Everyone knows vitamins are essential for a healthy body. Vitamins are required for humans and animals for normal growth, reproduction and maintenance. But how much do you know about vitamins?
Vitamins were discovered in 1906 by English biochemist Sir F.G. Hopkins. He found that most foods contain extra substances necessary for health. The word comes from the term vitamine from the Polish-American biochemist Casimir Funk. In 1912 Hopkins and Funk formulated the vitamin hypothesis of deficiency disease or the theory that certain diseases are caused by a lack of specific vitamins in the diet.
Originally vitamins were only seen as a preventative against deficiency diseases. Now studies have found there are additional benefits from vitamins. Many of today’s food products have added vitamins.
You might know that vitamins are classified by their solubility in water or fats. They are usually classified alphabetically as well. The fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K and the B complex and C vitamins are classified as water-soluble. You may not have heard of the vitamin P group that decrease blood capillary fragility since they are no longer considered vitamins.
Lets look at some of the vitamins and their roles.
Vitamin A is known as retinal and is a fat-soluble lipid. It is essentially for skeletal growth and normal reproduction. It is also important to the health of the skin and mucus membranes. A deficiency can cause night blindness, abnormalities of the skin, and susceptibility to serious infection.
There are several vitamins in the Vitamin B complex group.
Thiamine or B1 is a factor in the maintenance of the appetite, normal function of the intestines, and the health of the cardiovascular and nervous systems. A deficiency could lead to beriberi.
Riboflavin or B2 is important to oxidation of the cells. A deficiency leads to inflammation of the tongue, skin disease and severe irritation of the eyes.
Niacin is known to prevent pellagra. In 1912 an American medical researcher, Joseph Goldberger found pellagra as a result of the niacin deficiency. The amino acid tryptophan is the predecessor of niacin. A deficiency can cause skin disease, diarrhea, dementia and death while a deficiency in dogs can cause black-tongue disease.
Phosphorous or B6 is necessary in the metabolism of amino acids, glucose and fatty acids. Deficiency can affect the central nervous systems such as causing convulsions in infants, inadequate growth and weight loss or anemia.
Pantothenic acid, another B vitamin, is a component important to coenzyme A. The adrenal glands are important to pantothenic acid activity. There are no known deficiencies.
Biotin aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and amino acids. No known deficiencies have been found.
Folic acid directly affects the synthesis of nucleic acids. Inadequate amounts of folic acid in pregnant women can lead spina bifida in newborns.
Vitamin C is the most common vitamin. It was first found in citrus fruits by American biochemists Albert Szent-Gyorgyi and Charles King in 1928-1933. It is necessary for the synthesis of the body’s collagen, dentin, cartilage and bone matrix. It’s also an antioxidant that’s necessary for many metabolic processes. A deficiency can result in scurvy.
Vitamin D is actually hormones but continues to be classified as vitamins. It plays a role in the metabolism of calcium and phosphorous and prevents rickets in children. Deficiency symptoms in children include knock-knees, bowlegs, and more severe crippling deformations of the bones. In adults the deficiency can result in a softening of the bones.
Vitamin E is necessary for cell membrane maintenance. It’s a strong antioxidant and many studies have found it is effective against arterial plaque buildup and cancer. It also is helpful in preventing problems specific to premature babies.
Vitamin K is essential to blood clotting. Danish biochemist Henrik Dam identified Vitamin K in 1934. A deficiency leads to slow blood clotting and hemorrhaging of tissues. It can cause hemorrhagic disease in infants and liver damage.
Vitamins are essential for the human body to remain healthy and the little known facts could help you prevent health problems.