nasal cancer in humans and regular consumption of certain herbs with high tannin concentrations

Herbs and spices that contain high levels of tannins

  • Bayberry

  • Bilberry

  • Black cohosh

  • Blessed thistle

  • Borage

  • Burdock

  • Cedar

  • Chamomile

  • Cinnamon

  • Cloves

  • Comfrey

  • Coriander

  • Cramp bark

  • Cumin

  • Echinacea

  • Elder

  • Eucalyptus

  • Evening primrose

  • Eyebright

  • Feverfew

  • Flax

  • Ginkgo biloba

  • Ginseng

  • Horehound

  • Hyssop

  • Juniper

  • Kola nuts

  • Marshmallow

  • Nettle

  • Oak bark

  • Pennyroyal

  • Peppercorns (black)

  • Peppermint

  • Plantain

  • Red raspberry

  • Rhubarb

  • Rose hips

  • Rosemary

  • Sage

  • St. John's wort

  • Skullcap

  • Slippery elm

  • Sorrel

  • Squaw vine

  • Suma

  • Tarragon

  • Thyme

  • Uva ursi

  • Valerian

  • Vanilla

  • Wild yams

  • Willow bark

  • Wintergreen

  • Witch hazel

  • Wood betony

  • Yarrow

  • Yukka

Many foods contain added artificial tannins as a yellow colouring (annatto) or have been produced with tannin leaching from the wood during storage which have been shown to be detrimental to the health.

Food and drinks that may contain artificial tannins

  • Berry juice

  • Black tea

  • Carob beans

  • Chocolate

  • Cocoa

  • Grape juice

  • Orange juice

  • Processed meats

  • Sour cream

  • Wood-aged beer, cider, red and white wines or spirits

  • Wood smoked meat and fish

NOTE: Tannins have been associated with fatal liver damage from extensive use on burns or in enemas. However, the toxicity may be due to an impurity, digallic acid, rather than the tannins themselves.

TAURINE (Non-essential amino acid)

Taurine is a sulphur-containing antioxidant amino acid, is found in most mammalian tissues and made from cysteine and methionine. While most amino acids are strung together to form proteins, taurine is an exception, one that performs on its own and is the most abundant free amino acid in the body. Taurine is important in the regulation of the heartbeat, the stability of cell membranes and the activity of brain cells. It is a potent antioxidant as well and beneficial in treating hypertension and high cholesterol. Taurine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and is likely to play a role in pre- and post-natal development of the central nervous system.

Another benefit of taurine is its potential ability to increase gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain. GABA levels are associated with memory retention and cognitive abilities. It is also a useful treatment for alcohol addiction. For people trying to kick the habit, consuming taurine rich foods can create significantly fewer psychotic episodes during the detoxification process. Taurine rich foods can benefit people with type-1 diabetes, hepatitis, retinal problems, depression, bipolar disorder, migraines, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, irritability and obsessions.

Taurine is important in the visual pathways, the brain and nervous system, cardiac function and prevention of irregular heartbeats. Is is also a conjugator of bile acids - helps increase cholesterol elimination in the bile, helps with fat absorption and elimination of toxins.

It has an important role in renal development and protection of the kidneys from free radical damage and is a facilitator for the passage of sodium, potassium and possibly calcium and magnesium ions into and out of cells. It can protect the heart from irregular rhythms and damage during shock. It is also involved in the balance and control of white blood cell production of free radicals to fight microbial infections. It possesses a calming or stabilizing effect on the brain and has been shown to be useful in treating seizure disorders and is an enhancer of performance for athletes.

Taurine is an essential amino acid for a developing foetus and newborn babies because they cannot make it themselves and yet the development of their brain depends on it. In fact, taurine is the highest concentrated amino acid in the brain of the foetus and newborn. The foetus must obtain it through the placenta and newborns can obtain it from breast milk or formula fortified with taurine.

Foods containing taurine and alpha lipoid acid have shown the ability to support damaged collagen fibres.

Deficiency may lead to alcohol induced liver fat build up and is often caused by consuming alanine supplements. Deficiency may lead to anxiety, depression, hypertension, hypothyroidism, gout, infertility, obesity, kidney failure, muscle cramps and autism.

A systemic fungal infection produces an amino acid, beta-alanine, which competes with taurine for re-absorption in the kidneys. This causes loss of taurine through the urine. An increase of taurine in urine actually masks a test for low taurine in the body.

Infection with disease producing anaerobic pathogenic bacteria which interfere with the proper functioning of bile acid and degrade taurine, thereby effecting taurine levels.

Consuming foods with added monosodium glutamate, that is used to enhance the flavour of processed foods can adversely affect taurine levels in the body.

Consuming supplements containing vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) or the amino acids beta-alanine and beta-hypotaurine can also deplete taurine levels.

Deficiency of cysteine, methionine, vitamin A, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) or zinc can lead to diminished levels of taurine. Certain medications which deplete or block absorption of these nutrients may also cause taurine deficiency. See the Medication Dangers page.

Natural sources of taurine

Beef, Brewer's yeast, cheese, eggs, halibut, milk, octopus, oily fish, organ meats, pork, poultry, rabbit, shellfish and venison.

See also the Daily Requirements of Amino Acids on the Nature Cures Protein page.

TERPENES

THEANINE (Non-essential amino acid)

Theanine, also known as L-γ-glutamylethylamide and N⁵-ethyl-L-glutamine, is an amino acid analogue of the proteinogenic amino acids L-L-glutamate and L-glutamine and is found primarily in particular plant and fungal species. Theanine produces calming effects in the brain and nervous system by increasing levels of serotonine and dopamine.

Theanine is related to glutamine, and can cross the blood-brain barrier .Because it can enter the brain, theanine has psychoactive properties. Theanine has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress and may produce feelings of relaxation and improve cognition and mood. It also helps to keep the body alert and attentive reducing stress levels and may help to prevent cancer and cardiovascular problems.

Natural sources of theanine

Basidiomycete mushrooms, fermented tea and green tea.

THEOBROMINE (Alkaloid)

Theobromine is a very mild stimulant with a mild diuretic action (increases the production of urine). Theobromine can be toxic to animals like cats, dogs, horses and parrots.

Natural sources of theobromine

Cocoa beans.

THREONINE (Essential amino acid)

Threonine is an amino acid typically found in meat (especially heart, skeletal muscles) and in the nervous system. Threonine is a precursor of glycine synthesis in the spinal cord and is essential for a healthy nervous system. It plays an important role in the formation of collagen and elastin. When combined with aspartic acid and methionine, threonine supports liver function through its lipotropic action, which removes body fat. Threonine also helps control the activity of nervous system.

Natural sources of threonine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Spirulina (dried) 2970 mg

  • Chlorella (dried) 2400 mg

  • Whelks 2136 mg

  • Calf’s liver 1149 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 1322 mg

  • Pheasant 1220 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 1213 mg

  • Quail 1131 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 1041 mg

  • Mussels 1025 mg

  • Cod 1006 mg

  • Tuna fish (tinned) 1118 mg

  • Mackerel (tinned) and caviar (fish roe) 1017 mg

  • Rabbit (wild) 975 mg

  • Salmon (Atlantic farmed) 969 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 928 mg

  • Black beans 909 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 886 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 846 mg

  • Venison 818 mg

  • Flaxseeds 766 mg

  • Lobster 761 mg

  • Turkey 759 mg

  • Crab 741 mg

  • Sesame seeds 736 mg

  • Soya beans 723 mg

  • Chicken 706 mg

  • Squid 670 mg

  • Crayfish 644 mg

  • Peanuts 610 mg

  • Almonds 598 mg

  • Walnuts 596 mg

  • Eggs 556 mg

  • Rye 532 mg

  • Quinoa 421 mg

  • Wheat 396 mg

  • Black beans 373 mg

  • Pine nuts 370 mg

  • Brazil nuts 362 mg

  • Brown rice 291 mg

  • Spinach 217 mg

See also the Daily Requirements of Amino Acids on the Nature Cures Protein page.

BACK TO INDEX OF NUTRIENTS

THYMINE (DNA chemical base T)

Thymine (T) is one of four chemical bases in DNA, with the other three being adenine (A), cytosine (C) and guanine (G). Thymine combined with deoxyribose creates the nucleoside deoxythymidine.

Natural source of thymine

Chlorella

TRANS FATTY ACIDS

 

Trans fatty acids can be found in many fat sources although its prevalence is very low. Bovine (cows, steer, oxen, etc) food sources are probably the greatest natural contributors of trans fatty acids to the human diet. Beef, butter and milk triglycerides may contain 2 to 8 percent of their fatty acids as trans fatty acids. Cattle are not solely responsible for generating this trans fatty acid content. It is actually the bacteria in their unique stomachs that produce the trans fatty acid. These fatty acids are then absorbed by the cow and make their way into the tissues and milk of these animals

 

In addition, trans fatty acids can be created during the processing of oils (i.e. margarine and other hydrogenated oils) and as cooking oils which are used over long periods for cooking, such as in restaurants and fast food outlets. In more recent decades, more than half of the trans fatty acids in the human diet were derived from processed oils either consumed plain or used in recipes (e.g. fried foods, baked snack foods). Biscuits, crisp, crackers and other snack foods that use hydrogenated vegetable oil may contain up to 9-10 percent of their fatty acids as trans fatty acids which is linked to the  increased risk of heart disease.

