A vitamin is a chemical compound necessary for the health and well-being of living organisms. The role played by vitamins in the nutrition of humans and animals was studied mostly during the early parts of the 20th century. Historically, deficiencies as manifested by diet and environment have played a significant role in the evolution of combating disease.
The word vitamin is derived from “vita,” the Latin word for life, and from the biochemical suffix “-amine,” referring to the amine groups of organic compounds, called amino acids.
List of Vitamins
What is the Most Well Known Vitamin Deficiency?
One of the most well known deficiencies was “scurvy,” caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy was prevalent in the seafaring and military communities for centuries. Common symptoms included low energy levels, depression, pale skin, and oral conditions such as bleeding gums and tooth loss. While a number of herbal remedies were formulated to alleviate the problems associated with scurvy, but in the 1800s, it was discovered that citrus juices, like lemon and lime were remarkably effective at at warding off the debilitating effects of scurvy. However, it wasn’t known at the time that the reason for this was the high level of vitamin C in the citrus.
As research developed over the next century, it was concluded that a lack of vitamins from the diet results in a dramatic decline in biological function, sometimes even causing death. Christiaan Eikjman and Frederick Hopkins, Nobel prize winners in medicine, discovered specific vitamins and vitamin sources in the 1920s, when they experimented with feeding different foods to rats.
Living organisms require specific amounts of vitamins on a daily basis. There are two kinds of vitamins: water soluble or fat soluble . The fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and E become stored by body tissue upon digestion and do not need to be consumed daily. A common fat soluble vitamin is vitamin A, which is crucial to the development of eyesight, as well as tooth and bone growth. It is commonly found in foods such as eggs and dairy products, but also in plants, such as carrots. Carrots are high in beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A when ingested into the body. Water soluble vitamins, however, such as vitamin C, are lost during the waste process, and need to be replenished each day.
In some cases, organisms are able to produce vitamins on their own. This is particularly common in plants. Other living organisms, particularly animals, must get their required vitamin dosages from food. Normal human functioning and immunity require a daily intake of approximately 15 different vitamins.
Vitamin D is one of the most easily replenished vitamins in human beings, as it is produced by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is helpful in growth, as well as in the body producing calcium, an essential mineral. Another common vitamin is vitamin B, which has been shown to improve many bodily functions. Vitamin B is one of the most complicated vitamins necessary in the human diet, as it takes on a variety of forms called complexes. The different types of vitamin B complex aid in digestion, promotion of healthy skin, and breaking down unhealthy fats.
In addition to ingesting vitamins and minerals in foods, vitamins can also be obtained through a daily regimen of multivitamin tablets. Fresh fruits, vegetablesand grains are the best sources of vitamins, but the tablets can be helpful to fill in where diet alone is not sufficient. Regular intake of essential vitamins builds up the immune system, prevents disease, and promotes overall health.