All about fruitarianism with a long-term fruitarian, Lena

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Nutrients

Nutrients are component in foods that an organism uses for maintenance and growth.

  • Serum Vitamin B12 in Children

    Dietary vitamin B12 intake was inadequate in 43% in an extremely impoverished indigenous population of Panamanian children aged 12 to 60 months.

    These children were poorer, had less frequent diarrhea, and obtained a higher percentage of their energy from carbohydrate than children with adequate intake. Energy intake positively predicted dietary vitamin B12 intake. In contrast, serum vitamin B12 concentrations were normal in all but 3% of the children. Serum vitamin B12 was positively associated with weekly servings of fruit, corn-based food, and name (a traditional starchy food), but not with animal-source foods. Finally, serum vitamin B12 was not associated with Ascaris intensity but was lowered with increasing frequency of diarrhea.

    Although inadequate dietary intake of vitamin B12 was common, most serum values were normal. Nevertheless, diarrheal disease emerged as a negative predictor of serum vitamin B12 concentration.

  • Vitamin B12 Levels in Long-Term Vegans

    Serum vitamin B12, serum folate and red blood cell folate levels were examined among 36 strict vegans of 5-35 years' duration.

    Vitamin B12 levels among the vegans were generally lower than in a control population. Most of the vegans had vitamin B12 values less than 200 pg/ml

    None of the vegans had any hematologic evidence of vitamin B12 deficiency, however four of them had neurologic complaints. Long-standing vegans should be monitored for vitamin B12 levels.

    Red blood cell folate levels were normal but serum folate levels among the vegans were higher than among the controls. 

  • B12 Oral Supplements and Cognitive Function

    Vitamin B-12 status did not change significantly after treatment in the placebo group with daily supplementation with high doses of oral vitamin B-12 alone or in combination with folic acid.

    Oral vitamin B-12 supplementation corrected mild vitamin B-12 deficiency.

    Vitamin B-12 + folic acid supplementation increased red blood cell folate concentrations and decreased total homocysteine concentrations by 36%.

    Improvement in memory function was greater in the placebo group than in the group who received vitamin B-12 alone. Neither supplementation with vitamin B-12 alone nor that in combination with folic acid was accompanied by any improvement in other cognitive domains.

  • Phytochemicals, Colors, Antioxidants

    Thousands of phytochemicals have been identified in the plant foods we eat. The more phytochemical-rich foods eaten, the lower the risk for diseases such as cancer and heart disease. One serving of fruit or vegetables may contain more than 100 different phytochemicals. It is important to eat a variety of raw and cooked vegetables to gain the most benefit from phytochemicals. 

    Phytochemicals contribute to the pigments of fruits and vegetables:

    • Red - lycopene found in tomatoes, watermelon, & pink grapefruit, 
    • Orange - beta carotene found in carrots, mangoes, & cantaloupe, 
    • Yellow - beta cryptothanxin found in pineapple, oranges, & peaches, 
    • Green - indoles found in broccoli, cabbage, & kale, 
    • Purple - anthocyanins found in blueberries, grapes, eggplant & cherries,
    • White - allicin found in garlic, onions, & chives.

    The most well known phytochemicals are the antioxidants. Colorful plant foods are loaded with antioxidants so eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is a great way to protect the body from oxidative damage, and therefore reduces the risk of numerous health conditions.

  • Research Needed for B12 and Neurodegenerative Disease

    Having established the association of vitamin B12 insufficiency with neurodegenerative disease, the challenge is to discern the direction, if any, of causation.

    Most neurological impairments present a slow, progressive course (Josephs et al., 2009) and vitamin B12 levels may take a number of years to deplete (Herbert, 1988). Studies investigating causation would need to continue over an extended period of time.

    Low serum vitamin B12 levels may play a role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disease; however, it is equally plausible that neurological impairment may lead to poor nutrition and hence to inadequate dietary intake. Also, any association may simply be coincident or the factors predisposing patients for neurodegenerative disease may simply also expose the patient to a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, poor nutrition. Further intervention studies in large samples followed over an extended period of time are required. This will allow for further investigation of the role, if any, of vitamin B12 in the onset or progression of neurodegenerative disease, as well as the latent period of effect of vitamin B12 insufficiency before cognitive deficits are evident.

