What are the benefits?

Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin which is needed for the release of energy from food. This is because it acts as a coenzyme in the breakdown and utilisation of protein, fat and carbohydrate. Biotin is also important for cell growth and replication because it helps in the manufacture of DNA, RNA and fatty acids. Biotin is required in sufficient amounts for healthy hair and skin, and may help regulate insulin sensitivity and the activity of enzymes involved in glucose metabolism.

What are the natural food sources?

Biotin occurs in nearly all foods. Bananas, eggs and white fish are particularly good sources. Biotin is also found in brewer’s yeast, milk, meat, poultry, soybeans, whole grains, mushrooms, peanuts and more.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance of biotin is 0.15 mg per day. Because biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted by the body making it safe to take at relatively high doses.


Are you likely to be deficient?

Biotin deficiency is very rare in adults since biotin is manufactured by bacteria in the intestines. In infants deficiency may be associated with a condition called seborrheic dermatitis or ‘cradle cap’, which is characterised by dry, scaly scalp. In adults, if biotin deficiency occurs then it may cause anaemia, depression, hair loss, high blood sugar, inflammation or pallor of the skin, insomnia, loss of appetite, muscular pain, nausea and a sore tongue.


Are you taking too much?

Biotin has no known toxicity. A long-term intake of up to 500 mg daily is not considered harmful.


Are there any interactions?

Raw egg white contains a protein called avidin that prevents biotin absorption. Estrogens and alcohol may raise biotin requirements, and prolonged use of anticonvulsant drugs may lead to biotin deficiency. Long-term use of antibiotics can affect the balance of the digestive system and reduce or stop the manufacture of biotin by bacteria in the intestines.

What are the benefits?

Carotenoids are a large group of yellow, orange and red plant pigments which help to protect plants from sunlight. They work in a similar way in our bodies, acting as powerful antioxidants which help neutralize free radicals caused by sunlight and other environmental factors. Free radicals are by-products of chemical reactions that take place in the body. They cause damage by interacting with cell membranes, proteins and cell DNA. The 6 most common carotenoids are: betacarotene, alphacarotene, cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, lycopene and lutein. Because free radicals are one of the main mechanisms of ageing, and carotenoids help defend against free radicals, carotenoids are very important to help maintain health. They also help maintain a healthy immune system, especially cellular immunity where free radicals may alter cell DNA, causing cells to change. Caretenoids are also important for the communication between cells which helps them regulate growth. Normal cells grow and multiply at a controlled rate.


What are the natural food sources?

Between 500 and 600 carotenoids have been identified, although only 20 or so are found in the modern diet. Generally, the brighter the colour of a fruit or vegetable, the more carotenoids it is likely to contain. Good sources of carotenoids include tomatoes, watermelon, spinach, carrots, peas, broccoli, oranges, pumpkin, peaches, apricots, cantaloupe, red peppers and mangos.


How much do you need?

There is no recommended daily allowance for carotenoids, but they are one of the reasons why fruit and vegetables are so good for you, and why experts agree we should try to eat as many fruit and vegetables as possible.


Are you likely to be deficient?

People who don’t eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day are probably not getting enough carotenoids. There are no obvious symptoms of deficiency, but a lack of carotenoids in the diet may have a negative impact on long term health.


Are you taking too much?

Carotenoids are non-toxic and can be safely consumed by pregnant women. An excess of betacarotene may cause a yellow-orange pigmentation of the skin, but this is not harmful. Natural carotenoid supplements come from palm oil or marine algae and contain a spectrum of carotenoids. Synthetic carotenoid supplements contain only betacarotene.


Are there any interactions?

People taking supplements of betacarotene for a long period of time should also take supplemental vitamin E, since betacarotene may reduce vitamin E levels in the body. Supplemental betacarotene may not be advised for people who smoke heavily.

What are the benefits?

Folic acid is a water soluble B vitamin needed for the production of energy and the formation of red blood cells. Folic acid also aids in the proper formation and functioning of white blood cells.


What are the natural food sources?

Folic acid is found in a wide range of foods including green leafy vegetables, liver, yeast, wheat germ, fortified bread, nuts, eggs and pulses.