TRICETINIDIN See Anthocyanins.

TRIGLYCERIDES (Fats)

Triglycerides are a form in which fat is carried in the bloodstream. In normal amounts, triglycerides are important for good health because they serve as a major source of energy. High levels of triglycerides, however, are associated with high total cholesterol, high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol), and therefore, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

In addition, high triglycerides are often found along with a group of other disease risk factors that has been labelled 'metabolic syndrome', a condition known to increase risk of not only heart disease, but diabetes and stroke. Metabolic syndrome is the combined presence of high triglycerides, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess weight and low HDL (good) cholesterol.

Two servings of Omega-3-rich foods a week can naturally lower triglycerides.

 

TRYPSIN (Digestive enzyme)

 

Trypsin is a digestive enzyme produced in the pancreas and intestines that regulates enzyme activity and breaks down protein. The primary function of trypsin is the breakdown of lysine and arginine residues. Under normal circumstances, trypsin is not required as an additive or supplement, as it is generated by the human body, but under some conditions supplements may be required for people who have trouble digesting protein.

 

It also enables the absorption of vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract. Lack of trypsin causes the vitamin to be excreted rather than assimilated, leading to symptoms of anaemia and problems with nerves and the immune system. Plant enzymes such as bromelain (pineapples) and papain (papaya) have a similar affect in the body as trypsin.
 

TRYPTOPHAN (Essential amino acid)

Tryptophan is one of the eight essential amino acids that the body uses to synthesise the proteins it needs. Its role is the production of nervous system messengers, especially those related to relaxation, restfulness and sleep. It can help to regulate the appetite, prevent insomnia and elevate the mood and helps to relieve anxiety and depression. Tryptophan elevates mood as the body transforms it into niacin and serotonin. It is encoded in the standard genetic code as the codon UGG.

Tryptophan has two important functions. First, around 3% gained from the diet is converted into vitamin B3 (niacin) by the liver. This conversion can help prevent the symptoms associated with B3 deficiency when dietary intake of this vitamin is low. Second, tryptophan serves as a precursor for and raises levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate appetite, sleep patterns and mood. The inhibition of tryptophan hydroxylase in humans is closely linked to depression. Administering tryptophan stimulates serotonin production and serves as an antidepressant in humans and other mammals. Without tryptophan, the body cannot make serotonin. The human body does not produce tryptophan on its own but must, instead, obtain the amino acid from diet.

Serotonin, (the neurotransmitter that antidepressants like Prozac works on), is made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. While antidepressants more or less locks the system in a state of perpetual serotonin flood, which may be the mechanism that leads to the suicidal thoughts and violence, consuming foods with tryptophan provides the body with the building blocks it needs to generate its own supply of serotonin to alleviate depression, anxiety and insomnia. A diet rich in tryptophan and Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) can remove the need for antidepressant medication.

Deficiency of tryptophan

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is necessary for the conversion of tryptophan to both vitamin B3 (niacin) and serotonin. Consequently, a dietary deficiency of vitamin B6 may result in low serotonin levels and/or impaired conversion of tryptophan to niacin. Deficiency of tryptophan can cause: depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, impatience, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, weight gain or unexplained weight loss, slow growth in children, overeating and/or carbohydrate cravings, Parkinson's disease and poor dream recall.

Highest sources of tryptophan in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Spirulina (dried) 929 mg

  • Chia seeds 721 mg

  • Whelks 618 mg

  • Soya beans 590 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 578 mg

  • Chlorella (dried) 500 mg

  • Safflower seeds 403 mg

  • Watermelon seeds 390 mg

  • Sesame seeds 388 mg

  • Chicken 362 mg

  • Calf’s liver 361 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 355 mg

  • Quail 354 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 348 mg

  • Pheasant 339 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 328 mg

  • Flaxseeds 297 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 293 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 291 mg

  • Rabbit (wild) 288 mg

  • Cashew nuts 287 mg

  • Tuna (tinned) 286 mg

  • Lobster 285 mg

  • Cocoa beans 283 mg

  • Pistachio nuts 273 mg

  • Mussels 267 mg

  • Peas 266 mg

  • Mackerel (tinned) 260 mg

  • Cod 257 mg

  • Black beans 256 mg

  • Crab 255 mg

  • Salmon (Atlantic farmed) 249 mg

  • Soya beans 242 mg

  • Peanuts 231 mg

  • Pork 220 mg

  • Almonds 214 mg

  • Wheat 212 mg

  • Turkey 194 mg

  • Venison 192 mg

  • Squid 174 mg

  • Walnuts 170 mg

  • Quinoa and eggs 167 mg

  • Rye 154 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 148 mg

  • Brazil nuts 141 mg

  • Pine nuts 107 mg

  • Black beans 105 mg

  • Oats 102 mg

  • Brown rice 101 mg

  • Spinach 100 mg

  • Cow’s milk 46 mg

  • Goat’s milk 44 mg

TYROSINE and TYROSINE HYDROLASE (Non-essential amino acid and enzyme)

Tyrosine is used to create various hormones, to produce energy in the body and to create the skin pigment melatonin and dopamine used by the brain. The human body also manufactures coenzymeQ10 from amino acids, tyrosine and phenylalanine. Tyrosine also contributes towards boosting the brain and reducing stress and tension.

The thyroid gland uses iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to produce the hormones thyroxin and triiodothyronine. Both of these hormones function to regulate cellular metabolism. Metabolism refers to all of the processes that make energy available to cells. As such, these hormones regulate the conversion of glycogen (stored glucose) to glucose. Triiodothyronine is involved in every physiological process in the body including growth and development, heart rate and temperature.

Tyrosine is converted to L-dopa by the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase. L-dopa  is an amino acid and a hormone that is made naturally, through the biosynthesis of tyrosine, by a number of plants and animals including humans. It is a precursor to several important and powerful neurotransmitters which include dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline). These are collectively known as catecholamines and they play a role in the stimulation and arousal systems in the brain.

Having sufficient levels of L-dopa can combat depression and anxiety while enhancing mood and improving the ability to concentrate and focus. It is especially important for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

See also Addictions for more information about neurotransmitters.

Highest sources of tyrosine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Chlorella (dried) 2600 mg

  • Spirulina (dried) 2584 mg

  • Sesame seed flour 2100 mg

  • Whelks 1518 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 1121 mg

  • Salmon 1100 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 1090 mg

  • Quail 1048 mg

  • Chicken 1047 mg

  • Calf’s liver 1044 mg

  • Peanuts 1006 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 829 mg

  • Shrimp and prawns 810 mg

  • Pheasant 799 mg

  • Mackerel (tinned) 783 mg

  • Rabbit 776 mg

  • Pumpkin seeds 770 mg

  • Mussels 762 mg

  • Sesame seeds 710 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 666 mg

  • Turkey 660 mg

  • Soya beans 630 mg

  • Crayfish 532 mg

  • Pine nuts 509 mg

  • Eggs 500 mg

  • Squid 498 mg

  • Almonds 452 mg

  • Walnuts 406 mg

  • Wheat 400 mg

  • Rye 339 mg

  • Black beans 250 mg

  • Spinach 215 mg

  • Goat’s milk 179 mg

  • Mustard greens 119 mg

  • Cows’ milk 152 mg

 

See also the Daily requirements of amino acids

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U

URACIL  (DNA chemical base U)

Uracil is one of five nitrogenous bases that attach to nucleotides found within cells. A nucleotide is made up of a five carbon sugar, pentose sugar, with a phosphate group and base attached. Nucleotides are the building blocks for two important nucleic acids – deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). The other four bases are adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Uracil pairs with adenine to form RNA along with the paired cytosine and guanine.

Natural sources of uracil

Chlorella, nuts, oily fish and shellfish.

URIC ACID (Antioxidant oxypurine)

Uric acid is produced from xanthine by the enzyme xanthine oxidase and is the highest concentration of antioxidants in human blood. In animals it is further broken down into allantoin but in humans and primates the urate oxidase gene is non-functional so it remains as uric acid. The reason for this development in primates and humans may be because it acts as a powerful antioxidant and can help to fight disease and reduce the oxidative stress caused by high-altitude hypoxia thus giving early primates and humans an advantage over other mammals.

Over production of uric acid in a high protein diet, however, can cause damage and gout is one common outcome. High levels of uric acid in the blood, also called hyperuricemia, can result from either increased production of uric acid in the body or decreased excretion of it through the kidneys and can lead to problems other problems such as like arthritis, gout, bladder and kidney stones and kidney failure. Recent studies have also associated high blood uric acid levels with hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Low levels of uric acid are implicated in individuals that develop multiple sclerosis and individuals with hyperuricemia (gout) rarely develop multiple sclerosis.

A - Z Index of all nutrients and components covered by this website
 

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V

VALINE (Essential amino acid)

Valine one of 20 protein building essential amino acids and also a branched-chain amino acid found in high concentration in the muscles. The other two are are isoleucine and leucine. It has a stimulating effect and is needed for muscle metabolism, repair and growth of tissue and maintaining the nitrogen balance in the body.  It may help with reversing hepatic encephalopathy or alcohol related brain damage, as well as degenerative neurological conditions.  This essential amino acid focuses on cognitive function and the nervous system which improves insomnia and symptoms of nervousness.

