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Posts Tagged vitamin C

Cellular health

Our bodies are made up of cells and it is therefore essential for cells to develop normally and remain healthy to ensure overall health.

Health claims are now authorised across the EU for nutrients which have a role in cell division and specialisation, protection of cells from oxidative stress, and normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, which resides in the cell. All of the nutrients for which these health claims have been approved are either vitamins or minerals, notably:

Health claimVitamin or mineral
Role in cell divisionCalcium, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, Zinc
Role in cell specialisationCalcium, vitamin A
Protects cell from oxidative stressCalcium, Copper, Magnesium, vitamin B2, Selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, Zinc
Formation of  red blood cellsIron, vitamin B12, vitamin B6
Maintenance of normal blood cellsVitamin B2
Formation of haemoglobinIron

A separate health claim has also been authorised for vitamin C and its role in improving iron absorption, which is important for vegetarians – as plant iron is less easy to absorb than iron from meat – and also those who may be on a low intake of meat, which is often the case in the elderly and people on special diets.

A claim may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.

The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates

Bone and dental health

Calcium and vitamin D are needed for normal growth and development of bone in children.

Several vitamins and minerals are essential for our bones and teeth to grow and remain healthy. It’s crucial, for example, for children to consume sufficient calcium as it’s needed for the growth of strong, dense bones and teeth, and as we get older it’s needed to keep them that way. This is why children are encouraged to drink milk, which is a great source of calcium. It is also important in post-menopausal women, who have a high risk of developing osteoporosis. This causes bones to become brittle and prone to breaking.

Calcium is not alone in this – we also need sufficient vitamin D and  vitamin K. Vitamin D is required by the body to enable the absorption of calcium. As an example, products that contain sufficient levels of both calcium and vitamin D can carry this health claim:

Calcium and vitamin D are needed for normal growth and development of bone in children.

This is because it is recognised that calcium and vitamin D are both essential for the normal growth and development of bones, and some children and adolescents may not consume sufficient to ensure that their bones develop properly.

Certain minerals which are important in the maintenance of normal bones and teeth comprise magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, and claims have been authorised for use in products for the general population.

Vitamin C is also important for the formation of the elastic collagen net which forms the base upon which calcium is deposited to form bones and teeth, thus giving bones and teeth an elastic quality and  claims have been authorised for this.

The claims can be summarised as below:

Health ClaimNutrient
Maintenance of normal bonesCalcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin K, Zinc
Maintenance of normal teethCalcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, vitamin D
Maintenance of normal collagen formation for the normal function of bonesVitamin C
Maintenance of normal collagen formation for the normal function of teethVitamin C
Needed for the growth and development of bone in childrenCalcium, vitamin D, Phosphorus, Protein

The claims may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.

 

 

 

 

Vitamins

Carotenoids are found naturally in foods such as fruit, spinach, carrots and eggs.

The importance of certain ingredients in the diet for maintaining health has been known since ancient times. But the need for what we now call vitamins was first realised in the mid-18th century, when the Scottish surgeon James Lind found that citrus fruit helped to prevent sailors on long voyages from developing the disease scurvy.James Lind found that citrus fruit helped to prevent sailors on long voyages from developing the disease scurvy.

Vitamins are organic chemicals that were first isolated in the first half of the 20th century, and while the body is able to make some of these itself, we rely on our diet for the rest. Our bodies also need a number of inorganic chemicals in tiny amounts, mostly metals, and these are called minerals.

Many processed foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, which helps us to consume enough of these vital substances.

Most governments issue lists of recommended daily amounts – RDAs – of each vitamin and mineral that should be supplied by the diet. Many people already eat sufficient in their normal diet, but there are still large groups in each country who do not. In the UK, fortification of margarine with vitamins A and D is compulsory as it is a substitute for butter, which is a good source of these vitamins. Fortification of bread flour is also compulsory in the UK, as milling the flour removes several of the useful B vitamins. Generally, fortification is carried out at no more than 50% of the RDA per daily serving.

Carotenoids are found naturally in foods such as fruit, spinach, carrots and eggs.Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is important for healthy eyesight and bone growth. It is made in the body from precursor chemicals called carotenoids, or ingested directly from meat and dairy products. Carotenoids are found naturally in foods such as fruit, spinach, carrots and eggs.

Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is important in many of the processes carried out by our cells. Some of the most important sources include meat, vegetables, cereals, rice and yeast. The disease beri-beri results from a deficiency in this vitamin, as does Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome in alcoholics. Most cases of deficiency in the UK occur in alcoholics, causing confusion, ataxia and coma.

Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is another vitamin that is important in metabolism. It is found in foods like milk, liver, yeast and green vegetables, and can also be used to add colour to foods.

Vitamin B3, better known as niacin, is a vital component of metabolic processes. Deficiency Vitamin B5, now referred to as pantothenic acid, is important in metabolism. It is widespread in foodstuffs, including whole grains, eggs, meat and legumes. It is a familiar ingredient in cosmetics, where it is normally used in the more stable alcohol form, panthenol.causes the disease pellagra. It is commonly found in foods like meat, fruit and vegetables and various nuts and cereals.

Vitamin B5, now referred to as pantothenic acid, is important in metabolism. It is widespread in foodstuffs, including whole grains, eggs, meat and legumes. It is a familiar ingredient in cosmetics, where it is normally used in the more stable alcohol form, panthenol.

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is important in the production of red blood cells and various hormones. It is found in milk, meat, brown rice, whole-wheat grain and nuts.

Vitamin B7, better known as biotin, is again important in metabolism and cell growth, and is widely available in egg yolk, liver, kidney, meat and some vegetables. As a result, deficiency is rare.

Vitamin B9, now usually listed as folic acid or folate, has numerous functions in the body, mainly in amino-acid metabolism. It also has an important role when the body is growing rapidly during pregnancy, resulting in a reduction in the likelihood of neural tube defects such as spina bifida if it is ingested in the right quantities pre-and post-conception. It is found in foods such as green vegetables, peas and beans, and liver as folate. Supplements are important for pregnant women.

Vitamin B12, is a group of related substances, the most important of which is cyanocobalamin. Vitamin B9, now usually listed as folic acid or folate, has numerous functions in the body, mainly in amino-acid metabolismIt is essential for healthy blood and nervous system, and a deficiency ultimately leads to pernicious anaemia. It is found naturally in milk, eggs and meat, but not in vegetables,  so vegetarians need to ensure that they either eat foods fortified with B12, or take a supplement.

Vitamin C is familiar on food labels under its chemical name of ascorbic acid as it is commonly used as an antioxidant. It is needed by the body to synthesis collagen, the protein that makes up much of our connective tissue, and if we don’t get enough, we will develop scurvy. It also helps iron to be absorbed, and works as an antioxidant in the body, helping to protect against the onset of many chronic diseases. It is found in many fruits, and is particularly abundant in citrus fruits. Potatoes are also an important source in the UK diet.
Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins our bodies can make itself, which it does in response to sunlight, but many foods are fortified with it to make sure we get enough. It is actually a group of related chemicals, the calciferols, and has aVitamin E is another group of related chemicals, the tocopherols. These antioxidants are found in many foods, especially oils from sources such as wheatgerm, sunflower, olive and various nut oils. number of functions in the body. These include healthy bone growth, and a deficiency in this vitamin will result in a softening of the bones, or rickets, in children. Good natural sources include oily fish, liver, milk and eggs.

Vitamin E is another group of related chemicals, the tocopherols. These antioxidants are found in many foods, especially oils from sources such as wheatgerm, sunflower, olive and various nut oils. It is vital the integrity of membranes, and the dietary requirement tends to increase with the amount of polyunsaturated fats ingested, so it is often added to margarine. It is also used as an antioxidant.

Potatoes are also an important source for Vitimin C in the UK diet.Vitamin K is a group of quinone chemicals that are important in the blood clotting process, and the maintenance of healthy bones and cardiovascular system. Sources include green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli, and also some fruits such as avocado. K vitamins are also found in fermented dairy products such as cheese.

Claims

More than 80 health claims for the vitamins have been authorised in 2012 by the European Commission, and they demonstrate the important synergy between the different vitamins (and minerals) as several vitamins (and minerals) are noted to carry similar claims
ClaimVitamin or mineral
Maintenance of normal bonesVitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus,Vitamin D, Vitamin K
Maintenance of normal hairBiotin, Copper, Selenium, Zinc
Maintenance of normal energy-yielding metabolismVitamin B1, B2, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Biotin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C
Maintenance of normal functioning of the nervous systemVitamin B1, B2, Niacin, Biotin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C

Vitamin C carries extensive claims for the maintenance of normal collagen (elastic net) formation in blood vessels, bones, cartilage, gums, skin and teeth.

