Category Archives: nutrient guidelines

A GMO labeling bill has passed the Senate but it may create loopholes in what will be considered GMO

Genetically modified organisms created for agricultural purposes may be required to be listed on food labels but the wording of the proposed legislation may allow some types of foods or ingredients to not be listed. Refined ingredients that would not be expected to contain “genetic” content (DNA or RNA) may not be required to be listed as GMO.

The risk to health however has to do with the proteins that the GMO DNA cause to be produced throughout the plant rather than the DNA itself. Allergens might be produced that weren’t present in the normal crops. And in Bt GMOs the Bt toxin is produced throughout the plant as an insecticide, even within the part we harvest for food use. And while it is believed to not be harmful to human health it was initially developed as an antibiotic and mineral chelator. And humans depend on having a healthy balance of microbes within the intestines and glyphosate may be harmful to them. A refined ingredient might not contain much DNA protein or much of a Bt endotoxin protein either but it would be nice to have a lab test showing that it wasn’t present in the refined ingredient rather than be concerned only about GMO DNA. Testing for glyphosate residue levels would be of interest to me also.

Read more about the Senate bill on GMO labeling, it is a bipartisan backed bill that is expected to pass the House:

“About 75% of the foodstuffs at the grocery store are now genetically manipulated, in what has been called the world’s largest biological experiment on humans.”

Sometimes progress can seem like progress but if it misinforms the public then is it really progress? A food label that claims to inform consumers about GMO content but which actually excludes major categories of refined ingredients that are based on GMO crops is providing disinformation – inaccurate information about the food’s content. Sick people who are trying to improve their health wouldn’t be able to trust the labels if the labels still allowed ingredients that were making the sick people to feel sicker. If the goal is supporting an individual’s right to know what is in their food then the labeling requirements ideally would include all types of GMO based ingredients whether the ingredient includes GMO DNA are not.

On a different but related topic — a couple recent posts [1, 2] included history about concerns I’ve had regarding excessive vitamin D and calcium supplementation, the new information I learned about glyphosate provides the likely solution – but more research is needed. The glyphosate information about CYP enzyme inhibition of vitamin D metabolism could be an explanation for the increase in low vitamin D levels observed in the U.S. population. And excessive supplementation with inactive vitamin D may not have been found to be helping as expected because of inhibition by the herbicide glyphosate.

A quote from a book on an unrelated topic: “When you solve a mystery, you destroy its power over you.”  – Dan Neuharth, Ph.D.,  If You Had Controlling Parents; How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World. page 79, (Harper, 1998)

The question of why U.S. citizens had lower vitamin D levels than Canadians, when I knew our food supply had adequate amounts of vitamin D and that we would collectively be getting more sunshine than Canadians on average with most of the country being located farther south, was a mystery I’ve been pondering ever since learning of it in 2010.

And the inhibition of CYP enzymes by glyphosate could be a cause of low vitamin D levels that don’t respond well to supplementation and which could be affecting a large percentage of the population. There was a large increase of the herbicide with Round-Up ready GMO crops and with the introduction of glyphosate as a crop desiccant . (And magnesium deficiency may be another cause of low vitamin D levels when there is plenty of vitamin D available and which could be affecting a large percentage of the population, but more on that later.)

As a dietitian I was uncomfortable ethically in 2010 regarding the high dose supplements being given to people for long term treatment without monitoring the active hormone level and I am still uncomfortable about the potential risks for the minority of people who may develop elevated levels of the active hormone D. Elevated levels can cause worsening of chronic illness and even increase risk of death. A large number of studies have now been performed that have not found high dose supplements to be consistently helpful — and it turns out that the form of the supplements may be inhibited from being activated by glyphosate.

In past writing I’ve included information about types of infection that may be affecting hormone D metabolism in some people but infectious disease is likely to affect a smaller number of people than the population wide levels of low vitamin D that have been observed. Some pathogens are known to modify the vitamin D receptor metabolism. Inhibiting the vitamin D receptor would reduce immune function of the cell and allow the microbe to infect the cell. Infection likely is affecting vitamin D levels for some people but a food contaminant would likely affect a larger percentage of the population.