Deficiency may affect the myelin covering of the nerves. Deficiency may be caused by maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) which is the inability to metabolise leucine, isoleucine and valine. The disease is so named because urine from affected people smells like maple syrup.

Highest sources of valine in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Spirulina (dried) 3512 mg

  • Chlorella (dried) 3200 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 2650 mg

  • Whelks 2075 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 1683 mg

  • Calf’s liver 1669 mg

  • Cheddar cheese 1663 mg

  • Pheasant 1349 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 1315 mg

  • Tuna fish (tinned) 1314 mg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 1307 mg

  • Quail 1225 mg

  • Mackerel (tinned)1195 mg

  • Cod 1182 mg

  • Peanuts 1146 mg

  • Salmon (Atlantic farmed) 1139 mg

  • Black beans 1130 mg

  • Rabbit (wild) 1108 mg

  • Flaxseeds 1072 mg

  • Venison 1050 mg

  • Mussels 1040 mg

  • Beef (lean mince) 1035 mg

  • Sesame seeds 990 mg

  • Shrimp/prawns 983 mg

  • Lobster 964 mg

  • Turkey 926 mg

  • Crab 861 mg

  • Eggs 859 mg

  • Chicken 831 mg

  • Soya beans 831 mg

  • Almonds 817 mg

  • Brazil nuts 756 mg

  • Walnuts 753 mg

  • Crayfish 749

  • Rye 747 mg

  • Pine nuts 687 mg

  • Squid 680 mg

  • Wheat 618 mg

  • Quinoa 594 mg

  • Black beans 464 mg

NOTE: The intake of valine must be balanced with foods containing isoleucine and leucine which are also protein rich foods.

See also the Daily Requirements of Amino Acids on the Nature Cures Protein page.

VITAMIN A (Retinol, retinal, retinoic acid)

Vitamin A is a group of nutritionally unsaturated hydrocarbons, which include retinol, retinal, retinoic acid and several pro-vitamin A carotenoids. It is involved in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin, hair and mucous membranes. Vitamin A helps humans to see in dim light and is necessary for proper bone growth, tooth development and reproduction. It assists the immune system and its antioxidant properties protect against pollution, cancer formation and various diseases. It also assists with the sense of taste as well as helping the digestive and urinary tract and many believe that it helps slow aging. It is required for development and maintenance of the epithelial cells, in the mucus membranes and the skin and is important in the storage of fat and the synthesis of protein and glycogen. Adequate levels of zinc is needed to transport vitamin A to the retina.

Two forms of vitamin A are available in the human diet: preformed vitamin A (retinol and its esterified form, retinyl ester) and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is found in foods from animal sources, including dairy products, fish, and meat (especially liver). By far the most important provitamin A carotenoid is beta-carotene; other provitamin A carotenoids are alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. The body converts these plant pigments into vitamin A. Both provitamin A and preformed vitamin A must be metabolised intracellularly to retinal and retinoic acid, the active forms of vitamin A, to support the vitamin's important biological functions. Other carotenoids found in food, such as lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, are not converted into vitamin A.

Vitamin A helps to move iron from storage in the body, without adequate amounts of vitamin A the body cannot regulate iron properly leading to an iron deficiency.

Deficiency of vitamin A

Deficiency can cause depression. It may also lead to eye problems with dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea, night blindness as well as poor growth. Dry itchy eyes that tire easily are normally a warning of too little vitamin A. If the deficiency become severe, the cornea can ulcerate and permanent blindness can follow. Abscesses forming in the ear, sinusitis, frequent colds and respiratory infections as well as skin disorders, such as acne, boils and a bumpy skin, as well as weight loss might be indicative of the vitamin being in short supply. Insomnia, fatigue and reproductive difficulties may also be a sign that this vitamin is in short supply. The hair and scalp can also become dry with a deficiency, especially if protein is also lacking. Prolonged deficiency leads to the rapid loss of vitamin C.

NOTE: High levels of vitamin A consumption can cause birth defects so the foods below are best limited during pregnancy and supplements containing vitamin A should be avoided completely by all. Too much vitamin A interfere with vitamin D in the body

Natural sources of preformed vitamin A

  • Beef

  • Cheese

  • Cod liver oil

  • Crab

  • Cuttlefish

  • Egg yolks

  • Fish and fish eggs

  • Game birds

  • Lamb

  • Lobster

  • Milk (full cream)

  • Organ meats

  • Rabbit

  • Shellfish

  • Venison

See also

VITAMIN B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1 is required for the metabolism of carbohydrates and helps fuel the body by converting blood sugar into energy. It also keeps mucous membranes healthy and is essential for the nervous system, cardiovascular and muscular function and enhances circulation and helps with blood formation. It is also required for  the biosynthesis of a number of cell constituents, including the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and gamma-aminobutyric acid. It is used in the manufacture of hydrochloric acid and therefore plays a part in digestion.

It is also used by  the brain and may help with depression and assist with memory and learning and is known as the “anti-stress” vitamin because it helps to strengthen the immune system and improve the body’s ability to withstand stressful conditions. In children it is required for growth and has shown some indication to assist in treating arthritis, cataracts as well as infertility.

Consuming foods rich in vitamin B1 can help to repel mosquitoes as it changes the body's scent.

Deficiency of vitamin B1

Deficiency has been linked to severe mental illness. Beriberi is the vitamin deficiency disease in which the body does not have enough vitamin B1 (thiamine). Beriberi literally means "I can't, I can't" in Singhalese, which reflects the crippling effect it has on those that are deficient. Thiamine serves as a coenzyme in the chemical pathway responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates.

Excessive drinking is known for causing a serious deficiency in vitamin B1  which is found mainly in whole or enriched grains, beans and seeds. Alcohol appears to reduce its absorption, increase its requirements and impede its conversion to the active form. Adequate thiamine is crucial for carbohydrate metabolism and the formation of ATP, the body’s energy currency. The deficiency disease, which affects the nervous system and the heart, is called beri-beri. Chronic alcoholism can result in a severe form of beri-beri called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a form of psychosis accompanied by memory loss and brain shrinkage.

Persons may become deficient in vitamin B1 either by not ingesting enough in the diet or if the following conditions are present:

Coffee has a mild diuretic effect, which increases urination and water soluble vitamins, such as the B vitamins, can be depleted as a result of this fluid loss. In addition, it also interferes with the metabolism of some B vitamins, such as vitamin B1. Prolonged diarrhoea, drinking excessive alcohol and liver disease impairs the body's ability to absorb vitamin B1. Athletes and dancers may become deficient in vitamin B1 due to excessive perspiration and fluid loss. See Performers and Sports Nutrition.

Swelling of bodily tissues (oedema) is a common symptom of vitamin B1 deficiency. For natural ways to treat this see Water retention

Other signs are abdominal pain, anorexia, apathy, appetite loss, constipation, depression, drowsiness, enlarged heart or liver, extreme fatigue, forgetfulness, gastrointestinal disturbances, general weakness, heart changes, irritability,  laboured breathing, limb pains, muscle aches, nausea, nerve damage, nervousness, neurological disorders, numbness of the hands and feet, pain and sensitivity, peripheral neuropathy, poor concentration, poor coordination, swollen joints, tingling sensations, vomiting, weak and sore muscles and severe weight loss. A deficiency can also lead to an accumulation of lactic acid which can cause muscle cramps for athletes competing in endurance events.

Highest sources of vitamin B1 in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Yeast extract 23.38 mg

  • Brewer’s yeast 11 mg

  • Rice bran 2.75 mg

  • Wheat germ 1.88 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 1.48 mg

  • Coriander leaves 1.25 mg

  • Pine nuts 1.24 mg

  • Sesame seeds 1.21 mg

  • Pork 1.12 mg

  • Peanuts 0.85 mg

  • Soya beans0.83 mg

  • Macadamia nuts 0.71 mg

  • Trout 0.43 mg

  • Chicken livers 0.38 mg

  • Peas 0.28 mg

  • Salmon 0.26 mg

  • Navy beans 0.24 mg

  • Squash 0.17 mg

  • Brown rice 0.16 mg

  • Asparagus 0.16 mg

  • Nori seaweed 0.5 mg

  • Sprouted beans 0.4 mg

  • Shiitake mushrooms 0.3 mg

  • Asparagus, globe artichoke 0.2 mg

  • Beetroot greens, okra, spinach, watercress 0.1 mg

NOTE: Vitamin B1 levels in foods are radically reduced by heat. Check labels of Brewer's yeast as some products do not contain vitamin B1.

VITAMIN B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 is required by the body to use oxygen and for the metabolism of amino acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates and protein. Vitamin B2 is further needed to activate vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B9 (folic acid), helps to create vitamin B3 (niacin) and assists the adrenal gland. It is also used for red blood cell formation, antibody production, cell respiration and growth. It eases watery eye fatigue and may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of cataracts.

Vitamin B2 is also required for the health of the mucus membranes in the digestive tract and helps with the absorption of iron and vitamin B6. Although it is needed for periods of rapid growth, it is also needed when protein intake is high and is most beneficial to the skin, hair and nails. Vitamin B2 helps reduce homocysteine levels in the body therefore reducing risk of heart strokes, heart attacks and deaths from heart disease. Vitamin B2 also helps reduce the frequency of migraine headaches.

