Introduction to Biochemistry
Introduction to Biochemistry
Introduction to Biochemistry
• Evaluate the benefits and risks of each vitamin discussed.
• Describe various deficiency symptoms or disorders.
• Explain common causes of deficiency.
• Predict which deficiency exists based on the symptoms given.
• Explain the need for each vitamin.
• Research vitamin and mineral information.
• Explain the interaction vitamins have with other substances.
Vitamin * beta-carotene * thiamin * biotin * macronutrients
micronutrients * minerals * synthesis * leukemia * retinol
retina * glucogenesis * Kreb’s cycle * beriberi * edema *
normochromic normocytic anemia * eclampsia * nicotinic acid
metabolism * homocysteine * oral * topical * anemia *
spina bifida * pituitary * thymus * adrenal glands * scurvy
scorbutus * rickets * osteoporosis * osteomalacia *
coagulation * hemoglobin * ATP
Introduction to Biochemistry
All life requires organic molecules. Proteins, fatty acids, and
carbohydrates are considered macronutrients because we need them
in large quantities.
Other organic molecules, like vitamins, are also needed but in smaller
quantities so they are known as micronutrients. Finally, inorganic
substances such as many of the metals, or minerals, listed in the
periodic table are also needed for life and are part of our needed
Vitamins were originally considered vital amines (amino acids) but it was
later found that they were not all amines. Minerals are metals but for
use by animals, they are usually complexed with specific anions.
Vitamins often act as coenzymes, indirectly supplying energy
for life by helping to drive metabolic reactions, usually
transferring electrons or protons. Some vitamins are fat
soluble, such as A, D, E, and K. These require fat in order
to be absorbed by the intestines. These can also be stored
in our body fairly easily. All of the rest of the vitamins are
water soluble and are not stored well so need to be
replaced regularly through our diet.
Vitamin A is important for bone growth, reproduction, membrane
integrity, vision, and cell division and differentiation. It also plays a role
in the immune system through cell differentiation into white blood cells
and by helping lymphocytes fight infections more effectively.
True vitamin A is also known as retinol (an alcohol) or retinal (an
aldehyde). Notice the similarity between “retinal” and “retina” (the part
of your eye with rods and cones for vision). Retinal is needed to
transmit light sensations in the retina. It binds to a protein called
“opsin” to form “rhodopsin” (visual purple) which allows rod cells to
transmit in low light levels. One of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency
is night blindness. Severe deficiency can lead to total blindness and
the deterioration of all membranes and skin. This opens the way for
diseases and early death.
Retinoic acid, combined with protein, binds to chromosomes in the
nucleus where it regulates the rate of transcription and the synthesis of
some proteins. Retinoic acid also acts on thyroid hormone receptors
and vitamin D receptors.
Vitamin A is needed during fetal limb development, and for formation of the
heart, eyes, and ears. And, it regulates the expression of the gene for growth
hormone. Vitamin A is also important for forming red blood cells through
myeloid stem cell differentiation in the bone marrow. It also likely helps move
iron from storage sites to developing RBC’s for use in the hemoglobin portion
responsible for carrying oxygen. In fact, some people diagnosed with iron
deficient anemia do not improve with iron supplementation until vitamin A is
Zinc is also extremely important. If it is low, retinol binding protein, which
carries retinol throughout the body to the tissues (like the retina of the eye), will
see a decrease in synthesis (manufacture). Zinc is also needed to convert
retinol to retinal for use in the eye.
Women who were HIV positive and deficient in vitamin A were 3 to 4 times
more likely to transmit HIV to their infants. There is also a strong link to death
from measles and vitamin A deficiency. A mutation of receptors for retinoic
acid has been found in one form of leukemia (proliferation of immature white
blood cells). High vitamin A supplementation sometimes helps.
