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Get acquainted with your nutrients - Vitamins
Get acquainted with your nutrients – Vitamins
What are vitamins?
A century ago a scientist coined the term “vitamin” describing it vital nitrogen (amine) containing the component of food. Vital amine-containing substance was condensed to vitamins. Many more vitamins were discovered as time went by and they also found that there is no amine in the compounds, the alphabet “e” was dropped from Vitamine then converting it to vitamin.
Vitamins, the vital molecules
For a substance to be named in the distinguished group of vitamins it needs to play an important role in at least one chemical reaction or process in the body. Vitamins are nutrients which have no calorific value and are required in very small quantities usually micrograms or milligrams.
Sources of vitamins
Vitamins either are not made in the body or are not made in sufficient quantities. Humans, guinea pigs, birds cannot make vitamin C but some other animals and plants can make their own vitamin C from glucose.
Niacin can be made in the body from essential amino acid tryptophan. But the conversion is very inefficient and that is why we need niacin to be incorporated in the diet. As we do not want precious amino acid being used inefficiently to synthesize niacin. It is a better option to give niacin through diet.
Vitamin D can be made by the body through exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin K and biotin can be made by bacteria in the large intestine. Do not use antibiotics carelessly as bacteria in our gut are very important for us.
Classification of vitamins
The vitamins were then grouped into two groups based on the basic difference of their solubility in water which is the basis of the body. There are ten water-soluble and four fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E. K). Water-soluble vitamins (C, B complex vitamins) generally have limited storage ability in the body and are more susceptible to be removed from the body in the urine except for vitamin B12.
Therefore, the signs of deficiency of water-soluble vitamins appear more rapidly than deficiency symptoms of fat-soluble vitamins. Unlike other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin K is not stored in the body well and a certain amount is lost in urine and stools every day.
What do vitamins do in our body?
Vitamins have diverse biochemical functions. A most important function of Vitamins is their role in enzyme-substrate reactions but other roles they play are also equally significant.
- Some function as regulators of mineral metabolism (vitamin D) or regulators of cell and tissue growth and differentiation (vitamin A). Vitamin C and E are potent antioxidants.
- Many vitamins function as precursors for enzyme cofactors. As cofactors vitamins work as catalysts in metabolism (biotin is part of enzymes involved in making fatty acids). Vitamins work as coenzymes (folic acid).
Years ago, scientists knew there was a group involved in energy metabolism in the cells. They called these the B complex. Soon researchers identified the specific individual factors involved in the B-complex. Therefore, the vitamins are classified as B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12. Folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid are also involved in energy metabolism and are included in the B complex family.
Vitamin C and choline were not included in the B complex group though water-soluble because they are not directly involved in the chemical pathways that either break down or build energy nutrients.
Weight watchers – Do not banish fats from your diets if you want proper utilization of Vitamins A, E, D, and K Fat-soluble vitamins are dependent on the normal processes of lipid digestion and absorption such as the presence of bile and formation of chylomicrons in the cells lining the small intestine. Any situation where bile production or supply to the small intestine is affected causes a decrease in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Bile supply is also stimulated to a great extent by the fat in the diet.
If someone is taking a fat-soluble vitamin containing supplements it should be taken with a food that has fat. Weight Watchers, please do not completely remove fat from your diets!