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Quinn on Nutrition: Donít ignore the telltale signs of vitamin deficiency

May 8, 2017

It was my first sailing adventure and what an adventure it was. My sister-in-law, Jen took us out on Coco Kai, her 70-foot schooner, which I learned is a boat with two or more masts. (Masts are the poles that hold the sails, I was also informed.)

Jen knows her stuff. She should, after sailing around the world on Coco Kai (named after my niece, Coco) for the past 9 years. Watching her crew pull this rope and that rope (also called "lines" or "halyards" or "sheets" depending on their use) to hoist this sail and that sail was exciting.

The moment the engines shut down and all I heard was the whissshhh of the gleaming white sails skim us across the clear blue water, I was suddenly moved to lean over the bow in true "Titanic" movie style and exclaim, "Jack! Jack!"

Instead, I asked Jen, "How do you know which way to turn the sails?"

"See those little ribbons blowing around on the inside of the sails?" she said. "Those are tell tails. They help me trim (adjust) the sails to the proper wind direction."

I get it. Thatís where we get the term "tell tail" or "telltale" which means a sign that helps us evaluate a situation. One telltale sign that sailors of old had a vitamin C deficiency, for example, was bleeding gums.

Nutrition has other telltale physical signs that may indicate we are off course. Dull, dry and brittle hair may be a sign of protein deficiency. Low levels of niacin, folate and other B-vitamins may show up as a red, sore tongue. And spoon-shaped nails can indicate a deficiency of dietary iron.

From her years of learning and experience, Jen navigates Coco Kai like a seasoned sailor. I on the other hand had to be reminded to get my head out of the way of the sails. But this rookie did glean some important nutrition lessons from my maiden sailing voyage.

Be cautious when on autopilot. When the boat is set to steer itself and the captain is not at the helm, someone on the crew still needs to be on the lookout for hazards. Jenís friends and crew kept us well away from any nutritional hazards with plenty of fresh food and beverages on board.

Have a capable crew. Jen understands the physics and technology required to safely maneuver her vessel. She studies weather patterns and reports from other nautical experts. Similarly, smooth sailing through nutritional waters requires more than just holding up a finger and deciding to go "that way!" It pays to trust the expertise of those with whom you sail.

Thank you, Coco Kai and crew. It was a blast.




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