Because vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, it can be stored in our body. We
can actually get too much, although this is not very common. Too much
vitamin A, just like too little, can cause birth defects. Some prescriptions, such
as accutane for severe acne, are similar to high levels of vitamin A and can
cause severe birth defects even months after stopping the prescription. Other
risks of hypervitaminosis include liver problems, decreased bone density
(possibly leading to osteoporosis), nervous disorders and dry itchy skin.
To avoid any chance of toxicity, many vitamins contain beta-carotene
instead of true vitamin A. Beta-carotene is considered a provitamin. Betacarotene can be converted by MOST people to vitamin A. It takes about 12
mcg of beta-carotene from food to make 1 mcg of retinol. Beta-carotene in oil
converts at about a 2:1 ratio. There are more than 560 carotenoids but less
than 10% of these can be converted to vitamin A. Of these beta-carotene
converts at the highest ratio. Lycopene and lutein are important anti-oxidants
in the carotene family that do not convert. (Both are good for the eyes, etc.)
One IU (international unit) equals 0.3 mcg. of retinol. An upper daily limit of
10,000 IU of retinol is considered safe for most non-alcoholics or people
without liver or cholesterol problems.
Thiamin (old spelling = thiamine) or vitamin B1 (aneurine) is a water soluble
vitamin. Water soluble vitamins are not stored in large quantities by the body.
A deficiency leads to beriberi which is characterized by burning feet sensations
(peripheral neuropathy), exaggerated reflexes, numbness and weakness in the
arms and legs, muscle pain/weakness, rapid heart rate, an enlarged heart,
difficulty breathing, edema (severe swelling), abnormal eye movements,
lack of coordination, memory problems/amnesia and possibly seizures. Not all
symptoms are present in individuals with beriberi.
For free thiamin to become a coenzyme, it requires magnesium. This
coenzyme is needed to extract energy from food. Thiamin is also part of an
enzyme required for synthesis of DNA, RNA, ATP (our energy source), and
NADPH. Thiamin, as thiamin triphosphate, is needed for cell membrane ion
channels in nerve cells and muscles. Without the movement of sodium and
potassium ions, for example, across membranes, normal nerve and muscle
function is prevented. Congestive Heart Failure patients can experience better
left ventricular ejection with thiamin supplementation.
Alcoholism, HIV, and diets high in carbohydrates but low in thiamin (ex:
rice based) are major reasons for deficiency. Cancer cells have a high need for
thiamin. Cancer patients may be deficient but supplementing is controversial.
Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is a water soluble vitamin needed in many
coenzymes (ex: FAD in the electron transport chain), called flavins and in
enzymes called flavoproteins. Riboflavin helps produce energy through
oxidation-reduction redox reactions. It’s needed for protein, carbohydrate, and
fat metabolism (breakdown of a substance in order to maintain life). It is also
needed to breakdown drugs and other toxins.
Other vitamins, such as vitamin B6, niacin, and folic acid, require
flavoproteins for use by the body. These vitamins, in turn, are needed in other
enzymes. So, a riboflavin deficiency can impact many other vitamins and their
enzymes. It can also indirectly (through folate) affect the formation of
methionine (amino acid) from homocysteine (a nasty indicator of potential heart
attack). So, riboflavin, along with the other B vitamins, can decrease blood
homocysteine levels and, therefore, the risk of heart attack.
Riboflavin deficiency alters iron metabolism and can be the cause of
decreased hemoglobin. Supplements sometimes help recovery from “irondeficient anemia”.
Usually, if a person is deficient in riboflavin, they are also deficient
in other water soluble vitamins. Riboflavin deficiency symptoms
include: sore throat; cracks/sores on the outside of the lips (cheliosis)
and corners of the mouth; an inflamed tongue mouth, and throat lining;
moist, scaly skin patches (seborrheic dermatitis); blood vessel
formation over the clear cornea covering of the eye; higher risk of preeclampsia (high blood pressure, proteinuria, and edema during
pregnancy) and decreased red blood cell count (normochromic
normocytic anemia - meaning the RBC’s that are formed have normal
amounts of hemoglobin giving them the usual red shade of color and
they are of normal shape and size. There are just fewer RBC’s than
normal.) Migraines and cataracts might also increase with deficiency.
