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Vitamins:
Easy Reference &
Information Page

vitamins 01
 

Frequently asked questions:

Vitamin Chart
  • Vitamin A - beta carotene, retinol
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Vitamin B1 - thiamine
  • Vitamin B2 - riboflavin
  • Vitamin B3 - niacin
  • Vitamin B5 - pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B6 - pyroxidine

  • vitamins 02


    What are vitamins?

    Vitamins are very small amounts (micronutrients) of organic compounds required by the body to protect health and support proper growth.

    They were discovered by a Dutch physician, Christiaan Eijkmann, who won the 1929 Nobel prize in physiology and medicine.


    How important are vitamins?

    They are essential for life and good health as they regulate metabolism and assist the body in processing energy from food that is digested.

    Vitamins assist in the formation of hormones, blood cells, chemicals in the nervous system and genetic material.

    They generally act as catalysts and are an important contributing factor in the hundreds of chemical reactions that take place in the body.

    Without them these reactions would slow down or cease causing a wide range of health problems and dysfunctions.


    What is an easy way to categorize vitamins?

    There are 13 well defined vitamins and these are classified according to their ability to be absorbed either in fat or water.

    They can be grouped as follows:

    Water soluble (9)

    The 8 vitamins know as B complex which are:

    Vitamin B1
    Vitamin B2
    Vitamin B3
    Vitamin B5
    Vitamin B6
    Vitamin B7
    Vitamin B9
    Vitamin B12

    Vitamin C

    Fat (oil) soluble (4)

    Vitamin A
    Vitamin D
    Vitamin E
    Vitamin K

    The oil soluble vitamins are normally consumed along with fat-containing foods. They are stored in the body's fat and therefore do not need to be consumed every day.

    Water soluble vitamins on the other hand cannot be stored in the body. They have to be taken regularly, preferably every day.

    Vitamin D carries the distinction of being the only vitamin manufactured by the body. All the others must be obtained from the diet.

    See the Vitamin Chart at the end of this page for a full description of each vitamin.


    Are there any precautions before starting a vitamin course?

    Yes. Excessive consumption of vitamins can cause in some cases liver damage, kidney damage, vitamin toxicity and in extreme cases, death.

    Vitamins can inter-react with over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs.

    It is important therefore to always consult with a physician who can assess a person's needs for a vitamin or mineral supplement.

    The result will then be based on the person's medical history and a physical examination to check for signs of deficiency.


    How should vitamins be taken?

    All vitamin supplements work best when taken along with food.

    Oil soluble vitamins are best taken before meals.

    Water soluble vitamins are best taken after meals.


    Who may need to take vitamin supplements and why?

    Pressured Day Workers

    Due to hectic days meals are often missed or taken on the run.

    Breakfasts are sometimes skipped altogether due to time constraints.

    Convenience foods often become the norm.

    Students

    Academic pressures may force students to skip on food preparation.

    Much alcohol may be consumed contributing to a poor diet.

    Stress due to end of term deadlines and exams may lead to greater susceptibilty for colds, flu and viruses also exacerbated by the poor diet.

    Children

    Many children are 'picky' eaters, notorious for rejecting green leafy vegetables in favor of refined foods high in sugar content.

    Vegetarians

    Not taking animal foods can contribute to the risk of deficiency, particularly with iron, calcium and B12, which are obtained from meat and animal products.

    Slimmers

    Slimmers reduce the food intake into their bodies in the hope that the body will use more energy than it is consuming, resulting in weight loss.

    A reduction in food intake means less energy, but it can also mean less of the essential nutrients are being absorbed.

    All the above groups can benefit from vitamin supplements and may be good candidates for multivitamins depending of course on the individual circumstances.


    Does it matter which brand?

    There is no "best brand". Reading the label will reveal if colors or preservatives have been added. Go to a reputable supplier whose products are rated for vitamin content and economic value.


    Vitamin Chart

    Vitamin A
    - beta carotene, retinol
    Source:
    • carrots
    • broccoli
    • squash
    • spinach
    • kale
    • sweet potatoes
    • milk
    • butter
    • cheese
    • egg yolk
    • liver
    • fish-liver oil
    Important for:
    • skin
    • teeth
    • mucous membranes
    • bones
    • vision
    • reproduction
    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency include difficulty adapting to darkness (night blindness), skin dryness, susceptibility to bacterial invasion due to lack of mucous membrane secretion, dryness of eyes.

    Too much vitamin A can have a damaging effect on growth, menstruation and red blood corpuscles. It can also cause headaches, skin rashes, nausea and jaundice.


    Vitamin B complex

    Vitamin B complex is a combination of eight essential vitamins - B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12

    Important for:

    • metabolism
    • healthy skin
    • muscle tone
    • immune and nervous system function
    • cell growth and division
    • combating stress
    • combating depression
    • combating cardiovascular disease

    Notes:
    B vitamins need to be replenished daily.