A GMO labeling law is progress but the law wouldn’t include crops that use glyphosate as a desiccant in addition to excluding some refined but GMO derived ingredients from being listed as GMO and it may be the glyphosate itself – the Round-up herbicide – in Round-up ready crops that is the biggest risk to health– not the genetically modified DNA. And similarly it may be the Bt toxin itself that the genetically modified DNA encodes for rather than the DNA that is a risk to health. The Bt toxin may be causing harm to the intestinal bacteria and may have been modified enough from the original Bt toxin that the genetically modified Bt toxin is now also a risk to the cell walls of human intestinal and red blood cells unlike the Bt toxin that previous research has been based on. Research with the GMO seeds by private research labs or scientists is being limited by the companies that own the GMO seed patents.

Intestinal bacteria can affect mood positively or negatively and an imbalance in magnesium, vitamin D, and calcium can also affect mood. My condolences to all of the families and individuals who have lost loved ones or friends to gun violence. Part of the reason I’ve been concerned about the excess supplementation of vitamin D is because an imbalance in vitamin and hormone D can lead to an imbalance in calcium and magnesium which can lead to severe irritability and even homicidal violence. Epsom salt baths are inexpensive and provide a form of magnesium that can be absorbed well even when there is an imbalance in the vitamin and hormone D levels which tends to promote calcium absorption in the intestines and increased magnesium losses in the kidneys.

Calcium is also important but the average U.S. diet tends to include many calcium rich sources and promote calcium supplements more than magnesium. Magnesium however is necessary for converting vitamin D into 25 hydroxy D and 1, 25 dihydroxy D in addition to CYP enzymes so magnesium deficiency might also be an underlying factor for low vitamin D levels that don’t respond well to vitamin D supplements.  “Data indicate a reduced risk of insufficient/deficient vitamin D status at high magnesium intake and an inverse association between circulating 25-hydroxy vitamin D and mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality, among those with magnesium intake above the median.”  ~ People with more magnesium intake also had better vitamin D levels and reduced risk of death, particularly less risk of death due to heart disease.

Unlike most other nutrients the blood levels of vitamin D can be affected in a number of different ways as it is actually a hormone rather than being simply controlled by intake of food or supplements. And levels of blood calcium and magnesium are also carefully controlled in a number of ways because they are electrically active. Excess calcium can cause muscle contractions and magnesium helps muscles relax. Excess calcium is associated with more severe coronary artery disease and magnesium deficiency is associated with heart attacks and strokes. Elevated hormone D tends to promote elevated calcium levels and may lead to heart disease and osteoporosis. Elevated calcium levels is also associated with increased risk for kidney failure. the following link has a chart that compares risks of elevated blood cholesterol and calcium and the difference is startling.

Many nutrients are important (all of them in fact), and an older article (2013) reviews a variety of nutrients and research on violence and aggression and diet or other factors affecting violence such as psychiatric pharmaceuticals. Adequate omega 3 fatty acids may be protective. Cholesterol is essential too, low levels of it is associated with increased aggression according to the article. The review of research was in response to the increase in school shootings (2013): – that link is to a site that promotes a diet based on the foods that are believed to have been available to ancient people. The article reviews a large number of nutrients and other topics and their possible role in promoting or preventing violence. Magnesium is just one of the many nutrients essential for health but it is also essential for a good mood. There were many other results for the search terms that I used, “magnesium deficiency violence aggression‘:

Solving the mystery has led to information that has helped my health and a GMO label law might make it easier for me to avoid GMO products but it might not be that helpful if the law is written so that many types of GMO ingredients wouldn’t be included and a GMO-free label actually meant only possibly GMO free. The labels wouldn’t be reliable if foods might still contain refined GMO ingredients and yet not be required to have the GMO label.

The list of foods that might be sources of glyphosate or Bt toxin:

It is our right to protect our health and I find my health is improved when I avoid or moderate use of some of those foods, I wasn’t aware of the specific oils on the list but had been avoiding excess poly-unsaturated oils in general because it may increase inflammation to have too little omega 3 fatty acids and too much of certain fatty acids found in poly-unsaturated fats..

