Elixir of life: Vitamins & Minerals – Part II: Vitamins

The first part of this three part blog was an overview of vitamins and minerals. This part we take a closer look at the types of vitamins and their role.Vitamins are classified broadly into two categories water-soluble and fat-soluble. You need to know this for example if you’re supplementing your vitamin requirement via supplements as fat soluble vitamins are better absorbed if taken with food. Let’s have a closer look at the two types.

Water-soluble vitamins

  • B vitamins

  • Biotin (vitamin B7)

  • Folic acid (folate, vitamin B9)

  • Niacin (vitamin B3)

  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1)

  • Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin C

Why are they important

Water-soluble vitamins play a host of different tasks in the body. One of the most important being the release of energy from the food you consume Still others help in maintaining tissue health. Here are some examples of how different vitamins help you maintain good health:

  • Release energy: Several B vitamins form the bases of certain co-enzymes. These co-enzymes aid in the metabolism of fat and carbohydrate in turn liberating energy.

  • Proteins synthesis and new cell generation. Vitamins B6, B12 along with folic acid help in metabolising amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and help in cells division and multiplication.

  • Building collagen. Vitamin C plays an important role in build collagen. Collagen plays a vital role in healing wounds, supporting walls of blood vessels, and forms the base for bones and teeth.

Words to the wise

It is generally believed that, our body does not store water-soluble vitamins. However, it might be true in the case of some of the water soluble vitamins but not all. Some of them can stay in the body for extended periods of time. For instance, Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver and you might have several years’ worth of this vitamin in your body at any given stage. Vitamin B12 is not the only one, folic acid and vitamin C reserves could last for a couple of days as well.

Generally, though, the stock of these vitamins would require replenishment every few days.

A word of caution:

Though the risks associated with excessive intake are low in water soluble vitamins, there is however a small risk associated with excessive intake of some of these vital micro-nutrients. Through the chances of this happing through food alone are virtually zero, the risk is quit real when it comes to supplements. For instance, a B6 dose that’s well over RDA can cause damage to the nerves, in turn causing numbness and even weaken the muscle.

Fat-soluble vitamins

As the name suggests Fatty foods and oils are reservoirs for fat-soluble vitamins. Within the body, these vitamins are stored primarily in the fat tissues. The liver is organ that holds these vitamins.You can think of these vitamins as being time-released. Unlike most water soluble vitamins these can be stored in the body and you may replenish your reserves weeks and even months apart and still get your fill. Your body accumulators the excess and doles it out when needed.

The four fat-soluble vitamins

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin D

  • Vitamin E

  • Vitamin K

Why are they important

Collectively these quartets of vitamins promote eyes, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system health. In additions to these fat-soluble vitamins play a pivotal role in:

  • Building strong bones: together vitamins A, D, and K play a pivotal role in the process of bone formation.

  • Shield the vision: Vitamin A is probably the most important nutrient for the eyes. It aids in keeping the cells healthy and provides protection for the vision.

  • Guard the body: Vitamin E also acts as powerful antioxidant. It helps mop up free radicals which can damage healthy cells and provides for complete well-being.

A word of caution

As the body store excessive fat-soluble vitamins over long periods of times, the risk of toxicity are very real with these vitamins. As is the case with water-soluble vitamins there is very little chance to reach these via diet alone. But if you’re taking supplements you need to be very careful.

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