A background about vitamins and why we need them!

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So vitamins what do we need them for and why do we need them?

Vitamins are organic nutrients found in foods and are essential in small quantities for both growth and good health.chemically vitamins are made from the same elements carbon,hydrogen,oxygen and sometimes nitrogen or cobalt, but there elements are arranged differently and so perform different functions in the body

Scientist studying deficiency diseases such as scurvy and pellagra discovered in the early 1900s that certain compounds were needed to prevent these diseases.they reasoned that the compounds were in the family called amines and they came up with the word vitamin (they dropped the “e” when the discovered that not all the substances were amines) also because they were not sure what the correct classification for the substances were

The have them letters such as vitamin B-1 and B-2 etc. then they found that some of the substances although important were not necessary for human health. One of those dropped was B-8 adenylic acid

Others such as H,M,S and X were all found to be biotin

As research progressed scientists began naming them by there structure or function, such as calling B-2 riboflavin. Scientist also developed techniques to reproduce the vitamins structure in the laboratory and so they are able to manufacture synthetic vitamins supplements with the identical chemical structure as those found in food.

The body cannot detect whether a vitamin is from a synthetic or a natural source.but some authorities maintain that other vitamins,trace elements and other substances the function of which is yet to be discovered accompany the vitamin in its natural state.

It is the concept of synergy. Although the synthetic vitamin is exactly the same chemically, as the natural vitamin it’s action in the body may be slightly different a similar argument is made from the original patented drug and it’s generic equivalent

The human body needs very small amounts of vitamins and very small amount are present In foods some vitamins are measured in IUS (internantional units) a measure of biological activity others are measured by weight in micrograms or milligrams

To illustrate how small these amounts are remember that one ounce is 28.3 grams ( about the weight of a box of matches ) a milligram is 1/1,000 of a gram and a microgram is 1/1,000,000 of a gram ( 1g = 1000 milligrams ) 1g = 1,000,000 micrograms

Most vitamins are obtained through food but the bacteria in the intestine produce a few and part of our required vitamin D is produced in the skin when when the skin is exposed to sunlight. So while we should be able to get all our nutrients from our food there is no single food that will supply all of them we have to consume a combination in the same way out ancestors did

Vitamins do not have calories so they do not directly provide energy to the body but the are involved on energy metabolism some of the vitamins in food are not actually required but are the precursor

Vitamins are molecules that are essential for the normal functioning of certain enzymes in many metabolic pathways in the body these are called co-enzymes others are directly involved in the synthesis of essential compounds in the human body

Vitamins are classified according to how soluble they are I either fat or water

The fat soluble vitamins ( A,D,E,K ) generally occur in foods containing fat they can be stored in the body

The water soluble vitamins ( vitamin C and B-complex vitamins ) are generally not stored in the body

Fat soluble vitamins

The fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A,D,K,E they occur in foods containing fats and they are stored in the body either in the liver or in the adipose ( fatty ) tissue until they are needed fat soluble vitamins are absorbed and transported around the body like other fats and while it may be considered a bonus to store it could lead to undesirable symptoms

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is found in foods in two forms preformed vitamin A ( also called retinoids or retinol ) and provitamin A ( also called carotenoids )
Th carotenoids are precursors of vitamin A and are converted to vitamin A in the body

Vitamin A plays a role on cell growth and development, healthy skin and hair as well as proper bone growth and tooth development in children.

It is needed by the immune system and to maintain the protective linings of the lungs, stomach,intestines, urinary tract and other organs

Vitamin A plays a part in night vision difficulty adjusting after seeing a bright light at night may indicate a vitamin A deficiency

Good sources of vitamin A include
Cheese
Eggs
Oily fish
Milk
Margarine
Yogurt

vitamin D

Vitamin D differs from other fat soluble vitamins In that it can be made in the body and it is metabolised by the liver and kidneys to form a hormone calcitriol maintains blood calcium levels and makes sure there is enough calcium and phosphorus present for building bones and teeth

Food sources for vitamin D include
Liver
Egg yolks
Fish oils

Only small amounts of vitamin D are found in food usually calcium supplements ave vitamin D added to assist the absorption of calcium

When ultraviolet rays shine on your skin a cholesterol like compound is converted into vitamin D and absorbed into the blood

For a light skinned person about 15 minutes of the sun on the face and hands and arms two or three times a week seems sufficient a dark skinned person needs a few hours or more a week several months supply of vitamin D can be stored in the body so the lack of sunshine in the winter is not fatal

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Or you can email me directly swanseadietandnutrition@yahoo.co.uk

Thank you again

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5 thoughts on “A background about vitamins and why we need them!

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