  • An imbalance in the two types of fats has also been associated with increased aggression per a link provided earlier:  (2013):
  • And having certain types of controlling parents has also been associated with increased risk for aggression or violence per the book I quoted earlier in this post: “When you solve a mystery, you destroy its power over you.”  – Dan Neuharth, Ph.D.,  If You Had Controlling Parents; How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World. quote page 79, (Harper, 1998)

Glyphosate and the  GMO Bt toxin may be affecting our intestinal bacteria which can affect our moods. Disrupted vitamin D metabolism can lead to an imbalance in calcium and magnesium which can affect our moods. When the body works it seems simple but it isn’t.

The GMO labeling law has language that will identify ingredients as GMO by how refined they are rather than whether the whole food was a GMO or not. Information about GMO content would be helpful but a refined ingredient might still contain glyphosate residue or Bt toxin or other unknown allergens that may have developed during the genetic modification of the organism. Research and testing of those chemicals would be helpful. Labeling laws would be a challenge for the food industry to comply with. Working on using less glyphosate and GMO crops (that have been shown to potentially be hazardous to humans or the environment), seems like a more direct route to improving health to me.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

The new U.S. food label changes have been released by the FDA; a link

Serving size and calorie information will be in larger font. Packages that contain only a few portions will be required to have a nutrition label for the single serving nutrient content and an additional label showing the nutrient content if the whole package was consumed at once. For example a 20 ounce bottled beverage might show the nutrient and calorie information if 10 ounces were consumed as a single serving and have an additional label showing the nutrients and calories that would be consumed if the entire 20 ounce bottle was consumed at one time.

Vitamin A and C content will no longer be required but may still be included by the company if they choose to display  the information. Vitamin D and potassium content will be required to be included on the label and iron and calcium will continue to be required. Actual milligrams or other unit of measurement will be required in addition to a percentage provided in a 2000 calorie average day’s intake. Deficiencies of vitamin A and C are rare in the U.S. population while deficiencies of Vitamin D and potassium have been an increasing concern. Adequate potassium intake can help protect against high blood pressure problems (hypertension) and may be just as important as limiting excess salt for prevention of hypertension.

Added Sugar” will be a new category in addition to “Total Sugar” which has been a confusing item because it includes naturally occurring sugars contained in dairy products and fruit in addition to any added sugars.

To see examples of the new label format in comparison to the old label, read more: []

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

What do we have in common with pine trees and ticks?

Cannabinoids is the short answer.

Excerpts from p59 and p62, Editors, Emmanuel S. Onaivi, Takayuki Sugiura, Vincenzo Di Marzo, Endocannabinoids: The Brain and Body’s Marijuana and Beyond, (Taylor & Francis Group, 2006, Florida), pages 59 and 62 are from Chapter 3, by: E.S. Onaivi, H. Ishiguro, P. W. Zhang, Z. Lin, B. E. Akinshola, C. M. Leanoard, S. S. Chirwa, J. Gong, and G. R. Uhl, Chapter 3, Endocannabinoid Receptor Genetics and Marijuana Use,

“This chapter discusses the current state of description of the genes encoding the CBRs, [cannabinoid receptors], from their serendipitous identification to the existence of an EPCS, [Endogenous P_?__ Cannabinoid System – I can’t find the acronym spelled out within the text]. This previously unknown but ubiquitous EPCS consists of the membrane cannabinoid receptors, their ligands, endocannabinoids that are known to act as retrograde messengers, and the associated proteins for their biosynthesis, e.g., phospholipase D, and for their inactivation, e.g., fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerols.” (p59)

Cannabinoids are essential throughout the body and in most forms of life, including plants, animals and some insects:

“The occurrence of a novel cannabimimetic molecule 2-scia-donoylglycerol (2-SG) in the plant seeds of umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) has also been reported (Nakane et al., 2000). 2-SG was found to have effects on the CB1R similar to, but with lower activity than, 2-AG, demonstrating the occurrence of these interesting molecules, not only in plants and animals but also in disparate organisms such as ticks. This widespread occurrence of endocannabinoids and related fatty acid amides and their receptors appears to be highly conserved in nature, indicating a fundamental role in biological systems. For example, the salivary glands of ticks, which are ectoparasitic and obligate blood-feeding arthropods, can make endocannabinoids and their congeners with analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity, which possibly participate in the inhibition of the host defense reactions (Fezza et al., 2003).” (p 62)

Ticks know that cannabinoids have medical properties – are U.S. politicians dumber than ticks? – or are they just under the control of corporate profit influence? The Eli Lilly company made $4.8 billion off of the cannabinoid system in 2007 alone with the sale of olanzapine/Zyprexa.

