What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are essential nutrients which play some of the vital functions in the human body. Some of them like B-complex play critical role in energy metabolism while some play other health supportive roles like antioxidative and immune strengthening role of vitamin C. Still some of them are required for proper organ growth like role of vitamin D in improving bone health. Often vitamins are grouped into two classes; fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins get stored in your body fat so they remain available for future use and you are not required to take them frequently. Vitamin A, D, E, and K are examples of fat-soluble vitamins.
On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, and excess of these vitamins are flushed out from your body by your excretory system. So for staying healthy, you must replenish water-soluble vitamins from your diet constantly. Vitamin C and B vitamins family (B1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 12) are examples of water-soluble vitamins.
Chemically, vitamin A is referred to a group of retinoids like retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters [1-3]. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which means human body can store vitamin A for future use as well. Vitamin A comes in two forms, preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters) and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is naturally present in animal-based sources like dairy products, meat, and fish while provitamin A carotenoids come from plant-based sources. Provitamin carotenoids are converted into vitamin A in the human body.
Vitamin A-rich foods include fish, meat, dairy products, and vegetables especially colorful vegetables as they are rich in provitamin A beta-carotenes.
Vitamin A plays critical role in maintaining human health. It helps in maintaining the healthy functioning of respiratory and digestive systems by maintaining a healthy lining of respiratory and digestive tracts. The healthy lining acts as a barrier against microbial infections. Vitamin A also keeps skin healthy. A healthy skin not only keeps you healthy but it also gives you an attractive look.
Vitamin A has also strong antioxidant properties as it neutralizes the harmful free radicals and thus help against cell damage, reduce cancer-risks, and fights off infections.
Retinols are used by the human eye cells-rods and cones-so vitamin A is also helpful in maintaining eye health and it reduces the chances of night blindness. Another significant role of vitamin A also supports bone and teeth health.
Deficiency of vitamin A may lead to night blindness or an inability to see in dim light. Vitamin A deficiency also increases the risk of dying from measles and diarrhea and in pregnant women, its deficiency causes anemia and obstructs the normal growth of the fetus. Other deficiency symptoms may include skin problems like acne.
Ascorbic acid is the chemical name of vitamin C. Unlike vitamin A, it is a water-soluble vitamin and therefore its supply is needs replenishment on daily basis. Naturally, vitamin c is present in several fruits and vegetables. It is most abundantly present in citrus fruits as it is acid by nature. Besides citrus fruits, the following is a list of vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables.
- Brussel Sprouts
Of all the vitamins, vitamin C has the most profound effect on the human immune system. It exhibits strong antioxidant properties and neutralizes the harmful free radicals-by-products of cell metabolism. Vitamin C fights off infections and helps reduce inflammatory damage. It also helps the wound to heal up quickly and is also helpful in treating scurvy.
Vitamin C is also suspected of having cancer-protective properties and it helps treat the symptoms of the common cold. Vitamin C facilitates the production of collagen-a fibrous protein present in connective tissues like blood, cartilage. Therefore by facilitating the synthesis of collagen, it helps in the healthy functioning of several human organ systems like nervous, immune, skeletal, and respiratory systems. Vitamin C also helps in the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters-chemical messengers- and therefore contributes towards brain health.
Other benefits of vitamin C include its contribution to heart health by lowering bad cholesterol levels, diabetes management, anemia treatment, and reducing seasickness.
Deficiency of vitamin C results in low production of collagen and in consequence connective tissues weaken and you feel symptoms like joint pains. Vitamin C deficiency also decreases the rate of wound healing and its deficiency also results in scurvy. Other deficiency symptoms may include skin problems like skin wrinkling.
Chemically, the vitamin E is tocopherol-based chemical compounds. Like vitamin A, vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin E occurs naturally in several foods but however, it is predominantly present in plant oils, seeds, and nuts. Besides these sources, the following are the natural sources of vitamin E.
- Mamey Sapote
- Goose meat
- Atlantic salmon
- Kiwi fruit
Vitamin E exhibits strong antioxidative properties. It also neutralizes the harmful free radicals and helps protect body cells and tissues from the oxidative damages. Vitamin E fights off the infection, reduces inflammation, and maintains healthy skin.
Vitamin E is also involved in other immune functions like regulation of gene expression and cell signaling. Although not proven scientifically but vitamin E is suspected for its positive impact on a wide range of human diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, menstrual cramps, glomerulosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels in the kidney), G6PD deficiency, intracranial hemorrhage, inflammation of the liver, Parkinson’s disease, premenstrual syndrome, sunburn, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The deficiency of vitamin E is rare but deficiency of vitamin E may lead to ataxia, skeletal myopathy, retinopathy, and impairment of the immune response.
An Overview of the B5 Vitamin
The B5 vitamin is also known as Pantothenic Acid. The B5 vitamin is the most prolific of all the vitamins and is found in every type of food. In fact, it is impossible for a person to consume less B5 vitamins than they need. That means that there is no little possibility that a person can have a B5 vitamin deficiency. For this reason, there is actually no recommended daily amount that health professionals can state as everyone obtains more than enough from their normal food consumption. However, even though there is no need to calculate a recommended daily allowance it does not mean that the B5 vitamin is not vital for a healthy body and mind. In fact, the B5 vitamin is essential for turning food into energy amongst other functions. The B5 vitamin is responsible for taking the fats and carbohydrates into energy.
