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Overview of Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds, essential, in small amounts, for normal maintenance, growth and development, within our body. Vitamins can't be metabolised for energy, although some, such as B vitamins, are necessary for energy production. Vitamins work closely with enzymes, to perform a number of important biochemical functions in the body. If the body does not have enough of a particular vitamin, or if it is not used properly, a specific nutrient deficiency syndrome will occur.

Some classic vitamin-deficiency diseases and their symptoms include:

  • Scurvy: Caused by a lack of vitamin C, it is characterised by sore gums, painful joints, and bleeding.
  • Beri-Beri: Characterised by enlargement of the heart, oedema (water retention) and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Rickets: Occurs when there is little or no exposure to the sun; inadequate fat intake. Characterised by deformation of long bones (bowed legs, knock knees, etc.) and swollen joints.
  • Pellagra: Associated with poverty and corn based diets, characterised by various sores on the skin and in the mouth, some regard disease as similar to leprosy.

There are two types of vitamins when dealing with major vitamins: water-soluble vitamins and oil-soluble or fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins including B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, must be absorbed by the body on a daily basis. They cannot be stored within the body and they are usually excreted within a short time period, e.g. one to four days.1 Water-soluble vitamins are measured in terms of milligrams.

Fat-soluble or oil-soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E, and K can be stored within the body for longer periods of time by the liver or fatty tissues. These vitamins are measured in terms of International Units (IU). However, there is one exception to this rule. Beta-carotene, a water-soluble form of vitamin A, is also measured in International Units.2 There are also two types of vitamins: synthetic or natural. Synthetic vitamins are vitamins produced in laboratories from chemical constituents that mimic their counterparts as found in nature. Natural vitamins are derived from food sources.

Like minerals, the proper balance of vitamins is important not only for overall health but also for proper functioning of all vitamins and minerals. Vitamins, again, like minerals, work synergistically with one another increasing the function of the vitamin. For example, bioflavonoids, which help prevent bruising and bleeding gums, must be paired with vitamin C in order to carry out its function. Another example of this is the synergistic effects of two antioxidants, vitamins C and E. The free-radical scavenging action of antioxidant vitamins C and E is far superior when these two nutrients are combined. Vitamin E will scavenge free radicals found within cell membranes, while vitamin C will scavenge free radicals in biologic fluids.1

Vitamins, when combined, will reinforce one another and strengthen the vitamins' functions.

As with all nutrients, requirements are dependent upon age, sex, height, weight, environmental conditions, activity level and nutrition status.2

This section is a summary of some of the most common vitamins used in our products. The section begins with a brief overview of the water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, B- complex, etc. and then concludes with the fat-soluble or oil-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D and E.

Overview of Vitamins
Vitamin A and Carotenoids
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
Vitamin P (Bioflavonoids)

1 Balch, J.F. and P.A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Avery Publishing, 1997:pp.12-13.

2 Dunne, L.J. Nutrition Almanac, 3rd ed. McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990: pp.10-11.

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