The paragraph continues:

“Apparently, the EPCS plays a critical role in the survival and mechanisms of cell death.”

In other words the endogenous cannabinoid system is essential for controlling apoptosis – the enzymatic blast of death that white blood cells can deliver to infected, cancerous, or otherwise damaged cells. The cure for cancer has always been within us – when we are well nourished and functioning correctly.

The paragraph continues (it’s a long paragraph, which actually started half way up the previous page, but this does include the rest of the paragraph.):

“Previously, the existence of anandamide analogs in chocolate had been demonstrated (di Tomaso et al., 1996). It is thought that chocolate and cocoa contain N-acylethanolamines, which are chemically and pharmacologically related to anandamide. These lipids could mimic cannabinoid ligands either directly by activating CBRs or indirectly by increasing anandamide levels (Bruinsma and Taren, 1999). These observations demonstrate that endocannabinoid analogs exist in plants and animals and further illustrate that evolutionary conservation of the cannabinoid system in nature. In this section, we will briefly review the properties and functions of these endocannabinoids. Thus, the EPCS represented by CBRs, endocannabinoids, and enzymes for the biosynthesis and degradation of these ligands is conserved throughout evolution. Endocannabinoids are present in peripheral as well as in brain tissues and have recently been demonstrated to be in breast milk. In addition, the recent demonstration of the expression of functional CB1R in the preimplantation embryo and synthesis of anandamide in the pregnant uterus of mice suggested that cannabinoid ligand-receptor signaling is operative in the regulation of preimplantation embryo development and implantation (Paria and Dey, 2000). 2-AG has been characterized as a unique molecular species of the monoacylglycerol isolated from rat brain and canine gut as an endogenous CBR ligand (Sugiura and Waku, 2000). 2-/ag also exhibits a variety of cannabimimetic activities in vitro and in vivo, and clearly further studies are necessary to determine the relative importance of 2-AG and anandamide in the human body and brain. This is because the levels of anandamide (800 times lower than the levels of 2-AG) found by some investigators in several mammalian tissues, and its production mainly in the postmortem period in the brain, have led to questions about the physiological significance of anandamide, especially in the brain, despite its high-affinity binding to CBRs (Sugiura and Waku, 2000). These research findings undoubtedly have advanced cannabis research and have allowed us to hypothesize that the EPCS consists of a previously unrecognized but elaborate network of endocannabinoid neuromodulators complete with their accompanying biosynthetic, uptake, and degradation pathways just like the monoaminergic and opiodergic systems.” (p62)

So olanzapine/Zyprexa prevents the breakdown of anandamide – which normally becomes more elevated in the postmortem (dead) brain while a different endocannabinoid – 2-AG – is normally more elevated in the live brain. Personally I like my brain to function more like a live brain than a dead brain, as I’m not partial to zombies or negative side effects such as diabetes, suicide, or homicide. So the Eli Lilly company may be similar to blood sucking parasitic ticks in that they are pleasuring some patients to the point of sickness or death with the prescription medication olanzapine/Zyprexa.

