Know your nutrients: B Vitamins


The story behind the discovery of b vitamins is a cautionary tale to any would-be prepper hoping to live for years on their trusty crate of ramen noodles, and one of the great mysteries of modern science. It all stemmed from the case of sailors in the Japanese Navy who were dying on extended tours at sea. Beriberi was the name of the disease, and with it came the symptoms of tremor, paralysis and eventually death.

Why B vitamins are part of your essential emergency supplies

B vitamins are essential to a number of different functions in the body related to metabolism and cell formation. This carries over from everything to maintaining muscle tone, to carrying out immune system functions, to stabilizing the nervous system. Without B Vitamins, muscles will wither, nerves will fade and the person will eventually die. This is what was taking place on the Japanese ships.

A hypothesis was formed by two doctors, Christiaan Eijkman and Sir Frederick Hopkins, that stated that the disease was caused by a deficiency in the diet. The soldiers who were most susceptible to beriberi were those of the lower ranks who were subsisting mostly on white

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rice. Officers who had a richer diet were much less susceptible to the disease. Through testing on chicken populations with brown rice (including the husk) instead of polished white rice, Eijkmann was able to reduce the incidence of beriberi in chickens significantly. Hopkins determined that there were ‘accessory factors’ in addition to proteins, carbohydrates and fats known at the time that contributed to human health. These accessory factors evolved into what we know today as vitamins and Eijkman and Hopkins were awarded the 1929 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery.

Different forms, different sources

B Vitamins were originally known as a single vitamin due to their coexistence in a number of foods. It was only after the development of organic chemistry and imaging that scientists were able to identify a number of different molecules that gave these foods their fortifying properties. Today, there are eight commonly agreed upon B vitamins B1, B2,B3,B5,B6,B7,B9, and B12.

The best way to supplement B vitamins, in home and in the field

B vitamins are all water soluble, which has good and bad implications. The good news is that it’s almost impossible to have a dose of B vitamins that is too high, excess vitamins are flushed out in urine. If you have ever taken a multivitamin and noticed the color of your pee change, that’s because of

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B vitamins.

The bad news is that B vitamins must be taken very regularly as the body cannot store them in fat. This means that B vitamins must be worked into the diet. As the research of Eijkman suggested, refined grains such as white rice have many of the vitamins taken out in the refining process. Generally speaking, the closer a plant is to it’s natural form the more vitamins it will have, and this is true with B vitamins as it is with anything else. The best plant sources of B vitamins include asparagus, broccoli, spinach, beans and nuts.

However, plants should not be relied upon as the only source of B vitamins. B12 is only available in animal sources and many vegetarians have issues with B12 deficiency. Almost any source of meat contains the full spectrum of B vitamins, including B12.

What does this mean for you, modern prepper? Don’t plan your survival around a sparse diet of easy to store, processed grains. If you do, make sure to supplement with meat, the vegetables mentioned above, or dietary supplements. B vitamin supplements are very easy to store and will keep you alive, strong and energetic in a post apocalyptic world. Don’t leave home without them!


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by JP Martin