  • Risk Factors for Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    Those experiencing pernicious anemia (an auto-immune reaction to either the parietal cells or intrinsic factor) go on to develop vitamin B12 deficiency through malabsorption if untreated. Deficiency could develop within 1–3 years in those experiencing malabsorption. 

    Patients having surgical alteration of the distal ileum, Crohn’s disease, and using metformin are also at an increased riskfor malabsorption.

    Herbert (1994) estimates that deficiency could take as long as 20–30 years to develop in persons having normal absorption/reabsorption and suddenly ceasing to include substantial amounts of vitamin B12 in their diet during adulthood. This is due to the large amount of vitamin B12 that can be stored in the body and recycled through enterohepatic reabsorption. 

    The prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency increases with age and is associated with a number of conditions and treatments.

    The main causes of vitamin B12 deficiency are

    • poor dietary intake (as in vegetarianism),
    • poor absorption (occurring in achlorhydria, pernicious anemia, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, Crohn’s disease, and metformin use),
    • poor distribution (genetic predisposition for aberrant proteins that are inefficient in transport or cellular uptake of vitamin B12).
  • Toxins in Beans

    Green beans, red kidney beans, and white kidney beans - contain naturally a toxin known as phytohaemagglutinin. Food poisoning caused by this toxin in raw and inadequately-cooked beans has a short onset time (1-3 hours) with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. However, this toxic substance can be destroyed by soaking and then cooking thoroughly at boiling temperature. Tinned beans which have been subjected to thorough heat-treatment are safe to eat without further cooking.

  • Toxins in Root Vegetables and Greens

    Several different glycoalkaloids are produced naturally by potatoes, the most common being solanine and chaconine. Low levels of glycoalkaloids produce desirable flavour in potatoes. However, exposure to elevated levels of glycoalkaloids when eating potatoes can cause a bitter taste or a burning sensation in the mouth - indicating a state of toxicity. Glycoalkaloids are not destroyed by cooking; even by frying in hot oil. The majority of this natural toxin found in potatoes is in the peel, or just below the peel. Greening of the potatoes may be indicative of the presence of the toxin. Red skinned or russet potatoes may camouflage the greening.

    Avoid eating potatoes that show signs of greening, physical damage, rotting or sprouting. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place at home, such as a basement, and away from the sun or artificial light. Wash potatoes before cooking and peel or cut away green areas prior to cooking. Potatoes with pronounced greening or damage should be discarded. 

    Off-flavours such as a bitter taste, aftertaste and/or petroleum-like flavour have been associated with the consumption of fresh carrots. In contrast to sweet flavour, these off-flavours are usually as a result of stored carrots being exposed to ethylene. Ethylene is a normal fruit ripening hormone that may react with natural chemical compounds found in carrots creating off-flavour sensory attributes. Thus, carrots should not be stored with ethylene-producing commodities such as apples, avocados, bananas, pears, peaches, plums, cantaloupes, honeydew melons and tomatoes. Carrots properly handled and stored in perforated plastic bags at a low temperature retain the most acceptable taste. 

    Cyanogenic glycoside toxin is also found in the cassava root and fresh bamboo shoots, making it necessary for them to be cooked before canning or eating. Cassava is classified into two main types - sweet and bitter. Sweet cassava is defined as having a concentration of cyanide less than 50 mg per kilogram of fresh weight, while bitter cassava has a concentration greater than 50 mg per kilogram. The sweet cassava only requires cooking in order to reduce the cyanide content to non-toxic levels. However, the bitter cassava contains more toxins and should be prepared and cooked properly prior to consumption. Grating the root and prolonged soaking of the gratings in water will leach out the cyanide, reducing the levels of toxin. In addition to soaking, cooking will further detoxify the roots before consumption. Cyanogenic glycoside found in fresh bamboo decomposes quickly when placed in boiling water, rendering the bamboo shoots safe for consumption. It has been found that boiling bamboo shoots for 20 minutes at 98 C removes nearly 70 percent of the cyanide, while higher temperatures and longer intervals remove up to 96 percent. The highest concentrations are detoxified by cooking for two hours.

