Many of us take vitamins since the day we know how to spell the word V-I-T-A-M-I-N. Our parents encouraged us to take vitamins. When we become an adult, we take multiple vitamins in the hope that we are somehow balancing our diet with the right vitamin.
Haven’t you always wondered what exactly is a vitamin? How does it affect our diet and body and do we really know whether we need more or less vitamins?
Well, to first understand the effects of vitamin, perhaps we first need to know what exactly is a vitamin.
The chemical compounds necessary for human life that we call vitamins have a very interesting past. Half of what we know was found through rigorous research; half simply by researching something else entirely. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the key periods of time in which our knowledge of vitamins grew.
Early scientists discovered that certain foods could cure diseases which were caused by vitamin deficiencies. Ancient Egyptians cured night blindness (a symptom of a Vitamin A deficiency) by feeding those afflicted some liver. In the 1700s, scurvy (a symptom of a Vitamin C deficiency) was treated by a prescription of citrus fruits, which are some of the most Vitamin-C rich food on the planet.
-In the year of 1906, a scientist known as Fredric Gowland Hopkins isolated certain types of food that he deemed necessary for proper human health. The term vitamin was coined as a combination of vita, denoting life, and amine, which was a compound thought to be common in all vitamins.
This compound was mistakenly thought of as common to all vitamins because scientist Cashmir Funk believed that all vitamins featured a nitrogen containing entity. This was later shown to be false, due to the fact that Vitamin C was not found to actually have any amines, so the last ‘e’ was dropped, taking away the amine connotation and leaving us with the word vitamin.
The next big breakthrough for the world of vitamins occurred in 1913, when scientists Thomas Osborne and Lafayette Mendel were researching at Yale. They discovered that butter contained a certain fat soluble compound that we would come to know as Vitamin A. Vitamin B was isolated soon afterwards in 1916 by Elmer V. McCollum.
Many of the vitamins were discovered in the early 1900s by scientists depriving animals of them. For instance, Vitamin D was discovered by a scientist who was trying to understand the disease rickets, which is a side-effect of a Vitamin D deficiency.
-Vitamin C became the first vitamin to be artificially synthesized in the year 1935.
– There are thirteen vitamins in all that we have discovered, with four of them (Vitamins A, D, E and K) being fat soluble and 9 of them (all of the B Vitamins and Vitamin C) being water soluble. The body stores up fat soluble vitamins while flushing out excess water soluble vitamins. For that reason, it’s important to not have too much of Vitamin A, D, E, or K.
-The vitamins take the odd leap between Vitamin E and Vitamin K due to the fact that a number of vitamins have been reclassified due to the fact that they bore a relation to another vitamin. For instance, there was once a Vitamin G.
This substance, with the scientific name Riboflavin, has been renamed as Vitamin B2 due to its relation in the B-Complex. Vitamin F consisted of fatty acids, which were later reclassified due to the fact that, while essential to the body, they did not sufficiently fit the guidelines for which we classify vitamins.
The different vitamins
All of the vitamins available that are labeled with a letter are important to the health of your body. In this article, we’ll cover some of the basics about vitamins A through K.
Vitamin A is a fat soluble compound which can be found in many of the different foods we eat. It is found in whole milk, eggs, carrots, peas, tomatoes, and a host of other vegetables.
Beta-carotene is one of the most active Vitamin A compounds, meaning that is the most easily utilized by our body. When the body is deficient in this important nutrient, blindness can occur. This is not a problem commonly seen in industrialized nations, as our diets are fortified with Vitamin A. In addition to aiding eyesight, Vitamin A is also useful in the fact that it helps to create white blood cells, strengthening the human immune system.
The B-vitamins consist of 8 separate compounds which are responsible for the proper functioning of several important body functions. B-vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that they are maintained in the water in our body, and periodically flushed out, requiring a more stable regimen then other vitamins. The health of the liver, mouth, skin, eyes, and hair depends greatly on a regular consumption of the B-vitamins.
In addition, the B-complex vitamins help our body to break carbohydrates down into simple glucose. Glucose is the basic sugar that our body’s cells use as fuel. You can find B-vitamins in such sources as whole grain cereal, bread, rice, meats, liver, and egg yolk.
Vitamin C is another water soluble vitamin that needs to be steadily consumed to maintain its level in the body. This vitamin helps to create collagen, a very important compound found practically everywhere inside the body. It also helps to protect Vitamin A and Vitamin E from oxidation, which is a type of damage that can decrease the vitamin’s efficiency. Vitamin C is found in most fruits and vegetables, especially the citrus fruits.
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that helps the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous, resulting in more efficient bone mineralization. This helps to promote healthy bone growth and development. Our body cannot fully realize the effects of Vitamin D without adequate sunlight.
The Vitamin D in our bodies is actually processed by our exposure to the sun, causing issues for those who cannot make it outside, such as the elderly. Luckily, in most industrialized nations, foods and beverages are fortified with Vitamin D to ensure that everyone meets their dietary needs. Fortified Vitamin D can be found in milk, cheese, butter, cream, and cereal.
Vitamin E is a compound that can be found in 8 separate forms, with the most efficient form for humans being Alpha-tocopheral. Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant, which helps our bodies fight off harmful entities known as free radicals, which attack the cell membranes in our body. This effect may be beneficial to preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin E is found in foods such as wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, peanuts, corn oil, kiwis, mangoes, broccoli, and spinach.
Last, but not least, is Vitamin K. It works in tandem with Vitamin D to help provide our bones with a sufficient method of bone mineralization. In addition, it is responsible for healthy blood clotting. A lack of Vitamin K can result in problems with normal blood clotting. Vitamin K can be found in olive oil, soybean oil, canola oil, broccoli, kale, spinach, lettuce, and mayonnaise.