Riboflavin is manufactured industrially using yeast or other fermenting organisms, used as a yellow colouring and as vitamin fortification, but is difficult to incorporate into most foods due to poor solubility and it is destroyed upon exposure to light.

Deficiency of vitamin B2

Low levels of vitamin B2 may manifest itself as cracks and sores at the corners of the mouth, eye disorders, inflammation of the mouth and tongue, skin lesions, dermatitis, dizziness, hair loss, insomnia, light sensitivity, poor digestion, retarded growth and slow mental responses have also been reported. Burning feet can also be indicative of a shortage and it can also cause a lack of red blood cells.

Highest sources of vitamin B2 in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Yeast extract 17.5 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 4.59 mg

  • Baker’s yeast 4 mg

  • Parsley 2.38 mg

  • Cheese 1.38 mg

  • Almonds 1.10 mg

  • Lean beef 0.86 mg

  • Soya beans 0.76 mg

  • Wheat bran 0.58 mg

  • Mackerel 0.58 mg

VITAMIN B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 is required for cell respiration and helps in the release of energy and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It is also required for proper circulation and healthy skin, functioning of the nervous system and normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids. The body manufactures vitamin B3 from tryptophan, vitamin B2 and vitamin B6.

It is used in the synthesis of sex hormones, treating schizophrenia and other mental illnesses and as a memory-enhancer. People report more mental alertness when this vitamin is in sufficient supply. Niacin also enhances gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity inside the brain, which in turn helps reduce anxiety and neurosis and helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood as well as control blood sugar levels.

The body’s immune system creates a specific cytokine, interferon gamma, which breaks down tryptophan, a precursor of niacin. Studies show that HIV patients who take increased levels of vitamin B3 slow the progression of AIDS.

Bran is a food rich in vitamin B3 which is typically lost during the refining process. Anyone who eats high amounts of white bread, white rice, corn syrup or other refined products will not receive adequate amounts of niacin. Even though most of these foods are now fortified, it is still best to eat unrefined food products.

Deficiency of vitamin B3

Low levels of vitamin B3 may cause pellagra, the classic niacin deficiency disease and is characterised initially by bilateral dermatitis, diarrhoea, and dementia and can be fatal. A shortage of niacin may be indicated with symptoms such as canker sores, depression, diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue, halitosis, headaches, indigestion, insomnia, limb pains, loss of appetite, low blood sugar, muscular weakness, rosacea, skin eruptions and inflammation.

NOTE: The man-made synthetic version of vitamin B3 has anti-vitamin properties meaning it inhibits the absorption of other vitamins and should be avoided.

Highest sources of vitamin B3 in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Yeast extract 127.5 mg

  • Brewer’s yeast 40.2 mg (dependent upon source)

  • Rice bran 34 mg

  • Tuna fish (fresh) 22 mg

  • Anchovies 19.9 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 16.7 mg

  • Chicken breast 14.8 mg

  • Shiitake mushrooms 14.1 mg

  • Peanuts 13.8 mg

  • Tuna fish (tinned) 13.3 mg

  • Spirulina 12.8 mg

  • Calf’s liver 12.6 mg

  • Chilli powder 11.6 mg

  • Venison 10.8 mg

  • Duck 10.4 mg

  • Paprika 10 mg

  • Sun dried tomatoes 9.1 mg

  • Chia seeds 8.8 mg

NOTE: Recommended daily allowance is 14 mg for women and 15 mg for men.

VITAMIN B4 (Protein) See Adenine

VITAMIN B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Vitamin B5 plays an important role in the secretion of hormones, such as cortisone, because it supports the adrenal gland. These hormones assist the metabolism, help to fight allergies and are beneficial in the maintenance of healthy skin, muscles and nerves. Pantothenic acid also breaks down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from food and converts them into compounds the body can use. Some are of the opinion that pantothenic acid is also helpful to fight wrinkles as well as greying of the hair.

Pantothenic acid is synthesised by bacterial flora in the intestines. Also, as a constituent of coenzyme A, it plays a key role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and is therefore important for the maintenance and repair of all cells and tissue. It is involved in reactions that supply energy, in the synthesis of such vital compounds as sterols (cholesterol), hormones (growth, stress and sex hormones), neurotransmitters (acetylcholine), phospholipids (components of cell membranes), porphyrin (component of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying red blood cell pigment), antibodies, and in the metabolism of drugs (sulfonamides).

Vitamin B5 combines with sulphur in the body to make coenzyme A, thus getting rid of extra sulphur which may help people with a sulphur (thiol) intolerance.

It is released from coenzyme A in food by a series of enzyme reactions and then absorbed into the portal circulation and transported to the tissues, where resynthesis of the coenzyme occurs. It stimulates the adrenal glands and increases the production of cortisone for healthy nerves and skin. Another essential role of pantothenic acid is its participation in acyl carrier protein, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of fatty acids.

Deficiency of vitamin B5

Low levels of vitamin B5 may cause symptoms like cardiac instability, depression, fatigue, headaches, nausea, personality changes and tingling in the hands. Abdominal pains, frequent infections, muscle weakness and cramps, sleep disturbances and neurological disorders including numbness and paraesthesia (abnormal sensation such as 'burning feet syndrome') are also possible indications that this nutrient is in short supply. Biochemical changes include increased insulin sensitivity, lowered HDL blood cholesterol, a decreased level of potassium in the blood and failure of adrenocorticotropin to induce eosinopenia. Eosinopenia is a decrease in the number of specialised immune system white blood cells (eosinophils) in the blood. Eosinophils are one of the components responsible for combating multi-celled parasites.

Swelling of bodily tissues (oedema) can be a sign of vitamin B5 deficiency. For natural ways to treat this see Water retention.

Highest sources of vitamin B5 in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Brewer’s yeast 13.5 mg

  • Chicken livers 8.32 mg

  • Rice bran 7.39 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 7.06 mg

  • Whey 5.62mg

  • Yeast extract 4.60 mg

  • Shiitake mushrooms 3.59 mg

  • Fish roe 3.50 mg

  • Spirulina 3.48 mg

  • Paprika 2.51 mg

  • Wheat germ 2.26 mg

  • Sun dried tomatoes 2.09 mg

  • Goose 1.83 mg

  • Lobster 1.67 mg

  • Duck 1.50 mg

  • Peanuts 1.40 mg

  • Buckwheat 1.23 mg

VITAMIN B6 (Pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 is required for the balancing of hormonal changes in women as well as assisting the immune system and the growth of new cells. It is also used in the processing and metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, while assisting with controlling moods as well as behaviour. Natural foods rich in pyridoxine might also be of benefit for children with learning difficulties, as well as assisting in the prevention of dandruff, eczema and psoriasis. It also assists in the balancing of sodium and potassium and promotes red blood cell production. It is further involved in the nucleic acids RNA as well as DNA. Vitamin B6 is also needed by the body to manufacture its own vitamin B3 and converts glycogen to the glucose needed for energy.

It is further linked to cancer immunity and fights the formation of the toxic chemical homocysteine, which is detrimental to the heart muscle. Women may suffer from pre-menstrual fluid retention, severe period pains, emotional PMS symptoms, premenstrual acne and nausea in early pregnancy and consuming foods rich in vitamin B6, which is a natural diuretic,  can help to reduce these symptoms. Mood swings, depression as well as loss of sexual drive is sometimes noted when pyridoxine is in short supply and the person is on hormone replacement therapy or on birth control pills.

Deficiency of vitamin B6

Low levels of vitamin B6 can cause low glucose tolerance and high blood sugar, irritability, nervousness and insomnia as well as general weakness and skin disorders such as dermatitis and acneAsthma and allergies might also develop when pyridoxine is in short supply. Symptoms may include nails that are ridged, an inflamed tongue as well as changes to the bones which can include osteoporosis and arthritis. Kidney stones may also appear. Vitamin B6 in conjunction with magnesium has been found effective in the prevention and treatment of kidney stones.

Swelling of bodily tissues (oedema) can be a sign of vitamin B6 deficiency. For natural ways to treat this see Water retention.

Vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms will be very much like those of vitamin B2 and vitamin B3.

NOTE: Alcohol promotes the loss and destruction of vitamin B6 from the body and the medicine theophylline, often prescribed to asthmatic children, decreases levels of vitamin B6 in the body.

Highest sources of vitamin B6 in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Whey 5.62mg

  • Yeast extract 4.60 mg

  • Rice bran 4.07 mg

  • Shiitake mushrooms 3.59 mg

  • Fish roe 3.50 mg

  • Spirulina 3.48 mg

  • Sage 2.69 mg

  • Paprika 2.51 mg

  • Wheat germ 2.26 mg

  • Sun dried tomatoes 2.09 mg

  • Goose 1.83 mg

  • Chicken livers 0.76 mg

  • Lobster 1.67 mg

  • Brewer’s yeast 1.50 mg

  • Duck 1.50 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 1.35 mg

  • Wheat germ 1.30 mg

  • Garlic 1.24 mg

  • Buckwheat 1.23 mg

  • Pistachio nuts 1.12 mg

  • Tuna fish 1.04 mg

  • Beef or calf’s liver 1.03 mg

  • Shiitake mushrooms 0.97 mg

  • Salmon 0.94 mg

  • Turkey 0.81 mg

  • Venison 0.76 mg

NOTE: Wild salmon (0.94 mg) contains far more vitamin B6 than farmed salmon (0.56 mg) and fresh salmon and tuna are far richer in vitamin B6 than tinned.

