Tag Archives: vitamins

New study highlights vitamin E’s essential role in brain development

Researchers at the Oregon State University say that vitamin E may be more important in embryo development than we assumed.

Image credits Kevin McIver.

The study reports that embryos of vitamin E-deficient zebrafish develop malformed nervous systems, including their brains. Although the findings are based on animal models and may thus not perfectly translate over to humans, they can help guide our research into the topic. In the end, it could help us better understand the biochemical mechanisms behind pregnancy and maintain the health of embryos in the womb.


“This is totally amazing — the brain is absolutely physically distorted by not having enough vitamin E,” said Maret Traber, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Zebrafish are a common model animal used for biological research. They’re a species of small freshwater fish that need about five days to develop from a fertilized egg into a young individual. This short period makes them ideal for studying the development and genetics of vertebrates. They’re also easy to care for, which helps.

The link between vitamin E — or “alpha-tocopherol” — and embryo development was first identified in 1922 (this link is what led to the discovery of the compound), when it was noted that vitamin E is essential for the successful development of pregnancy in rats. However, we didn’t know why this was.

“Why does an embryo need vitamin E? We’ve been chasing that for a long time,” said Traber. “With this newest study we actually started taking pictures so we could visualize: Where is the brain? Where is the brain forming? How does vitamin E fit into this picture?”

The team explains that the development of the zebrafish’s nervous systems starts with a brain primordium and a neural tube. These go on to develop and innervate (send nerve bundles) throughout the body. If deprived of vitamin E, these embryos show defects at the level of the brain and neural tube. The team’s photographs show that vitamin E acts “right on the closing edges of the cells that are forming the brain,” which are called neural crest cells.

These cells act like stem cells and are involved in the formation of the bones and cartilages in our face, and also spread from the brain to create nerve bundles. They end up forming cells and tissues in 10 different organ systems, the team adds.

“By having those cells get into trouble with vitamin E deficiency, basically the entire embryo formation is dysregulated. It is no wonder we see embryo death with vitamin E deficiency,” Traber explains.

In the experiment, embryos who developed lacking vitamin E lived to a maximum of 24 hours and then died. The differences between them and control embryos were first noticeable at around the 12-hour mark but weren’t yet fatal.

Vitamin E is actually a group of compounds with similar chemical structure. One of them, alpha-tocopherol, is what’s commonly and commercially referred to as ‘vitamin E’ in the European Union, while gamma-tocopherol is the type most commonly seen in the US. They’re most commonly found in oils and oily foods such as hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and avocados.

“Plants make eight different forms of vitamin E, and you absorb them all, but the liver only puts alpha-tocopherol back into the bloodstream,” said Traber. “All of the other forms are metabolized and excreted. I’ve been concerned about women and pregnancy because of reports that women with low vitamin E in their plasma have increased risk of miscarriage.”

The paper “Vitamin E is necessary for zebrafish nervous system development” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

18 Superfoods That Can Boost Your Immune System

Credit: Marko Verch., CC2.0.

The term ‘superfoods’ might conjure the image of some all-powerful food with special, almost magical abilities. While there isn’t any regulated or scientifically-backed definition for superfoods, in the marketplace a product is promoted to superfood status if it can offer high levels of desirable nutrients.

These nutrients may be linked to the prevention of disease or may offer other simultaneous health benefits, such as antioxidation or an immune system boost.

Listed below are some of the most popular superfoods.

Citrus Fruits

It is a well-known fact that citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and vitamin A which strengthens the immune system and keeps your skin smooth and soft. It is important to have citrus fruits on a regular basis as our body does not produce vitamin C, hence consuming a citrus fruit daily will give your body the nutrients it needs. There are many different types of citrus fruits such as:

  • Oranges
  • Lime
  • Clementines
  • Lemon
  • Tangerine
  • Grapefruits


Broccoli is a superfood that is rich in vitamins A, C, and E, alongside many other anti-oxidants and fibers. With so much to offer, it is a good option for you to put on your plate. It is completely packed with minerals and the best way to retain all its nutrients is to cook is as less as possible, even better if not cooked at all.


Another superfood that people turn towards for aid when they fall ill. The medicinal properties of gingers are no mystery to mankind. Ginger helps in reducing sore throat by reducing inflammation and also helps in decreasing nausea. There’s evidence that ginger can reduce chronic pain. Also according to recent animal research, it may even have cholesterol-lowering properties.


As one of the most used ingredients all over the world, no doubt garlic adds a certain distinct flavor to the food, but there is more to it than meets the eye. As per the “National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health”, garlic may play quite a big role in lowering blood pressure and helps in slowing down the hardening of the arteries. Huge concentrations of sulfur-containing compounds, like allicin, seem to be the reason for the immune-boosting properties found in Garlic.

Red Bell Peppers

Even though citrus fruits are considered to be the best source of vitamin C, interestingly, the red bell pepper also houses vitamin C. In fact, they contain twice as much as citrus fruits. Apart from that, they are also a good source of beta carotene. Beta carotene is responsible for improving the health of the skin and the eyes.


Vitamin E is also vital to the immune system. Basically, it is a soluble vitamin, which means that it needs fat in order to be absorbed. Almonds and other nuts are packed with Vitamin E and healthy fats. About half a cup of whole shelled almonds is enough to provide sufficient amounts of vitamin E required by the human body.

