VITAMINS AND THEIR USES
VITAMINS AND THEIR BENEFITS TO YOUR BODY
A vitamin is defined as a substance that is an essential micro nutrient that an organism needs in small quantities for the proper functioning of its metabolism. Most of these vitamins cannot be synthesized in humans or are produced in small quantities and are therefore obtained from diet to prevent deficiencies.
Major animal dietary sources of vitamin A include; milk, eggs, meat, cheese, liver, fish oil and kidneys. Common plant sources of Vitamin A are; Pink grapefruit, Carrots, Pumpkin, Sweet potatoes, dark-green leafy vegetables and broccoli. Vitamin A plays a big role in
Growth and repair of the skin
It works by signaling to the cells to grow at a faster rate, bringing fresher, more youthful skin to the surface more rapidly.
Formation and maintenance of teeth, bones, soft tissues, white blood cells, the immune system and mucus membranes.
As an anti-oxidant-It helps protect cells from free radical damage.
B vitamins are important for making sure the body’s cells are functioning properly. They help the body convert food into energy (metabolism), create new blood cells, and maintain healthy skin cells, brain cells, and other body tissues.
There are eight types of B vitamin, each with their function:
thiamin (vitamin B-1)
riboflavin (vitamin B-2)
niacin (vitamin B-3)
pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5)
biotin (vitamin B-7)
folate (vitamin B-9)
Together, they are called the vitamin B complex. People may develop B vitamin deficiencies if they do not get enough of the vitamins from their diet or supplements. They may also have a deficiency if their body cannot absorb nutrients properly, or if their body eliminates too much of them due to certain health conditions or medications.
Thiamine (vitamin B-1). Major dietary sources of vitamin B1 include whole grains, cereals, pasta, pork, black beans, soybeans, seeds and nuts.
The heart, liver, kidney, and brain all contain high amounts of thiamine. The body needs thiamine for:
Breaking down sugar (carbohydrate) molecules from food
Creating certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals)
Producing fatty acids
Synthesizing certain hormones
Riboflavin (vitamin B-2)– Food sources include mushrooms, oatmeal, meat, almonds, yogurt and milk.
Riboflavin is essential for:
helping the body break down fats, drugs, and steroid hormones
Niacin (vitamin B-3)– Food sources include meat, poultry, fish, legumes and grain.
The body converts niacin into a coenzyme called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). NAD is a necessary part of more than 400 different enzyme reactions in the body, the highest of all vitamin-derived coenzymes. These enzymes help with:
changing the energy in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into a form the body can use
metabolic processes in the body’s cells
Communication among cells
Expression of DNA in cells-Expression is a process by which information from a gene is used to synthesize a gene product.
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5)– Food sources of pantothenic acid include; avocado, chicken, mushroom and beef liver. Pantothenic acid is necessary for the body to create new coenzymes, proteins, and fats. Red blood cells carry pantothenic acid throughout the body so it can use the nutrient in a variety of processes for energy and metabolism.
Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)– Dietary sources of vitamin B6 include; potatoes, poultry, cereals, chickpeas and meat. Pyridoxine, plays a role in more than 100 enzyme reactions. The body needs vitamin B-6 for:
Amino acid metabolism
Breaking down carbohydrates and fats
Biotin (vitamin B-7) is primarily obtained from meat, pork, sunflower seeds, salmon and eggs.
It contributes to normal growth of hair, skin and nails. The human body needs biotin for:
Breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and protein
Communication among cells in the body
Regulation of DNA
Folate (vitamin B-9)-Sources of folate include paw, beef liver, green leafy vegetables, avocado, orange juice and beans. The natural form of vitamin B-9 is called folate. Folic acid, which is present in fortified foods and some supplements, is a synthetic form of the vitamin. When a woman has high enough levels of folate both before and during pregnancy, the fetus has a lower risk of certain birth defects affecting the brain and spinal cord.
Folate is also essential for:
Metabolism of vitamins
Metabolism of amino acid
Proper cell division
Vitamin B-12-Dietary sources are beef, salmon, milk and yogurt. People who do not eat animal products may need to get vitamin B-12 from supplements. Vitamin B-12 contains the mineral cobalt and is sometimes called a “cobalamin.”