How much do you need?

The standard recommended daily allowance (RDA) for folic acid is 200 mcg. However, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant are advised to take a daily supplement containing 400 mcg of folic acid, to help prevent neural tube defects in the developing baby such as spina bifida.


Are you likely to be deficient?

Generally, people do not consume the recommended amount of folic acid. Folic acid deficiency is common among alcoholics, people living at poverty level, those suffering from malabsorption disorders, and women taking the birth control pill.


Are you taking too much?

A long-term intake of up to 1000 mcg daily is not considered harmful.


Are there any interactions?

Folic acid is needed by the body to utilize vitamin B12. Proteolytic enzymes, antacids and alcohol inhibit folic acid absorption, and oral contraceptives may increase the need for folic acid. You should not take high doses of folic acid for an extended period if you have a hormone-related cancer or convulsive disorder.

What are the benefits?

PABA(Para-Amino benzoic Acid) is one of the basic building blocks used in the production of folic acid. It acts as a coenzyme in the breakdown and use of protein, and assists in the formation of red blood cells. It may also delay the breakdown of cortisone, estrogen, and possibly other hormones in the liver. PABA may play a role in helping to maintain a strong immune system.


What are the natural food sources?

PABA is found in grains, animal foods, bran, kidney, liver, milk, molasses, mushrooms, spinach and whole grains.


How much do you need?

There is no recommended daily intake for PABA.


Are you likely to be deficient?

Deficiencies of PABA have not been found in humans, and most conventional nutritionists do not consider it an essential nutrient. PABA deficiency may be associated with greying of hair.


Are there any interactions?

No serious side effects have been reported. Exceeding a normal intake may cause low blood sugar, rash, fever, and (on rare occasions) liver damage.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is a fat-soluble vitamin which helps to maintain good vision, healthy skin and a strong immune system. Vitamin A is needed to make some of the protein ‘blocks’ involved in building and repairing cells, so it plays a key role in normal growth and development. Because it is essential for growth, it is also necessary for the maintenance of healthy skin, hair, and nails, as these cells are constantly being renewed and replaced. Vitamin A is used to form a substance called retinal which is needed for good vision, especially in poor light.

What are the natural food sources?

Vitamin A is stored in the liver, so liver as a food is the best source of vitamin A. Vitamin A can also be found in eggs, herrings, and full fat milk.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is 800 mcg per day.

Are you likely to be deficient?

A deficiency of vitamin A can cause vision to deteriorate, first by a loss of sensitivity to green light. Other symptoms include increased susceptibility to infection, scaly skin, flaking scalp, brittle hair, loss of appetite, dry or itchy eyes and inflamed gums.

Are you taking too much?

A long-term intakes of up to 2300 mcg daily is not considered harmful. In very large doses, vitamin A may cause headaches, exhaustion, muscle and joint pain, dry and cracking lips, irritated eyes, nausea, diarrhoea and hair loss. Pregnant women should avoid eating liver or liver products such as paté, and should never take vitamin A supplements.

Are there any interactions?

The body needs zinc and protein to absorb and use vitamin A, and high doses of vitamin E can increase the need for this vitamin. Alcohol makes the body less efficient at excreting excess vitamin A, and some medications, such as oestrogens and contraceptives, may increase vitamin A levels in the blood. Vitamin A may help in the absorption of iron.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, is essential for the breakdown and utilisation of carbohydrate. This ‘metabolism’ of carbohydrate helps to make energy available in the body. Vitamin B1 is also essential for blood formation, for proper digestion, and for the transmission of certain types of nerve signal. Because vitamin B1 is important in transmitting messages sent to and from the brain it plays an essential role in cognitive activity and certain brain functions.

What are the natural food sources?

Like most B vitamins, thiamine is found in all cereals. Vitamin B1 is also found in a wide range of foods including pork, potatoes, oranges, fish, cheese, peanuts, and red kidney beans.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin B1 is 1.4 mg. Because vitamin B1 is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted by the body making it safe to take at relatively high doses.

Are you likely to be deficient?

