The Vital Facts of Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that are required in tiny amounts. An organic compound is any molecule that contains carbon. It is called a vitamin when our bodies cannot synthesize (produce) enough or any of it. So we have to obtain it from our food.

Vitamins are classified by what they do biologically – their biological and chemical activity – and not their structure.

Vitamins are classified as water soluble (they can dissolve in water) or fat soluble (they can dissolve in fat). For humans there are 4 fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K) and 9 water-soluble (8 B vitamins and vitamin C) vitamins – a total of 13.

Water soluble vitamins need to be consumed more regularly because they are eliminated faster and are not readily stored. Urinary output is a good predictor of water soluble vitamin consumption. Several water-soluble vitamins are manufactured by bacteria.

Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestines with the help of fats (lipids). They are more likely to accumulate in the body because they are harder to eliminate quickly.

Most vitamins have many different reactions and have several different functions.

Vitamin A

  • chemical names – retinol, retinoids and carotenoids.
  • Solubility – fat.
  • Deficiency disease – Night-blindness.
  • Overdose disease – Keratomalacia (degeneration of the cornea).

Vitamin B1

  • chemical name – thiamine.
  • Solubility – water.
  • Deficiency disease – beriberi, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
  • Overdose disease – rare hypersensitive reactions resembling anaphylactic shockwhen overdose is due to injection. Drowsiness.

Vitamin B2

  • chemical name – riboflavin
  • Solubility – water
  • Deficiency disease – ariboflanisosis (mouth lesions, seborrhea, and vascularization of the cornea).
  • Overdose disease – no known complications. Excess is excreted in urine.

Vitamin B3

  • chemical name – niacin.
  • Solubility – water.
  • Deficiency disease – pellagra.
  • Overdose disease – liver damage, skin problems, and gastrointestinal complaints, plus other problems.

Vitamin B5

  • chemical name -pantothenic acid.
  • Solubility – water.
  • Deficiency disease – paresthesia (tingling, pricking, or numbness of the skin with no apparent long-term physical effect).
  • Overdose disease – none reported.

Vitamin B6

  • chemical name – pyridoxamine, pyridoxal.
  • Solubility – water.
  • Deficiency disease – anemia, peripheral neuropathy.
  • Overdose disease – nerve damage, proprioception is impaired (ability to sense stimuli within your own body is undermined).

Vitamin B7

  • chemical name – biotin.
  • Solubility – water.
  • Deficiency disease – dermatitis, enteritis.
  • Overdose disease – none reported.

Vitamin B9

  • chemical name – folinic acid.
  • Solubility – water.
  • Deficiency disease – birth defects during pregnancy, such as neural tube.
  • Overdose disease – seizure threshold possibly diminished.

Vitamin B12

  • chemical name – cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, methylcobalamin.
  • Solubility – water.
  • Deficiency disease – megaloblastic anemia (red blood cells without nucleus).
  • Overdose disease – none reported.

Vitamin C

  • chemical name – ascorbic acid.
  • Solubility – water.
  • Deficiency disease – scurvy, which can lead to a large number of complications.
  • Overdose disease – vitamin C megadosage – diarrhea, nausea, skin irritation, burning upon urination, depletion of the mineral copper, and higher risk of kidney stones.

Vitamin D

  • chemical name – ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol.
  • Solubility – fat.
  • Deficiency disease – rickets, osteomalacia (softening of bone), recent studies indicate higher risk of some cancers.
  • Overdose disease – hypervitaminosis D (headache, weakness, disturbed digestion, increased blood pressure, and tissue calcification).

Vitamin E

  • chemical name – tocotrienols.
  • Solubility – fat.
  • Deficiency disease – very rare, may include hemolytic anemia in newborn babies.
  • Overdose disease – one study reported higher risk of congestive heart failure.

Vitamin K

  • chemical name – phylloquinone, menaquinones.
  • Solubility – fat.
  • Deficiency disease – greater tendency to bleed.
  • Overdose disease – may undermine effects of warfarin.

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