The number of vitamins contained in a product and their beneficial effects on the human body are nowadays indicated in large letters on practically every package. Many people buy vitamin-rich products because they think they are very healthy. But very few people know what vitamins are and what functions they have in the body.
What are vitamins?
Vitamins are organic substances that can be categorised as fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E and K, logically dissolve in fat and accumulate in the body. Water-soluble vitamins, vitamin C and B-complex vitamins such as B6, B12 and folate, must first dissolve in water before they can be absorbed by the body. Too many water-soluble vitamins that the body can no longer process are mainly excreted in the urine.
How many vitamins should I take?
Many studies have already addressed this question and published so-called nutrient reference values for vitamins and minerals. These values define how many vitamins and minerals a person should consume daily. The recommendations are mostly based on available reports on nutrient deficiencies and toxicity. It is recommended that primarily the following vitamins be consumed daily: Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Vitamin E.
Functions in the body
Eating carrots is said to improve eyesight and night vision. This myth has persisted for years, but it is only half the truth. The main nutrient in carrots, orange beta-carotene, is a precursor of vitamin A and helps the eyes to adjust optimally and quickly in poor light conditions. Vitamin A therefore cannot confer superhuman night vision or improve eyesight, but eating enough has been shown to promote eye health. Vitamin A also supports white blood cell production and activity, aids bone formation, promotes endothelial cell health and regulates cell growth and division, which are extremely important, especially for reproduction. Vitamin A is primarily found in fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, chilli peppers and mango. Eggs and dairy products also have vitamin A.
Vitamin family B
Vitamin B1 is often sold as a food supplement under the name thiamine. Thiamine is essential for the growth and function of all cells. However, since only a very small amount is stored in the liver, thiamine-rich foods should be consumed daily or supplements should be used to make up the difference. Vitamin B1 is primarily found in pork, fish, beans, lentils and green peas.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) occurs naturally in many foods, can be added to foods and is also available as a food supplement. Riboflavin is an essential component of coenzymes that are involved in cell growth, energy production and the breakdown of fats, steroids and drugs.
Vitamin B3 is mainly known under the name niacin. Niacin can often be bought as a food supplement in the form of tablets or powder. Vitamin B3 acts as a coenzyme in the body, on which more than 400 enzymes depend for various reactions in the human body. It further helps in the synthesis of food into energy.
Vitamin B5 is used to produce coenzyme A (CoA), a chemical compound that helps enzymes form and break down fatty acids and other metabolic functions. B5 is found mainly in chicken meat, avocados, eggs, potatoes or broccoli.
Vitamin B12 is the most important vitamin of the B family. It can either be mixed into food or taken as a food supplement. Vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of red blood cells and DNA. It also plays an important role in the function and development of the brain and nerve cells. There are also vitamin B12 supplements with free B12, which is easier for the body to absorb. There are several vitamin B12 supplements on the market. While it is claimed that certain forms such as sublingual tablets or liquids that are placed under the tongue to be absorbed through the oral tissues are better absorbed than traditional tablets, studies have not shown a significant difference.
Certainly the best known vitamin. If one is declared ill, just a sip of orange juice helps and one is healthy again. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that it dissolves in water and is released to the body tissues, but it is not stored well and must be taken daily through food or supplements. Vitamin C has been shown to help fight infections and heal wounds, and is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralise harmful free radicals. The vitamin helps produce various hormones and chemical messengers used in the brain and nerves. So it is actually one of the most important vitamins in the human body.
Vitamin D is both a nutrient that we consume and a hormone that our body produces. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to promote the body’s absorption and storage of calcium and phosphorus, both of which are important for bone formation. In addition, laboratory studies show that vitamin D can help fight infections and reduce inflammation. Because the body can produce vitamin D itself with the help of sunlight, vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. Even a walk in the fresh air can help the body produce vitamin D.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin whose main function is to act as an antioxidant by scavenging loose electrons known as free radicals that can cause cell damage. It also improves immune function and prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries of the heart. Vitamin E is most commonly found in asparagus, vegetables, mango, avocado and sunflowers.
As described earlier, vitamins are essential for the human body. A deficiency of a particular vitamin can very quickly affect a person’s health. It is therefore important to find an ideal balance. If one has problems with a balanced diet or difficulties in taking certain vitamins, vitamin preparations in the form of shots, powders or tablets are also suitable.