In our last article, we discussed how the human body stopped synthesizing certain vitamins when their day-to-day diet made it unnecessary.

The fact was, our hunter-gatherer ancestors got an abundant supply of vitamins from the game they killed and the plants they collected. That diet made it unnecessary for these early humans to produce the vitamins themselves.

But with the rise of agriculture, people began to consume more vitamin-poor starches like wheat and corn. Over the centuries, our diet has transformed even further. As a result, we’ve put ourselves at risk of vitamin-related diseases. Hence, the rise of the vitamin supplement industry in the 20th century.

On the CBD side, it appears that the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant evolved to adapt to the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) of mammals. Many individuals using CBD products have noted a marked improvement in their well being causing the rise of the CBD industry in the 21st century.

Vitamin and CBD Industries

The 13 vitamins were identified over time in the 1800s and early 1900s. One of the first supplements was created by Casimir Funk. Funk was the researcher who coined the term “vitamin” in 1912. He was followed by many other vitamin manufacturers in the early 1920s.

Early criticism in the vitamin industry was based on some manufacturers making unscientific and outrageous health claims. This is not dissimilar to what we have seen of late with the CBD industry. In November of 2019, 15 CBD companies were sent warning letters from the FDA for this exact offense.

The vitamin industry faced huge challenges at times throughout the 20th Century. In 1993, Mel Gibson even did a PSA encouraging people to write to their congressmen to protect their rights to take vitamin supplements.

In 1994, thanks to trade organizations like the United Natural Products Alliance, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was passed, smoothing the way for the vitamin industry to expand.

In spite of the sometimes rocky relationship between the vitamin industry and government regulators, things have improved vastly.

As time goes on in the CBD industry, we expect things to smooth out as well. We anticipate more self-regulation by ethical CBD companies who are in this for the long haul. We also anticipate a greater understanding of the CBD industry by the FDA and FTC, enabling companies to conform to government guidelines.

Following is a brief historical overview of the US vitamin industry and a breakdown of the 13 vitamins themselves.

The Government Promotes Good Nutrition and Vitamins

After much back and forth, a breakthrough for awareness and understanding of vitamins occurred in 1941. American men were being called for military service during WWII. It was found that one-third of them suffered from disabilities related to poor nutrition.

In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened the National Nutrition Conference for Defense. The result was the first set of government-sponsored Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamins and minerals.

As a matter of fact, the Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamins and Minerals (RDAs) was updated in 2019 for the first time in 30 years.

There is not full consensus about the value of vitamin supplements versus trying to get all the needed vitamins from food. In spite of that, the FDA acknowledges that vitamin supplements are part of the health regime of millions of people and are helpful for people in certain categories.

In spite of decades of promotion of these RDAs, more than 90 percent of Americans still fall short on at least one essential vitamin or mineral according to The Journal of Family Practice, September 2016. A study of more than 10,000 American adults, published by the same journal, found that people who take multivitamins are much less likely to lack essential vitamins and minerals.

The Vitamin Countdown

There are 13 essential vitamins—vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate). These are nutrients that we need to get from outside our bodies.

Here they all are. The first four vitamins, A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. This means that the body can store them. The next nine vitamins, C and all of the B vitamins are water-soluble. That means that the body does not generally store them. For this reason, you should try to get them regularly in your diet.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin A Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin A assists:

  • Normal vision,
  • The immune system,
  • Reproduction,
  • Heart,
  • Lungs,
  • Kidneys, and other organs to work properly.

Vitamin A is found in meat and dairy as well as fruits and vegetables. Lack of vitamin A can cause eye problems like night blindness and skin rashes. According to The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 43% of Americans have a vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin D Benefits, Sources, and Deficiencies

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.

Vitamin D:

  • Helps the body maintain strong bones,
  • Helps muscles to move,
  • Enables nerves to carry messages,
  • Enables the immune system to fight invading bacteria and viruses.

Few foods contain Vitamin D. The ones that do include salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms. The truth is that throughout history, the major natural source of the vitamin has been from sun exposure.