Alcoholism, anorexia, lactose intolerance (milk is a good riboflavin
source), hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, increased sweating from
hard labor or sports, or light therapy can increase risk of deficiency.
Niacin, also known as B3 or nicotinic acid. Because nicotinic acid sounds
too much like nicotine, a harmful substance, the name was changed using the
“ni” from nicotinic, the “ac” from acid, and the “in” from vitamin.
Nicotinic acid reacts with myoglobin (in muscles) and hemoglobin to make
the reddish color very bright. So, it’s sometimes used on ground meat to make
it look fresher.
The liver can make niacin from the essential amino acid tryptophan but it
requires 60 mg of tryptophan and ample vitamin B6 and riboflavin to SLOWLY
make only 1 mg of niacin.
Niacin deficiency is almost always accompanied by riboflavin deficiency.
Symptoms of deficiency include diarrhea, fatigue, headache, emotional
instability, memory loss, decreased cold tolerance, and poor appetite. Severe
deficiency is known as pellagra and includes dermatitis, dementia, and death.
Deficiency can be induced by the anti-tuberculosis drug, Isoniazid.
Niacin is used to decrease cholesterol (particularly LDL) and increase HDL.
It is important for metabolism. Over 200 enzymes require niacin coenzymes
like NAD and NADP which accept or donate electrons for redox reactions.
High doses of niacin are sometimes prescribed for high cholesterol. Excess
niacin can cause flushing of the skin and burning/tingling of the feet. This
occurs because high doses can trigger histamine release. Histamine is the
same chemical that swells respiratory tissues in allergies and asthma. Another
form, niacinamide, doesn’t cause flushing but isn’t effective against high
Pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5, is needed for coenzyme A (CoA).
CoA is needed to generate energy from food and for the synthesis
(manufacture) of steroid hormones, cholesterol, acetylcholine (a
neurotransmitter), and melatonin, an antioxidant that is also associated with a
good night’s sleep but can cause SAD (seasonal affective disorder) when too
much is present during the daytime. The liver also requires CoA in order to
break down drugs and other toxins. CoA is also needed for the production of
fatty acids called sphingolipids (part of the myelin sheath around nerves) and
phospholipids (cell membranes).
Wounds heal faster and have stronger scar tissue when pantothenic acid is
taken orally (by mouth) and applied topically (on the skin) as pantothenol.
Pantethine, another form of pantothenic acid, can reduce cholesterol and
triglycerides. Some reports suggest pantothenic acid can help fight acne.
Acne may be due in part to fatty acids and other lipids depositing under the skin
and forming sebum if not enough CoA is present to properly metabolize them.
However, HUGE doses of pantothenic acid are required to counter acne and
this success is based on a single study which was not a controlled double-blind
High doses are not known to be toxic but can cause diarrhea. There may
be an increased need for pantothenic acid (and other B vitamins) due to use of
birth control pills.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is important for: sodium/potassium balance;
production of red blood cells (heme) and their ability to pick-up and release
oxygen, RNA, and DNA; homocysteine control (heart attack trigger); blood
sugar control (especially for gestational diabetes); the production of
neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, the ability to block steroid
hormones like estrogen and testosterone from affecting gene transcription
(cancer prevention), melanoma (skin cancer) inhibition, immunity and the
thyroid’s ability to use iodine. (Candida prevents B6 from becoming active.)
Vitamin B2, riboflavin, is needed to activate pyridoxine. Therefore, a
riboflavin deficiency could lead to a pyridoxine deficiency. In addition, for
homocysteine control, B12 and folic acid are needed along with vitamin B6.
Alcohol consumption, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills,
cortisone use and antidepressants can increase the need for B6. This vitamin
is needed for over 100 enzymes in the body involved with protein metabolism.
