Vitamins and Wintery Days -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine Do Germans have a general lack of vitamins or minerals in spring time?

Müller-Nothmann: No, a definite deficiency does not exist. The occurrence of heavy diseases like scurvy, beriberi and pellagra is not very likely in Germany. Serious symptoms of a vitamin deficiency only exist with chronically ill patients or people who have a drug problem like heavy smokers or alcoholics. Some persons in special situations like pregnant women or permanently stressed people can be at risk, too.

Nevertheless, a slight undersupply can be possible in spring time. As can be the case with vitamin D which is produced by the skin with the help of solar radiation. As skin gets only little contact with light during winter, less vitamin D is produced.

In winter and spring time, also less fluoride and iodine is ingested. That also applies for folic acid to be found in green vegetables. Vitamin C supply, by the way, is sufficient. No undersupply has been observed so far. Are there special symptoms when suffering from an insufficient supply of vitamins?

Müller-Nothmann: No, there are no explicit symptoms. Non-specific indications like tiredness or lack of energy can point out a vitamin undersupply, but does not necessarily have to be a sign of malnutrition. Vitamins are essential, but not responsible for everything.

Long term effects are more important with an undersupply of vitamins, those that are not noticeable immediately: vitamin D supports calcium absorption in the small intestine. An important process for active bone protection in order to prevent osteoporosis. A deficiency in fluoride, on the other hand, leads to a higher sensitivity to caries. Insufficient iodine can increase the danger of cankerous growth. Vitamin D, calcium, but as well vitamin K and fluoride are important for ideal bone protection.

A lack of folic acid has various consequences: The danger of losing a foetus during pregnancy can be increased. There may also be a higher risk for spina bifida of the newborn. Too little folic acid triggers a high level of homocysteine, and that in turn is promoting arteriosclerosis. To lower homocysteine levels, folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 is needed. Can Vitamins be overdosed?

Müller-Nothmann: Yes, theoretically. Fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K are much more critical than water soluble vitamins like vitamin C. The water soluble substances can be easily flushed out of the body. Fat soluble vitamins in high concentrations lead to liver damage, haemorrhage problems or symptoms of poisoning. When using dietary supplements, people should pay attention to the package insert in order to avoid an overdose. Is an overdose possible whilst eating normally?

Müller-Nothmann: No. Marring concentrations of vitamins can only be reached by extreme malnutrition or through exaggerated consumption of dietary supplements.

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