If all our food consists of fresh, organic and natural ingredients full of vitamins and minerals, then perhaps there is no need for us to fall back on any of these supplements. Unfortunately, modern agricultural and food processing methods coupled with hectic stressful lifestyles have led to a great loss of these essential nutrients. On top of that, damaged and poisonous elements are entering our body system through the polluted air that we breathe, the contaminated water that we drink and the man-made nutrition-deficient food items that we consume.
The breakdown in our metabolic control systems results not only in many and varied chronic diseases such as diabetes but also the inability of our bodies to absorb and utilize vitamins and minerals present in our food. In view of this, vitamins and minerals supplements may be required in some individuals to maintain well-being.
Vitamins function as important co-enzymes in various metabolic processes in our body cells. Vitamins were first identified in 1932 when a Polish chemist, Casimir Funk, isolated vitamin B1 from rice. Since then, more than twenty vitamins have been identified.
Diseases arising from inadequate vitamin levels in our body have been well documented. However, what is not so well known is the sub-clinical deficiency which may contribute to the many degenerative diseases. It is said that anyone who has consumed canned foods, processed sugar or white flour has to some certain degree, deficiency disease; the extent of seriousness dependent on the proportion of such deprived food in their diets.
Modern food processing destroys many vitamins which occur in natural, optimal proportion for absorption and assimilation in our body. Attempts to enrich such food by adding vitamins often do not achieve the desired effects.
Vitamins are divided into two categories –water soluble and fat soluble. Fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K while water soluble ones are vitamins B and C.
Present emphasis on low fat diet may actually lead to deficiency of fat soluble vitamins. The body stores fat soluble vitamins in the liver and fatty tissues and this causes deficiency symptoms to be not easily noticeable; and since, fat soluble vitamins are retained in the body, excessive consumption over prolonged periods will result in toxic accumulation in the body tissues.
On the other hand, the body does not store water soluble vitamins in substantial amounts and therefore, these vitamins need to be included in our daily diet. It also means that any excess is excreted in the urine. This is the basis for the idea of expensive urine produced by people who over-consume vitamins B and C. However, high level of vitamin C in the urine may have beneficial modulating effects on the urinary tract, inhibiting and preventing urinary tract infection and inflammation.
Vitamin A’s natural form is retinol. The oxidized metabolites, retinaldehyde and retinoic acid are also biologically active. Retinaldehyde is essential for vision while retinoic acid is needed for growth and cell differentiation.
B-carotene is the most common variety in many foods with pro vitamin A activity. Rich sources of vitamin A are found in fish and liver, dark green vegetables and colored fruits. People with vitamin A deficiency may develop difficulty with vision, night blindness and hyperkeratotic skin lesions.
On the other hand, toxicity may result in increased intracranial pressure, vertigo, dry skin, cheilosis, glossitis, alopecia, bone pain, lymph node enlargement. In extreme cases, liver failure may result. High consumption of carotenoids does not result in toxic symptoms but can cause yellowing of skin.
The B Vitamins
These are a group of water soluble vitamins which plays important roles in the body’s metabolic processes including the metabolic process of carbohydrate, fats and sugar. B vitamins are synergistic and are thus more effective when taken together as a group. Thus, B complex vitamins are prepared with many different types of B vitamins. These vitamins are important for maintaining stomach and intestine muscle tone and are good for maintaining the health of liver, skin, eyes, mouth and hair.