Vitamins are required for normal growth, metabolism and good health. Their task is to metabolize other nutrients to provide energy and start reactions in the body. They are found in fruits, vegetables and other food, but may be missing due to a number of reasons. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommends a bare minimum requirement of vitamin supplements to prevent deficiencies.
There are two kinds of vitamins classified according to their solubility. The fat soluble vitamins are A, E, D and K, and can be stored in the body. They contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The water soluble vitamins contain nitrogen, and sometimes sulfur, in addition to these three. Water soluble vitamins include vitamin C or ascorbic acid and vitamins of the B group: thiamine or vitamin B1, riboflavin or vitamin B2, niacin or vitamin B3, pantothenic acid or vitamin B5, pyridoxine or vitamin B6, biotin or vitamin B7, folate/folic acid or vitamin B9 and vitamin B12. They cannot be stored in the body.
It is important to be aware of the multiple functions of vitamins and effects of deficiencies to understand the role of vitamin supplements. Vitamins allow nutrients to be digested and absorbed and convert carbohydrates and fats into energy. They help to metabolize nutrients, produce antibodies to strengthen immunity and develop resistance to diseases. Vitamins strengthen cells, bind tissues, form bones, blood cells and genetic material, hormones and chemicals of the nervous system and combine with proteins to produce enzymes. Each group of vitamins performs more specific roles.
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