Diet and Nutrition Glossary of Terms

The following are health and medical definitions of terms that appear in the Diet and Nutrition article.

Abnormal: Outside the expected norm, or uncharacteristic of a particular patient.

Absorption: Uptake. For example, intestinal absorption is the uptake of food (or other sub...

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American Medical Association: The AMA. The AMA's mission statement proclaims:

Amino acids: The building blocks of polypeptides and proteins.

Anemia: The condition of having a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells or quantity ...

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Anencephaly: A neural tube defect (NTD) that occurs when the cephalic (head) end of the ne...

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Arms: An appendage in anatomy and in clinical trials. See: Arm.

Arthritis: Inflammation of a joint. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, w...

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Atherosclerosis: A process of progressive thickening and hardening of the walls of medium-...

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Backbone: The spine. A flexible row of bones stretching from the base of the skull to the...

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Bacteria: Single-celled microorganisms that can exist either as independent (free-living) ...

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Beriberi: Inflammation of multiple nerves (polyneuritis), heart disease (cardiopathy), and...

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Bioactive: Having an effect upon a living organism, tissue, or cell. Biologically active....

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Blindness: Loss of useful sight. Blindness can be temporary or permanent. Damage to any p...

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Blood in the urine: Blood that appears in the urine. Also known as hematuria. Gross hematu...

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Blood pressure: The blood pressure is the pressure of the blood within the arteries. It is...

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Blood sugar: Blood glucose. See also: High blood sugar; Low blood sugar.

Brain: The portion of the central nervous system that is located within the skull. It func...

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Breastfeeding: Feeding a child human breast milk. According to the American Academy of Ped...

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Calcium: A mineral found mainly in the hard part of bones, where it is stored. Calcium is ...

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Calorie: A unit of food energy. The word calorie is ordinarily used instead of the more pr...

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Cancer: An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, ...

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Carbohydrate: One of the three nutrient compounds, along with fat and protein, used as ene...

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Carbohydrates: Mainly sugars and starches, together constituting one of the three principa...

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Cardiovascular: Relating to the circulatory system, which comprises the heart and blood ve...

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Cardiovascular disease: Disease affecting the heart or blood vessels.

Caries: Dental cavities in the two outer layers of a tooth (the enamel and the dentin). Sm...

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Cartilage: Firm, rubbery tissue that cushions bones at joints. A flexible kind of cartilag...

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Cell: The basic structural and functional unit of any living thing. Each cell is a small c...

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Chest: The area of the body located between the neck and the abdomen. The chest contains t...

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Chloride: The major anion (negatively charged substance) in the blood and extracellular fl...

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Cholesterol: The most common type of steroid in the body. Cholesterol has a reputation for...

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Chronic: In medicine, lasting a long time. A chronic condition is one that lasts 3 months ...

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Chronic disease: A disease that persists for a long time. A chronic disease is one lasting...

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Cod liver oil: An oil extracted from the liver of the cod. Cod liver oil was once given re...

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Collagen: The principal protein of the skin, tendons, cartilage, bone, and connective tiss...

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Conditioning: 1) Exercise and practice to build the body up for either improved normal pe...

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Constipation: Infrequent and frequently incomplete bowel movements. Constipation is the op...

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Contraction: The tightening and shortening of a muscle.

Department of Health and Human Services: The United States government's principal agency f...

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Depression: An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and that affects the way...

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Diabetes: Usually refers to diabetes mellitus or, less often, to diabetes insipidus. Diabe...

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Diarrhea: A common condition that involves unusually frequent and liquid bowel movements. ...

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Differentiation: 1 The process by which cells become progressively more specialize...

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Ear: The hearing organ. There are three sections of the ear, according to the anatomy tex...

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Enzyme: Proteins that speeds up the rate of a chemical reaction in a living organism. An e...

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Essential: In medicine, of unknown cause, as in essential hypertension (high blood pressur...

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Fatigue: A condition characterized by a lessened capacity for work and reduced efficiency ...

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Fats: Plural of the word "fat". See the definition of fat.

Fatty acid: One of many molecules that are long chains of lipid-carboxylic acid found in f...

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Fatty acids: Molecules that are long chains of lipid-carboxylic acid found in fats and oil...

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FDA: Food and Drug Administration.

Fever: Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37...

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Fiber: The parts of fruits and vegetables that cannot be digested. Fiber is of vital impor...

