Vitamins – An Overview


Protectors of Good Health

We know that vitamins do not provide us with energy. Yet they are considered essential to our general well being as they assist in metabolism, protect our health and are necessary for the proper growth and development, especially in children. Vitamins were discovered by Dutch physician Christiaan Eijkmann, who won the 1929 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine. Vitamins are considered necessary for the regulation of cell function, as they work together with various enzymes and cofactors (substances that assist enzymes) to regulate our metabolism, assist in converting fat and carbohydrates into energy and also help in bone and tissue formation. They are utilized in the formation of hormones, blood cells, nervous system chemicals and DNA. Thus a vitamin is any organics compound required in small amounts to protect our health and for proper growth.

How do they function in our body?

Although the exact manner of functioning of vitamins in still not understood, what we do know is that vitamins basically act as catalysts. They combine with proteins to create metabolically active enzymes which in turn kick off a chain reaction of chemical responses in the body. In the absence of vitamins many of these reactions may slow down or stop altogether causing the body harm in many ways. Thus vitamin deficiency can have very damaging consequences.

Sources of Vitamins

Our body is capable of manufacturing only Vitamin D. All other vitamins must be provided for through outside sources. This can be through a healthy and balanced diet or through dietary supplements. An individual, who consumes a variety of foods which are healthy and nutritional, will probably not be deficient in vitamins. However, people who are on a special diet, or those who suffer from an intestinal disorder and whose digestive system is unable to absorb nutrients, or pregnant and lactating mothers may need additional supplements to augment their regular dietary intake. Lack of vitamins is known to cause a variety of health problems and disturbances in the function of an organ or body part.

Classification of Vitamins

There are 13 well identified vitamins which are classified according to their ability to be absorbed in water or fat.

The fat Soluble Vitamins are A, D, E and K. As these are generally consumed with foods that contain fat, and are stored in the fat in the body. They do not need to be consumed on a daily basis.

The eight B vitamins and vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, are all water soluble vitamins. Since these cannot be stored in the body, they have to be consumed on a regular basis, or rather, if possible, everyday.

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