Vitamin B1 deficiency is most commonly found in alcoholics or people with malabsorption conditions. Symptoms of deficiency include loss of appetite, weakness and tiredness, nervous irritability, insomnia, loss of weight, vague aches and pains, mental depression, constipation and heart and gastrointestinal problems. The functioning of the central nervous system is only affected when brain vitamin B1 levels decrease to 20% of normal.

Are you taking too much?

A long-term intake of up to 100 mg daily is not considered harmful.

Are there any interactions?

Alcohol or a high-carbohydrate diet increase requirements for vitamin B1. Antibiotics and oral contraceptives may decrease thiamine levels in the body.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin B12(Cyanocobalamin) is essential for the formation of red blood cells and normal nerve cell activity. This is because vitamin B12 helps maintain a substance called myelin, which covers and protects nerve cells the way that rubber covers and insulates electrical wire. Vitamin B12 also helps in the utilisation of iron, and is needed for proper digestion, absorption of foods, synthesis of protein and the breakdown and utilisation of carbohydrates and fats. With folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 help to maintain healthy lower levels of a blood amino acid called homocysteine, which is an important factor in heart health.

What are the natural food sources?

Vitamin B12 is made by bacteria, which live in our digestive systems, and in the digestive systems of animals. Vitamin B12 is therefore found in nearly all animal products, such as liver, roast beef, white fish, yeast extract, milk, egg, and cheese.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12 is 1 mcg daily. Because vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted by the body making it safe to take at relatively high doses. A long-term intake of up to 500 mcg daily is not considered harmful.

Are you likely to be deficient?

Deficiency of vitamin B12 is uncommon. Vegetarians who avoid dairy and eggs tend to become deficient after a long-time. People with malabsorption conditions also suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. Symptoms of deficiency include anaemia, poor appetite, growth failure in children, tiredness, nervousness, depression and lack of balance.

Are there any interactions?

Drinking alcohol may increase your requirement for vitamin B12. Anti-gout medications, anticoagulant drugs and potassium supplements block the absorption of vitamin B12 from the digestive track.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin B2, otherwise known as riboflavin, is essential for the formation of red blood cells and two substances known as FAD (flavin adenine dinucleotide) and FMN (flavin mononucleotide). Both FAD and FMN are vital for the breakdown and utilisation of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which make energy available in the body. Vitamin B2 plays a role in the production of antibodies, and is important to healthy cells and cellular growth. Because skin, hair and nail cells are constantly being renewed and replaced, vitamin B2 is important to maintaining these parts of the body. Vitamin B2 also helps in the absorption of iron and vitamin B6, and is particularly important for healthy eyes and a developing foetus during pregnancy.

What are the natural food sources?

Vitamin B2 is available from a wide range of food sources. However, vitamin B2 from animal products is more easily absorbed into the body than B2 from plant sources. Foods containing vitamin B2 include liver, breakfast cereals, bananas, poultry, legumes, cod, egg, spinach and yeast extract. Because vitamin B2 is destroyed by exposure to light, foods containing vitamin B2 should not be stored in glass containers that are exposed to light.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B2 is 1.6 mg per day. Because vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted by the body making it safe to take at relatively high doses. A long-term intake of up to 200 mg daily is not considered harmful.

Are you likely to be deficient?

Symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency include cracked and sore 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 slowed mental response.

Are there any interactions?

Strenuous exercise, antibiotics, alcohol and oral contraceptives all increase the need for vitamin B2.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is necessary for the formation of two substances vital for the release of energy from food. These are called NAD and NADP. Vitamin B3 is also necessary for the synthesis of sex hormones, the normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids, and the functioning of the nervous system. Because of its role in the nervous system, vitamin B3 may be important to the functioning of the brain, such as with memory recall.

What are the natural food sources?

Vitamin B3 is found in a wide range of foods including chicken, roast beef, wholemeal bread, brown pasta, yeast extract, and vegetables such as peas, broccoli and carrots.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B3 is 18 mg. Because vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted by the body making it safe to take at relatively high doses. A long-term intake of up to 500 mg daily is not considered harmful.

Are you likely to be deficient?

Symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency may include pellagra, canker sores, dementia or depression, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, halitosis, headaches, indigestion, insomnia, limb pains, loss of appetite, low blood sugar and skin eruptions.

Are you taking too much?

Doses of more than 500 mg vitamin B3 daily may cause liver damage if taken for prolonged periods of time.

Are there any interactions?

People who are pregnant or who suffer from diabetes, glaucoma, gout, liver diseases or peptic ulcers should use vitamin B3 supplements with caution. Some prescription medicines may also be affected by vitamin B3.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin, which helps to neutralise the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are the by-products of chemical reactions that take place in the body. They cause damage by interacting with cell membranes, proteins and cell DNA. Vitamin C and other antioxidants play a very important role by helping to prevent damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin C is also needed for collagen, a protein, which gives skin, it’s ability to stretch. Collagen has other important structural roles in the body too, including the healing of skin wounds and tissue growth and repair in bones, teeth, gums and small blood vessels. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron and may play a key role in maintaining a strong immune system.

What are the natural food sources?

Vitamin C is found in nearly all fruit and vegetables, but is destroyed by cooking so fruit and vegetables need to be eaten raw. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges or orange juice, citrus fruits, berries, green vegetables, peaches, apples, bananas, and tomatoes.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C to prevent deficiency is 60 mg. Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted by the body making it safe to take at relatively high doses. A long term intakes of up to 2000 mg daily is not considered harmful.

Are you likely to be deficient?

As the body cannot manufacture vitamin C it must be obtained through diet. Scurvy is a rare disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, which is characterised by poor wound healing, soft, spongy gums, edema, extreme weakness and pinpoint hemorrhages under the skin. The more common signs of lesser degrees of deficiency are bleeding gums when brushing, increased susceptibility to infection (especially colds), bronchial infections, joint pains, lack of energy, poor digestion, prolonged healing time and tooth loss. Stress can increase the need for vitamin C.

Are you taking too much?

Pregnant women should not take more than 500 mg of vitamin C daily as it may lead to the child developing a dependency on the supplement and subsequent vitamin C deficiency when the child is deprived of the accustomed large doses. Taking high doses of vitamin C may cause a 0 negative reading in tests for blood in the stool.

Are there any interactions?

Vitamin C may interact with some medicines. Stress, alcohol, analgesics, antidepressants, anticoagulants, oral contraceptives and steroids may also reduce the levels of vitamin C in the body. Smoking may seriously deplete vitamin C.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for the absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorus. It is important for the normal growth and development of bones and teeth, and may also help maintain healthy muscles. Vitamin D is important to the immune system.

What are the natural food sources?

Most of our daily requirements for vitamin D are satisfied by the vitamin D produced in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Small amounts may also be taken in through the diet. Natural food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, dairy products, eggs, cod liver oil and milk.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 5 mcg, but a long-term intake of up to 20 mcg daily is not considered harmful. The form of vitamin D we receive through our diet or supplements is not fully active – it requires conversion by the liver and then the kidney before it becomes fully active.

Are you likely to be deficient?

People who don’t get enough sunshine, including those who live in northern climates such as the UK or northern Europe, and the elderly who don’t get out much may be prone to vitamin D deficiency. Severe vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. A lesser deficiency could cause loss of appetite, a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, diarrhoea, insomnia, visual problems and weight loss.

Are you taking too much?

Vitamin D taken in large doses can result in calcium being reabsorbed from the bones and deposited in soft tissues such as the heart and lungs. This reduces their ability to function.

Are there any interactions?

Cholesterol lowering drugs, antacids, mineral oils and steroid hormones (cortisone) may interfere in vitamin D absorption. Thiazide diuretics such as chlorothiazide (Diuril) and hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, HydroDIURIL, Oretic) also disturb the body’s calcium to vitamin D ratio.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is involved in more bodily functions than any other single nutrient. It is required for the production of serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine, three important chemicals in the brain, as well as RNA and DNA nucleic acids, which contain genetic instructions for the reproduction and growth of all cells. Vitamin B6 plays a role in the synthesis of antibodies in the immune system and haemoglobin in red blood cells. It helps to make and take apart many amino acids so it is important for the breakdown and use of carbohydrate, protein and fat – the substances which provide our bodies with energy. Vitamin B6 also helps maintain normal brain function and works in synergy with vitamin B12 and folic acid to help maintain healthy lower levels of an amino acid called homocysteine – an independent factor in heart health.