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Fluoride: A compound of fluorine with another element or radical. Fluoride containing com...

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Folate: Folic acid, one of the B vitamins that is a key factor in the synthesis (the makin...

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Fructose: A sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Fructose has 4 calories per g...

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Galactose: A sugar found in milk. Galactose is a disaccharide that is made up of two sugar...

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Garlic: A perennial herb of the lily family cultivated for its pungent, edible bulbs. Garl...

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Generic: 1. The chemical name of a drug. 2. A term referring to the chemical...

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Germ: 1. A cell or group of cells (called a primordium) capable of developing into ...

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Glucose: The simple sugar that is the chief source of energy. Glucose is found in the bloo...

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HDL: High density lipoprotein.

Health and Human Services: The United States government's principal agency for "protecting...

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Heart: The muscle that pumps blood received from veins into arteries throughout the body. ...

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Heart attack: The death of heart muscle due to the loss of blood supply. The loss of bloo...

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Heart disease: Any disorder that affects the heart. Sometimes the term "heart disease" is ...

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Hemoglobin: The oxygen-carrying pigment and predominant protein in the red blood cells. He...

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HHS: The Department of Health and Human Services of the US government, which has jurisdict...

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Hormone: A chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activit...

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Hydrogen: The most plentiful element in the universe and one present in all organic compou...

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Hygiene: The science of preventive medicine and the preservation of health. Also commonly ...

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Immune: Protected against infection, usually by the presence of antibodies.

Immune system: A complex system that is responsible for distinguishing a person from every...

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Immunity: The condition of being immune. Immunity can be innate'for example, humans are in...

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Incidence: The frequency with which something, such as a disease or trait, appears in a pa...

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Insulin: A natural hormone made by the pancreas that controls the level of the sugar gluco...

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Iodine: An element in the diet that is essential for the manufacture of hormones by the th...

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Iron: An essential mineral. Iron is necessary for the transport of oxygen (via hemoglobin ...

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Joint: The area where two bones are attached for the purpose of permitting body parts to m...

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Kwashiorkor: A childhood disease that is caused by protein deprivation. Early signs includ...

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Lactation: The process of milk production. Human milk is secreted by the mammary glands, w...

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Lactose: The sugar found in milk. Lactose is a large sugar molecule that is made up of two...

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Leech: 1. An aquatic parasite that sucks blood from animals. Leeches play a role in...

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Leg: In popular usage, the part of the body from the top of the thigh down to the foot, an...

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Lipoprotein: A molecule that is a combination of lipid and protein. Lipids do not travel i...

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Liver: The largest solid organ in the body, situated in the upper part of the abdomen on t...

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Magnesium: A mineral involved in many processes in the body including nerve signaling, the...

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Malabsorption: Poor intestinal absorption of nutrients. Malabsorption can occur from disea...

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Malnutrition: A term used to refer to any condition in which the body does not receive eno...

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Marasmus: Wasting away, as occurs with children who have kwashiorkor. Also called cachexia...

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Metabolism: The whole range of biochemical processes that occur within a living organism. ...

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Muscle: Muscle is the tissue of the body which primarily functions as a source of power. T...

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Nerve: A bundle of fibers that uses electrical and chemical signals to transmit sensory an...

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Neural: Having to do with nerve cells (neurons).

Niacin: Nicotinic acid, one of the B-complex vitamins-B 3. Deficiency of niacin in the die...

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Night blindness: Impaired vision in dim light and in the dark, due to impaired function o...

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NIH: National Institutes of Health.

Nitrogen: Element number 7, a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is biologically impo...

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Nutrition: 1: The process of taking in food and using it for growth, metabolism, and repai...

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Obese: Well above one's normal weight. A person has traditionally been considered to be ob...

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Omega-3 fatty acids: A class of essential fatty acids found in fish oils, especially from ...

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Osteomalacia: Softening of bone, particularly in the sense of bone weakened by demineraliz...

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Osteoporosis: Thinning of the bones, with reduction in bone mass, due to depletion of calc...

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Overweight: The term "overweight" is used in two different ways. In one sense it is a way ...

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Oxygen: The odorless gas that is present in the air and necessary to maintain life. Oxygen...

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Pain: An unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to agony. Pa...

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Palm: The grasping side of the hand; the flexor surface of the hand. In contrast to the ba...

