People around the world pop vitamin pills daily without giving it a second thought. But most people are not sure why they do this or how exactly their bodies benefit from this daily routine.
Metabolism refers to a series of chemical reactions that perform numerous functions like converting fats and carbohydrates into energy and using proteins to repair injured tissue.
Vitamins are organic substances that act as catalysts in the metabolic processes of the body. They do not supply the body with either energy or calories directly. They work in more subtle ways ensuring the smooth running of the metabolic machine.
Most healthy women who eat a well-balanced diet do not need to take vitamin supplements. Vitamin supplements are recommended for pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, those on low-calorie diets or who consume moderate amounts of alcohol, or who are taking certain kinds of medication.
Vitamin A (Retinol): It is contained in foods like eggs, butter, whole milk, vegetables and liver. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and dry skin.
B1 (Thiamine): Foods like fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish, cereals, whole grain and bran contain this vitamin. Alcohol abuse leads to deficiency in Vitamin B1. The symptoms of this deficiency are numbness, tingling, loss of sensation and shooting pains in the extremities, especially in the legs.
B2 (Riboflavin): Foods such as liver, milk, eggs and vegetables are rich in Vitamin B2. People who are deficient in this vitamin develop dimness of vision, ulcers in their mouth and cracked lips.
B3 (Niacin or nicotinic acid): This vitamin is found in foods like cereals, whole grains, vegetables, fish and meat. Vitamin B3 deficiency could lead to weakness, diarrhoea, burning sensation on the tongue, sores in the mouth, rough skin and weight loss.
B6 (Pyridoxine): A diet of meat, vegetables and bran will maintain the levels of this vitamin. Low levels of this vitamin could cause depression, dizziness, nausea and sores in the mouth.
B12 (Cyanocobalamine): Strict vegetarians may need to supplement their diet with this vitamin as it is contained mostly in fish, meat and milk. Symptoms of deficiency are feelings of weakness, numbness and tingling in the extremities and shortness of breath.
C (Ascorbic acid): Citrus fruits and fresh vegetables supply the body with Vitamin C. While it is very unlikely for a person to have Vitamin C deficiency, it is characterised by bleeding, swollen or infected gums, and bleeding into the skin causing bruising.
D (Calciferol): Fish, egg yolks and the rays of the sun are the sources of this vitamin. Bowed legs and a deformed spine are the result of Vitamin D deficiency.
E: Whole grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables contain this vitamin. Deficiency in this vitamin is not known.
Folic acid: Pregnant women and those taking certain anticonvulsant drugs may require supplements of this vitamin. For others, a diet that includes liver, nuts, vegetables and whole wheat should provide an adequate supply of this substance. Symptoms of folic acid deficiency are sensations of weakness, numbness and tingling of fingers and toes, ulcers in the mouth and sore tongues.
K: Deficiency of this vitamin, found in vegetables, could result in bleeding.
Pantothenic acid: Liver, eggs, potatoes and vegetables supply the body with pantothenic acid. Low levels of this substance in the body manifests itself in symptoms like fatigue, loss of coordination and headaches.
Some Interesting Facts about Vitamins
- There is no evidence to show that 'natural' vitamins are better than synthetic ones.
- There is no proof that Vitamin E has a curative or restorative effect.
- It is not necessary to take vitamins if you are taking a birth control pill.
- Vitamin A cannot control or prevent acne except in very high dosages that could have toxic side effects.
- Vitamin B12 does not stimulate appetite. However, studies have shown that B12 when injected had a placebo effect giving subjects of the experiment a sense of well-being and lifting their mood.
- Vitamin B6 can help to alleviate nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy.
- Vitamins do not provide energy directly. They work behind the scenes to break down food into energy.
- The average person who eats a well-balanced diet does not require vitamin supplements.
- Cracked nails do not signify vitamin deficiency. A fungal infection to the nail or trauma to the base of the nail probably is a more likely cause.