The health benefits of the vitamin include:
The formation and division of red blood cells
Protecting the nervous system
Synthesizing a person’s DNA
Providing the body with energy
Commonly known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C occurs naturally in foods such as citrus fruit, tomatoes, potatoes, and leafy vegetables. Vitamin C is important for bones and connective tissues, muscles, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron, which is needed for red blood cell production.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can strengthen your body’s natural defenses. Antioxidants are molecules that boost the immune system. They do so by protecting cells from harmful molecules called free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they expose people to many chronic diseases.
May help manage high blood pressure
May lower your risk of heart disease
May reduce blood uric acid levels and help prevent gout attacks-several studies have shown that vitamin C may help reduce uric acid in the blood and, as a result, protect against gout attacks.
Helps prevent iron deficiency-Iron is an important nutrient that has a variety of functions in the body. It’s essential for making red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin C supplements can help improve the absorption of iron from the diet. Vitamin C assists in converting iron that is poorly absorbed, such as plant-based sources of iron, into a form that is easier to absorb. This is especially useful for people on a meat-free diet, as meat is a major source of iron.
Boosts immunity- Vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune system. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection. It also helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals. Vitamin C is also an essential part of the skin’s defense system. It’s actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers.
Protects your memory and thinking as you age-Vitamin C has been shown to improve on dementia in the elderly and the aging population. Oxidative stress caused by free radicals and inflammation near the brain, spine, and nerves (altogether known as the central nervous system) can increase the risk of dementia. Vitamin C is a strong anti-oxidant and its deficiency has shown an increase in dementia occurrence. High vitamin C intake from food or supplements has been shown to have a protective effect on thinking and memory as you age.
Vitamin D increases the uptake of calcium in the body which is necessary for strong bones. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin and brittle which might put one at risk of fractures. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis-a condition characterized by brittle bones which break easily. Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including control of cell growth, normal muscle and immune system function, and reduction of inflammation. Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. Fish liver oils are among the best sources of vitamin D while small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Exposure to sunlight is highly recommended for more Vitamin D.
Vitamin E is a vitamin that dissolves in fat. It is found in many foods including vegetable oils, cereals, meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and wheat germ oil. Vitamin E acts as an anti-oxidant and is key for strong immunity and healthy skin and eyes. Vitamin E has exhibited action on different conditions as follows:
Alzheimer disease. Some early research suggests that dietary intake of vitamin E is linked to a lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. But not all research agrees. Taking vitamin E supplements doesn’t seem to prevent Alzheimer disease from developing. In people who already have Alzheimer disease, taking vitamin E along with some anti-Alzheimer medicines might slow down the worsening of memory loss. Vitamin E might also delay the loss of independence and the need for caregiver assistance in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Low levels of red blood cells in people with long-term illness (anemia of chronic disease). Some research shows that taking vitamin E improves the response to the drug erythropoietin, which affects red blood cell production, in adults and children on hemodialysis.
A blood disorder that reduces levels of protein in the blood called hemoglobin (beta-thalassemia). Taking vitamin E by mouth seems to benefit children with a blood disorder called beta-thalassemia and vitamin E deficiency.
Leakage of intravenous (IV) drug from the vein into the surrounding skin and tissue (extravasation). Applying vitamin E to the skin together with dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) seems to be effective for treating leakage of chemotherapy into surrounding tissues.
Nerve damage in the hands and feet caused by cancer drug treatment. Taking vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) before and after treatment with the cancer drug cisplatin might reduce the risk of nerve damage. But taking vitamin E before and during treatment with the cancer drug oxaliplatin doesn’t seem to help.
Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). Taking vitamin E for 2 days before bleeding and for 3 days after bleeding starts seems to decrease pain and reduce menstrual blood loss. Taking vitamin E with fish oil might provide even more pain relief than taking vitamin E alone.
Scarring or hardening of blood vessels in the kidney (glomerulosclerosis). There is some evidence that taking vitamin E by mouth might improve kidney function in children with glomerulosclerosis.
An inherited disorder that causes red blood cells to break down in response to stress (G6PD deficiency). Some research shows that taking vitamin E by mouth, alone or together with selenium, might benefit people with an inherited disorder called G6PD deficiency.