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Pellagra: A disease due to deficiency of niacin, a B-complex vitamin. Pellagra is the "dis...

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Pernicious anemia: Low red blood cell count caused by inadequate vitamin B12. Abbreviated ...

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Phosphorus: An essential element in the diet and a major component of bone.

Potassium: The major positive ion (cation) found inside cells. The chemical notation for p...

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Pound: A measure of weight that is equal to 16 ounces or, metrically, 453.6 grams. Abbrevi...

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Precursor: Forerunner. That which precedes or is derived from an available source.

Pregnancy: The state of carrying a developing embryo or fetus within the female body. Thi...

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Pregnant: The state of carrying a developing fetus within the body.

Protein: One of the three nutrients used as energy sources (calories) by the body. Protein...

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Proteins: Large molecules composed of one or more chains of amino acids in a specific orde...

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RDA: Abbreviation for the Recommended Dietary Allowance. Or, popularly, the Recommended Da...

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Red blood cells: The blood cells that carry oxygen. Red cells contain hemoglobin and it is...

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Reproduction: The production of offspring. Reproduction need not be sexual; for example, y...

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Resistance: Opposition to something, or the ability to withstand something. For example, s...

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Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disease characterized by chronic inflammation of joint...

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Rickets: A disease of infants and children that disturbs normal bone formation (ossificati...

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Saturated fat: A fat that contains only saturated fatty acids, is solid at room temperatur...

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Scurvy: A disorder that is caused by lack of vitamin C. Symptoms include anemia; soft, ble...

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Selenium: An essential mineral that is a component of an antioxidant enzyme, glutathione r...

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Serving size: 1. The portion of food used as a reference on the nutrition label of ...

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Shortness of breath: Difficulty in breathing. Medically referred to as dyspnea. Shortness ...

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Skin color: The color of skin which is complexly determined. Skin color depends on many fa...

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Skull: The skull is a collection of bones which encase the brain and give form to the hea...

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Sodium: The major positive ion (cation) in the fluid surrounding cells in the body. The ch...

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Spina bifida: A major birth defect and a type of neural tube defect that involves an openi...

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Spine: 1) The column of bone known as the vertebral column, which surrounds and protects ...

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Sternum: The long flat bone in the upper middle of the front of the chest. The sternum art...

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Stomach: The digestive organ that is located in the upper abdomen, under the ribs. The upp...

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Stool: The solid matter that is discharged in a bowel movement.

Stroke: The sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen, caused by blockage of blood...

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Sunscreen: A substance that blocks the effect of the sun's harmful rays. Using lotions tha...

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Synthesis: Putting together different entities to make a whole which is new and different....

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Taste: A perception that results from stimulation of a gustatory nerve. Taste belongs to t...

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Thyroid: 1. The thyroid gland. Also, pertaining to the thyroid gland. 2. A p...

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Tooth: One of the structures within the mouth that allow for biting and chewing. Teeth hav...

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Trans fat: An unhealthy substance, also known as trans fatty acid, made through the chemic...

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Trans fatty acid: An unhealthy substance that is made through the chemical process of hydr...

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Trigger: Something that either sets off a disease in people who are genetically predispose...

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Triglycerides: The major form of fat stored by the body. A triglyceride consists of three ...

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Urine: Liquid waste produced by the kidneys. Urine is a clear, transparent fluid that norm...

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USDA: US Department of Agriculture.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is retinol. Carotene compounds (found, for example, in egg yolk, butt...

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Vitamin B1: Thiamine. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) acts as a coenzyme in the metabolism of the bo...

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Vitamin B12: A vitamin important for the normal formation of red blood cells and the healt...

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Vitamin C: An essential nutrient found mainly in fruits and vegetables. The body requires ...

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Vitamin D: A steroid vitamin which promotes the intestinal absorption and metabolism of ca...

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Vitamin E: Alpha-tocopherol, an antioxidant vitamin which binds oxygen free radicals that ...

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Vitamin K: One of two naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin K1 and vitamin K2)...

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Vitamins: The word "vitamin" was coined in 1911 by the Warsaw-born biochemist Casimir Funk...

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Weight loss: Weight loss is a decrease in body weight resulting from either voluntary (die...

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Yogurt: A dairy product made by fermented milk with one or more bacterial cultures. It has...

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Zinc: A mineral that is essential to the body and is a constituent of many enzymes that pe...

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Medical Dictionary