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In Focus: Vitamins - Fortify Your Knowledge

The food we eat provides more than just taste and enjoyment. It also supplies our bodies with the essential nutrients it needs. Unlike proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, vitamins do not produce energy. Instead, vitamins work in partnership with these energy-rich nutrients and help our bodies grow and function correctly. These tiny helpers have their fingers in the pie of almost every vital process. For example, they help promote healthy skin, play a role in the immune system, and are essential in the production of hormones. The human body cannot produce a sufficient amount of vitamins on its own. That's why we must supply the body with a steady amount of vitamins through the diet. The best way to get enough of the 13 essential vitamins we need is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods. Additionally, dietary supplements can also help achieve higher dietary vitamin intake.* 

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Biogena Vitamin C 500 buffered Gold
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Vitamin C in a non-acidic, stomach-friendly compound. The premium way of vitamin C supplementation**
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Biogena Vitamin B12 Liquid
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Vitamin B12 drops with 3 different vitamin B12 compounds and a pleasanly fruity taste.
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Vegan micronutrient spectrum for daily supplementation
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Premium mixture of vitamins, minerals and ubiquinol as a daily supplement in times of increased stress.**
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B-complex vitamins to support the nervous system, inner balance and a stable psyche, particularly in times of stress**
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The Discovery of the Vitamins

At the beginning of the 20th century, Polish biochemist Casimir Funk experimentally identified the dietary elements whose lack caused the deficiency disordersscurvy, rickets, pellagra, and beriberi. Beriberi was common in regions where people's primary source of calories came from "polished" rice. He gave a group of ill pigeons a substance he had extracted from rice polishings, and within 12 hours, the animals had recovered. Funk concluded that a handful of puzzling ailments arose due to deficiencies in nutrients like the ones he had found in the rice husks. He considered these substances to be vital ("vita" = life) amines, which he shortened to "vitamins."

 

Vitamins: As Essential as Air and Water

Vitamins are organic substances produced by animals and plants, which the human body needs in small amounts to function properly. Since our bodies cannot provide vitamins organically, we must obtain them from our daily diet – for the most part. That's why vitamins are also called "essential nutrients."*

No single food contains all 13 vitamins in sufficient amounts to meet the body's needs. Therefore, it is vital to eat different food types each day. Choosing an assortment within every food group throughout the week helps us ingest the whole spectrum of vitamins. It's essential to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, as well as lean sources of protein and healthy fats, such as seeds, nuts, and high-quality oils.* 

 

The Difference between Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are often called "micronutrients" because our bodies need them only in tiny amounts. Both are required for normal cell function, growth, and development. Nonetheless, these micronutrient groups differ in fundamental ways. Minerals are inorganic substances and retain their chemical structure. They occur naturally in non-living things (e.g., rock, soils) and find their way into our bodies through fluids, plants, fish, and animals.*

In contrast, vitamins are organic substances. They are brittle compounds, produced by living organisms – animals and plants – and can be broken down by cooking, storage, and exposure to air and light. So, transport, storage, and processing influence how much vitamins get transferred from food and other sources into our bodies.*

 

A Closer Look at the two types of vitamins

Nutrition experts classify vitamins based on their solubility:

  • The four fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K – are most abundant in high-fat foods and are much better absorbed when we eat them with fat. Fatty foods, like nuts and seeds and oils, are excellent sources of these vitamins. Rather than slipping quickly into the bloodstream like most water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins enter the lymph vessels before making their way into the bloodstream. In most cases, this vitamin quartet travels through the body escorted by proteins that act as carriers. When you consume more fat-soluble vitamins than you need, these vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues. Therefore, you don't have to ingest fat-soluble vitamins every single day. As additional fat-soluble vitamins are required, the body can release them from the liver and into the bloodstream. This storage ability also has its disadvantages. It's possible to overdose on fat-soluble vitamins. So, if you want to take a high dose of fat-soluble vitamins, it is advisable to consult your physician first.*

 

  • The nine water-soluble vitamins – C and the B-complex vitamins – are packed into the watery portions of the foods we eat. Unlike the fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are absorbed directly into the bloodstream as food is broken down during digestion. Up to 60 % of the human adult body consists of water, which means many of these vitamins circulate comfortably in our bodies. Contrary to popular belief, some water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin B12, can stay in the body for long periods. Nonetheless, water-soluble vitamins should be replenished almost every day.*

 

Vitamins and their Function

Every single day, our body converts food into energy, forms bones, manufactures hormones, and much, much more. To accomplish all this, our bodies need a steady supply of specific "chemical tools." These tools include the 13 essential vitamins that work intricately in concert. In the following, you will find some examples of what fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins do in the body and why it is crucial to get enough of them.*

 

Fat-Soluble Vitamins: Builder and Protector

  • Formation: Vitamin A helps promote and maintain healthy skin and mucous membranes such as in the lungs, eyes, and digestive system. Vitamin D and K are vital for healthy bone formation.*  

  • Protection: Vitamin E is the major lipid-soluble free radical scavenger in the cell antioxidant defense. Vitamin K is essential to normal blood clotting. Without Vitamin K, blood would not stick together.*

  • Interaction: Vitamins D and K work together to ensure the correct distribution of calcium in the body.* 

 

Water-Soluble Vitamins: Brain Food and Bundle of Energy

  • Formation: Vitamin C plays an essential role in the formation of collagen (an integral component of the skin, blood vessels, bone, gums, and teeth). Folic acid, as well as vitamins B6 and B12 help, produce amino acids needed for cell division. Pantothenic acid is required to manufacture important hormones.*

  • Thinking: Vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12, as well as folic acid and niacin,  helps the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system.*

  • Energy: Vitamin B1, B2, niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin are essential for energy production.*

  • Protection: Vitamin C supports the body’s defense system and maintains healthy histamine release. Adequate levels of folic acid before and during (especially during the first 3 - 4 weeks) of pregnancy are important to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus.*

 

At a Glance the Key Points About Vitamins

Here are the most important facts about vitamins:*

  • There are 13 vitamins.
  • The human body either does not produce enough of them, or it does not produce any at all.
  • Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble.
  • Different vitamins have different functions, and they are required in varying amounts.
  • Healthy food is the best source of vitamins.

