Vitamins and minerals are organic substances and required by
the body on a daily basis to maintain good health and bodily functioning. A
well balanced diet is essential to allow the body get the recommended daily
requirements of essential vitamins and minerals. If these requirements fall
short then the body will become deficient in some if not most of them.
There are basically thirteen vitamins that are needed by the
body for it to develop and function correctly. They are required to allow the
body to produce enzymes and hormones and there are no replacements for
vitamins. They don’t contain calories and do not affect energy directly but are
required to allow the body to convert food into energy.
Within the body there are thousands of chemical reactions
taking place and they all need vitamins to support these to take place.
Vitamins are broken down into two types – fat soluble and
water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins are stored within the body and are not
required as often as water soluble vitamins that are passed through the body on
a daily basis.
If deficiencies occur then the body can become ill due to
infections, skin disorders, anaemia, weakened bones and poor functioning of the
nervous, digestive, and immune and circulatory systems.
As all the vitamins have different roles within the body
then it is very important to keep the body enriched on a regular basis to keep
it in a healthy, stress free and efficient working state.
Fat Soluble Vitamins
Vitamins A, D, E and K make up the fat soluble vitamins and
are absorbed in the intestine along with fats. They are stored in the body
within the Liver (vitamin A, D and K) and in the body’s adipose fatty tissue
(vitamin E) until they are required.
They can be found in meats, dairy products, eggs, nuts,
seeds, grains, oily fish and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin D is also formed
in the skin after being exposed to sunlight.
As fat soluble vitamins are stored for longer periods than
the water soluble vitamins it is easier to be at risk of toxicity and are not
really required as often or has higher dosed as the water soluble ones.
Deficiencies of fat soluble vitamins are usually found in
people with a low fat diet, poor nutrition or people suffering from long term
conditions that reduce the body’s ability to absorb fats such as Crohn’s
Vitamin A plays an essential role in many functions within
the body including:
- Normal bone growth
- Cell growth and
- Keeping skin and
hair in a healthy state
- Immune system
It is also an antioxidant and protects the body from free
radicals that could be a cause of some cancers.
There are two forms of Vitamin A found in foodstuffs. The
first form is known as the active form (Retinol) and is readily available to
the body and can be obtained from animal products such as liver, milk and eggs.
The second form, known as a precursor form (beta-carotene), is converted into
vitamin A within the body and can be found in food sources such as fruit and
Deficiency in vitamin A generally affects the skin and
mucous membranes within the body which can lead to disorders of the eyes along
with dry and lumpy skin problems. It can also cause poor wound healing and
problems with growth in younger children.
High doses of this vitamin taken over a length of time can
be toxic and cause damage to the liver, bones and vision.
Vitamin D is slightly different to the other fat soluble
vitamins as it can also be produced within the body and is metabolised by the
liver and the kidneys. It is very important for the absorption of calcium and
phosphorus and ensures there is enough present in the body to build strong
bones and teeth.
There are two forms of vitamin D that the body utilises.
These are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is found in the diet naturally
and is gained from foods such as eggs, oily fish and liver. Vitamin D3 is produced within the body
when our skin is exposed to the sunlight. Ultraviolet rays are picked up by the
skin and converted into vitamin D and then absorbed into the bloodstream.
A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to muscle cramps, growth
problems, rickets, dental problems, muscle weakness and bone fracturing.
Toxicity of vitamin D is usually through vitamin
supplementation and is known as hypercalcemia which is where the calcium levels
in the blood become abnormally high. Some of the symptoms of this are –
continuous headaches, bone and muscular pains, nausea and vomiting.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant and protects Vitamin A + C, the
red blood cells and EFA’s from damage within the body. It is believed that
Vitamin E has many benefits, some of which are:
- Helps with some
- Enhances the
immune system functioning
- Helps prevention
of Prostate cancer
- Helps lower the
risk of heart disease
- Helps with
prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
Good sources of Vitamin E are fruits and vegetables, grains,
nuts, seeds and fortified cereals. It is also found in vegetable oils and
Deficiency of Vitamin E is rare but can be found in people
who cannot absorb fats correctly
Vitamin K is essential in the production of clotting agents
such as prothrombin which helps the body heal wounds.
Water soluble vitamins dissolve in water and include vitamin
C as well as the B-complex vitamins. They are not stored within the body long
term and need to be replenished daily from our diets or supplementation with
the exception of B12 which is stored in the Liver. Excess intake that is not
used is simply excreted through our urine.
Eight of the water soluble vitamins are widely known as the
B-complex vitamins and are – vitamin B1, B2 and B3 (Thiamine, Riboflavin and
Niacin), vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), vitamin B12, Folic acid, Pantothenic acid and
The B-complex vitamins are found in every cell of our body
and function as coenzymes which combine with enzymes to help the body obtain
energy from our food intake. They are also important for:
- Healthy nervous
- Red blood cell
- Healthy skin
- Having a normal
- Good vision
These vitamins can be found in food sources such as grains,
fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, meats, eggs and dairy products.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin and
cannot be stored within the body and for this reason daily intakes need to be
had to keep good levels up in the body. It is an important antioxidant that
protects the body from pollutants and helps prevent the oxidation of vitamin A
and polyunsaturated fats in the intestine.
Vitamin C helps in the synthesis of collagen which is a
protein that is an important component of ligament and tendons, bones, teeth,
muscle and blood vessels. It also aids in wound healing helping with holding
together cells and tissues. Iron absorption is aided with vitamin C and it also
has an involvement in making some hormones and neurotransmitters. It is also
used to protect against infections.
Sources of vitamin C are mainly vegetables and fruits such
as citrus fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc.
Deficiencies of Vitamin C can cause anaemia, poor healing,
bruising easily, bleeding gums, nose bleeds, swollen and painful joints. The
main disease that caused by the lack of vitamin C is known as scurvy.
Excessive intake of vitamin C can cause headaches, stomach
pain, diarrhoea, nausea and can increase the risk of kidney stones.