There was a warning from the FDA about Zyprexa in 2005, but regarding a problem with it being given in error to people who actually had been prescribed the allergy medication Zyrtec. Zyprexa causes many negative side effects and Zyrtec doesn’t cause any — at least for me, I’ve used it for allergies in the past. Zyprexa is described within the FDA warning as being an anti-psychotic that is only for the short term or maintenance management of schizophrenia or for the short term use for manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder. So be sure to check your Zyrtec bottle every time you refill it, just in case the pharmacist makes a mistake and grabs Zyprexa instead or couldn’t read a hand written prescription accurately and thought that it did say Zyprexa.[]

The medication, in an injectable form, was also under FDA review due to two patient deaths — autopsy found higher than expected levels in the blood of the two patients a few days following a standard injection (a one month sustained release dose is given as a intramuscular injection). The FDA required animal studies which showed that some animals did have increased amounts of the drug in their blood following death. No changes were required for the medication’s patient care or label requirements. The article includes the information that since 2011 that total sales of olanzapine had dropped for the year 2014, due to an increase in the use of generics. “Zyprexa’s 2014 sales have fallen to $1.04 billion from $4.62 billion in 2011, primarily due to competition from generic medications, Reuters reported. ” []

The two patients are still dead though. Maybe enough patients complained to their doctors in 2012 and 2013 about the negative side effects of the medication to cause the large increase in use of different generics. — No that isn’t what happened, the FDA approved a generic form of olanzapine in 2014, so now Eli Lilly isn’t the only parasitic tick pleasuring patients to sickness or death. []

Obviously Eli Lilly and the generic drug company is making billions off of our cannabinoid system — so clearly cannabinoids have medical uses within the body.

Cannabinoids are essential throughout the body and not all people can make them from other molecules. They may have a deficiency of the nutrient since birth, due to genetic defects, or some people may have been able to make adequate cannabinoids when they were young but then they may have lost the ability later in life due to malnutrition, disease, or aging. So for some individuals from birth and for others later in life cannabinoids are an essential nutrient that has to be obtained from external sources. The nutrient guidelines need to be changed to reflect the fact that some people and some babies may need an external source of cannabinoids in their diet or with an alternate external source, (such as medical marijuana or the prescription Sativex which contains a balanced amount of THC and CBD extracted from medical marijuana), and all infant formula should be required to have cannabinoid content equivalent to what would be provided naturally within breastmilk.

The herb rosemary, from the pine family, is a natural source of cannabinoids, so is nutmeg, cardamom, chocolate and cocoa, buckwheat, the inner germ of corn, and some seeds such as cucumber seeds and pomegranate seeds.

Sources: 1. Weihrauch et al, 1983 The Phospholipid Content of Foods (JAOCS, vol 60, no. 12 (December 1983) and 2. James Duke – for the herbal plants, Ethnobotanical and Phytochemical Database of medicinal plants and chemical activities, (This website still exists, however the Database is no longer available.)

See a couple of my older posts for more information and excerpts about the phospholipid content of many foods:

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./


Routine screening not recommended for vitamin D levels

A review of research suggested that there is not clear guidance for establishing a level of vitamin D deficiency that is consistently associated with health or disease risks for all individuals and toxicity is possible with excessive intake of vitamin D.

Some populations are more at risk than others so individual testing for some people may be helpful; dark complected individuals who avoid sunlight and vitamin D food sources may be more at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D food sources include egg yolk, wild caught salmon, sardines, fortified dairy products and milk equivalents, fortified breakfast cereals and fortified meal replacement type snack bars.

Read more: USPSTF: Routine Vitamin D Screening Unsupported.

/Disclosure: I am a nutritionist. Disclaimer: Information presented on this site is not intended as a substitute for medical care and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment by your physician. Please see a health professional for individualized health care services./

Why nutrient guidelines matter

Nutrient guidelines such as upper and lower recommendations are set to help promote health and safety for the average person. But the guidelines are also used to plan menus for cafeteria type facilities where eaters may not have the ability to speak up or reach out for more or less of a food or beverage. If the menu for such a person is based on guidelines that are not actually safe for the average person then the eater who can’t speak up or move independently may not be able to protect themselves from an unbalanced diet. And that inability to protect themselves would be a daily problem for months or years for the chronically ill or disabled person.

The person planning the menu for a residential dining facility is required to follow the recommended guidelines even if they are aware or suspect that the guidelines might not be safe for all people. The code of ethics for the health industry is based on the guidance from the days of Hippocrates to  “First, do no harm.” Restricting sodium to 1500 milligrams may help protect ten percent of the population who are especially salt sensitive but the guideline may be placing some percentage of the remaining ninety percent of the population at increased health risk due to overly low sodium levels.

