What are Vitamins, and how do they work?

What are Vitamins, and how do they work?

Vitamins are a group of organic compounds that are required for normal body function, growth, and development. There are 13 essential vitamins —Vitamin A, C, D, E, K, and B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, etc.) and each of these vitamins has its own profile of distinct functions.

Key functions of vitamins 

  • They help support and regulate the human immune system.
  • They contribute to neurological activities, supporting the central nervous system and neurons.
  • Some vitamins are essential in erythropoiesis—the production of red blood cells.
  • Vitamins regulate how our genes are expressed, how body cells produce proteins.
  • Some vitamins facilitate ATP production. (ATP or adenosine triphosphate is the molecule that carries energy between body cells that's required for all the cellular activities in the human body.)
  • Vitamins are important for the regulation of hormones. 

Vitamins must be obtained mainly through your diet with specific food sources, sometimes with the aid of some other natural sources as vitamins cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities in your body.

This is also the reason why these particular nutrients are called essential micronutrients. 

Your body indeed requires these micronutrients in trace amounts for the optimal function of your cells, but It’s important to note that failing to get even those small quantities typically guarantees diseases with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

The indisputable relationship between your immune system and Vitamins. 

With the aid of many vitamins, you can actually build a strong immune system in your body that can fight off all sorts of germs and invaders such as bacteria and viruses. In fact, many micronutrients have long been known to have a great impact on your immune system. When it comes to the role of vitamins in the immune system, nutrients such as Vitamin D, A, C, E, and members of the B complex are known as the major micronutrients that are essential for your immune system to work at its best.

With some statistically significant clinical trial results, vitamins D and A have received a great deal of attention in recent years as these nutrients have been shown to have an indisputable relationship with your immunity. To further explain, they influence immune responses in highly specific ways promoting the function of immune cells and macrophages that help prevent many diseases including bacterial and viral respiratory infections.

Apart from that, some vitamins such as vitamin C, E, and B6, in the form of an antioxidant, also have a significant influence on your immune system. In general, vitamin A (beta-carotene), C, E are known as powerful antioxidants that regulate potentially harmful molecules called free radicals in your body.

Keep in mind that your immunity particularly depends on the intake of nutrients that can act as antioxidants as they improve certain immune responses. 

Essential vitamins: types, benefits and more, 

Vitamin A is a critical substance that's essential in human vision due to one of its component proteins that detects and absorbs light in the eyes. Deficiency in vitamin A is more common during periods of infancy and childhood. The severe form of vitamin A deficiency causes xerophthalmia — a progressive eye disease that can eventually develop into night blindness or more severe damage to the eye.

The most well-understood effect of Vitamin D is on your bones. It helps absorb minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium to maintain stronger bones. The major source of vitamin D is considered to be "direct sunlight" and when you don't get a sufficient amount of vitamin D, deficiency conditions called "rickets" and "osteomalacia" are caused.

Rickets is a condition in some children where their bones get soft and weak. They will eventually get deformed bones that can fracture easily and the same condition of weak bones in adults is called osteomalacia. 

Vitamin C, also known as L- ascorbic acid is a vital nutrient for a number of bodily functions including the formation of collagen, the proper functioning of the immune system, and the maintenance of bones, skin, teeth, and cartilage.

Vitamin C also enhances the iron absorption in your body when the two nutrients are eaten together.

As vitamin C cannot be stored in your body, you need to have a daily intake of sources that contain it. Vitamin C can easily be absorbed both in food form and in supplement form. 

Vitamin B has 8 types of vitamins known as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, folate, B6, B12, and pantothenic acid. However, vitamin B generally supports two main functions in the human body —ATP synthesis and the production of red blood cells (erythropoiesis). Some types of Vitamin B contribute to both functions while some promote one specific function. Deficiencies in Vitamin B12 and B6 can lead to anaemia — insufficient red blood cells in your blood while deficiencies in Vitamin B1, B3 lead to negative effects on mental health. 

Vitamin E mostly acts as an antioxidant that prevents free radical damage which also means that it has a crucial role to play in promoting the function of your immune system.

Many studies suggest that it can also be effective in treating and preventing diseases such as cancer, diabetics, and some cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin E is also widely used in skincare and haircare as it has skin beautifying and hair-boosting properties. This nutrient naturally occurs in many foods but it’s always available in different forms of dietary supplements with added benefits. 

Wrapping up 

And of course, it's not an easy task to fulfil the daily requirements of each nutrient or vitamin and to be consistent. It can be very challenging to plan your every single meal relying only on nutrients that can be obtained through food or natural sources. Hence, taking dietary supplements can be the easiest and safest way to fill the nutritional gap. Dietician-approved supplements can always provide you with a well-balanced dose of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that your body might not be absorbing on a day to day basis.