Importance of Vitamins in Human body
Vitamins are a group of organic substances, chemically highly diversified, that exists in food. These are essential in minute quantities for normal growth and maintenance of life. Vitamins are required for the metabolic processes and participate in several chemical and biochemical reactions. Vitamins are usually not synthesized by the human body or mammalian cells and must be supplemented through diet. They are mostly present in fruits and vegetables. In body, their functions are highly diversified. There are mainly two types of vitamins that are water soluble; and fat soluble vitamins. In this article, the discussion will be about the description of these vitamins along with their functions, sources and the diseases related to them.
Types of vitamins:
There are two types of vitamins that are required by our body for performing different functions. These are:
Water soluble vitamins:
This type of vitamins includes all the B-group of vitamins; that include:
Cyano-cobalamin; and some other e.g , choline, inositol, pyridoxine etc.
These vitamins are essential for transfer of energy and protein metabolism. Some are concerned with formation of red blood cells.
These are regarded as natural tranquillisers or anti-stress vitamins. They are important in nerve functioning.
They are not stored in the body and excess amounts are excreted through urine. The description of water-soluble vitamins is given below:
Thiamine is also known as vitamin B-1.
It is found in all cereals, grains, watermelon, oranges, potatoes, peas, dry beans, milk and meat (especially heart, kidney and liver).
It participates in the breakdown and oxidation of glucose and pyruvic acid.
It promotes good appetite and healthy digestion.
It helps body cells to obtain energy from food and keep nerves in healthy condition.
A mild deficiency of this vitamin leads to energy shortage and impaired brain and nervous system function.
Chronic thiamine deficiency leads to a disease known as beriberi. This disease is characterized by loss of eye coordination, ataxia and mental confusion.
Riboflavin is also called vitamin B-2.
It is obtained from cereals, liver, kidney, heart, lean meat, eggs, milk, yeast, cheese and dark leafy vegetables. Nuts are also a good source.
It is important for the formation of co-enzyme flavin that is involved in the release of energy in the cell.
It helps to utilize oxygen to liberate energy from food.
It also keeps eyes healthy and the skin around mouth and nose smooth.
Riboflavin assists in digestion and helps in functioning of nervous system.
Deficiency of riboflavin causes glossitis in man. This disease is mostly characterized by swollen tongue and lips and scaliness around the corners of mouth. Its deficiency is seen in chronic alcoholics due to poor dietary habits.
Nicotinic acid or niacin is also called vitamin B-3.
Especially rich sources are liver, lean meat, poultry, fish, leafy vegetables, groundnuts, whole grain cereal and yeast etc.
It is involved in the maintenance of health of skin, tongue, digestive tract and nervous system.
It is involved in the process of cellular oxidation.
Its deficiency results in pellagra. Its symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, dermatitis (discoloration of skin) and dementia (mental disorder). Deficiency of niacin is associated with protein shortage.
Folic acid is also known as vitamin B-9.
Folic acid is present in both animal and plant food.
It is abundant in green leafy vegetables, pulses, organ meat, liver and egg yolk.
It helps in the production of nucleic acids and red blood cells.
It is also concerned with the synthesis of new cells.
The most common effect of its deficiency is on DNA synthesis. The result is megaloblastic anemia, a condition characterized by decreased production of red blood cells.
Biotin is also known as vitamin H.
It is found in egg yolk, liver, yeast, legumes, wheat germ and poultry.
It is also synthesized by bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Biotin participates as a co-enzyme in carboxylation and trans-carboxylation reactions.
It is involved in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Deficiency of biotin is seen after anti-biotic therapies which depletes the intestinal micro-flora. Its deficiency may also occur due to the excessive consumption of raw eggs.
It is also known as vitamin B-12.
It is found mainly in animal foods. Meat, liver, eggs, dairy products and seafood especially tuna, clams, crabs, mussels and oyesters are good sources.
This vitamin is also synthesized by micro-organisms in fermented vegetable products.
Cyancobalamin is involved in some enzyme symptoms in the body.
It is also necessary for healthy growth and formation of red blood cells.
Its deficiency results in pernicious anemia that may lead to poor appetite, stunted growth in children, fatigue, loss of mental energy and concentration. Neurological complications usually results from its deficiency due to progressive demyelination of nerve cells.
These are those vitamins that are soluble in fats and are supplied to the body through fat containing foods. In the body, they are stored where the fat is deposited and are excreted excessively in feces. Fat-soluble vitamins involve the vitamins:
It is an anti-infective vitamin; also known as retinol.
It is abundant in halibut liver oil, cod liver oil, liver, milk, butter, cheese and eggs.
In plant sources, it is found in carrots, spinach, mangoes, cabbage, peas and papaya as substances known as carotenoids.
It is important for eye health by participating in the formation of rhodopsin that adjusts the retina in bright and dim light.
It also helps to keep the skin smooth.
It provides resistance against the infection around linings of mouth, throat, nose and digestive tract.
It strengthens the mucosal epithelium.
Vitamin A prevents infections and helps in the body metabolism being essential for growth.
Deficiency of vit-A is generally associated with the night blindness and skin keratinization. In children, its deficiency causes retarded growth.
The natural form of vitamin-D, cholecalciferol or vitamin D-3, is closely related to cholesterol.
Its sources are fish liver oil, eggs, butter, liver and cheese.
It helps in the proper utilization of phosphorus and calcium to make the bones strong.
It is essential for growing children as well as for pregnant and lactating mothers.
Deficiency of this vitamin causes softening of bones that is known as rickets in children and osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults. In osteoporosis, there is a decrease in the bone density as calcium and phosphorus are not getting deposited in bones.
Vitamin-E is a group of substances known as tocopherols.
Good sources of vitamin-E are vegetable-oils, wheat germ, almonds and peanuts.
Cabbage, sweet potatoes and tomatoes also consist of appreciable amounts.
It acts as an anti-aging and anti-oxidant vitamin.
Due to its anti-oxidant properties mostly added to cosmetic products because it has healthy effects on skin.
It protects the heart, improves the immune system and protects against cataracts.
It also prevents cancer by destroying the free radicals that initiate the cancer.
It also works against Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin E has strong protective role against atherosclerosis by preventing oxidation of LDL.
Its anti-oxidant property prevents the formation of plaques and blood clots on arteries wall.
Chronic deficiency may result in reproductive disorders, abortions, miscarriages as well as male or female sterility. Deficiency of this vitamin may lead to degenerative changes in the blood capillaries, which can cause heart and lung diseases. High doses of vitamin-E are not found to be toxic.
Vitamin-k is antihaemorrhagic.
It protects from bleeding exclusively due to cuts and wounds or due to internal bleeding.
It helps in blood clotting and in the formation of prothrombin and other blood clotting proteins.
It is also required for the bio-formation of some proteins found in plasma, kidneys and bones.
Its deficiency will cause liver damage and a condition in which blood does not clot after an injury or operation. Excessive consumption of vitamin-k has not been known to cause any toxic effect.
So, in a nutshell vitamins either they are required in minute quantities but are essential for the body metabolism or many functions, as they are not produced by our body that’s why must be supplemented through healthy diet intake or multi-vitamin tablets.
Importance of Vitamins in Human body