A deficiency can lead to decreased antibody production, dermatitis (skin
inflammation), tongue soreness, depression, anemia (literally this means
“without blood”), irritability, insomnia, acne, asthma and allergies, kidney
stones, bone changes such as osteoporosis and arthritis, headaches or
migraines, chapped lips, ridged nails, and possibly carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pyridoxine is also needed to make niacin in our bodies.
Excessive B6 can cause neuralgia (painful tingling) in the arms and legs.
Biotin, also known as B7, or vitamin H, is a water soluble vitamin with the
formula C10H16N2O3S. (Notice that it has all of the components of a protein but
they are not arranged to form an amine group and a carboxyl group.) Biotin is
required to convert amino acids and fats into carbohydrates (glucogenesis), for
making fatty acids, and for metabolizing (the ability to use) leucine (an essential
amino acid) in the body. It is important in the Krebs Cycle, the process where
energy is released from food. Biotin is also needed to maintain a steady blood
Biotin levels tend to be low in type II diabetics. Brittle nails and hair can benefit
from supplementation. Babies born with cradle cap might be biotin deficient.
Deficiency symptoms include: dry skin, hair loss, fine & brittle hair, rashes,
numb or tingling extremities.
Biotin is abundant in egg yolks but egg whites contain “avidin” which binds to
biotin IF the egg whites are not cooked (Heat denatures avidin, which is a
protein, so it no longer binds biotin). Biotin forms a complex with the amino
acid lysine in the body. An enzyme is needed to break this bond to use the
biotin which is recycled but not at 100%.
Folate, or folic acid (B9), is needed for DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. It
helps prevent damage to and helps regulate the expression of the genome
through its use in DNA replication and repair. It forms yellowish orange
Folate deficiency may allow more uracil (an RNA base) to be incorporated in
DNA. A deficiency in pregnant mothers can lead to the birth of babies with
spina bifida (the spinal nerve protrudes outside of the vertebral column).
Neural tube closure usually occurs about 24 to 28 days after conception so the
woman might not even know she is pregnant when the damage is done.
Recently, spina bifida babies have been born at a higher rate in moms using
tanning booths. It is now believed that UV light can destroy folate in the body.
However, the problems associated with low folate might all be related to high
homocysteine. Low folate is the most common cause of high homocysteine,
although B6 and B12 also play a role. Induced high homocysteine levels in
animal studies have been shown to cause neural tube defects. About 10% of
the human population has a defect in an enzyme needed for folate metabolism.
As a result, they have high homocysteine levels. The defect is caused by a
single amino acid substitution from alanine to valine!
Folate deficiency symptoms include a certain type of anemia (similar to B12
anemia), fatigue, weakness, headache, palpitations, shortness of breath, a sore
tongue, high homocysteine, cramps, increased risk of cardiovascular disease,
Alzheimer’s, depression, and increased risk of cancer.
Alcohol use can impair folate absorption and metabolism. Problems with
digestion, like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease (sprue), can also cause a
deficiency state. Low folate is associated with cerebral cortex atrophy in the
People with major depression, who do not respond well to antidepressants
have frequently been found to be low in folate. Schizophrenics are often found
to be low in folate (many are also found to have sub-clinical gluten intolerance
which upsets absorption of many nutrients from the intestines.) Some limb
defects and facial clefts might be due to folate deficiency.
Folate might also help prevent oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol which is
believed to only clog arteries when it is oxidized.
Folic acid might reduce zinc absorption.
Vitamin B12, cobalamin, contains cobalt, giving it a reddish color. B12 is very
complex and is similar to hemoglobin, chlorophyll, and cytochromes. B12
works with folate to make DNA and RNA and to keep them safe from defects.
“Bad” bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine and certain tapeworms can
cause a deficiency by competing for the B12 in your diet. Low stomach acid or
low “intrinsic factor” can cause inability to absorb B12 from our diet. Elderly
people often need B12 shots in order to get adequate amounts. People with
chronic fatigue or HIV might have problems absorbing B12.