VITAMIN B7 (Biotin, also known as vitamin H or coenzyme R)

Vitamin B7 is used in cell growth, the production of fatty acids and the metabolism of fats and proteins. It plays a role in the Krebs cycle, which takes place within the mitochondria. Biotin is also required for healthy hair and skin, healthy sweat glands, nerve tissue and bone marrow and assisting with muscle pain. Vitamin B7 not only assists in various metabolic chemical conversions, but also helps with the transfer of carbon dioxide and is also helpful in maintaining a steady blood sugar level.

Biotin is used in the body to metabolise both sugar and fat. In metabolising sugar, biotin transports sugar from its beginning stages to its eventual conversion into usable energy. An enzyme called acetyl Coenzyme-A carboxylase requires biotin to function properly. This enzyme forms the building blocks of fat production in the body and is critical as all cell membranes in the body need to contain the correct fat components in order to function effectively including those in the brain.

Other nutrients that are required for the effective use of vitamin B7 are chromium, magnesium, manganese and vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12.

Deficiency of vitamin B7

Deficiency may result in dry scaly skin, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting as well as tongue inflammation and high cholesterol. It may also lead to the appearance of severe rashes, fungal infections, brittle hair or even hair loss, depressive mood and mood swings.

The nervous system can also be affected by a biotin deficiency. Symptoms can include seizures, lack of good muscle tone and lack of coordination. Muscle cramps related to physical exertion can also be a symptom, as the body will have an impaired system to effectively use sugar as fuel.

NOTE: There are high levels of a protein called avidin in raw egg whites which bind to vitamin B7 (biotin) which may cause a deficiency of this vitamin if consumed over a few months. When cooked, avidin is partially denatured and binding to biotin is reduced. However one study showed that 30-40% of the avidin activity was still present in the white after frying or boiling so consumption of cooked egg whites should be limited to about three times a week whereas egg yolks, that contain most of the nutrients and no avidin, should be consumed more often. The other alternative is to eat extra foods rich in vitamin B7 the same day as eating egg whites.

Highest sources of vitamin B7 in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Chicken livers 180 g

  • Egg yolk 60 g

  • Walnuts 39 g

  • Oatmeal 35 g

  • Peanuts 34 g

  • Fish 20 g

NOTE: One g is equivalent to one microgram

VITAMIN B8 (adenylic acid or inositol)

Vitamin B8 is a water-soluble fatty lipid that is required by the body for the formation of healthy cells and is synthesised by the body inside the intestines, in the presence of bacteria. It assists the other B vitamins to function more effectively and plays an important part in the health of cell membranes especially the specialised cells in the brain, bone marrow, eyes and intestines. Cell membranes are responsible for regulating the contents of the cells, to enable the cells to function correctly.

It also promotes healthy hair and hair growth and helps in controlling oestrogen levels. Inositol is needed for health at cellular level. A good concentration of inositol is found in the lens of the eye as well as the heart. Inositol is closely related to choline. The two work together to make neurotransmitters and the fatty substances for cell membranes, as well as helping to metabolise and move out fats from the liver.

Inositol is a ‘second messenger’, triggering the release of calcium in cells. It also is involved in the transmission of messages between neural cells and the transport of fats within cells. Its most important role seems to be in the central nervous system, where it serves to help transmit messages along neural pathways. It also improves the activity of serotonin. It has been found to be effective in treating cases of anxiety, depression, panic attacks and other neurological disorders.

Inositol is obtained from food from phytic acid, a substance found in the fibre of foods (phytic acid gets converted to inositol in the intestine) and from foods directly in the form of myo-inositol. Inositol plays a part in helping to lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Choline, inositol and methionine belongs to a group of compounds called lipotropics which help the liver to process fat in the body.

Inositol has been shown to be effective in treating cases of Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, bulimia, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder and other psychological disorders that respond to serotonin uptake inhibitors and as an analgesic for pain control.

Deficiency of vitamin B8

Deficiency can be caused by alcohol and coffee which block absorption of inositol. Antibiotics and many other medications and recreational drugs block B vitamins and vital co-factors like inositol from being absorbed. Stress and intense exercise uses up all nutrients (especially the B-group vitamins and their co-factors) at a much faster rate.

Symptoms of a deficiency of vitamin B8 may show as alopecia (patchy hair loss), anxiety, atherosclerosis, confusion, depression, eczema, constipation, fatigue, fatty liver, hair loss, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol levels, increased homocysteine levels, insomnia, loss of memory, tingling hands and vision and/or eye disorders.

Highest sources of vitamin B8 (200 mg plus per 100 grams)

  • Grapefruit

  • Oranges

  • Mandarin oranges

  • Cantaloupe

  • Kidney beans

  • English peas

  • Stone ground wheat

  • Swede (kohlrabi)

Highest sources of vitamin B8 (100 - 200 mg per 100 grams)

  • Green beans

  • Butter beans

  • Split peas

  • Black-eyed peas

  • Limes

  • Blackberries

  • Artichokes

  • Okra

  • Kiwi fruit

  • Nectarines

Highest sources of vitamin B8 (10 - 100 mg per 100 grams)

  • Mango

  • Prunes

  • Potatoes

  • Pumpkin

  • Soya beans

  • Carrots

  • Peaches

  • Pears

  • Watermelon

  • Cherries

  • Apricots

  • Squash

  • White kidney beans

  • Pinto beans

  • Butter beans

  • Aubergine

  • Bread fruit

  • Brussel sprouts

  • Cabbage

  • Asparagus

  • Peppers

  • Collard greens

  • Tomatoes

  • Courgettes

VITAMIN B9 (Folic acid, foliate)

Vitamin B9 is required for DNA synthesis and cell growth and is important for red blood cell formation, energy production as well as the forming of amino acids. It is vital for healthy cell division and replication because of its involvement as a coenzyme for RNA and DNA synthesis. The body replaces all of its cells every nine months and one of the keys to preventing cancer is to have healthy cellular division. Errant cells can cause cancer cells therefore consuming foods rich in folic acid can help fight off carcinogens preventing various forms of cancer.

It is also essential for creating heme, the iron containing substance in haemoglobin which is crucial for oxygen transport. It is also required for protein metabolism and in treating folic acid anaemia and is essential  for normal foetal development. Folic acid also assists in digestion and the nervous system and works at improving mental as well as emotional health and therefore may be effective in treating depression and anxiety.

Deficiency of vitamin B9

When there is a deficiency of vitamin B9 acne, a sore tongue, cracking at the corners of the mouth and fatigue can occur which is the same symptoms shown by a deficiency of vitamin B2, vitamin B6 as well as iron. Long term deficiency may result in anaemia and later in osteoporosis, as well as cancer of the bowel and cervix. Deficiency in an unborn baby may increase the risk of the baby being born with spina bifida and other serious defects of the nervous system therefore pregnant women must consume natural foods rich in vitamin B9.

Highest sources of vitamin B9 in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Yeast extract 3786 g

  • Brewer’s yeast 2340 g

  • Chicken livers 578 g

  • Basil 310 g

  • Wheat germ 281 g

  • Sunflower seeds 238 g

  • Soya beans 205 g

  • Spinach 194 g

  • Lentils 181 g

  • Chick peas, pinto beans 172 g

  • Shiitake mushrooms 163 g

  • Parsley 152 g

  • Black beans 149 g

  • Peanuts 145 g

  • Navy beans 140 g

  • Asparagus 135 g

  • Turnip greens 118 g

  • Chestnuts 110 g

  • Beetroot 109 g

  • Spearmint 105 g

  • Chlorella and spirulina 94 g

  • Fish roe 92 g

  • Hazelnuts 88 g

  • Walnuts 88 g

  • Flaxseeds 87 g

  • Avocado 81 g

  • Mussels 76 g

  • Kidney beans 74 g

  • Peas 65 g

  • Broccoli 63 g

  • Brussel sprouts, okra 60 g

  • Quinoa 42 g

  • Papaya 38 g

NOTE: The recommended daily allowance of vitamin B9 is 400 g for adults. One g is one microgram.

VITAMIN B10 (Pteroylmonoglutamic acid, folacin)

Vitamin B10 is a water-soluble vitamin previously known as vitamin R. It is involved in the production of vitamin B9 (folic acid) by intestinal bacteria. It is a coenzyme in protein metabolism and blood cell formation and is important for skin health. Vitamin B10 is used in sunscreen to lessen the risk of skin cancer from ultra-violet exposure. It is also used in the treatment of rheumatic fever. Vitamin B10 is also very essential for anti inflammatory and anti-allergic effects.

It is beneficial in hair pigmentation and skin and a very powerful ingredient as a skin protector against pollution. It is very useful against male infertility and can treat depression, fibrotic skin disorders and vitiligo.

Deficiency of vitamin B10

Low levels of vitamin B10 can cause irritability, depression, nervousness, constipation, skin problems and eczema.