    Those who are more susceptible to B deficiency include pregnant women, nursing mothers, vegetarians, alcoholics, anyone who indulges in a high sugar diet, anyone taking certain anti-biotics over a long period, the elderly, anyone with malabsorption conditions.

    Symptoms of B vitamin deficiency can include oily or scaly skin, upset stomach, headaches, anxiety, moodiness.


    Vitamin B1 - thiamine

    Source:
    • pork
    • liver, heart, and kidney
    • brewer's yeast
    • lean meats
    • eggs
    • leafy green vegetables
    • whole or enriched cereals
    • wheat germ
    • berries
    • nuts
    • legumes
    Important for:
    • enabling carbohydrates to release their energy
    • synthesis of nerve-regulating substances

    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency are characterized by muscular weakness, swelling of the heart and leg cramps. In severe cases it can lead to heart failure and death.

    Milling of cereal removes the parts richest in thiamine. It could therefore be lacking in white flour and polished white rice.


    Vitamin B2 - riboflavin

    Source:
    • liver
    • milk
    • meat
    • dark green vegetables
    • whole grain
    • pasta
    • bread
    • mushrooms
    Important for:
    • metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, respiratory proteins
    • mucous membranes

    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency include sensitivity to light and skin lesions, especially around the nose and lips.


    Vitamin B3 - niacin

    Source:
    • liver
    • poultry
    • meat
    • tinned tuna and salmon
    • whole grain
    • dried beans and peas
    • nut
    Important for:
    • releasing energy from nutrients

    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency include sunburnlike skin eruption where the skin is exposed to sunlight, red and swollen tongue, diarrhea, mental confusion, irritability, depression.

    Large doses over long periods can result in liver damage.


    Vitamin B5 - pantothenic acid

    Source:
    • the "pan" in pantothenic means "everywhere" indicating it is abundant in many foods
    Important for:
    • metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats
    • converting food to energy
    • building red blood cells
    • making bile
    • wound healing


    Vitamin B6 - pyroxidine

    Source:
    • whole grains
    • cereals
    • bread
    • liver
    • avocadoes
    • spinach
    • green beans
    • bananas
    Important for:
    • absorption and metabolism of amino acids
    • use of fats in the body
    • formation of red blood cells

    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency include skin disorders, cracks at the corners of the mouth, a smooth tongue, convulsions, dizziness, nausea, anemia, and kidney stones.


    Vitamin B7 - biotin

    Source:
    • cheese
    • kidneys
    • salmon
    • soybeans
    • sunflower seeds
    • nuts
    • broccoli
    • sweet potatoes
    Important for:
    • synthesis of carbohydrates, proteins, and fatty acids
    • hair
    • skin
    • nails

    Notes:
    Deficiency is rare but can be caused through long term use of antibiotics.


    Vitamin B9 - folic acid

    Source:
    • organ meats
    • leafy green vegetables
    • legumes
    • nuts
    • whole grains
    • brewer's yeast
    Important for:
    • body protein
    • hemoglobin

    Notes:
    Folic acid is stored in the liver and need not be consumed daily.


    Vitamin B12 - cobalamin

    Source:
    • liver
    • kidneys
    • meat
    • fish
    • eggs
    • milk
    Important for:
    • formation of nucleoproteins, proteins, and red blood cells
    • functioning of the nervous system

    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency include ineffective production of red blood cells and loss of the membrane lining of the intestinal tract.

    As Cobalamin is obtained only from animal sources, vegetarians are advised to take vitamin B12 supplements.


    Vitamin C - ascorbic acid

    Source:
    • citrus fruits
    • fresh strawberries
    • cantaloupe
    • pineapple
    • guava
    • broccoli
    • brussel sprouts
    • tomatoes
    • spinach
    • kale
    • green peppers
    • cabbage
    • turnips
    Important for:
    • formation and retention of calcium and phosphorus in the body
    • teeth
    • bones

    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency include hemorrhages, loosening of teeth, and cellular changes in the long bones of children.


    Vitamin D

    Source:
    • egg yolk
    • liver
    • tuna
    • vitamin-D fortified milk
    Important for:
    • formation and retention of calcium and phosphorus in the body
    • teeth
    • bones

    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency include deformities of the rib cage and skull and bowlegs.

    Excessive consumption of vitamin D can cause vitamin poisoning, kidney damage, lethargy, and loss of appetite.


    Vitamin E

    Source:

    • vegetable oils
    • wheat germ
    • liver
    • leafy green vegetables
    Important for:
    • forming red blood cells, muscle and other tissues
    • preventing the oxidation of vitamin A and fats


    Vitamin K

    Source:
    • alfalfa
    • fish livers
    • leafy green vegetables
    • egg yolks
    • soybean oil
    • liver
    Important for:
    • blood clotting

    Notes:
    Symptoms of deficiency include mild disorders in blood clotting.

    Vitamins Information Page - Return To Top

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