Importance Of Vitamins

Vitamins enable our bodies to grow and develop. Vitamins are organic chemical compound that is not synthesised within an organism, they must be gained through diet. Different organisms require different vitamins, in different quantities, in order to function.

There are 13 essential vitamins which help us to regulate our metabolism, maintain our immunity to diseases and to control digestion. Deficiencies in specific vitamins can produce diseases which cause death and serious pain. Vitamin C deficiency can turn into scurvy- commonly known from pirating times when long periods at sea meant fresh vegetables were in short supply. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness- carrots are a good source of vitamin A hence the folk tales about pilots eating carrots to see in the dark.

The largest number of vitamins come from the B complex. They function as precursors for enzymes which are essential catalysts in metabolism. Without them it would be impossible to break down fatty acids. We have to eat the right things in order to eat at all is the lesson we can take away from the B complex.

Not all vitamins are obtained through diet. Microorganisms in the intestine produce vitamin K and biotin. Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin with the aid of sunlight’s natural ultraviolet wavelength- people living in areas with low sunlight hours may have to take supplements in order to make up for the natural dearth. Another way of producing vitamins is to consume precursors; vitamin A can be produced through consumption of beta carotene and niacin.

Our bodies are incredibly complex organisms which require a delicate balance of vitamins and hormones in order to function properly. We are still learning and discovering how different vitamins relate to each other and the myriad of chemicals within our bodies. Supplements are often touted as a quick way to health, but we are still not sure of the virtues compared to eating a healthy balanced diet.

Too much of a good thing can be harmful however, vitamin poisoning as a result of overdosing on vitamin supplements does occur. The side effects can include nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. Government regulation often place dietary supplements as foods not as drugs. As such regulation of these supplements is limited and testing has to be less stringent. While few instances of vitamin overdosing are life threatening, the possibility to overdose highlights the delicate balance within our bodies and the impact of not knowing enough about vitamins.

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