What Are Vitamins And How Do They Work

Vitamins are organic compounds needed by people in small amounts. Most vitamins need to come from food because the body does not or produces very little of them.

Each organism has different vitamin needs. For example, humans need to get vitamin C from their diet, while dogs can make all of the vitamin C they need.

For humans, vitamin D is not available in sufficient amounts in food. The human body synthesizes the vitamin when exposed to the sun, and it is the best source of vitamin D.

Different vitamins play different roles in the body, and a person needs different amounts of each vitamin to stay healthy.

What are Vitamins?

Vitamins are organic substances found in great amounts in natural foods. The risk of developing certain health problems can be increased by having too little of a particular vitamin.

A vitamin is an organic compound, which means it has carbon in it. It is also an essential nutrient that the body may need for nourishment.

There are currently 13 recognized vitamins.

Fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins

Vitamins are either soluble or soluble in fat or water. We describe the two types below:

Fat soluble vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E and K are considered as fat soluble vitamins. The fat soluble vitamins are stored in fatty tissue and the liver, and these vitamins can stay in the body for days and even months.

Dietary fat helps the body absorb fat soluble vitamins from the intestinal tract.

Water soluble vitamins

In the body, water soluble vitamins do not stay for long and cannot be stored. They leave the body through urine. For this reason, people need more regular intake of water soluble vitamins than fat soluble vitamins.

Vitamin C and all vitamins B are soluble in water.

Also Read: How Much Vitamins Our Body Need

The 13 vitamins

Below, discover each vitamin currently recognized:

Vitamin A

Chemical names: retinol, retina and “the four carotenoids” including beta-carotene.

  • It is fat soluble.
  • Function: It is essential for eye health.
  • Deficiency: This can cause night blindness and keratomalacia, which causes dryness and opacity of the clear front layer of the eye.
  • Good sources: These include apricots, broccoli, butter, cantaloupe melon liver, carrots, cod liver oil, collard greens, eggs, kale, milk, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach and some cheeses.

Vitamin B1

Chemical name: thiamine.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Function: It is essential for producing various enzymes which help to break down blood sugar.
  • Deficiency: this can cause beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
  • Good sources: Examples include asparagus, brown rice, cauliflower, grains, kale, pork, sunflower seeds, whole grain rye, yeast, potatoes, oranges, liver and eggs.

Vitamin B2

Chemical name: riboflavin.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Function: It is essential for the development and growth of body cells and helps in food metabolizing
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include cracks in the mouth and inflammation of the lips.
  • Good sources: Examples include asparagus, bananas, chard, cottage cheese, eggs, fish, green beans, meat, milk, okra, persimmons and yogurt.

Vitamin B3

Chemical names: niacin, niacinamide.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Function: The body needs niacin for cells to grow and proper functioning.
  • Deficiency: Low levels lead to a health problem called pellagra, which causes diarrhea, skin changes, and bowel problems.
  • Good sources: These include beef, broccoli, carrots, chicken, eggs, leafy vegetables, lentils, milk, nuts and seeds, salmon, tofu, tomatoes, and tuna.

Vitamin B5

Chemical name: pantothenic acid.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Function: It is needed to produce energy and hormones.
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include paresthesia, or “pins and needles”.
  • Good sources: These include avocados, broccoli, meats, whole grains, and yogurt.

Vitamin B6

Chemical names: pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Function: It is vital for the formation of RBCs.
  • Deficiency: low levels can lead to anemia and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Good sources: These include bananas, beef liver, chickpeas, squash and nuts.

Vitamin B7

Chemical name: biotin.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Function: It allows the body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It also contributes to keratin, a structural protein in the hair, nails and skin.
  • Deficiency: low levels can cause dermatitis or inflammation of the intestines.
  • Good sources: These include broccoli, cheese, egg yolk, liver and spinach.

Vitamin B9

Chemical names: folic acid, folinic acid.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Functions: It is essential for the manufacture of DNA and RNA.
  • Deficiency: during pregnancy, it can affect the nervous system of the fetus. Before and during pregnancy, doctors recommend folic acid supplements.
  • Good sources: These include green leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, peas, sunflower seeds, and some fortified grain products. In addition, several fruits have moderate amounts.

Vitamin B12

Chemical names: cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Function: It is essential for a good nervous system.
  • Deficiency: low levels of this vitamin can lead to neurological problems and some types of anemia.
  • Good Sources: These include eggs, fish, fortified cereals, fortified nutritional yeast, fortified soy products, meat, milk and other dairy products, poultry, and shellfish.

Doctors may recommend that people on a vegan diet take vitamin B12 supplements.

Vitamin C

Chemical name: ascorbic acid.

  • It is soluble in water.
  • Function: It helps in collagen production, wound healing and bone formation. It also acts as an antioxidant, helps the body absorb iron, strengthens blood vessels, and supports the immune system.
  • Deficiency: This can lead to scurvy, which causes bleeding gums, loss of teeth, poor tissue growth, and scarring of wounds.
  • Good sources: These include fruits and vegetables, but vitamin C is destroyed by cooking.

Vitamin D

Chemical names: ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol.

  • It is fat soluble.
  • Function: It is necessary for the healthy compaction of bone.
  • Deficiency: This can cause rickets and osteomalacia, or softening of the bones.
  • Good sources: Exposure to UVB rays or other sources causes the body to produce vitamin D. Oily fish, eggs, beef liver and mushrooms also contain the vitamin.

Vitamin E

Chemical names: tocopherol, tocotrienol.

  • It is fat soluble.
  • Function: Its antioxidant activity helps prevent oxidative stress, a problem that increases the risk of generalized inflammation and various diseases.
  • Deficiency: rare, but can cause hemolytic anemia in newborns. This condition destroys blood cells.
  • Good sources: These include wheat germ, kiwi fruit, almonds, eggs, nuts, leafy greens, and vegetable oils.

Vitamin K

Chemical names: phylloquinone, menaquinone.

  • It is fat soluble.
  • Function: It is necessary for blood clotting.
  • Deficiency: low levels can lead to unusual susceptibility to bleeding or a bleeding diathesis.
  • Good sources: These include figs, leafy greens, natto, parsley, and pumpkins.

Vitamin supplements

Many people in the United States take multivitamins and other supplements, although these may not be necessary or helpful, according to research.

A balanced and varied diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, should be the main source of vitamins. The Department of Health and Human Services provides up-to-date guidelines detailing the best ways to get enough nutrients from the diet.

However, fortified foods and supplements may be appropriate in some cases, such as during pregnancy, for people on a restricted diet, and for people with specific health concerns.

Anyone taking supplements should be careful not to exceed the maximum dose, as research shows that taking too many vitamins can lead to health problems.

In addition, some medications can interact with vitamin supplements. Overall, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider before trying a supplement.