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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
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
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.
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.