The EU Register can be searched very simply by nutrient and/or health condition

 

 

 

Antioxidants

Antioxidants927311_86998124

Oxidation is a real problem for food products. Oxidation, for example, causes raw apples and potatoes go brown, but this can prevented in the kitchen by adding lemon juice. It’s very effective because lemon juice contains a very strong antioxidant – ascorbic acid or vitamin C (E300). By preventing or slowing down the oxidation process in foods, waste through spoilage is reduced.

Many antioxidants occur naturally in fruit and vegetables, many of which are flavonoid compounds such as quercetin in onions and apples, and epigallocatechin in tea. The health benefits of these antioxidants are becoming clear, and many scientific studies have been carried out on them. Oxidation can damage DNA leading to cancer, and can change polyunsaturated-fatty acids into forms that contribute to heart attacks and strokes. Increasing the consumption of antioxidants can have a preventative effect against cancer and heart disease, although it’s not clear yet which are the most effective.

Unsaturated fats are particularly vulnerable to oxidation, and this causes them to turn rancid. These are some examples of antioxidant food additives:

Ascorbic acid (E300), or vitamin C, is found in many different fruits. It is also commonly used as a flour improver.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (E320) is a synthetic antioxidant which works by stabilising free radicals.

Butylated hydroxytoluene (E321) or BHT is another synthetic antioxidant. It works in the same way as butylated hydroxyanisole, but has caused controversy, as it has produced adverse effects in dogs. However, it also has anticancer effects.

Propyl gallate (E310) is a synthetic antioxidant. Its main food use is in products that contain oils and fats.

Tocopherols (E306) are natural antioxidants which are forms of vitamin E. The most important sources are vegetable oils such as palm, corn, sunflower, soybean and olive.

Chemist in the kitchen

In-The-Mix

A page from our first website!

If you want to know more about how food additives tie in with the chemistry that goes on in the kitchen, a downloadable booklet entitled ‘In the mix’ is accessible from the home page, or from the image on this page.

Chemicals have always been welcome in the kitchen: sodium bicarbonate, pectin, yeast, acetic acid etc.

Every cook is a chemist. The first chemical laboratories, back in the Middle Ages, were glorified kitchens, and many chemical processes derive from techniques of cooking. The vital technique of distillation was perfected in the course of man’s search for intoxicating drinks. And far from being dehumanizing, such chemical processes have an ancient magic and glamour, as the great Italian writer Primo Levi pointed out (he was also a chemist):-

Distilling is beautiful.

‘First of all, because it is a slow, philosophic, and silent occupation, which keeps you busy but gives you time to think of other things, somewhat like riding a bike. Then because it involves a metamorphosis from liquid to invisible (vapour) invisible, and from this once again to liquid; but in this double journey, up and down, purity is obtained, an ambiguous and fascinating condition, which starts with chemistry and goes very far. And finally, when you set about distilling, you acquire the consciousness of repeating a ritual consecrated by centuries, almost a religious act, in which from imperfect material you obtain the essence, the usia, the spirit, and in the first place alcohol, which gladdens the spirit and warms the heart.’

Every kitchen contains a battery of chemical reagents, each with their specific chemical purpose; e.g. sodium bicarbonate, pectin, yeast, acetic acid, sodium chloride; and also substances, such as milk and eggs, that are not usually thought of as chemicals but which actually miracle reagents that chemists would still be incapable of creating if they didn’t already exist.

In many cases, ingredients that sound like chemicals are derived from natural products: lecithin from soya is similar to egg lecithin, acetic acid comes from vinegar, Vitamin C is the active ingredient of lemon juice, and so on. The principle of using additives is something that every cook, high or low, uses every time they prepare a meal. To understand the processes of making sauces, meringues, bread and cakes, of marinading, tenderising and caramelising is to become a food chemist, and it greatly enhances the pleasure of cooking to see it from a chemical point of view. Cooking is chemistry in action, with the added benefit that you can eat the results.