Vitamins are organic chemicals that the foods we eat contain in minute amounts and that our bodies must have if we are to remain healthy. Deficiencies of the various vitamins are associated with certain specific disorders. Most people are aware that every child from birth on requires vitamins in his diet, but not everyone realizes that in the consumption of vitamins it is possible to overdo a good thing. although even in our overvitaminized society we rarely sec any toxic effects of overdosage. The vitamins to consider are A, D. C, and the B group.
Since the B vitamins are well represented in the foods (including human and cow’s milk) given to babies in the United States, we mention them only in passing. The child’s diet may, however, be short on A, D, or C. and parents should have a little information about them. (There are other vitamins besides those we have mentioned, but they are widely enough distributed in the diet so that no conscious decision about them is necessary. We will confine our discussion to the three which are sometimes missing from the diets of children.)
Vitamin A is found in milk, butter, cheese, egg yolk, cartis, squash. sweet potatoes. and animal fats. Fish liven—cod, halibut, tuna—contain large quantities and are the most COMMA% commercial source Human milk contains vitamin A, usually in adequate quantities if the mother herself has a normal diet. Cow’s milk varies with the season, depending on the available forage, but in general contains adequate amounts for infants. Vitamin C appears in almost all fresh fruits and vegetables. but especially in citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, and leafy green vegetables. Overcooking tends to destroy the vitamins, but modern canning and freezing methods help to preserve them.
Cow’s milk lb an unreliable source of vitamin C and supplementation is required. Human milk contains adequate amounts if the mother receives sixty milligrams daily in her diet. Vitamin D is Found in fish oils and (in lesser quantities) m eggs. it is manufactured by chemicals in human and animal skin under the action of sunlight. However, vitamin I) is passed poorly into human or cow’s milk and therefore as a general practice in this country it is added. both to cow’s milk and to commercially prepared milk. Vitamin A is important to vision.
A deficiency of A muses night blindness and other disorders of the eye. Vitamin 13 is essential to normal growth of bones. The bone changes known as rickets, not seen as often nowadays as formerly, result from a deficiency of vitamin D. Vitamin C. whose chemical name is ascorbic acid, is essential to the healthy development of the small blood vessels and other bodily U111(7- tures. Easy bruising. bleeding gums. hemorrhages around the bones arc symptoms of deficiency of vitamin C.
The medical name for this condition is scurvy. A couple of centuries ago the British Navy began requiring its sailors to drink lime juice to prevent scurvy. and Englishmen ever since have been known as “limeys.” Many symptoms beyond those noted are commonly attributed to vitamin deficiencies. Among them are poor appetite, stunted growth. whining, and frequent colds. It is true that these symptoms are often seen among severely malnourished children, but the deprivations of these children usually go beyond vitamin deficiencies. in owl affluent society we do not recognize any direct relationship between these symptoms and lack of vitamins.
Though parents often pour vitamins into children exhibiting the symptoms, the children rarely respond. The parents are right to be concerned about the problems, but they should look in another direction for the solutions.