People who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin, and brittle bones. In children, this condition is known as rickets and in adults, it is called osteomalacia.

Just in the last decade, the National Institute of Health reported that almost 42% of the U.S. population has a vitamin D deficiency. This number went up to 69.2% among Hispanics and 82.1% among African-Americans.

Vitamin E Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It helps to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals form when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. Cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun also expose people to free radicals.

Vitamin E does the following:

You can get recommended amounts of vitamin E by eating a variety of foods including vegetable oils, nuts, and green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli.

Vitamin E deficiency is linked to diseases where fat is not correctly digested like Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis. Vitamin E needs some fat for the digestive system to absorb it.

Vitamin E deficiency can also cause nerve and muscle damage. Another sign of deficiency is a weakened immune system.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 93% of Americans have an inadequate dietary intake of vitamin E.

Vitamin K Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin K is known as the clotting vitamin. It allows blood to coagulate.

Vitamin K benefits:

  • Bone health,
  • Cognitive health,
  • Heart health by lowering blood pressure.

You can get your K from leafy greens like kale, oil and some fruits like grapes.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin C Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Antioxidants boost the immune system.

Vitamin C may:

  • Help high blood pressure,
  • Lower risk of heart disease,
  • Reduce gout (a type of arthritis),
  • Prevent iron deficiencies,
  • Help memory and thinking as we age.

Most animals can make vitamin C on their own. We humans, however, need to get it from our diet. Vitamin C is found in various fruits and veggies like broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, orange juice, papaya, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Lack of vitamin C causes scurvy. Scurvy leads to symptoms like anemia, exhaustion, bleeding, pain in limbs, swelling, ulceration of gums and loss of teeth. Basically, scurvy totally sucks. Early sailors suffered from scurvy until 1747 when James Lind found that oranges and lemons were a cure for scurvy.

According to The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 39% of Americans have an inadequate dietary intake of vitamin C.

Vitamin B1 a.k.a. Thiamin – Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

B1, the vitamin we discussed earlier in this article, allows the body to use carbohydrates as energy. In fact, all B vitamins help convert food to energy.

B1 is critical for glucose metabolism. It also plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and heart function.

Vitamin B1 prevents complications in:

  • The nervous system,
  • Brain,
  • Muscles,
  • Heart,
  • Stomach,
  • Intestines.

There is a lot of Vitamin B1 in the outer layers and germ of wheat, oat, and corn. It can also be found in yeast, beef, pork, and nuts. Some fruits and vegetables contain B1 including cauliflower, liver, oranges, eggs, potatoes, asparagus, and kale.

A lack of vitamin B1 can lead to beriberi, anorexia, mental problems, and weakened muscles.

Vitamin B2 aka Riboflavin Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Next up on the vitamin B part of our hit parade is vitamin B2.

Vitamin B2 is crucial for:

  • Breaking down food (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates),
  • Absorbing nutrients,
  • Maintaining tissues.

Vitamin B2 is found naturally in some foods and added to others. You’ll find this B vitamin in fish, meat and poultry, eggs and dairy, nuts and veggies like kelp and asparagus.

Vitamin B2 deficiency is a significant risk when your diet is poor because the body does not store vitamin B2. Signs of deficiency include mouth ulcers and cracks in the corners of the mouth, red lips, tongue inflammation, dry skin, cracked lips.

Vitamin B3 a.k.a. Niacin – Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Every part of your body needs vitamin B3, more commonly referred to as niacin, to function properly.

Niacin may:

  • Help lower cholesterol,
  • Prevent heart disease,
  • Ease arthritis,
  • Boost brain function.

Niacin helps convert food into energy by aiding enzymes. You can find niacin in chicken breast, tuna, beef, smoked salmon, peanuts and lentils. A deficiency in niacin is rare in first world countries. But it can occur along with alcoholism and anorexia.

Vitamin B5 a.k.a. Pantothenic Acid – Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, is one of the most important vitamins for human life.

Vitamin B5:

  • Is necessary for making blood cells,
  • It helps convert the food into energy.