A type of non-cancerous skin sore (granuloma annulare). Applying vitamin E to the skin seems to clear up skin sores called granuloma annulare.
An inherited brain disorder that affects movements, emotions, and thinking (Huntington disease). Natural vitamin E (RRR-alpha-tocopherol) can improve symptoms in people with early Huntington disease. However, it doesn’t seem to help people with more advanced disease.
Bleeding within the skull (intracranial hemorrhage). Taking vitamin E by mouth seems to be effective for treating bleeding in the skull in premature infants.
Bleeding into or around the fluid-filled areas (ventricles) of the brain (intraventricular hemorrhage). Taking vitamin E by mouth seems to be effective for treating bleeding within the ventricular system of the brain in premature infants.
Conditions in a man that prevent him from getting a woman pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (male infertility). Taking vitamin E by mouth improves pregnancy rates for men with fertility problems. But taking high doses of vitamin E together with vitamin C doesn’t seem to provide the same benefits.
Reduced benefit of nitrate therapy that happens when nitrates are used all day (nitrate tolerance). There is some evidence that taking vitamin E daily can help prevent nitrate tolerance.
Swelling (inflammation) and build-up of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH). Taking vitamin E daily seems to improve inflammation and liver markers of this form of liver disease in adults and children.
Parkinson disease. People who get more vitamin E in their diet might have a lower risk of Parkinson disease. Taking supplements containing vitamin E doesn’t seem to benefit people already diagnosed with Parkinson disease.
Recovery from laser eye surgery (photoreactive keratectomy). Taking high doses of vitamin A along with vitamin E (alpha-tocopheryl nicotinate) daily seems to improve healing and vision in people undergoing laser eye surgery.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Taking vitamin E by mouth seems to reduce anxiety, craving, and depression in some women with PMS.
Physical performance in elderly adults. Research suggests that increasing vitamin E intake in the diet is linked with improved physical performance and muscle strength in older people.
Scarring of tissue caused by radiation therapy. Taking vitamin E by mouth with the drug pentoxifylline seems to treat scarring caused by radiation. However, taking vitamin E alone doesn’t seem to be effective.
An eye disorder in premature infants that can lead to blindness (retinopathy of prematurity). Taking vitamin E by mouth seems to be effective for preventing retinopathy in premature infants.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Vitamin E taken along with standard treatment is better than standard treatment alone for reducing pain in people with RA. However, this combination doesn’t reduce swelling.
Sunburn. Taking high doses of vitamin E (RRR-alpha-tocopherol) by mouth together with vitamin C protects against skin inflammation after exposure to UV radiation. However, vitamin E alone doesn’t provide the same benefit. Applying vitamin E to the skin, together with vitamin C and melatonin, provides some protection when used before UV exposure.
A movement disorder often caused by antipsychotic drugs (tardive dyskinesia). Taking vitamin E by mouth seems to improve symptoms associated with the movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia. However, some other research suggests that it doesn’t improve symptoms, but may prevent symptoms from worsening.
Swelling (inflammation) of the eye (uveitis). Taking vitamin E with vitamin C by mouth seems to improve vision, but doesn’t reduce swelling, in people with uveitis.
Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting, bone metabolism, and regulating blood calcium levels. Major sources of vitamin K include green leafy vegetables, meat, poultry and eggs. The body needs vitamin K to produce prothrombin, a protein and a clotting factor that is important in blood clotting and bone metabolism. People who use blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin, should not start consuming additional vitamin K without first asking a doctor.
Without vitamin K, the body cannot produce prothrombin, a clotting factor that is necessary for blood clotting and bone metabolism.
Bone health-Vitamin K supports the maintenance of strong bones, improves bone density and decreases the risk of fractures.
Cognitive health-Increased blood levels of vitamin K have been linked with improved episodic memory in older adults.
Heart health-Vitamin K may help keep blood pressure lower by preventing mineralization, where minerals build up in the arteries. This enables the heart to pump blood freely through the body. Mineralization naturally occurs with age, and it is a major risk factor for heart disease. Adequate intake of vitamin K has also been shown to lower the risk of stroke.