Along with vitamin B6 and folate, B12 helps convert homocysteine to
methionine. This reduces the chance of a heart attack. B12 can also combine
with sulfite, reducing sensitivity to it.
A deficiency of B12 can result in a specific type of anemia (similar to the
anemia from folate deficiency) and/or neurological problems such as tingling
and numbness of the extremities (especially the legs or toes), irritability, altered
balance, memory problems (including Alzheimer's), Babinski’s responses (toes
extend upward instead of curl when the bottom of the foot is tickled), vision
problems, and age related hearing loss. Alternating diarrhea and constipation,
flatulence (gas), increased breast cancer risk, burning tongue sensation,
anorexia, shortness of breath and palpitations also can occur.
One type of congenital blindness due to cyanide exposure (cigarettes) is
more common with B12 deficiency. B12 in forms other than cyanocobalamin,
can help detoxify cyanide.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, can also come in other forms like ascorbyl
palmitate. Except for this palmitate form, vitamin C is water soluble. Vitamin C
is concentrated (100 x more than in the blood plasma) in the pituitary (master
control for the endocrine system), adrenal glands (fight or flight response),
thymus (T cells for the immune system), and retina (part of the eye). Vitamin C
is also in fairly high concentrations in the brain, spleen, lung, thyroid, liver,
pancreas, kidney, etc.
Vitamin C is also needed to synthesize (make, manufacture): collagen for
blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bone; norepinephrine; and ,carnitine
which is needed to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria for use as energy.
A deficiency of vitamin C can lead to: easy bruising, loose teeth, poor
healing ability, low immunity, and mild anemia. Severe deficiency is known as
scurvy. Scurvy (also known as scorbutus) can lead to severe internal bleeding
(hemorrhaging) and death. Sailors at sea for long periods without fresh fruit
(cooking can destroy vitamin C) often died from scurvy. The AMA did not like
vitamin C being named “ascorbic acid” (against or “anti” scorbutus) because it
implies a cure for scurvy. Limes were grown in one of the British holdings so
were readily available to sailors which were then called “limeys”.
There are claims that vitamin C helps prevent or shorten a cold’s duration.
Best results are probably seen when vitamin C is taken frequently throughout
the day rather than in one large dose since its half life in the blood is only about
30 minutes. Linus Pauling proposed that a combination of vitamin C, lysine,
and Vitamin B3 (niacin) could help heart disease and reverse arterial plaque
Vitamin C can help prevent lead poisoning by possibly binding to it and
removing it from the body (chelation). This might also happen when vitamin C
and selenium are taken together. We need selenium, so that’s not good in this
case. Vitamin C is believed to help the absorption of iron.
Vitamin C might help fight some cancers but large doses taken by mouth
can cause diarrhea so intravenous therapy might be more beneficial. Also,
ascorbic acid is acidic and can alter pH so it is often recommended as calcium
ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, or magnesium ascorbate instead.
Vitamin C is so important to life that most animals make their own.
Primates, guinea pigs, some fish, some birds, etc. cannot. We have only 3 of
the 4 necessary enzymes to make vitamin C.
Vitamin C is also believed to be necessary for the prevention of cataracts.
It can help dilate blood vessels with as little as 500 mg. This can lead to a
blood pressure drop of as much as 9% if taken regularly for 4 weeks.
Birth control pills are known to lower vitamin C levels in blood plasma and
white blood cells (immune system). Aspirin can also lower vitamin C levels by
increasing its excretion.
Large doses of vitamin C can cause certain medical tests to give false
positive or negative readings. These include: serum bilirubin, serum
creatinine, and occult blood tests. Large doses can also give false negatives
for glucose, nitrate, and/or bilirubin on urine dipstick tests.