Some B5 vitamins can be found in almost every food whether it is animal or vegetable. Obviously there are some sources of the B5 vitamin that are better than others but a balanced diet will provide more than enough. The foods with the highest B5 vitamin content are organ meats, salmon, eggs, beans, milk, and whole grains. It is worth noting that the B5 vitamin is lost when grains are milled into flour and tends not to beaded back in. Therefore, processed grain foods such as bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereal, and baked goods are not good sources of the B5 vitamin.
The B5 vitamin is the most effective when it is combined with other B vitamins especially thiamin or B1, riboflavin or B2, niacin or B3, pyridoxine or B6, and biotin. Along with these other B vitamins, the B5 vitamin is an integral part in a number of processes. The most important of these is the production of energy from food that is consumed and this is known as the Kreb’s cycle. The B5 vitamin is also required for releasing energy from fats.
Interestingly, the B5 vitamin is also considered to be helpful in reducing stress. This is chiefly due to the fact that during periods of stress, the body produces more of certain hormones such as adrenalin and these require the B5 vitamin. There are many theories as to the benefits of the B5 vitamin but there is no need for the majority of people to actively seek out foods that are high in B5 as they are likely to be consuming far more than is needed already. There are no adverse effects to consuming too much B5 vitamin.
A Guide to the B6 Vitamin
The B6 vitamin, also known as pyridoxine, is one of the most versatile of the B vitamins and yet the body only requires a relatively small amount. The B6 vitamin works closely with all the other B vitamins, especially niacin, folic acid, and Cobalamin and contributes to numerous functions in the body. Amino acids are converted by the B6 vitamin into proteins and it is also required for transforming stored sugar within the body into essential energy. Basically, the B6 vitamin is essential for converting the proteins that are consumed into proteins that the body needs and also for converting the carbohydrates from the form that they are stored in the body to a form that can be used for extra energy.
The body requires a number of different proteins and it is the B6 vitamin that ensures that the correct forms are available. For example, the B6 vitamin will create haemoglobin for carrying oxygen in the blood cells, hormones for regulating blood pressure, neurotransmitters and various enzymes.
The recommended daily allowance for the B6 vitamin is only around 2.0mg but this seemingly insignificant amount is used extremely efficiently within the body to produce over sixty different enzymes. The best sources of the B6 vitamin are high-protein foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, and meat and it is also added to breakfast cereals and bread to ensure that everyone is able to consume their recommended daily allowance, even if they do not eat meat products. An additional amount of the b6 vitamin may be beneficial for the heart and immune system. B6 vitamin supplements are sometimes required by asthmatics and diabetics. However, it is important to be aware that large doses of the B6 vitamin can be toxic.
As the B6 vitamin is found in many common foods the majority of people receive sufficient amounts of the vitamin from their normal diet. There are some groups that may need to take a B6 vitamin supplement to ensure that they obtain the recommended daily allowance. For example, pregnant or breastfeeding women will need a slightly higher amount of the B6 vitamin to allow for the amount of the vitamin that is being absorbed by the baby although it is possible to obtain the extra B6 vitamin from an increased consumption of high-protein foods. Strict vegetarians or vegans, however, and children who do not eat animal products may need a B6 vitamin supplement as vegetables and fruits are poor sources of the B6 vitamin.
Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamins)
Vitamin B-12 is also known as cobalamin and unlike vitamin E, it is a water-soluble vitamin. Vitamin B-12 is required for normal neural functioning and it is also needed for red blood cell production. Vitamin B-12 is the largest and structurally most complex vitamin and its deficiency may lead to severe nerve damage, depression, confusion, weight loss, constipation, and numbness of hands and feet. You can overcome its deficiency by eating vitamin B-12 rich foods which are; poultry products, beef, lamb, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt.
The Role Of Vitamin B3 Niacin
Vitamin B3 niacin is an essential vitamin for your body, and it is just one of the eight water soluble types of B vitamins. Nearly all of the B vitamin classes will help the body convert carbohydrates into sugar or glucose, which can then be burned to produce energy. Also known as complex B vitamins, B3 niacin are essential in helping the body break down protein and fat.
Complex B vitamins also play an important role with maintaining muscle tone within the digestive tract, along with the health of the skin, nervous system, live, eyes, hair, and mouth. Even though a lot of people associate creative with the aspect of muscles and muscle tone, vitamin B3 niacin is as equally important – if not more important.
B3 niacin is also important with getting harmful or toxic chemicals out of the body. It can also help the body produce different sex and stress related hormones within the adrenal glands, among other parts of the body. The vitamin is also useful for helping with sexual dysfunction as well. This can be great news for those who have problems with pleasing their mate.
Also very effective with improving circulation, B3 niacin can also help to reduce cholesterol levels found in the blood. Even though vitamin B3 niacin is great as a stand alone supplement, it should also consumed with foods that contain protein, due to the fact that the body is able to convert the amino acid known as tryptophan into niacin.
The higher doses of B3 niacin, which are available only through prescription, have been proven to prevent and also improve a variety of different symptoms and ailments. Due to the high risk of toxicity, individuals should always consult with a doctor first, before they decide to start higher doses of B3 niacin.
There are also niacin skin care products that are being developed as well, which contain anti-aging products, helping to treat acne and also aid in the prevention of skin cancer. A lot of dermatologists expect that these products will become really popular over the next several years. Even though they are still in development stages, research has proven them to be very effective when compared to the other types of products.
The best sources for vitamin B3 niacin include beef, pork, turkey, beets, veal, fish, chicken, salmon, tuna, and peanuts. You can also get supplements that contain B3 niacin as well, which can give your body the amounts it needs. This is a very important vitamin, as it does a lot more for the body than most think. By consuming foods that contain it or taking the proper supplements – you’ll get the amount of B vitamins that your body needs on a daily basis.