What are the natural food sources?

Vitamin B6 is found in most food items but the highest amounts are found in foods like carrots, chicken, kidney, eggs, fish, meat, peas, spinach, walnuts, yeast extract and wheat germ. Other sources include bananas, potatoes, peanuts, broccoli, cabbage and beans.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B6 is 2 mg per day. Because vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess is excreted by the body making it safe to take at relatively high doses. A long-term intake of up to 200 mg daily is not considered harmful. The vitamin B6 available from food is reduced by storage and food processing.

Are you likely to be deficient?

A marginal deficiency of vitamin B6 may sometimes occur in alcoholics, patients with kidney failure, and women using oral contraceptives. Severe vitamin B6 deficiencies, although very rare, may cause impaired immunity, skin lesions, and mental confusion. They may also result in nervousness, insomnia, anaemia, mouth disorders, muscular weakness, dermatitis, arm & leg cramps, loss of hair, slow learning, water retention, depression, dizziness, hyperirritability, oily facial skin or stunted growth.

Are you taking too much?

At very high doses, vitamin B6 can eventually damage sensory nerves, leading to numbness in the hands and feet as well as difficulty walking.

Are there any interactions?

Antidepressants, oestrogen therapy and oral contraceptives may increase the need for Vitamin B6. Diuretics and cortisone drugs may block the absorption of this vitamin by the body.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin E, sometimes known as alpha-tocopherol, is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin, which helps to neutralise the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are the by-products of chemical reactions that take place in the body. They cause damage by interacting with cell membranes, proteins and cell DNA. Vitamin E and other antioxidants play a very important role by helping to prevent damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E is particularly important for healthy skin since free radicals caused by pollutants and sunlight can damage skin cells. Vitamin E may also affect the status of fats in the blood, helping to keep them in a healthy non-oxidised form. For this reason vitamin E may help maintain a healthy heart and circulation. Other areas in which the antioxidant effects of vitamin E are important are in eye health, the healing of wounds, and the health of muscles during exercise or immobility.

What are the natural food sources?

Since vitamin E is fat soluble, foods such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and butter, which are naturally high in fats, make particularly good sources. Other sources include cold pressed vegetable oils, dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, eggs and muesli or oatmeal.

How much do you need?

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin E is 10 mg, however a long-term intake of up to 800 mg daily is not considered harmful.

Are you likely to be deficient?

A severe deficiency of vitamin E may result in damage to red blood cells and destruction of nerves. Other signs of deficiency may include infertility (in both men and women), menstrual problems, neuromuscular impairment or spontaneous abortion.

Are there any interactions?

If you suffer from diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, or an overactive thyroid, then an intake above the recommended daily allowance is not recommended. Some prescription medicines may be affected by vitamin E.

What are the benefits?

Vitamin K is needed in the production of several proteins necessary for blood clotting. It is also essential for the formation and repair and bones and teeth. This is because it is used for synthesis of osteocalcin, the protein in bone tissue on which calcium crystallizes. Vitamin K may also play a role in the intestines and help to maintain healthy liver function.

What are the natural food sources?

Vegetables are the best sources of vitamin K, though it is also found in meat and dairy products. Natural food sources include dark green leafy vegetables, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower and oatmeal. The bacteria lining the gastrointestinal tract also produce vitamin K.

How much do you need?

There is no recommended daily allowance for vitamin K, but most adults require 60-80 mcg daily.

Are you likely to be deficient?

With a good intake of vegetables, deficiency is unlikely. Vitamin K deficiency can cause abnormal and/or internal bleeding, especially in infants.

Are you taking too much?

Large doses of vitamin K may accumulate in the body causing flushing and sweating.

Are there any interactions?

Antibiotics may increase the need for dietary or supplemental vitamin K.