Sunflower Seeds

With magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B-6 and E, they are a good choice of food to opt for. Vitamin E plays an important role in the maintaining of the immune system. Avocados and dark leafy greens are other good sources of vitamin E.

Goji Berries

Wolfberries or Goji Berries are a good source of vitamin C and B, amino acids, fatty acids and a lot of minerals. You can have them with your breakfast or add in your smoothies, regardless, they are a great source of good minerals and it is wise to add it to your diet.

Chia Seeds

Originating from Mexico, Chia seeds were used by Aztecs and the Mayas. There are a lot of benefits of consuming chia seeds as they produce copious amounts of vegetable proteins and also they are highly rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.


Ground green tea is known as Matcha and is just as popular as coffee. Matcha contains copious amounts of vitamins and minerals, making it a very beneficial beverage to consume. The Matcha green tea powder can act as a great addition to baked items.


The antioxidant properties found in Kale aids in strengthening your body’s immune system. It helps in protecting you against diseases like Arteriosclerosis and Alzheimer’s. You add it raw to your smoothies or salads for consumption. 


Packed with potassium, vitamin C and other vitamins, blueberries are one of the best and tastiest superfoods. They are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties which help in protecting your body against various diseases.  


Known for being used in Indian curries, turmeric is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat a variety of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. The high concentration of curcumin is the reason for the yellow color that turmeric, which helps to decrease muscle soreness caused by intense exercise.


Chicken soup has been known to treat fevers and colds. It also prevents you from getting sick apart from just helping you recover from a fever. Turkey and chicken contain high amounts of vitamin B-6. Let’s just say, about 3 ounces of chicken meat or turkey meat contains about 50% – 60% of vitamin B-6 that our body requires on a daily basis.


Spinach harbors high amounts of antioxidants, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. When cooked lightly, it helps in bringing out the minerals and vitamin A.


Yogurts with live cultures like Greek Yogurt is what you should keep an eye out for. Yogurt without live cultures usually has a lot of sweeteners in them. Yogurt with live cultures is a probiotic supplement and is usually rich in vitamin D. They can also help in increasing the absorption of nutrients from foods.


The citrulline present in watermelons helps in keeping your heart healthy. Apart from that they also hoard a large amount of vitamin C, B-6 and A. They also help in keeping the immune system balanced and provides the body with lycopene that aids in strengthening the bones.


The astaxanthin present in salmon is responsible for the pink pigmentation of the salmon’s meat. These substances help in the healthy maintenance of the body’s immune system.


There are many more things that can be done to improve your body’s immune system and many more foods that help in the same. Good research can help you figure out what you can eat on a regular basis. You can check reviews of different superfoods by Health Trends or any other health blog/magazine.

Residue from a laboratory experiment simulating the conditions of interstellar space. The residue contained vitamin B3 (and related compounds) and may help explain meteorite chemistry. Image Credit: Karen Smith

Vitamin B may have come from space – what does this mean for origin of life?

Residue from a laboratory experiment simulating the conditions of interstellar space. The residue contained vitamin B3 (and related compounds) and may help explain meteorite chemistry. Image Credit: Karen Smith

Residue from a laboratory experiment simulating the conditions of interstellar space. The residue contained vitamin B3 (and related compounds) and may help explain meteorite chemistry.
Image Credit: Karen Smith

After analyzing samples from eight different carbon-rich meteorites, researchers at Pennsylvania State Universities found these contained niacin, also known as vitamin B3 and the more pristine the meteorite, the higher the concentration. What this means is that the ancient Earth had a steady supply of vitamin B3 during its early years when it was frequently bombarded by cosmic objects, possibly aiding in the creation of life as we know it.

Previously, researchers proved that ancient Earth had the right conditions for vitamin B3 to form natively, however the present findings suggest that the extraterrestrial B3 could have provided a nice kick and boost life forming processes. Niacin or nicotinic acid is an extremely important chemical necessary for life to sprout – a precursor for the first building blocks. Niacin is essential to the formation of an amine   called nicotinamide adenine dinuclotide (NAD), one of the substances that are key to the formation of amino acids, which in turn are building blocks for molecular proteins. Without molecular proteins living organisms could never function, since these chemical bits signal how cells act upon each other in beautiful harmony.

“It is always difficult to put a value on the connection between meteorites and the origin of life; for example, earlier work has shown that vitamin Bcould have been produced non-biologically on ancient Earth, but it’s possible that an added source of vitamin B3 could have been helpful,” said Karen Smith of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa. “Vitamin B3, also called nicotinic acid or niacin, is a precursor to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is essential to metabolism and likely very ancient in origin.”

Karen Smith of Pennsylvania State University and hear team analyzed samples from eight different carbon-rich meteorites, called “CM-2 type carbonaceous chondrites” and found vitamin B3 at levels ranging from about 30 to 600 parts-per-billion. Native contaminants are improbable, since vitamin B3 was found along with its structural isomers – related molecules that have the same chemical formula but whose atoms are attached in a different order. These other molecules aren’t used by life. If contamination from terrestrial life was the source of the vitamin B3 in the meteorites, then only the vitamin should have been found, not the other, related molecules.

Next, the researchers plan on making simulations as well as experiments under more realistic conditions to better understand how vitamin B3 can form on ice grains in space. The findings were reported in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.