The average person may be free to grab the salt shaker when they feel like it, but there are many others who have to be fed by hand or with a tube feeding. Nutrient guidelines are used to design the tube feeding formulas and for writing the menu for cafeteria style eaters. It doesn’t seem professionally ethical to take part in a system that is based on assumptions about what is or isn’t safe for the average person if those assumptions may be incorrect for the average eater. We are all individuals, no single person is actually ‘average’.

I write about the nutrient guidelines because nutritional care is my field and I feel that the guidelines may not be providing a safe balance for the average diner who is unable to speak up for themselves due to physical or mental deficits. Caution and a caring attitude is necessary when providing the daily food and beverages for people who don’t have the physical or mental ability to self feed in response to their own internal hunger and fullness appetite cues.

The nutrient guidelines are also not intended to provide what is needed during times of illness yet individualized recommendations for specific types of illness are not always shared with the patients with special dietary needs. My goal is to increase awareness that patients can have different types of nutritional needs but they may not always be able to speak up for themselves.

Medical malpractice lawsuits have made health care more costly but dietary malpractice at the nutrient guideline level may be making health care more ineffective which is also costly. [CDC sodium intake guidelines ‘excessively and unrealistically low,’ April 2, 2014]

Salt, best to use moderate amount in balance with potassium

The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, a large study with an international data group (n = 157,543), found that excessive or low intake of salt was associated with increased health risks. The worst risk was associated with people who had a combination of excessive sodium and low potassium. Intake was not directly measured, urinary excretion of sodium and potassium was measured. [1]

Sodium alone was not found to be consistently associated with risk of high blood pressure but excretion amounts greater than 5 grams were more likely to be associated with higher blood pressure values than excretion levels between 3 to 5 grams per day and no increase in blood pressure was associated with excretion levels below 3 grams per day . The lowest risk of cardiovascular incidents or death was associated with participants who had sodium excretion levels between 3 grams and 6 grams. Excretion levels greater than 7 grams of sodium was associated with the greatest risk but levels below 3 grams was also associated with increased health risks. Current guidelines recommend a sodium intake of 1.5 to 2.4 grams per day.  [1]

It is unlikely that the guidelines will be changed based on this study alone because of the method that was used to estimate daily sodium and potassium excretion. Replicating the findings with another study that collects more data per participant is recommended in the linked article.  [1] However, while we’re waiting for more research, if you like salt try to have plenty of potassium rich fruits and vegetables too.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to provide individual health guidance; see a health professional for individual health care./

Vitamin C helps prevent bruising too easily

Vitamin C is one of the earliest vitamins to be discovered. The nutrient is essential for helping strengthen the walls of capillaries, the smallest type of blood vessels. Moderate deficiency can make it easy to minor bumps to cause capillary damage and result in visible bruising from small bumps or scrapes. A chronic deficiency can cause a painful disease called scurvy which is characterized by skin and skeletal lesions. Connective tissue like collagen which is found within the skin, cartilage and bone requires vitamin C for formation.

The nutrient’s discovery dates back to the early exploration of the oceans when sailors would develop a sickness after months at sea when supplies of fresh foods were long gone.

In the 15th to 18th centuries, sailors commonly developed scurvy when only non-perishable food could be stored in ships sailing overseas.1 Scurvy occurred when people had little access to foods containing vitamin C for extended periods, e.g., the great Potato Famine in Ireland in 1845, the American Civil War, the exploration of the North Pole, and the California Gold Rush.2,3,4 The last major documented outbreak occurred in Afghanistan in 2002 after civil war and a severe drought.5         [Velandia, Centor, and Shah, et. al, JGIM, 2008, 2]

Vitamin C is a water soluble nutrient so the body can’t store extra vitamin C for longer than four to five months in adults. [1] Potatoes and citrus fruits are good food sources. The Great Famine (1845–1852) that occurred in Ireland was due to a plant blight that ruined the potato crop. Research studies of victims of the famine suggests that males and taller individuals may have needed more of the nutrient than more petite individuals. [1]

“The results indicate that scurvy indirectly influenced famine-induced mortality. A sex and stature bias is evident among adults in which males and taller individuals displayed statistically significantly higher levels of scorbutic lesions.” [p 2, 1]