Natural sources of vitamin B10

Beef, black strap molasses, bran, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buckwheat, chicken, chicory, lamb, mushrooms, okra, organ meats, rabbit, spinach and whole grains.

VITAMIN B11 (Pterylheptaglutamic acid)

Vitamin B11, also known as pteryl hepta glutamic acid, is a form of vitamin B9 (folic acid), one of five foliates necessary for humans, and is now known as ‘chick growth factor’. It is a component necessary for DNA and RNA synthesis, cell division and development of the foetus nervous system. It is also known as factor S and has similar properties to vitamin B10.

Deficiency of vitamin B11

Deficiency can lead to lack of appetite, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, lower Immunity, fatigue and some types of cardiac conditions. Long term deficiency may result in anaemia and later in osteoporosis, as well as cancer of the bowel and cervix. Deficiency in an unborn baby may increase the risk of the baby being born with spina bifida and other serious defects of the nervous system.

Natural sources of vitamin B11

Asparagus, barley, beef, beef liver, bran, brewer's yeast, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buckwheat, cheese, chicken, chicory, collard greens, dates, eggs, kelp, lamb, legumes, milk, peas (fresh), mushrooms, okra, oranges, organ meats, rabbit, rice (brown), rye, soybeans, spinach, strawberries, tangerines, tuna and whole grains.

VITAMIN B12 (Cyanocobalamin)

Essential to the metabolism of amino acids, carbohydrates and fatty acids and important for the proper function of the nervous system and the maintenance and formation of blood cells, vitamin B12 is synthesised only by microorganisms in the colon and is not present in many plants and it is bound to the protein in foods. This is a primary reason why most plant-based foods cannot be relied upon to supply good amounts of vitamin B12 except for ashitaba and barley grass which are a surprisingly rich sources of this vitamin.
Most animals obtain the vitamin preformed from their natural bacterial flora and though the bacteria in the human colon produces some B12, because it is below the ileum where B12 is absorbed into the blood stream, it must also be obtained in the diet from the food sources below.

Vitamin B12 stimulates appetite, promotes growth and releases energy. It is often used with older people to give an energy boost, assist in preventing mental deterioration and helps with speeding up thought processes. Some people are also of the opinion that it helps with clearing up infections and provides protection against allergies, cancer and degenerative disorders like Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

The relationship between vitamin B12, vitamin B9 (foliate) and iron is a good example of the complex way in which some essential nutrients help keep the body healthy. Vitamin B12 is indirectly responsible for raising the blood iron level to keep it in a healthy range. Vitamin B12 activates an enzyme called methionine synthase that has many essential functions, including helping the body use vitamin B9 (foliate), which is needed for production of new DNA during cell division. Normally, about one percent of the red blood cells in the circulation are replaced by new cells each day, so that their number always remains adequate to provide oxygen to all cells, tissues and organs. If vitamin B-12 is lacking, usable vitamin B9 can become low, slowing production of new red blood cells in the bone marrow. Eventually, this problem can lead to low levels of iron in the blood as old red cells wear out and die but are not effectively replaced.

Another major function of vitamin B12 involves its participation in the development of nerve cells. A coating which encloses the nerves, called the myelin sheath, forms less successfully whenever B12 is deficient. Although the vitamin plays an indirect role in this process, consumption of foods rich in vitamin B12 has been shown to be effective in relieving pain and other symptoms in a variety of nervous system disorders.

Vitamin B12 is closely related to nerve health and keeps the mind sharp when aging. A lack of this essential vitamin may shrink the brain. Lack of concentration, mental fogginess and having problems with memory are all important signs that may indicate a B12 deficiency.

Deficiency of vitamin B12

Low levels of vitamin B12 can result in a sore tongue, weakness, fatigue, weight loss, back pain, lethargy and apathy. It might further result in loss of balance, decreased reflexes, tingling of the fingers and toes and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). It may also result in the raising of the level of homocysteine in the blood - which in high doses can be toxic to the brain, which may be involved in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Another problem that appears in deficiency is the eroding of the myelin sheath - the fatty sheath of tissue, which insulates the nerve fibres in the body.

Older adults with atrophic gastritis hampers the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from natural foods. Athletes, alcohol drinkers, people in stressful situations, people taking recreational or prescribed drugs, pregnant and lactating women, those on low-fat or meat free diets, vegetarians and vegans, people with food allergies, especially to wheat, and those that have parasite infections can all become deficient in vitamin B12. Severe deficiency may result in pernicious anaemia also called Addisonian pernicious anaemia.

If vitamin B12 deficiency is suspected and there are no resources to measure cellular vitamin B12 levels, then blood levels of methylmalonic acid can help with assessing vitamin B12 requirements since it inversely increases with declining vitamin B12 activity.

Overdose of vitamin B12

This can cause coronary artery spasms with chest pains, numbness or pain down the right arm, and/or tingling / numbness on the right side of the face. There is also a risk of hypokalemia (low potassium), pulmonary oedema, peripheral vascular thrombosis, optic nerve atrophy for someone with Leber's disease and others. Risks from intranasal use of vitamin B12 include glossitis, headaches, sore throat, rhinitis, and feeling of pins and needles. Individuals suffering from Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) are also vulnerable to experience a worsening or an acute flare-up of MVP symptoms following a vitamin B12 shot. Vitamin B15 and Coenzyme Q10 can counteract high levels of vitamin B12.

Pins and needles, tingling and numbness in the tips of fingers and toes can develop from vitamin B9 deficiency which can be caused by ongoing high vitamin B12 supplementation or injections  Levels of vitamin B9 must always be checked when high levels of vitamin B12 are taken.

Highest sources of vitamin B12 in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Clams 98.9 μg

  • Liver 83.1 μg

  • Barley grass juice 80 μg

  • Nori seaweed 63.6 μg

  • Octopus 36 μg

  • Caviar/fish eggs 20.0 μg

  • Ashitaba (dried powder) 17.0 μg

  • Herring 13.7 μg

  • Tuna fish 10.9 μg

  • Crab 10.4 μg

  • Mackerel 8.7 μg

  • Lean grass fed beef 8.2 μg

  • Duck eggs, goose eggs, rabbit 6 μg

  • Crayfish, pork heart, rainbow trout 5 μg

  • Shiitake mushrooms 4.8 μg

  • Lobster 4 μg

  • Lamb, venison 3.7 μg

  • Swiss Cheese 3.3 μg

  • Salmon 3.2 μg

  • Whey powder 2.37 μg

  • Golden chanterelle mushrooms 2 μg

  • Tuna 1.9 μg

  • Halibut 1.2 μg

  • Chicken egg 1.1 μg

  • Chicken, turkey 1.0 μg

  • Anchovies 0.9 μg

  • Ashitaba leaves 0.4 μg

NOTE: One μg is one microgram.

Daily recommended amount for an averagely active adult is 2.4 μg daily.

Fungi, plants and animals are incapable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes required for its synthesis, although many foods are a natural source of B12 because of bacterial symbiosis. Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver and secreted in the bile as a coenzyme.

Re-absorption takes place in the body and, as long as there are no digestive/absorption issues or liver disorders, both meat eaters and vegetarians will gain enough from a balanced and varied diet which includes raw organically grown vegetables and seeds and nuts which contain vitamin B12 from microbial action in the soil.

Root vegetable with stained spots due to contact to soil, are a good supply of vitamin B12 however, once they are peeled or scrubbed they will no longer contain any vitamin B12. Barley grass is one very good plant source of vitamin B12.

VITAMIN B13 See Orotic acid

VITAMIN B14 (Xanthopterin)

Vitamin B14 is little known but is found in human urine and is thought to be similar to vitamin B10 and vitamin B11. It is known to be very helpful in formation of cells of the body especially the bone marrow, provides resistance to combat anaemia and enhancement of the anti-tumour growth of protein such as pterin phosphate.

Deficiency may lead to destruction of red blood cells, anaemia usually pernicious anaemia as well as increase growth of cancerous cells in the body.

Natural sources of vitamin B14

VITAMIN B15 (Pangamic acid)

Dimethyl glycine is the active component that combines with gluconic acid to form vitamin B15 in the human body. Vitamin B15 interacts with cobalt, nickel, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B12.

Vitamin B15 inhibits the effects of vitamin B12 and cobalt. Cobalt specifically affects the right coronary artery, resulting in vasodilatation with low levels and vasoconstriction with high levels. Vitamin B15 reduces the levels of cobalt and hence causes vasodilatation of the right coronary artery. Vitamin B15 is also able to counteract the effects of high levels of vitamin B12 or an overdose by injection. See vitamin B12 for the symptoms of vitamin B12 overdose.

Blood tests for cobalt or vitamin B12 levels, including the Schilling test, are not very reliable and can be alarmingly wrong, as pernicious anaemia can develop with normal serum levels, subjecting patients to improper therapy or they are misdiagnosed as psychiatric cases, when in fact correcting their abnormal cobalt, nickel, vitamin C, vitamin E and/or vitamin B12 levels could resolve the problem.

Nutritional imbalances involving nickel, cobalt, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and vitamin B15 can either result in localised physical discomfort or they can trigger cardiac, cerebral, emotional and/or anxiety problems due to blood flow changes to the heart or brain through their respective vasoconstrictive or vasodilating changes.

