We explain what vitamins are and the benefits of their consumption. Also, what are its characteristics and the types of vitamins there are.
What are vitamins?
Vitamins are diverse substances that favor the correct performance of the organism but that, in general, cannot be synthesized by the body , but must be obtained through food intake.
Vitamins are, therefore, essential nutrients for the body, whose deficiency (avitaminosis) can cause diseases and weaken the body (and whose excess, known as hypervitaminosis, can also be harmful).
There are different categories of vitamins according to their chemical constitution and their functions in the body, but almost all of them operate as precursors of coenzymes , that is, regulatory substances or catalysts (which increase the speed) of different body reactions.
However, the body’s daily demand for vitamins is very small , so these needs can be met with a more or less balanced diet, especially including raw foods such as fruits or vegetables, since some dissolve easily in water during cooking.
history of vitamins
Although it has been known since ancient times that the intake of certain foods benefited certain aspects of health , vitamins were never discussed until the 18th and 19th centuries, when the study of scurvy that afflicted European sailors (a disease caused by deficiency of vitamin C) eventually led to the discovery that there were unknown substances in food that were essential for life .
But it was not until 1929 that Frederick Hopkins and Christiaan Eijkman, winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, discovered the existence of several vitamins.
Classification of vitamins
Excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted in the urine.
Vitamins are usually classified based on their ability to dissolve in water : they are water-soluble if they dissolve in water or fat-soluble if they do not dissolve in water. This solubility is determined by the chemical structure of each vitamin and, therefore, influences the foods that contain them.
Of the 13 vitamins necessary for the human body, we have:
- Water soluble . Most of the B-complex vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B8, B9, B12) and vitamin C. Excess of these vitamins is excreted in the urine (except B12), and must be be consumed daily.
- Fat soluble . Vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins can be stored in the body (in the liver and as part of fats ) and therefore do not require continuous intake.
Role of vitamins in the body
Vitamin C is strongly linked to the immune response.
Vitamins are precursor substances of coenzymes , that is, they form necessary steps in the construction of certain types of proteins that play active regulatory roles.
Vitamins are essential molecules whose fair presence in the body allows it to function properly, as they are part of the catalysis of almost all reactions that occur in the body. For example, vitamin C is strongly linked to the immune response and, therefore, its intake is recommended to combat flu and temporary viruses.
nomenclature of vitamins
Although they are usually abbreviated to a letter and a number, in order to group them according to their chemical similarities (especially those that make up the B complex, which is very numerous), the chemical compounds of vitamins are named as follows:
- Vitamin A. Retinophthalin.
- Vitamin C. Ascorbic acid.
- Vitamin E. Tocopherol.
- Vitamin D. Calciferol.
- Vitamin K. Phytomenadione.
- Vitamin B1 . Thiamin.
- Vitamin B2 . Riboflavin.
- Vitamin B3 . Niacin.
- Vitamin B5 . Pantothenic acid.
- Vitamin B6 . Pyridoxine.
- Vitamin B7 and B8 . Biotin.
- Vitamin B9 . Folic acid.
- Vitamin B12 . Cobalamin.
Avitaminosis can cause minor illness or even death.
Vitamin deficiency can be more or less dangerous for the body, since it can cause minor illnesses or even death . There is, however, a debate about the real possibility of avitaminosis given that, on the one hand, the nutritional needs of the body are small; but at the same time the real presence of them in food is too.
Possible symptoms of mild avitaminosis would be: muscle aches, chronic fatigue, stretch marks on the nails , bleeding gums, memory problems , lack of mood, clumsiness and vision problems .
Excess consumption of vitamins can be a health risk factor, too. The water-soluble ones, being discarded in the urine, are not as high a risk factor as the fat-soluble ones or B12, capable of being stored in the liver.
Fat- soluble vitamins have a considerable toxicity value , especially in the case of vitamins A and D, or B3. However, cases of toxicity inherent to the abuse of vitamin E and B1 have been diagnosed, but this requires extremely high levels during prolonged periods of intake. B3 and B6, likewise, are highly toxic in disproportionate amounts.
Recommended intake of vitamins
It is estimated that we should consume five servings of vegetables or fruits daily.
Most industrial treatments and processing remove the vitamin content of foods, so the consumption of raw fruits or steamed (or raw) vegetables is recommended, to preserve their nutritional load to the maximum.
It is estimated that five servings of vegetables or fruits daily is the ideal measure to provide the body with the necessary vitamins.
food sources of vitamins
There are foods rich in a specific type of vitamin, whose knowledge allows us to direct our diet towards a greater (or lesser) consumption of them:
- Vitamin A. Cod liver oil, carrots and fruits with beta-carotene (pigment present in plants and fruits).
- Vitamin C. Citrus fruits (lemon, lime) and most fresh foods.
- Vitamin B1 . Bran from rice and cereals.
- Vitamin D. Cod liver oil, olive oil and sunflower oil.
- Vitamin B2 . Red meat, dairy, eggs.
- Vitamin E. Wheat germ, unrefined vegetable oils, green vegetables.
- Vitamin B12 . Fatty foods, red meat, eggs.
- Vitamin K. Vegetables.
- Vitamin B5 . Meat and whole grains.
- Vitamin B6 . Meat, dairy and egg.
- Vitamin B3 . Meat, egg and cereals.
- Vitamin B9 . Legumes in general.
Vitamin D synthesis
Vitamin D is mistakenly thought to be transmitted by sunlight.
Vitamin D can be produced by the body in the direct presence of the sun on the skin . That is why it is known as the “ sunshine vitamin ”, since some people mistakenly think that it is the sunlight that “transmits” it. For vitamin D to be synthesized in the body, it is necessary that the sun has contact with the skin.
Diseases associated with vitamins
There are numerous diseases caused by the chronic deficiency of one or more vitamins , as well as their excess, which, contrary to what is believed, does not maximize child growth or enhance sports performance. Among these diseases are:
- scurvy . Due to vitamin C deficiency, it causes bleeding gums and nails, poor healing and death.
- Rickets . Caused by a lack of vitamin B1, it is also known as Beriberi and is often associated with cardiovascular or neurological symptoms, as well as extreme weakness and chronic emaciation.
- osteomalacia . Characterized by bone weakness, as well as other disorders such as osteoporosis, it may be due to the lack of vitamin D, essential for calcium absorption.
The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.