 

Are We Getting Enough? A Look Into The Past, A Look Into The Present.

Centuries ago, British sailors learned what it means to experience a shortage of a certain essential vitamin. On their long sea voyages, for months they lived without fresh fruits and vegetables – the main sources of vitamin C. This shortage lead to bleeding gums and listlessness of scurvy, a disease that has often been fatal. Indeed, more than three times as many sailors died of scurvy than soldiers killed in the American Civil War.*

True vitamin deficiencies (the lack of a single vitamin leading directly to a specific ailment) are rare in the U.S. Yet, even in the "land of plenty," there are still many people that lack specific vitamins. A recent study conducted by NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) showed that nutrient deficiencies are prevalent in the U.S. For example, 95% of adults and 98% of teens have insufficient vitamin D intake, while 32% do not get enough vitamin B6. Most of the time, the individuals do not show any severe signs of deficiency, but the intake is too low to sustain optimal health and vitality.*

 

Can Vitamins Supplement a Poor Diet?

Vitamin supplements can't fully compensate for a poor diet. So, be aware that eating a wide variety of healthy foods should always come first. However, in some instances, they can play a role; when we need particularly high amounts of some vitamins, when we struggle to obtain enough from our diet or when we want to support a special vital process.*

For example, women who plan to become pregnant are advised to supplement folic acid in addition to a folate-rich diet. Absorbing enough folic acid helps reduce the risk of having a baby born with spina bifida. Also, individuals that lack enough exposure to sunlight may benefit from a vitamin D supplement or a multivitamin that contains vitamin D. Strict vegetarians should take vitamin B12, and so on, and so on.*

 

What about interactions?

Several interactions exist among vitamins and between vitamins and other dietary compounds. These may be synergetic or antagonistic, demonstrating, for example, structural dependency (e.g., cobalt in the vitamin B12 structure), protective function (e.g., vitamin C regenerates consumed vitamin E) or overlapping metabolic roles (especially B-vitamins working together in synergy). Be aware that significant antagonistic interactions do not occur with balanced low-dose multi-preparations, but usually only with specific higher vitamin doses. If you are interested in more in-depth information on vitamin-nutrient interactions, you can use the online tool: www.mikronaehrstoffcoach.com.*

Supplements that provide nutrients at recommended levels (RDAs – see the table below) do not generally interfere with medications. With one important exception: people who take anticoagulants (drugs to reduce blood clotting, such as warfarin), should speak with their physician before taking dietary supplements containing vitamin K. Also, if you are taking medication and want to take concentrated vitamin supplements (higher than RDAs), it is advisable to consult your doctor beforehand. To be on the safe side, if you are pregnant or nursing or taking prescription medication, consult your healthcare provider before taking dietary supplements.

 

Vitamins: Get What You Need

Different organizations and authorities around the world recommend different amounts of vitamins. The table below provides the daily intakes of vitamins on the latest Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) developed by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The RDA is the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all (97 to 98%) healthy individuals in a group. Recommended amounts of different types of vitamins may be expressed in the table in milligrams (mg), micrograms (mcg), or international units (IU), depending on the vitamin.

 

Vitamins

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Adequate Intake (AI) for adults ages 19 or older. Nutrients with AIs are marked with an (*)

 Vitamin A

  • Men: 900 mcg/day
  • Women: 700 mcg/day

 Vitamin D

  • Age 1-70: 15 mcg/day
    (600 IU, or international units) *
  • Age 70 and older: 20 mcg/day (800 IU) *

 Vitamin E

  • 22.4 IU/day
    (15 mg/day)

 Vitamin K

  • Men: 90 mcg/day*
  • Women: 120 mcg/day*

 Vitamin C

  • Men: 90 mg/day
  • Women: 75 mg/day

 Thiamin (vitamin B1)

  • Men: 1.2 mg/d
  • Women: 1.1 mg/d

 Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

  • Men: 1.3 mg/d
  • Women: 1.1 mg/d

 Niacin (vitamin B3)

  • Men: 16 mg/day
  • Women: 14 mg/day

 Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)

  • Men: 5 mg/d*
  • Women: 5 mg/d*

Vitamin B6

  • Men age 19-50: 1.3 mg/day
  • Men age 51 up:1.7 mg/day
  • Women age 19-50: 1.3 mg/day
  • Women age 51 up: 1.5 mg/day

 Folic acid (folate, vitamin B9)

  • Men: 400 mcg/d
  • Women: 400 mcg/d (pregnancy: 600 mcg/d; lactation: 500 mcg/d)

 Vitamin B12

  • Men: 2.4 mcg/d
  • Women: 2.4 mcg/d

 Biotin (vitamin B7)

  • Men: 30 mcg/d*
  • Women: 30 mcg/d*

 

 

Reference:

Elmadfa I, Leitzmann C (2019): Ernährung des Menschen. 6. Auflage, UTB GmbH Verlag.

https://www.mikronaehrstoffcoach.com/en/micronutrients.html , access date: 8.7.2019.

https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/vitamins-and-minerals.htm, access date: 8.7.2019.

https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/319165, access date: 8.7.2019. 

https://www.healthyfood.com/advice/the-facts-about-vitamins-and-minerals/, access date: 8.7.2019.

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/vitamins-minerals-how-much-should-you-take#3, access date: 8.7.2019.

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

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