Humans are arguably one of the most complex organisms living on the planet. We are made up of numerous microscopic cells which cumulatively work in an organised manner for well-being.
The human body is made up of various cells and molecules.
Various systems like the nervous system, respiratory system and digestive system perform several complex functions in the body.
Vitamins are organic molecules that serve as an essential nutrient for most living organisms for the smooth functioning of their metabolism.
Vitamins are the compounds that people need in less quantities. The body does not produce vitamins on its own. Vitamins are to be obtained from the food we eat.
Vitamins are essential because they prevent various health issues. If the body lacks any vitamin, it may develop a deficiency and a related disease.
Vitamin requirements vary with different organisms. For example, dogs can produce their vitamin C they need, but humans need to acquire that from their diet.
What does the vitamin do?
Vitamins are essential to our body as they perform various activities that promote a healthy life.
The main functions of vitamins are
- Help the body maintain good health
- Regulating the tissues and help in repairing cells
- Fight against ageing
- Formation of new cells
- Keeping bones, teeth and nails healthy.
- Help the muscles and ligaments function smoothly.
To understand the functions of vitamins, first, we need to understand the types and the specific role they perform in our body.
What are the types of vitamins? What functions do they perform?
Vitamins are grouped based on their characteristics. They are soluble in fat or water.
Some of the vitamins are soluble in fat. Vitamin A, K, E and D. The body will store the fat-soluble vitamins in the liver and other fatty tissues. The body will absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the intestines.
These types of vitamins dissolve in the water. They don’t stay in the body as long as fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamins like vitamin C and B are water-soluble vitamins.
Totally 13 vitamins are recognised.
The chemical name includes retinol, retinal and other carotenoids.
Vitamin A comes under fat-soluble vitamins. We are taught that vitamin A is great for eye health from our childhood. If this vitamin is deficient, the body may experience certain eye diseases and infections.
Some of the finest sources of vitamin A are carrots, sweet potato, green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, eggs, and milk.
Vitamin B1 has the chemical name thiamine. Vitamin B1 comes under water soluble vitamins. The main function of vitamin B1 is to produce various enzymes that break down sugar.
Vitamin B1 is found in abundance in brown rice, pork, cauliflower, oranges and eggs.
- Vitamin B2
The chemical name of vitamin B2 is riboflavin. Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin. Vitamin B2 is essential for the proper growth of body cells. It is also essential in metabolising food.
If our body is deficient in vitamin B2, symptoms are often shown in the mouth and lips.
Some of the foods that are rich in vitamin B2 are eggs, bananas, milk, cheese, fish, and beans.
- Vitamin B3
The chemical name of vitamin B3 is niacin. Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin. The main function of vitamin B3 is to aid in the growth of cells. The cells require niacin to function properly. If the body is deficient in vitamin B3, we may experience intestinal issues, skin changes, and diarrhoea.
Good sources of vitamin B3 are chicken, tuna fish, tofu, broccoli, nuts, tomatoes, milk, carrots, and eggs.
- Vitamin B5
The chemical name of vitamin B5 is pantothenic acid. Pantothenic acid is a water-soluble vitamin. This vitamin is essential for producing hormones.
Consuming vitamin B5 is essential. It is found in meat, grains, avocados, and yoghurt.
The chemical name of vitamin B6 is pyridoxine. This molecule is essential for forming red blood cells in the body. Having a deficiency of vitamin B6 would lead to diseases like peripheral neuropathy or anaemia.
Chickpeas, bananas, and nuts contain vitamin B6.
Vitamin B7 is popularly called Biotin. Biotin helps the body to metabolise proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It also helps in contributing to hair health.
Having B7 vitamin deficiency may cause the intestine to inflate and cause dermatitis.
Vitamin B7 is found in the yolks of eggs, liver, cheese, and spinach.
The chemical name of vitamin B9 is folic acid. The B9 vitamin is a water-soluble vitamin. It plays a vital role in making DNA and RNA.
Pregnant women must be careful and not have a deficit of B9 vitamins as it can affect the nervous system of the fetus.
Vitamin B9 can be found in leafy vegetables, peas, sunflower seeds, and fruits.
Methylcobalamin is the chemical name of vitamin B12. Just like the other B type vitamins, this is water-soluble. Vitamin B12 helps in maintaining a healthy nervous system. Having low levels of vitamin B12 may lead to various neurological problems.
Fish, eggs, milk, and meat are rich in vitamin B12.
Vitamin C plays an important role in improving a person’s overall health. Ascorbic acid is the chemical name. This helps in the production of collagen. It helps the body to heal the wounds. Vitamin C supports the blood vessels. It improves the immune system. Vitamin C provides antioxidants.
If there is vitamin C deficiency, the body may take longer to heal wounds and have poor tissue growth.
Vitamin C is found abundantly in fruits, especially citrus fruits and vegetables.
Ergocalciferol is popularly called vitamin D. vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin D plays a vital role in helping the mineralisation of the bone. Vitamin D deficiency would cause bone-related issues like rickets and soften the bones.
Vitamin D can be obtained naturally from the UVB rays of the sun. Fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms are also consumed for vitamin D.
The chemical name of vitamin E is tocopherol. It is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin E is useful to prevent oxidative stress and prevent inflammation.
Usually, it is not common to have vitamin E deficiency. If a person has vitamin E deficiency, their blood cells tend to be destroyed.
Kiwis are known for their vitamin E content. Including almonds, eggs, and leafy vegetables may boost the vitamin E in the body.
- Vitamin K
Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin, has a chemical name called phylloquinone.
This vitamin is necessary for the blood to clot. A low level of vitamin E may cause excessive bleeding.
Bleeding diathesis may also occur.
Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, and figs.
Some of the other sources of vitamins are vitamin supplements. Multi-vitamin supplements are recommended by a medical professional if required.
To sum up
Vitamins are essential for well-being and preventing diseases. It doesn’t mean that consuming more vitamins would improve health drastically. Consuming too many vitamins may cause an overdose and adversely affect our health.
It is always recommended to consult a medical professional to examine our body and take supplements as per their recommendations. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet is essential for the overall well-being of a person.
What are the specific vitamins not to be taken together?
When vitamins or minerals are consumed in large doses, they can compete with each other to be absorbed. So it is better to restrict consuming calcium, magnesium or zinc supplements simultaneously.
Which vitamins should you be careful with?
It is restricting the intake of too many individual vitamins that are fat-soluble, like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K can cause side effects if it overdoses.
Will vitamin and mineral supplements give you energy?
Vitamins or minerals are substances the body requires to build energy, remain healthy and function effectively.
Can vitamin and mineral supplements reduce stress?
Several vitamins and other supplements can reduce stress and its related symptoms. However, it is essential to consult a doctor for personal advice and adapt healthy lifestyle practices to manage stress.
What is the most important vitamin?
All the vitamins are essential to the body as it plays a vital role in helping the body perform various functions smoothly. Vitamin D has overall importance and is considered to be the most important vitamin to the body.
What kind of vitamins should I take daily?
Vitamins like vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, iron, folate, zinc and vitamin B12 are essential for the body.
Is it reasonable to take a multivitamin every day?
A multivitamin supplement can help a person improve their overall health if it is consumed under proper medical supervision.