Vitamin D, is actually a group of vitamins numbered D1 through D5 . In
humans, D3 is the active form and is also known as cholecalciferol. This is a fat
soluble vitamin. We can make vitamin D if we are exposed to 10 - 15 mins. of
sunlight when the sun is high in the sky (about 1 pm) but only during the
summer in northern latitudes like Wisconsin. (UVB rays are needed for vitamin
D synthesis.) This also assumes we have enough cholesterol (the vitamin D
precursor) and a healthy liver and kidneys because these organs are needed to
convert vitamin D to its active form.
Vitamin D, by maintaining correct levels of calcium and phosphorus in the
blood, is needed for bone growth. It promotes calcium absorption. Vitamin D
is also needed for a strong immune system and for regulation of cell growth
and differentiation. It might also prevent some cancers and help treat psoriasis.
We also know that there are vitamin D receptors on pancreatic cells that
secrete insulin, so it may play a role in diabetes control.
Some scientists consider vitamin D a hormone, since we can synthesize it in
our bodies and it can act like steroids do. And, more than 50 genes in our
bodies are regulated by the active form of vitamin D.
The most obvious problems associated with vitamin D deficiency are rickets,
osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. Rickets usually occurs in growing children.
Their bones are soft and can easily bow due to poor mineralization from lack of
vitamin D. Babies’ fontanels (the soft spot) may not close by the usual age and
the ribs may be misshapen from the diaphragm pulling on these softer than
normal bones. Osteomalacia is a similar problem in adults. Although bones
aren’t growing in size, they are constantly torn down and rebuilt. If there is not
enough vitamin D, re-mineralization will not occur and the bones have soft
areas. Many cases of hip fracture in the elderly are due to osteomalacia rather
than osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is when bones become brittle. This can be
due to too little calcium being absorbed due to lack of vitamin D.
Deficiency is also associated with “auto-immune” diseases like multiple
sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle weakness, and high blood pressure if it
is due to too much renin (produced in kidneys) because D affects this gene’s
Vitamin D deficiency can be due to too little time in the sun or not enough D
in the diet, poor kidney or liver function failing to convert it to its active form,
intestinal problems (Crohn’s disease, etc.), lack of fat in the diet (fat soluble
vitamin), prolonged steroid use (like prednisone), and obesity.
Vitamin E is also a fat soluble vitamin which is really a group of vitamins
which includes 4 “tocopherols” and 4 “tocotrienols”. Alpha- tocopherol is the
form most often considered “vitamin E” but gamma- tocopherol is gaining in
importance as more research is being done. All forms seem to have some antioxidant effect.
A deficiency of vitamin E in rats causes severe fertility problems. Deficiency
could also lead to wasting (dystrophy) of the skeletal muscles and degeneration
of the kidneys and liver. Deficiency in young children leads to the rapid
development of neurological problems (adults show symptoms more slowly these include loss of balance and coordination). Deficiency can lead to
hemolytic anemia (red blood cells break apart).
Vitamin E helps protect fats from oxidation and can actually be used
commercially to help prevent fats/oils from going rancid. Our cell membranes
are a bi-lipid (fatty) layer which require vitamin E to maintain their integrity. LDL
cholesterol is also only considered harmful and sticky enough to cling to blood
vessels when it oxidizes. Vitamin E prevents oxidation of low density
lipoproteins (LDL) and therefore might help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin C can help regenerate the ability of vitamin E as an anti-oxidant.
Vitamin K, another “group” of fat soluble vitamins, got its name from the
German word “koagulation”. Coagulation is the ability to clump, or stick
together. Vitamin K1 from plants and K2 from bacteria are useful but synthetic
(man-made) K3 should not be taken in very large amounts by humans.
Vitamin K is important to several proteins involved in blood clotting. Vitamin
K is needed to bind calcium in 7 clotting factors in the series of reactions that
occur in the body to stop bleeding. Bones also have at least 3 proteins
dependent on vitamin K.
