Wikipedia of Vitamins

Last updated: 3 Jan 2019

Vitamins are organic compounds that we need in small quantities to keep us alive.

Healthy food containing vitaminsIt is true that we do need vitamins to sustain us. The lack of vitamins can cause some serious health problems which are outlined in this article.

Before you commence any further, please note that we will continue expanding the knowledge base here so if you have any suggestions, please use our contact page to send your suggestions.

Where do most vitamins come from?

Most vitamins need to come from food because the body either does not produce enough of them, or it does not produce any at all. However, there are times you will need help from vitamins dietary supplements. In this article, we will show you the sources of vitamins to assist your dietary plan.

groups of vitamins

According to the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, vitamins can be separated into water-soluble vitamins (Vitamin C, B Vitamins) and fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, K).

Water-soluble vitamins are needed in regular small amounts and are unlikely to reach toxic levels in the blood as they are excreted in urine. Since much of our body consists of water, many of the water-soluble vitamins circulate easily in your body. The good news is that our kidneys continuously regulate levels of water-soluble vitamins, shunting excesses out of the body in your urine.

However, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body fat and they remain there for some time so are more likely to be toxic if consumed in excess of our body's requirements.

Why do we need VITAMINS?

Even though we only need these micronutrients in micro or small quantities, failing to get to those small quantities could result in disease. Some examples of diseases that can result from vitamin deficiencies are:

Scurvy

Old-time sailors learned that living for months without fresh fruits or vegetables (the main sources of vitamin C) caused Scurvy. If left untreated, it can result in decreased red blood cells, gum disease, changes to hair, and bleeding from the skin may occur.

Blindness 

People still become blind from vitamin A deficiency in some countries.

Rickets 

A deficiency in vitamin D can cause rickets, a condition that causes children to have soft, weak bones. Vitamin D helps growing bones absorb important nutrients and Vitamin D comes from sunlight and food.

Just as lack of vitamins can be harmful to your well-being, getting sufficient vitamins can provide benefits like strong bones, healthy teeth and prevention of birth defects.

The difference between vitamins and minerals

Whilst this article is dedicated to vitamins, it is important to identify key differences between vitamins and minerals. Even though both vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients, vitamins and minerals differ in basic ways.

Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid whilst minerals are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure.

It means the minerals in soil and water can easily find its way into our body through plants and animals, and fluids that we consume.

Unlike minerals, it is harder to carry vitamins from food and other sources into your body because cooking, storage, and simple exposure to air can inactivate these more fragile compounds.

Let's talk about vitamins!

Vitamin A
VitaminA

Vitamin A

Benefits of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is for good eyesight.

Vitamin A is good to maintain good eyesight, especially night vision. It can prevent many conditions like dry eyes and night blindness by increasing the adaptability of the human eye to both bright light and darkness. 

Vitamin A could also reduce the risk of cataract and macular degeneration, which is commonly associated with ageing. It is also thought to be beneficial for people suffering from glaucoma.

Vitamin A helps to fight infections.

If you believe that your immune system as an army that battles infections, then two vitamins are its main Generals. Vitamin A helps strengthen your defenses, whilst Vitamin C helps the immune system go on the attack. This two-pronged approach provides powerful protection against the incoming germs.

The body uses vitamin A, which you get in the form of beta-carotene from foods such as carrots, mustard greens, kale, spinach, to keep mucous soft and moist. Why is this important? It is important because these membranes, which line the nose, mouth, throat and other parts of the body, are our first line of defense against infection. 

As long as they are moist, they are able to trap nasty pathogens before they get into your system. 

Vitamin A for skin care

Vitamin A could protect against harmful UV damage and could slow down signs of aging.

Since most of our vitamin A intake comes from eating foods rich in beta-carotene and provitamin A carotenoids (which are potent antioxidants), not only do these squelch free radicals that break down collagen (our skin’s support structure) and contribute to fine lines and saggy skin, they also lessen skin’s sensitivity to the sun, providing some natural protection against sun-induced redness and pigmentation.

Vitamin A helps in the production of healthy skin cells

"Retinal, retinol and retinoic acid are important to cell production and growth. Vitamin A also stimulates fibroblasts—the cells responsible for developing tissue that keeps skin firm and healthy—in the deep layers of your skin." (source: https://www.canyonranch.com/blog/beauty/the-skin-benefits-of-vitamin-a/)

According to a study called Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging: "Carotenoids are vitamin A derivates like β-carotene, astaxanthin, lycopene and retinol, which are all highly effective antioxidants and have been documented to possess photoprotective properties. Findings of Scarmo et al. suggest that human skin, is relatively enriched in lycopene and β-carotene..." 

Vitamin A reduces risk of acne.

 Vitamin A helps cut down excess sebum (an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands) production, thus, reducing the risk of acne.

Vitamin A for muscle growth and bone health

For people involved in physical activities, athletes and bodybuilders, vitamin A plays a useful part because it supports protein synthesis (a process whereby biological cells generate new proteins), which is essential for muscle growth. Vitamin A levels decrease as protein synthesis increases. This is related to the fact that vitamin A is needed for the breakdown of protein during the muscle repair process.

According to NIH, Vitamin A is important for healthy bones. However, too much vitamin A has been linked to bone loss and an increase in the risk of hip fracture. Scientists believe that excessive amounts of vitamin A trigger an increase in osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. They also believe that too much vitamin A may interfere with vitamin D, which plays an important role in preserving bone. 

How much of vitamin A do we need?

Source: NZ Nutrition Foundation (Jan 2019)

https://nutritionfoundation.org.nz/nutrition-facts/vitamins/vitamin-a

 
 

Age

(years)

RDI*Vitamin A

(µg/day)

Infants and toddlers

1-3

300

Children

4-8

400

 

9-13

600

Adolescent boys

14-18

900

Adolescent girls

14-18

700

Men

19-70+

900

Women

19-70+

700

Pregnant women

14-18

700

 

19-50

800

Breastfeeding women

14-50

1100

 

Vitamin A Cautions

Birth defects

In order to get more folate, many women do the easy thing and take a multivitamin. If you don't read the label carefully, you could risk taking a large amount of vitamin A. This increases the risk of birth defects. For more information on research on vitamin A and birth defects, read the article published by The New England Jurnal of Medicine- a study published by Godfrey P. Oakley, Jr., M.D., and J. David Erickson, D.D.S., Ph.D. 

A study by Dr Erikson suggested that the concern is vitamin A from supplements rather than from foods we eat. Please check with your doctor to make sure it is a safe amount.