vitamins that actually work?: Fundamental things you need to know about vitamins
The answer to this question in one word might be definitely “YES”. Vitamins are effective and crucial for preserving good health. Vitamins are organic substances that the body requires in trace amounts to carry out diverse roles such as energy generation, supporting our immune system, and sustaining the growth and repair of cells. This article will elaborate on what way vitamins work for the various organ systems of the human body as well as how to acquire such important vitamins in the most efficient means.
From which roles do vitamins “play”?
Although they are seen and required in trace amounts, they are essential for the optimal functioning of the human body. What happens to your body when you start taking vitamins?
1. Vitamins as “Antioxidants”
Harmful molecules are constantly produced by our body due to the ageing process, diseases, and environmental factors such as air pollution and smoking. These harmful molecules called “Free Radicals” are neutralized by Vitamins that act as antioxidants.
By neutralizing harmful and damaging molecules from the body, vitamins C, E, and A play a vital role in maintaining the function of cells in our body reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, several forms of cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Vitamins as “Coenzymes”
Our body requires enzymes to speed up chemical reactions for all organ systems to work in optimal conditions. Some vitamins act as coenzymes which help the enzymes to function appropriately in each chemical reaction.
An Important role in energy production
Vitamin B1, B2, and B3 are important coenzymes which involve in the process of breakdown of Fat, Carbs and Proteins we consume into small usable molecules by our body. Without these vitamins, the enzymes involved in such energy production cannot work efficiently and vital organs such as the brain and the heart cannot acquire the necessary energy to function for survival.
3. Vitamins for the “Immune System”
Vitamins have important roles for the immune system mainly by two means.
Vitamins enhance the activation and production of immune cells like white blood cells, especially various forms of lymphocytes which act as a powerful defence against pathogens. For example, vitamins A, and D are important in the production of T cells and B cells which are involved in recognizing and attacking pathogens like seasonal flu and bacterial infections.
They also serve as preservers by functioning as antioxidants preventing the damage of Immune cells. For example, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect immune cells from damage caused by harmful bodily and environmental substances.
4. Vitamins for Gene Expression
Gene expression is the process by which genetic information stored in our DNA is used to synthesize proteins to carry out our bodily functions. Vitamins influence the multiplication and development of cells by binding to specific areas in the target cells. For example, Vitamin A is responsible for the skin, eyes and immune system while Vitamin D is responsible mainly for bone health.
Essential for your baby
B Vitamins such as B12 and Folate are crucial for the production of each and every cell from our body. So, their roles are crucial in the development of every organ of a fetus. Deficiency of B12 and Folate might result in birth defects like anencephaly, spina bifida and other severe anomalies.
More Research is Expected
Overall, vitamins can influence gene expression by binding to specific areas of cells and involve several processes. However, more research is expected to fully understand the complex interactions between vitamins and gene expression, and how they may contribute to human health and disease.
5. Vitamins for your Skin, Bone, and Flesh
Your body frame is made up mainly of collagens which is a protein that provides structural support for the tissues like skin, bone, tendon, and cartilage. Production of collagen is mainly supported by Vitamin C, A, D, and E by acting as coenzymes, and antioxidants and involved in gene expression as mentioned above.
How could I get these essential trace elements?
We are fortunate enough to be able to acquire such vital elements mainly by natural means.
Some vitamins such as Vitamin D can be self-synthesized by our body from sunlight while Vitamin K can be produced by the friendly bacteria from our gut.
From a balanced Diet
Several meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and nuts are rich sources of vitamins. For example,
Vitamin C: citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, strawberries, papaya, guava, tomatoes,
Vitamin A: liver, fish, dairy products, eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach
Vitamin D: fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and egg yolks, and fortified foods such as milk, cereal,
Vitamin E: seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds, nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts, vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, palm oil, and corn oil.
Vitamin K: green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts
If we can get vitamins by natural means, why do we have to take Vitamin Supplements?
Vitamin supplements can be useful when a person is unable to obtain enough of a particular vitamin from their regular diet. This could be due to a nutrient deficiency, increased nutrient needs due to certain life stages or medical conditions, or simply for convenience.
Vegans or Vegetarians
People who have difficulty obtaining enough vitamins through their diet, such as vegans or vegetarians, may have difficulty obtaining enough vitamin B12, which is primarily found in animal products. There are several vegan-friendly vitamin B12 supplements on the market.
Pregnant women require higher levels of certain vitamins, such as folate and iron, to support fetal development.
People who have gut diseases
People with certain medical conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, may have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food, making it necessary to take supplements.
Some senior citizens cannot consume a normal diet because of teeth, gum or swallowing problems. Moreover, they have become less exposed to sunlight due to immobility or being bed-bound. For such people, vitamin supplements might be beneficial
Non-Sun Exposed People
Pole-dwellers and those who do not get enough sunlight all the year-round might require vitamin D as supplements. In addition, although having enough sunlight, people in Mediterranean countries who wear fully covered clothing by religious or traditional means might also require vitamin D supplements.
Busy Bees and Travelers
People with busy lifestyles or those who travel frequently might not be able to prepare and have a balanced and healthy diet. For those people, a tablet of multivitamins might be helpful to have an optimal daily requirement of vitamins.
Vitamins Do Work; Both Positively and Negatively
Although responsible for several vital functions, too much of Vitamins can be harmful to our body. For some of their unwanted side effects and the ways to get rid of them, please check my previous article.
Vitamins do work for our body in various aspects although more accurate research is necessary for some areas. Knowing the roles and functions of vitamins, it is worth noting how to get required vitamins in the simplest and most cost-effective way. I hope this article has shed some light on the knowledge of how vitamins work as well as ways and means to acquire them, easily and efficiently.