Approximately one serving of citrus fruits or two servings of potatoes would provide a minimum daily recommendation of 45 mg for adults. [1] At the time the potato crop could not be stored for more than ten months so supplies would typically run out by the end of winter and the poorest people would go hungry before the next crop would be ready at the end of summer. The Great Famine is estimated to have caused one million deaths  between 1845 to 1852 in Ireland and caused another million people to emigrate from the country, which combined represented approximately 25% in the total population of Ireland at the time. [1]

A painful condition resembling the symptoms of scurvy was first described there in 1845:

One of the earliest accounts of the disease was of people in the town of Naas in County Kildare, who in November 1845 were described as suffering from “rose-colored patches,” which would have been due to ecchymoses, and severe pains in their bones and swollen muscles “so acute that the patients [winced] on the slightest pressure” (Crawford,1988: 286).

This account provides a graphic description of the severe pain suffered by those afflicted with scurvy. Excruciating pain is known to develop early in the disease and often results in pseudo-paralysis. Other clinical consequences include gingivitis, tooth loss, swelling of the lower extremities, and perifollicular hemorrhages (Sullivan,1903).

Additional symptoms involve alternate feelings of being hot and cold, vertigo, faintness, profuse sweating, hemorrhagic spots in the eyes, xerosis, hyperkeratosis, bent and coiled body hairs, and impaired healing of wounds (Hodges et al.,1969; Hirschmann and Raugi,1999).                                        [Geber and Murphy, Am J Phys Anthropol. 2012 Aug;148(4):512-24.  page 6, 1]

Today the disease is fairly rare in developed countries due to the availability of many foods that are naturally good sources of vitamin C or are fortified with the nutrient. The supplemental form of vitamin C is well utilized by the body. [3] However ten to fourteen percent of the adults in a 1994 health survey were reported to have scurvy in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Elderly and other individuals with limited fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet may be more at risk for developing scurvy. Others at increased risk include individuals with chronic alcoholism and those with mental illness or chronic illnesses. [Velandia, Centor, and Shah, et. al, JGIM, 2008, page 2, 2]

Good food sources of vitamin C in addition to potatoes and citrus fruits include strawberries, black berries and raspberries, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, guavas, papaya, pineapples, tomatoes, broccoli, fresh green peas, okra and raw onions. [4]

Vitamin C may also be important for strengthening the immune system:

“Although the influence of Vitamin C on the immune system is not yet fully understood, experiments have shown how ascorbic acid influences the neutrophil chemotaxis and acts as an immunostimulant. This occurs through an increase in T and B lymphocyte proliferation and as a result of migrating cells reaching sites of infection. Viruses and bacteria are also more susceptible to destruction as a result of the influence of ascorbic acid (Anderson,1982; Hemilä,2003; Ronzio2003). As discussed above, scurvy appears to have significantly influenced the mortality pattern in the Kilkenny Union Workhouse population and it seems likely that this impairment of the immune system was a contributing risk factor in the acquisition of infectious diseases such as measles, scarlet fever, typhus, relapsing fever, smallpox, tuberculosis, and cholera (see Geary,1996; Patterson,1997; Kennedy et al.,1999; Mokyr and Ó Gráda,1999) which, for many people at that time, resulted in death.”       [Geber and Murphy, Am J Phys Anthropol. 2012 Aug;148(4):512-24.  1]

Vitamin A helps protect the immune system

Malnutrition in general can decrease the function of the immune system and chronic deficiency of vitamin A can be a non-viral cause of AIDS/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The viral HIV cause of AIDS has become a well known risk and newer medication protocols have been developed that have increased survival rates for patients with HIV/AIDS. It may be less well known that many people are still dieing of a preventable nutrition related cause of AIDS.

