Expert Nutrition

Vitamins

Vitamins are a group of organic compounds found in foods that are a vital part of a healthy diet. There are 13 known vitamins each with a different role that is essential to the normal function of every cell and tissue within the body. Although many of the functions of vitamins overlap like in antioxidation, metabolism and cell division there is no one vitamin that can replace or act for another.

Where do I get vitamins from?

The majority of vitamins come form our diet and cannot not be synthesised by the body (with the exception of vitamin D, which can be made in the skin upon adequate exposure to sunlight). Bacteria in the intestine can synthesis certain vitamins, but usually not in the quantities large enough to meet the body’s demands with the exception of vitamin K. Deficiency in vitamins can lead to a number of health related disorders and may also increase the rate of oxidation which is the underlying cause of most chronic degenerative diseases.

Vitamins are usually classified as either fat or water soluble as this the way in which they are absorbed and stored within the body. Vitamins may also be classified according to their function in the body (for example the B-complex vitamins vary in function from coenzymes to antioxidants) and will be discussed in each of the vitamin subheading links.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Fat soluble Vitamins such as A, D, E and K are ingested with fats in our diet and have a variety of different functions. Excess amounts of these vitamins are stored in body tissue and therefore we are less likely to become deficient in these vitamins. A few exceptions include people with very low fat diets or malabsorption syndromes. Because these vitamins are stored, excess amounts can sometimes build up to toxic levels, in particular vitamin A when consumed in the form of retinol.

Please click on the following links to learn more information on each of the fat soluble vitamins:

Water soluble

Vitamin C and B complex vitamins are water soluble which means that they are more easily absorbed, however storing them is much more difficult and excess amounts are usually flushed away in our urine. As a general rule because it is harder for the body to store water soluble vitamins it makes deficiencies more likely and therefore these vitamins should be consumed more often.

Please click on the following links for more information on each of the water soluble vitamins:

Vitamin B – Complex:

What to Vitamins do?

The role of vitamins within in the body varies depending on the vitamin in question. More details on the role of each vitamin including good food sources and recommended dietary intakes are discussed in each of the seperate vitamin links found above.

Why are they called vitamins?

This is an excellent question that was emailed through to us here at Expert Nutrition and is a great bit of trivia.

The name vitamin can be traced back to 1912 where Dr Casimir Funk a biochemist from Poland published the theory that certain foods contained essential chemical substances that were vital for life. The term was originally "vitamines" as they were believed to be a group of amines (nitrogen compounds) that were essential to life (ie vital + amines = vitamines). After publishing his work in 1922 it was discovered that some of these substance were not amines and hence the 'e' was dropped to form the word vitamin a term which has been used ever since.

A full chapter of this webpage has been dedicated to help educate people in the roles of nutritional supplements such as multivitamins and whether we need to be taking them. For more information please refer to that chapter.

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