Vitamin B15 is not readily available in supplement form and, in many countries, is not included in the B Complex supplements therefore consuming a balanced diet of natural foods instead which contain vitamin B15, cobalt, nickel, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B12 is important.

Vitamin B15 also helps in the formation of specific amino acids such as methionine. It also plays a role in the oxidation of glucose in cell respiration. Like vitamin E, it acts as an antioxidant helping to lengthen cell life through its protection from oxidation. It also mildly stimulates the endocrine and nervous systems and, by enhancing liver function, it helps in the detoxification process.

Vitamin B15 has been shown to lower blood cholesterol, improve circulation and general oxygenation of cells and tissues, and is helpful for arteriosclerosis and hypertension. It can also treat premature aging because of both its circulatory stimulus and its antioxidant effects. It can also help protect the body from pollutants, especially carbon monoxide so is useful for anyone living in traffic congested areas.

In Russia, vitamin B15 is used in treating alcohol dependency and can reduce alcohol cravings and diminish hangovers. B15 has also been used to treat fatigue, as well as asthma and rheumatism, and it has some anti-allergic properties. It can also treat emotionally disturbed children; it is used to stimulate their speaking ability and related mental functions.

Consuming foods rich in vitamin B15 can reduce the build-up of lactic acid in athletes, hence, lessening muscle fatigue and increasing endurance. It is also very useful for treating autism, aging and dementia, addictions, alcoholism, brain damage in children, chemical poisoning, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, schizophrenia and skin conditions.

Natural sources of vitamin B15

VITAMIN B16 (Dimethylamino acetic acid)

Vitamin B16 is a derivative of the amino acid called glycine. The small intestine absorbs vitamin B16, and then the liver converts it into other useful metabolites. Vitamin B16 functions as a building block to DNA, amino acids, neurotransmitters and hormones. It is a by-product of choline which circulates in the body in small amounts for only seconds at a time.

It can enhance the immune system, stimulant neurological functions and help to manage autism, epilepsy, mitochondrial disease and Parkinson's disease. It enhances immune responses in humans and animals by improving oxygen utilisation during hypoxia, a medical condition in which the body does not receive sufficient oxygen. It can also reduce lactic acid build-up in the blood during stressful events or intense exercise.

Natural sources of vitamin B16 in alphabetical order

VITAMIN B17 (Nitriloside, amygdaline)

Vitamin B17 are a large group of water-soluble, essentially non-toxic, sugary, compounds found in over 800 plants, many of which are edible. These factors are collectively known as beta-cyanophoric glycosides. They comprise molecules made of sugar, hydrogen cyanide, a benzene ring or an acetone.

Vitamin B17 is responsible for the thiocyanates in the body fluids (blood, urine, saliva, sweat and tears). It is part of the benzoic acid, hippuric acid, salicylic acid isomers and the hydrogen cyanide that is involved with the production of vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) from (pro-vitamin B12) hydrocobalamin.

Vitamin B17 is known to help combat liver disorders as well as support the liver’s ability to process and eliminate poisons in the body.

Vitamin B17 is a natural cyanide-containing compound that gives up its cyanide content only in the presence of a particular enzyme group called beta glucosidase. This enzyme group is found almost exclusively in cancer tissue, which results in the cancer's failure to survive the cyanide. There are no known harmful side effects of B17 and the cyanide in B17 does not affect non-cancerous cells.

The seeds and stones of fruits such as apricots and peaches and some nuts contain high amounts of vitamin B17 and are one of the main courses of food in cultures such as Navajo Indians, Hunzas, Abkhasians and many more. Within these tribes there has never been a reported case of cancer. Some people with cancer have stayed with some of these tribes and their cancer has disappeared after just a few months of eating the same diet as them.

100 mg of vitamin B17 (the equivalent of about seven apricots stones or three apples including the seeds) can be consumed daily to protect against and eliminate cancer. High concentrations of B17 are obtained by eating the natural foods in their raw or sprouting stage. This does not mean that moderate cooking will destroy the B17 content.

NOTE: Over consumption of some fruit seeds and stones can result in very unpleasant side effects caused by a natural toxin produced from them. It is therefore unadvisable to consume more than 100 grams in one day.

Apple, apricot, cherry and peach pips, seeds and stones and raw cassava (tapioca) contain cyanogenic glycosides causing cyanide poisoning. Seeds from one apple are unlikely to cause any ill effect but people have eaten enough to die from it. Cyanide is lethal because it impedes blood from carrying oxygen, which is of course a critical function of blood and is possibly why it can stop cancer cells developing as they require oxygen to multiply. A fatal dose of cyanide can be as little as 1.5 mg/kg of body weight. Since an apricot kernel contains approximately 0.5 mg of cyanide, consuming 150 stones in a short period of time could be lethal to a 50 kg (110 lb) person.

Natural sources of vitamin B17

In the seeds and stones of apple, apricot, cherry, crap apples, cranberries, grapes, orange, peach, pear, plum, prune and tangerine.

Also found in alfalfa (sprouted), bamboo shoots, barley, berries, bitter almonds, broad beans, brown rice, buckwheat, cashew nuts, chia seeds, chickpeas, flaxseeds, lentils (sprouted), lima beans, loquat leaf, macadamia nuts, millet, mung beans (sprouted), oats, runner beans, rye, sesame seeds, vetch, wheat grass, winged beans

Other plant sources of vitamin B17 are fuchsia, sorghum, wild hydrangea, yew tree (needles, fresh leaves) and in grasses such as aquatic, Johnson, Sudan, milkweed, minus and white dover.

VITAMIN C (Ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is required in the synthesis of collagen in connective tissue, neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, carnitine, conversion of cholesterol to bile acids and enhances iron bioavailability. Ascorbic acid is a great antioxidant and helps protect the body against pollutants. Because vitamin C is a biological reducing agent, it is also linked to prevention of degenerative diseases - such as cataracts, certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Ascorbic acid also promotes healthy cell development, proper calcium absorption, normal tissue growth and repair - such as healing of wounds and burns. It assists in the prevention of blood clotting and bruising, and strengthening the walls of the capillaries. Vitamin C is needed for healthy gums, to help protect against infection and assisting with clearing up infections and is thought to enhance the immune system and help reduce cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and preventing arteriosclerosis. Vitamin C can kill the antibiotic resistant tuberculosis bacteria.

Vitamin C is required to change proline into hydroxyproline (collagen) and lysine into hydroxylysine (collagen) which both help to repair tissue damage. It works best when accompanied by foods rich in rutin and hesperidin.

Nickel and vitamin C share a common antagonist; vitamin E. This inhibiting effect of vitamin E is not related to the antioxidative properties of vitamin C or vice versa (both are antioxidants, so in that respect they are synergistic), but they are antagonists ratio wise to one another, and to other chemical members: For instance, vitamin C increases iron uptake, which vitamin E inhibits. Vitamin C lowers manganese and zinc, while vitamin E helps increase manganese and zinc absorption. As a result, a very high intake of vitamin C will require an equally high intake of vitamin E to maintain the same ratio.

Foods that contain high amounts of vitamin C help the lungs effectively transport oxygen throughout the body and improve lung function protecting against respiratory disorders and lung cancer. They can also effectively dissolve bladder and kidney stones.

Deficiency of vitamin C (scurvy)

Deficiency can cause scurvy which is one of the most serious disease affecting children and teenagers today. It is caused by a dietary lack of vitamin C, a nutrient found in many fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly the citrus fruits. Vitamin C deficiency interferes with normal tissue synthesis and may result in "pinpoint" haemorrhages under the skin and a tendency to bruise easily, poor wound healing, swollen, soft and spongy bleeding gums and loose teeth, cracked lip corners, oedema (water retention), weakness, a lack of energy, poor digestion, painful and stiff joints and and lower extremities, bleeding under the skin and in deep tissues, bronchial infection, anaemia and frequent bouts of flu and colds and other virus infections. Prolonged deficiency of vitamin A leads to the rapid loss of vitamin C.

Studies show that smokers have lower levels of vitamin C in their blood than non-smokers and this is thought to be due to increased oxidative stress. Similarly, those regularly exposed to passive smoke have lower levels of vitamin C in their blood. People in these groups are advised to consume more vitamin C, up to 35 mg (50%) more than non-smokers.

Boiling or evaporating milk destroys any vitamin C it provides which can lead to vitamin C deficiency in infants fed boiled or evaporated milk.

Because vitamin C is found mainly in fresh fruits and vegetables, people who do not eat these foods or who do not vary their diet greatly are at risk of vitamin C deficiency.

Individuals with malabsorption diseases, like cachexia, are at increased risk of vitamin C deficiency. Other high risk groups include those with cancer, end-stage renal disease (kidney failure) or chronic haemodialysis.

Toxicity of vitamin C

High consumption of foods rich in vitamin C have shown no toxicity dangers but high supplemental doses of vitamin C can increase levels of uric acid in the urine, because vitamin C can be broken down into uric acid. However, it is not clear that increased uric acid in the urine can increase a person's risk of developing uric acid bladder and kidney stones or gout.

NOTE: Vitamin C supplements might raise blood sugar. In older people with diabetes, vitamin C in amounts greater than 300 mg per day increases the risk of death from heart disease therefore it is wiser to choose foods rich in vitamin C rather than supplements.