Nutrition-related AIDS deaths exceed 15 million per year, about seven times more than HIV-related causes. [1]

Nutrients are necessary for patients with nutrition-related cases of AIDS. Medications may be necessary to help combat secondary infections but pharmaceuticals can not cure an underlying nutrient deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency during early childhood can also affect eye development and be a cause of irreversible blindness. [2] For people of any age group, Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness which is very reversible with intake of vitamin A or its precursor, beta-carotene. Dark green and bright orange vegetables are very good sources of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A.  [3]

The body is built and repaired with nutrients not with pharmaceuticals. Sometimes money spent on pharmaceuticals would buy more health if spent on programs that help supply nutritious food and clean water. [4]

Global pharmaceutical corporations have been exerting political pressure on governments to promote their pharmaceutical solutions. As a result, many economically struggling nations who comply with these measures do it at the expense of providing food and sanitation to their people, which further aggravates health problems. [1]

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause long term nerve degeneration

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin):

     Neurological symptoms of B12 deficiency may include: numbness and tingling of the arms and legs; problems walking; disorientation; memory loss; mood changes that may resemble schizophrenia; and dementia.  Damage may occur to the myelin sheath which surrounds and insulates nerves like the plastic coating around an extension cord.  Nerve damage and mental health symptoms may become permanent with long term deficiency of vitamin B12.

Digestive symptoms may include: loss of appetite, a painful tongue, and constipation.  The reason for there to be digestive symptoms associated with B12 deficiency is not well understood.  One theory suggests that undiagnosed digestive problems might have been an initial cause of the  B12 deficiency.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may include  pernicious anemia and megaloblastic anemia which are hemoglobin deficiencies that have symptoms of tiredness.  Folate deficiency symptoms are also possible because B12 is necessary in folate metabolism.  Increased heart disease risk from elevated homocysteine levels may result from B6,  B12, or folate deficiency.

     Malabsorption problems, chronic use of antacids and being over age 60 may increase the risk of B12 deficiency.  A cofactor and normal stomach acidity levels are necessary for B12 absorption.  Some individuals receive monthly injections of B12.  Sublingual tablets are absorbed in the mouth.


Food Sources of Vitamin B12 include:  shellfish, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, dairy products, Nutritional or Brewer’s yeast.  Vegetarians who don’t eat dairy, eggs, fish or other meat products may need a supplement or nutritional yeast, a vegan food source of vitamin B12.

Injections of B12 may be needed for better absorption of the nutrient for some individuals with stomach problems. Adequate stomach acid and a cofactor are required for normal absorption of vitamin B12. A genetic difference may exist that causes some individuals to require the methylated active form of B12 rather than being able to benefit from the more commonly available unmethylated supplement.  [More about methylcobalamin.]


Reference for more information:

An Evidence-based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals:  Health Benefits and Intake Recommendations, 2nd Ed., by J. Higdon & V. Drake, (Thieme, Stuttgart / New York, 2012)

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Folate is essential and Folic Acid is commonly available

Folate or Folic Acid:

     Folate is the form of the vitamin found in food and is more bioactive.  Folic acid is the form that is commonly available as a supplement and in fortified foods however it requires adequate supplies of vitamin B12  in order to be converted into a usable form. A genetic difference may exist in some individuals that prevent the body from being able to convert the inactive folic acid form into folate, the methylated bioactive form of the vitamin. [More about methylation.]

     Deficiency of folate can cause megaloblastic / macrocytic anemia which is characterized by red blood cells that are over-sized and ineffective.  Anemia symptoms include being short of breath and feeling tired and weak.  The symptoms are due to a shortage of normal red blood cells and reduced ability to transport oxygen with each breath.

     Folate is needed for DNA synthesis and for DNA methylation which may be important for preventing cancerous changes from occurring in the DNA.

     Lack of folate may increase heart disease risks due to less breakdown of homocysteine.

     Folate is important during pregnancy for fetal development.  Spina bifida and cleft palate are birth defects that may be caused by folate deficiency.

Food Sources of Folate, the bioactive natural form, include: most beans and peanuts, black eyed peas, green peas, grains, asparagus, most dark green vegetables, orange juice, citrus fruits. Fortified cereal and rice are good sources of folic acid, the supplemental form.


Reference for more information:

An Evidence-based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals:  Health Benefits and Intake Recommendations, 2nd Ed., by J. Higdon & V. Drake, (Thieme, Stuttgart / New York, 2012)

See a health care provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.