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Vitamins for the body

Vitamins for the body

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Published by Gareth Williams
everything you need to know about vitamins for the body very impotant and essential to make the body function efficiently.
everything you need to know about vitamins for the body very impotant and essential to make the body function efficiently.

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Published by: Gareth Williams on May 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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What are vitamins?
Vitamins are molecules required by the body in small amounts for a variety of essential processes inthe body. They are classified as micro nutrients because they are normally required in smallamounts: usually a few milligrams (mg) or micrograms (μg) per day. Most vitamins cannot besynthesised by the body so must be obtained by the diet. An exception is vitamin D which can besynthesised by the action of sunlight on the skin. Small amounts of niacin (a B vitamin) can bemade from the amino acid, tryptophan.Vitamins have a diverse range of functions in the body, including:
Co-factors in enzyme activity
Antioxidants (prevent damage from freeradicals)
Pro-hormone (only vitamin D)If insufficient amounts of vitamins areavailable to the body because of a poor diet or some medical condition, such asmalabsorption disorders or inborn errorsof metabolism, a deficiency disease candevelop. Vitamin deficiency diseases arerare in the UK but still occur in some parts of the world.Vitamins have been grouped into two categories: fat soluble vitamins and water soluble vitamins.Originally vitamins were given letters (A, B, C etc.) but are now more commonly referred to bytheir names, e.g. fol ate, riboflavin.
Fat soluble vitamins
Vitamin A
Vitamin A can be obtained in 2 forms
preformed retinol (retinyl esters) found in animal derived foods
carotenoids which are mainly plant derived (beta carotene being the most abundantcarotenoid), some of which can be converted to retinol in the body; 6mg of betacarotene is equivalent to 1mg of retinol.
The total vitamin A content of the diet (from both animal and plant sources) is normally expressedas retinol equivalents (RE).Vitamin A is essential to the normal structure and function of the skin and mucous membranes suchas in the eyes, lungs and digestive system. Therefore, it is vital for vision, embryonic development,growth and cellular differentiation, and the immune system.
Vitamin A deficiency is a serious public health problem worldwide,. It can lead to night blindness(impaired adaptation to low-intensity light) and an eye condition called xerophthalmia (dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea) and eventually total blindness. Marginal deficiency contributes tochildhood susceptibility to infection, and therefore morbidity and mortality, in both developing anddeveloped countries. Vitamin A deficiency is common in many developing countries especiallyamong young children.
Food sources
Liver, whole milk, cheese, butter, margarine andmany reduced fat spreads are dietary sources of retinol. Carrots, dark green leafy vegetables andorange-coloured fruits, e.g. mangoes andapricots are dietary sources of carotenoids.
Vitamin D
Dietary vitamin D exists as either ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) or cholecalciferol (vitamin D3).Ergocalciferol (D2) is derived from the UV irradiation of the plant sterol ergosterol, which is widelydistributed in plants and fungi. (D3 ) is formed from the action of UV irradiation on 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin of animals including humans.Vitamin D is not classically a vitamin but a pro-hormone, acting as a precursor to one of thehormones involved in calcium homoeostasis. Cholecalciferol is metabolised to the active steroidhormone 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in the liver and kidney. In this form it works as a hormoneregulating the amount of calcium absorbed in the intestine. It is also essential for the absorption of  phosphorus and for normal bone mineralisation. Vitamin D is also involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation. Vitamin D is also an activator of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)and, associated with this, poor vitamin D status is linked to sarcopenia (age related loss of skeletalmuscle) which affects up to 25% of those over the age of 65 years and more than half of those over 
Deficiency of vitamin D results in poor calcification of the skeleton and hence skeletal deformity inchildren (rickets) and it leads to pain and bone fragility in adults (osteomalacia).
Oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals and margarineare the main dietary sources of vitamin D. In theUK, the law states that margarine must befortified with vitamin D (and vitamin A).Vitamin D is also often voluntarily added toreduced fat spreads, as is vitamin A. Humanmilk contains low levels of vitamin D, but infantformula is fortified with 0.001-0.0025mg/100kcal.
Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a group of eight lipid-soluble compounds synthesised by plants, tocopherols andtocotrienols. Alpha-tocopherol accounts for 90% of the vitamin E in human tissues. Vitamin E actsas an antioxidant and is required to protect cells against oxidative damage from free radicals, for example oxidation of the lipids in cell membranes. Vitamin E content in food is expressed in termsof mg equivalents based on the biological activities of the tocopherols present
Existence of dietary vitamin E deficiency is not considered to be a problem even in peopleconsuming a relatively poor diet. Deficiency only occurs in people with severe fat malabsorbtionand rare genetic disorders.
Food sources
Foods containing large amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids will generally contain large amountsof vitamin E, therefore the richest sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Sincevegetable oils are the richest source, deficiency is rare.
Vitamin K 
Vitamin K is required for the synthesis of several of proteins required for normal blood clotting and bone structure. Vitamin K is synthesised by bacteria in the large bowel and is also present in both plant and animal foods.
Deficiency is rare as vitamin K is widely available from the diet and is also provided by gut bacteria.

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