Highest sources of vitamin C in milligrams per 100 grams

  1. Acerola cherries 1677.6 mg

  2. Camu camu berries 532 mg

  3. Rosehips 426 mg

  4. Green chillies 242.5 mg

  5. Guavas 228.3 mg

  6. Yellow bell peppers 183.5 mg

  7. Black currants 181 mg

  8. Thyme 160.01 mg

  9. Red chillies 143.7 mg

  10. Drumstick pods 141 mg

  11. Kale 120 mg

  12. Jalapeno peppers 118.6 mg

  13. Kiwi fruit 105.4 mg

  14. Sun dried tomatoes 102 mg

  15. Broccoli 89 mg

  16. Brussel sprouts 85 mg

  17. Cloves, saffron 81 mg

  18. Chilli pepper 76 mg

  19. Mustard greens 70 mg

  20. Cress 69 mg

  1. Persimmons fruit 66 mg

  2. Swede 62 mg

  3. Basil 61 mg

  4. Papaya 60 mg

  5. Rosemary 61 mg

  6. Pomelo fruit 61 mg

  7. Strawberries 58 mg

  8. Chives 58 mg

  9. Oranges 53.2 mg

  10. Lemons 53 mg

  11. Pineapple 48 mg

  12. Cauliflower 48 mg

  13. Kumquats 43.9 mg

  14. Watercress 43 mg

  15. Wasabi root 41.9 mg

  16. Kidney bean sprouts 38.7 mg

  17. Melon 36.7 mg

  18. Elderberries 36 mg

  19. Breadfruit 29 mg

  20. Coriander 27 mg

NOTE: The suggested recommended daily amount is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men although a gorilla gets about 4000 mg of vitamin C a day in its natural diet.

VITAMIN D (secosteroids)

Vitamin D is a group of five fat-soluble secosteroids:

  1. Vitamin D1

  2. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)

  3. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)

  4. Vitamin D4 (22-dihydroergocalciferol)

  5. Vitamin D5 (sitocalciferol)

These secostetoids are responsible for the intestinal absorption of calcium which assists in bone growth and the integrity of bone and promotes strong teeth. It also helps regulate the amount of phosphorus and magnesium in the body and helps to maintain a healthy heart and nervous system. In some recent studies it has also shown great promise in assisting with the treatment of psoriasis and the maintenance of the immune system and thyroid function as well as normal blood clotting. It also acts as a co-factor in the utilisation of amino acids. 

Vitamin D protects against vascular disease via several different mechanisms, including reducing chronic inflammatory reactions that contribute to the pathology of the disease. Women who have sufficient levels of vitamin D are less likely to develop uterine fibroids. Consuming foods rich in vitamin D also protects the pancreas by its ability to block the proliferation of cancerous cells. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D can help breathing and helps to protect against tuberculosis (TB).

Copper, together with zinc improves the absorption of vitamin D which aids in the absorption of calcium. Alcohol and some medications cause the expulsion of zinc so it is advisable to consume more zinc rich foods if on medications or if alcohol is consumed regularly.

Deficiency of vitamin D

More than 75% of the world's population are deficient in vitamin D and unaware of it. However, this figure may be much higher as testing vitamin D levels is not done on a regular basis, if at all, in most people. Vitamin D is produced by cholesterol in the skin when it is exposed to sunshine. It is then stored in the fatty tissues of the body for between 30-60 days. From October there is often not enough to last through until the sun reaches its optimal strength again around April leading to a deficiency unless extra vitamin D rich foods are consumed.

Healthy kidneys are rich with vitamin D receptors and play a major role in turning vitamin D into its active form. This helps balance calcium and phosphorus in the body by controlling absorption of these minerals from the food consumed and regulates the parathyroid hormone.

Gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity and inflammatory bowel disease can lead to a deficiency of vitamin D.

Deficiency can lead to softening of the bone and muscle cramps, twitching and convulsions and in children it causes rickets resulting in bent legs. In adults, the shortage causes loss of minerals from the bones, (osteomalacia) where the bones are sore, tender and the muscles are weak with the possibility of deafness and tooth decay developing. In older people, osteoporosis may appear when protein is also lost from the bone and lower back pain can be caused by vitamin D deficiency.

Low vitamin D levels can also cause dry eye syndrome and increase the risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as it has an important role in the protection of the eyes.

A poorly functioning liver will affect vitamin D levels and excessive alcohol can contribute to this. Vitamin D gets stored in the liver.

Vitamin D can have a beneficial impact on all autoimmune diseases particularly multiple sclerosis (MS) and a lack of it can worsen these conditions. MS is a chronic, neurodegenerative disease of the nerves in the brain and spinal column, caused through a demyelization process. It a disease with few treatment options.

Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection and depression. Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to:

  • Age related macular degeneration.

  • Colorectal cancer.

  • Depression and mood swings.

  • Diabetes mellitus.

  • Dry eye syndrome.

  • Excessive sweating. Vitamin D regulates the concentration of minerals in the body which then helps to regulate fluid balance which, in turn, regulates the body temperature.

  • Fatigue. Low vitamin D levels leads to fat accumulation which then lowers the metabolism and can cause  tiredness and chronic fatigue.

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Inflammatory bowel disease.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Kidney failure.

  • Liver function problems can cause an inability to absorb and store vitamin D.

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS).

  • Obesity. Just a 10 percent rise in body mass index (BMI) causes a four percent drop in concentrations of vitamin D in the body.

  • Osteoarthritis.

  • Osteomalacia.

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Psoriasis. Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to this autoimmune skin disorder.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus.

Vitamin D improves blood circulation throughout the body, which is essential for the heart to function properly. This helps reduce the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and other problems.

A lower maternal intake of vitamin D during pregnancy in women whose prospective child was at risk of developing autoimmune diabetes mellitus is associated with a statistically increased risk of the child developing pancreatic autoimmunity. Low vitamin D levels during pregnancy can also be responsible for autism developing in the unborn child.

Excessive sweating of the head can be a key symptom of rickets, a form of vitamin D3 deficiency that affects bone development in children.

It has been shown that low vitamin D levels are also associated with increased cardiovascular mortality. Maintaining a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood level of 50 – 80 ng/mL can eliminate this risk. Low levels of vitamin D can also increase the excretion of amino acids in the urine which can affect the maintenance of all body cells and hormone and neurotransmitter production.

A quarter of all toddlers in the UK are lacking vitamin D, according to new research. Despite a recommendation that all children under five should take vitamin D supplements, 74% of parents know nothing about the guidelines. And more than half of health professionals are also unaware of them.

Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise because people have become aware of the risks of skin cancer caused by exposure to the suns harmful rays and either use sunscreens or cover up and avoid the sun completely. Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or more appear to block vitamin D-producing UV rays, although in practice people generally do not apply sufficient amounts, cover all sun-exposed skin or reapply sunscreen regularly. Therefore, skin likely synthesises some vitamin D even when it is protected by sunscreen as typically applied. Those with dark skin have less ability to produce vitamin D as over 90% of the sun rays cannot penetrate the skin This is also applicable to those that maintain a deep suntan over a period of time.

Ten to fifteen minutes of midday sunshine on bare skin can  provide all the body needs. It is not the same as sunbathing; the skin simply needs to be exposed to sunlight a few days a week. UVB radiation does not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors through a window does not produce vitamin D.  Over exposure of the suns rays can be dangerous for the skin but no exposure at all can be equally detrimental to the health.

Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in sunlight convert cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D. During the winter months (October-April) when it is too cold to expose the skin to the sun and in the northern hemisphere there is not enough UVB rays from the sun anyway, it is advisable to raise the weekly intake of vitamin D rich foods. Complete cloud cover reduces UV energy by 50%; shade (including that produced by severe pollution) reduces it by 60%.

The optimum level of vitamin D in the blood should be 50-70 ng/ml and up to 100 ng/ml to treat cancer and heart disease. It is important to have a blood test to determine vitamin D levels especially if suffering from any of the following symptoms.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms

There are more than 900 genes that vitamin D is now known to switch on and off - and in doing so alters the body’s vulnerability to disease. The large number of genes involved explains how so many quite different diseases can be caused by insufficient sunshine.

After the age of 50 the body becomes less proficient at converting the sun's rays to vitamin D and the kidneys become less efficient at making this process take place. It is important to check levels every six months over the age of 50, especially from November to April.

Overdose of vitamin D

If supplements of 40,000 IU are taken per day for a couple of months or longer, or a very large one-time dose is ingested, the liver produces too much of a chemical called 25(OH)D which causes a condition called hypercalcaemia which is high levels of calcium in the blood and muscles and can lead to irreversible kidney damage. The symptoms of hypercalcaemia include:

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Confusion.

  • Constipation or diarrhoea.

  • Fatigue.

  • Increased thirst.

  • Muscle weakness or pain.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Passing urine often.

  • Poor appetite or loss of appetite.

NOTE: Supplements must be vitamin D3 and not D2 and check that aspartame has not been added to chewable forms. Consuming natural foods that are rich in vitamin D is far healthier and safer than taking supplements. Krill oil capsules (1000 mg per day) can be beneficial as they provide vitamin D and other nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

According to recent findings, the benefit of vitamin D, where bone strength and cardiovascular health are concerned, is greatly enhanced when combined with