Our knowledge of vitamins, so essential to your health, is still incomplete. Generally, what do they do? Vitamins – as also do minerals, and considered in a later article – can do the following: lower your risk for infection and cancer; increase energy and lower weight; lower risks for heart attacks; strengthen bones; and assist in healthy pregnancies. In other words, vitamins can keep healthy, all of the ten bodily systems that keep you functioning, for example: the skeletal, digestive, circulatory, muscular, endocrine, etc.
A more detailed, simple yet incisive understanding on human nutrition is also provided on video and titled, Vitamins and Minerals Demystified. The keynote speaker, Dr. Steve Blake, is one of America’s key professionals and authors on nutrition (www.naturalhealthhazards.com).
His lecture, cited and referenced, is one of a series of a splendid 75 on a vast array of topics on human nutrition. This series is organized by the Vegetation Society of Hawaii. Its archive is freely available on their website: www.vsh.org/videos
Summed up, a short primer on human nutrition could be thus: carbohydrates, fats and proteins contain energy our bodies need. However, this available energy becomes useable, only with the joint efforts of enzymes and co-enzymes (vitamins). To further maximize the benefits of this energy, and of the agents that spark them, you also need air, water, and topsoil.
So, the energy you need is stored in carbs, fats and proteins. So far, so good. However, all this energy, stored in these foods, some nutrient-dense (healthy), others caloric-dense (unhealthy) remain unavailable for your use until the thumb & finger of vitamins & minerals, turn the ignition key of the enzymes. This ignites and burns the fuel stored in the carbs, fats, and proteins. Through this miracle of biochemistry we get our energy: to be, or not to be.
In addition to the carb-fuel and the enzyme-spark, you need liquids (water, blood) for lubrication and transport; oxygen for metabolism; and topsoil for providing everything we consume and are.
Now, to focus on vitamins. These come in two categories: water-soluble, and fat-solubles. Collectively, they comprise the alphabet: of Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K.
The water-solubles (9), are the B-complex of vitamins & Vitamin C. These are further sub-divided into:
i. Vitamin B1 or Thiamin;
ii. Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin;
iii. Vitamin B3 or Niacin;
iv. Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid & Biothin;
v. Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine & Folate (synthetic form, Folic Acid);
vi. Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin.
vii. And Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid.
The fat-soluble Vitamins (4) are:
viii. Vitamin A, Retinol
ix. Vitamin D, Cholecalciferol
x. Vitamin E, Alpha-tocopherol
xi. Vitamin K, Phylloquoinone, phytomenadione, or phytonadione
Summarized by the online magazine, Vitamins for Health, “There are thirteen vitamins in total that have been discovered. Four of them (Vitamins A, D, E & K) as fat-solubles are usable, only in the presence of fats. Unlike these, nine of the others (all the B Vitamins and C) are soluble in water (water-soluble).
“However, since your body retains the fat soluble vitamins longer, while it can daily flush out any excess of the water-solubles, you should never exceed the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of the fat-solubles A, D, E, K.”
In short, while the water-soluble vitamins are good guys which, if abused, will remain good guys; the fat-soluble vitamins remain good guys as long as they are not abused!
Deficiencies of all these vitamins can be affected by factors that are demographic (poverty, age), characteristic (vegan/vegetarian/cultural), and physiologic (mal-absorption).
Vitamins as chemical structures are essential to biological life; in other words, to your health and life. Yet, being a mammal – unlike the big carnivores – your body is generally unable to make these internally – except for Niacin – and relies on external agents or vectors to provide them. We also manufacture the synthetic Folic Acid (Vitamin B6) from the natural Folate.
As essential, too, as vitamins are to you, knowledge of them, their structures and functions were, until recently, vague. Some cultures though, were generally able to associate and apply some of their curative benefits to some ailments. This should not be surprising since the history of our knowledge of vitamins is still quite incomplete. The ancient Egyptians knew, not knowing why, that eating liver – Vitamin A – assisted those who suffered from night blindness.
In the 1700s, sailors and others denied fresh fruit for prolonged periods suffered from scurvy. Fresh fruits, citrus like limes – providing Vitamin C – were used as a cure. In 1900 Britain, doctors attending children stricken with rickets, realised the curative effects of sunlight – m providing Vitamin D – to individuals who were confined indoors for prolonged periods. And while knowledge has grown – for example, the first synthetic vitamin was manufactured in 1936 – our knowledge of vitamins continues to grow.
To conclude, vitamins are the chemical fingers used to turn the door-key of enzymes which unlock the pantry of food-fuel in your house of health. With these fingers, the available fuel becomes usable. Without them, the available fuel remains unusable.
TO BE CONTINUED: Vitamins: their risks and benefits to your health. www.antioxidantniche.com