Vitamin B5 is one of eight B vitamins. All B vitamins help you convert the protein, carbohydrates, and fats you eat into energy.

B vitamins are also needed for:

  • Healthy skin, hair, and eyes,
  • Proper functioning of the nervous system and liver,
  • Healthy digestive tract,
  • Making red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body,
  • Making hormones.

Whole grains are major sources of pantothenic acid. It is also found in quantity in liver and kidney, yeast, and egg yolk. Broccoli, peanuts, fish, shellfish, chicken, milk, yogurt, legumes, mushrooms, avocado, and sweet potatoes are also good sources of vitamin B5.

Vitamin B6 a.k.a. Pyridoxine – Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin B6 helps the body perform several functions. It is important for the metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. It also aids in the creation of neurotransmitters and red blood cells.

According to science, vitamin B6 benefits the body in the following ways:

  • May prevent and treat anemia by aiding the production of hemoglobin,
  • May help mood issues due to its role in creating neurotransmitters,
  • May relieve nausea during pregnancy,
  • May prevent clogged arteries and promote heart health.

Vitamin B6 is easily gotten from foods like poultry, beef, and chicken. You can also get your B6 from veggies and fruits. One cup of garbanzo beans (say on a yummy salad?) will take care of half your daily requirement.

Vitamin B6 deficiencies can result in skin rashes, cracked lip corners, anemia, numb hands or feet, and brain fog.

Vitamin B7 a.k.a. Biotin – Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin B7, a.k.a. biotin is a critical part of a healthy metabolism and creating enzymes. Vitamin B7 strengthens hair and nails.

Biotin is important to a number of systems including:

  • Skin,
  • Nerves,
  • Digestive tract,
  • Metabolism,
  • And cells.

Biotin is found in small amounts in foods like liver, cauliflower, whole-grain cereals, eggs, dairy, nuts, chicken, salmon, and carrots. Deficiencies are rare. If a deficiency does exist, it can cause confusion, nausea, muscle pain, changes in the skin and loss of hair.

Vitamin B9 a.k.a. Folic Acid – Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin B9 is also called folate or folic acid. Folic acid is crucial for proper brain function and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. For pregnant women, this one is really important to get right so check with your prenatal doctor.

Folic acid does the following:

  • Helps produce DNA and RNA (the body’s genetic material—it is really important during times of growth like pregnancy and infancy and adolescence),
  • Works closely with B12 to make red blood cells
  • It helps iron to work properly in the body.

Vitamin B9 is found in many different vegetables including spinach, dark greens, and brussel sprouts. It’s found in beans like lima beans and soybeans. It is also found in orange juice and milk.

Deficiency of folic acid can cause poor growth, loss of appetite, inflammation of the tongue, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and mental sluggishness. Women who don’t get enough folic acid during pregnancy are more likely to have children with birth defects. Studies show that pregnant women should get 600 mcg per day.

Vitamin B12 Benefits, Foods, and Deficiencies

Vitamin B12 helps make your DNA and your red blood cells.

Benefits of B12 include:

  • Prevents anemia,
  • Supports healthy hair, skin, and nails,
  • May support bone health and prevent osteoporosis.

Vitamin B12 can be gotten in animal foods like dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Vitamin B12 occurs in these animal foods naturally. You can also get it from food that has been fortified with vitamin B12.

Deficiencies in vitamin B12 are not common. With age, however, absorption may become an issue. A person who has had weight loss surgery or had part of their stomach removed may also have an issue. Drinking heavily can also cause a problem. Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include weakness, heart palpitations, vision loss, mental issues, nerve problems, paleness, a smooth tongue, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas.

Lessons Learned and Living Your Best Life

The bottom line is this: for those of us in the CBD industry, there is a lot that can be learned from the lessons of others.

For the many individuals striving to live healthier and happier lives, education is important.

In recent decades, lifestyle as an important factor in health is of great interest to researchers. About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity.

We encourage our readers to get educated and take action. Where answers are not black and white, we encourage you to consult with your doctor, take a holistic approach and see what works best for you.