A deficiency could lead to easy bruising, easy bleeding, nosebleeds,
bleeding gums, blood in urine or stools, and heavier cycles in women. It may
also impact bone mineralization (osteoporosis). While bones don’t mineralize
well with a K deficiency, blood vessels tend to calcify. This decreases their
elasticity but increases the likelihood of heart attack or stroke. Vitamin K2
May be the most effective form for pulling Calcium from blood vessels and
depositing it in the bones where it belongs. A deficiency may occur if there is
liver damage (recycles K), if there is prolonged use of antibiotics, if
warfarin/coumadin (a blood thinner and rat killer) is used, or if excesses of
vitamin A are taken (interferes with absorption)
Choline is a member of the B family of vitamins. A deficiency of choline can
lead to fatty build-up in the liver and cirrhosis (scar tissue) of the liver. Choline
can help the liver burn fatty acids. The liver is unable to detoxify substances,
metabolize proteins or carbohydrates, or regulate electrolytes when choline is
deficient and the liver becomes fatty. Saturated fats are a double “whammy” to
the liver because they are low in choline but add to the liver’s fat burden.
Choline is part of normal cell membrane composition and repair, healthy
brain function, and helps keep homocysteine low (along with folic acid, B6, and
B12). It is essential for fetal brain development. A deficiency can cause cell
death (apoptosis), especially in the hippocampus and septum area (memory
processing) of the brain which often shows significant damage in Alzheimer’s
Choline and inositol are components of lecithin, a phospholipid needed to
prevent fats from clumping. A decrease in the ratio between phospholipids and
cholesterol seems to increase the risk of gallstones. People with gallstones
often have only one third of the amount of phospholipid that healthy people
have in comparison to their cholesterol level.
Choline is also needed for the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, plateletactivating factor and for phosphatidylcholine, another phospholipid.
VERY high doses of choline can cause low blood pressure (hypotension).
Inositol (a sugar alcohol very similar to glucose) is a partner with choline in
helping the liver deal with fats. It may also be beneficial for those with
sugar/insulin balance problems (Ex: hypoglycemia or diabetes). People with
renal (kidney) problems, multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, etc. have altered
production of inositol. It exists as 9 different isomers and is “related” to the B
family of vitamins. It has some neurological effects, such as “relaxing” the
nerves, just like the B vitamins. It affects the mobilization of calcium in the
body which then helps control the release of neurotransmitters due to
depolarization. Sodium and magnesium are also important to this function.
People suffering from depression are often low in inositol. It has also
improved cases of obsessive compulsive disorder, neonatal Respiratory
Distress Syndrome Disorder (it decreases the stickiness of the lung lining in
premature babies) and panic disorder at doses of 12 to 18 grams.
Lithium (manic-depressive treatment) can deplete inositol in the brain.
Increasing inositol intake may help alleviate some of the side effects of lithium
treatment. Pregnant women should avoid inositol as it may induce
Other important nutrients include:
Carnitine - it helps burn body fat, decreases problems with heart rhythm
disturbances, protects the heart, improves high triglyceride and low HDL (good
cholesterol) levels, reduces lactic acid accumulation, helps metabolize
carbohydrates, prevents muscle atrophy, and protects kids against Reyes
syndrome. Carnitine can help with low energy levels and weight gain
tendencies of people with hypothyroidism. Kidney dialysis removes carnitine
from the body.
Lipoic Acid (aka thiotic acid) - this is the only antioxidant that is both water
and fat soluble. It helps with diabetic neuropathy, protects pancreatic cells and
the liver, and fights insulin resistance by stimulating cells to take up glucose,
inhibits HIV replication, and removes excess body copper (chelation).
Taurine - This amino acid does not get put into proteins. It can help balance
potassium and magnesium inside the cells and sodium outside, much like
diuretics but without harming the kidneys. Therefore, it can help with body
edema (swelling) and high blood pressure from excess fluid build-up (kidneys).
It also helps with macular degeneration, diabetes, digestion, arrhythmia,
epileptic seizures (MSG decreases taurine, so does estrogen), and asthma.