Vitamins and vitamin deficiency

What are Vitamins?

The term ‘vitamin’ is a combination of the words “vital” and “amine”, meaning the “amine of life”, as the Polish biochemist C. Funk named a substance he had isolated in 1912 (thiamin). Since that substance contained an amine group (–NH2) and could be used to cure beri-beri, he assumed that similar food deficiencies could also be cured by certain amines compounds, generically called “vitamines”. This proved incorrect for the micronutrient class, and the word was shortened to vitamin, when it was realized that vitamins need not be nitrogen containing amines.


Vitamins are organic compounds required by an organism as a vital nutrient in limited amounts. Vitamins work as catalysts for certain metabolic reactions or function as co-enzymes for other processes. They assist in the process of converting food into energy; they keep cells healthy and support the immune system. The loss of any particular vitamin can hamper or block some metabolic reactions important for the human body.

Because most of these substances are not produced by the body naturally, they must come from foods and supplements. Ideally, all vitamins should come from food, but food processing, cooking and storage can have a negative impact on its vitamin content, so vitamin supplements should be added to the diet.

Essential Vitamins

There are 13 essential vitamins that are absolutely necessary for the body to function. They are vitamins A, C, D, E, K and eight types of B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12.

These vitamins are grouped into two categories: fat-soluble vitamins, which are stored in the adipose tissue (A, D, E, K) and water-soluble vitamins: the B complex and C. Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored, so any left overs from this substances leave the body through the urine. Vitamin B12 is the only water-soluble vitamin that can be stored in the liver for many years.

Each of these nutrients has a specific duty within our body, as follows:

Vitamin A (Retinol)- assists in bone development and in the functioning of all tissues, prevents respiratory diseases, improves vision and prevents cancer;

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)– controls mood and humor, helps the nervous system, promotes memory and concentration, helps growth, aids digestion of fats and sugars;

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)– allows proper growth, maintain healthy skin, nails, hair and mucous membranes and improves vision;

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)- serves to preserve the cells, aids in the production of substances needed by the body, maintains healthy skin, aids in digestion;

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)- helps convert fats and sugars into energy, to form cells for growth, heal wounds and prevent fatigue;

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)- helps growth, assists in the manufacture of  antibodies and red blood cells, prevents nervous and skin, helps in the formation of other vitamins;

Vitamin B8 (Biotin or Vitamin H)- serves to transform the fats and proteins, prevents baldness and gray hair, muscle aches and rashes controls, helps you sleep well and stay in good spirits;

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)- serves for the formation of DNA, is much needed growth, increases breast milk protects against intestinal parasites and poisoning. It is highly recommended during pregnancy to prevent anemia and malformations in fetus;

Vitamin B12 (obalamin)- serves to regenerate the bone marrow and red blood cells, helps the nervous system, improves memory, preserved in positive mood, help during menstruation;

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)– allows the growth, helps in repairing of tissue cells, gums, blood vessels, bones and teeth, protects against infectious diseases and cancer, aids in wound healing, prevents colds and respiratory illnesses;

Vitamin D (Calciferol)– important for teeth and bones, joints and helps protect the nervous system;

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)- relieves fatigue, prevents and dissolves blood clots, protects the lungs against pollution, help to heal burn wounds, prevents cramps.

Vitamin K (Menadione)- used to form proteins and aids blood clotting.

The recommended daily intake for all these vitamins is: vitamin A- 600 µg, B1- 1,4 mg, B2- 1,6 mg, B3- 18 mg, B5- 6 mg, B6- 2mg, B12- 6 µg, C- 75 mg, D- 5 µg, E-10 mg, K- 80 µg (based on a 2000 calorie intake).


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