  • Toxins in Fresh Edible Fruits and Seeds

    Several commercial fruits and vegetables contain small amounts of natural toxins. These natural toxins help protect the plants and create resistance to diseases and certain types of insects. See Secondary Metabolites in Leaves and Stems

    The kernels within the pits of some stone fruits contain a natural toxin cyanogenic glycoside. These fruits include apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, plums and prunes. The flesh of the fruits itself is not toxic. Normally, the presence of cyanogenic glycoside alone is not dangerous. When kernels are chewed cyanogenic glycoside can transform into hydrogen cyanide, poisonous to humans. The lethal dose of cyanide ranges from 0.5 to 3.0 mg per kilogram of body weight. It is not recommended to eat the kernels inside the pits of stone fruits.

    Ackee, akee or achee - Blinghia sapida - is a food staple in many Western Africa, Jamaican and Carribean diets. There are two main varieties, hard and soft ackees, that are available for consumption. Both canned and fresh forms of this fruit are consumed. However, unripe fruit contains natural toxins called hypoglycin that can cause serious health effects. The only part of this fruit that is edible, is the properly harvested and prepared ripe golden flesh around the shiny black seeds. The fruit is poisonous unless ripe and after being opened naturally on the tree.

  • Secondary Metabolites in Leaves and Stems

    Leaves and stems of plants, green vegetables or leafy greens, are widely consumed by humans. The protein contents are higher than in fruits, and they contain low amounts of sugar.

    Some green vegetables produce secondary metabolites that have bitter or astringent properties and may produce toxic alkaloidal and other compounds such as hemoglutenens. Others produce intestinal enzyme inhibitors, such as lectins, which bind to mucosal surfaces and inhibit digestion, especially that of proteins. 


    Plant secondary metabolism produces a large number of specialized compounds (~ 200.000) that do not aid in the growth and development of plants but are required for the plant to survive in its environment. Specialized compounds from secondary metabolism are essential for communicating with other organisms in mutualistic (e.g. attraction of beneficial organisms such as pollinators) or antagonistic interactions (e.g. deterrent against herbivores and pathogens). They further assist in coping with abiotic stress such as increased UV-radiation.

    The broad functional spectrum of specialized metabolism is still not fully understood.

    Well known specialized compounds include alkaloids, polyphenolsincluding flavonoids, and terpenoids. Humans use quite a lot of these compounds, or the plants from which they originate, for medicinal and nutraceutical purposes.

Franz Kafka

Now I can look at you in peace; I don't eat you any more.

Vitamin A

Retinoids retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid - 3 active forms of vitamin A - "preformed" vitamin A.

Beta carotene can easily be converted to vitamin A by the human body. 

Large amounts of supplemental vitamin A (but not beta carotene) can be harmful to bones.

Vitamin A keeps tissues and skin healthy, plays an important role in bone growth. Diets rich in the carotenoids alpha carotene and lycopene seem to lower lung cancer risk. Carotenoids act as antioxidants. Foods rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may protect against cataracts. Essential for vision lycopene may lower prostate cancer risk.

Recommended daily amount: 700 mcg - 900 mcg or 3 mg - 6 mg beta-carotene (~ 1 cup of raw cantaloupe or sweet red peppers, or 2 mangoes, or 1/5 of one baked sweet potato). 

Because the body converts all dietary sources of vitamin A into retinol, 1 mcg of physiologically available retinol is equivalent to the following amounts from dietary sources: 1 mcg of retinol, 12 mcg of beta-carotene, and 24 mcg of alpha-carotene or beta-cryptoxanthin. From dietary supplements, the body converts 2 mcg of beta-carotene to 1 mcg of retinol.

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