For example, very high doses of B6—many times the recommended amount of 1. Rather than slipping easily into the bloodstream like most water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins gain entry to the blood via lymph channels in the intestinal wall see illustration.
Many fat-soluble vitamins travel through the body only under escort by proteins that act as carriers. Fatty foods and oils are reservoirs for the four fat-soluble vitamins. Within your body, fat tissues and the liver act as the main holding pens for these vitamins and release them as needed. To some extent, you can think of these vitamins as time-release micronutrients.
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Your body squirrels away the excess and doles it out gradually to meet your needs. Together this vitamin quartet helps keep your eyes, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system in good repair. Here are some of the other essential roles these vitamins play:. Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body for long periods, toxic levels can build up. This is most likely to happen if you take supplements. The body needs, and stores, fairly large amounts of the major minerals.
Major minerals travel through the body in various ways. Potassium, for example, is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, where it circulates freely and is excreted by the kidneys, much like a water-soluble vitamin.
Calcium is more like a fat-soluble vitamin because it requires a carrier for absorption and transport. One of the key tasks of major minerals is to maintain the proper balance of water in the body. Sodium, chloride, and potassium take the lead in doing this. Three other major minerals—calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium—are important for healthy bones. Sulfur helps stabilize protein structures, including some of those that make up hair, skin, and nails.
Having too much of one major mineral can result in a deficiency of another. These sorts of imbalances are usually caused by overloads from supplements, not food sources. Here are two examples:. A thimble could easily contain the distillation of all the trace minerals normally found in your body.
Yet their contributions are just as essential as those of major minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, which each account for more than a pound of your body weight. The other trace minerals perform equally vital jobs, such as helping to block damage to body cells and forming parts of key enzymes or enhancing their activity. Trace minerals interact with one another, sometimes in ways that can trigger imbalances. Too much of one can cause or contribute to a deficiency of another.
Here are some examples:. Antioxidant is a catchall term for any compound that can counteract unstable molecules such as free radicals that damage DNA, cell membranes, and other parts of cells. Your body cells naturally produce plenty of antioxidants to put on patrol. The foods you eat—and, perhaps, some of the supplements you take—are another source of antioxidant compounds.
Vitamins: Their Functions and Sources | HealthLink BC
Carotenoids such as lycopene in tomatoes and lutein in kale and flavonoids such as anthocyanins in blueberries, quercetin in apples and onions, and catechins in green tea are antioxidants. The vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium also have antioxidant properties. Free radicals are a natural byproduct of energy metabolism and are also generated by ultraviolet rays, tobacco smoke, and air pollution. They lack a full complement of electrons, which makes them unstable, so they steal electrons from other molecules, damaging those molecules in the process. Free radicals have a well-deserved reputation for causing cellular damage.
But they can be helpful, too. When immune system cells muster to fight intruders, the oxygen they use spins off an army of free radicals that destroys viruses, bacteria, and damaged body cells in an oxidative burst. Vitamin C can then disarm the free radicals.
Antioxidants are able to neutralize marauders such as free radicals by giving up some of their own electrons. When a vitamin C or E molecule makes this sacrifice, it may allow a crucial protein, gene, or cell membrane to escape damage. This helps break a chain reaction that can affect many other cells.
Vitamins: Their Functions and Sources
Each of the nutrients that has antioxidant properties also has numerous other aspects and should be considered individually. The context is also important—in some settings, for example, vitamin C is an antioxidant, and in others it can be a pro-oxidant. Articles and advertisements have touted antioxidants as a way to help slow aging, fend off heart disease, improve flagging vision, and curb cancer.
And laboratory studies and many large-scale observational trials the type that query people about their eating habits and supplement use and then track their disease patterns have noted benefits from diets rich in certain antioxidants and, in some cases, from antioxidant supplements. But results from randomized controlled trials in which people are assigned to take specific nutrients or a placebo have failed to back up many of these claims.
One study that pooled results from 68 randomized trials with over , participants found that people who were given vitamin E, beta carotene, and vitamin A had a higher risk of death than those who took a placebo. There appeared to be no effect from vitamin C pills and a small reduction in mortality from selenium, but further research on these nutrients is needed. These findings suggest little overall benefit of the antioxidants in pill form. On the other hand, many studies show that people who consume higher levels of these antioxidants in food have a lower risk of many diseases.
Vitamins & Dietary Supplements
The bottom line? Helps convert food into energy. Needed for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain and is critical for nerve function. Pork chops, brown rice, ham, soymilk, watermelons, acorn squash.
What are Vitamins?
Most nutritious foods have some thiamin. Needed for healthy skin, hair, blood, and brain. Milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, meats, green leafy vegetables, whole and enriched grains and cereals. Most Americans get enough of this nutrient. Essential for healthy skin, blood cells, brain, and nervous system. Meat, poultry, fish, fortified and whole grains, mushrooms, potatoes, peanut butter.
Niacin occurs naturally in food and can also be made by your body from the amino acid tryptophan, with the help of B 6. Helps make lipids fats , neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, and hemoglobin. Wide variety of nutritious foods, including chicken, egg yolk, whole grains, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, tomato products. Deficiency causes burning feet and other neurologic symptoms.
Aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may reduce the risk of heart diseaseHelps convert tryptophan to niacin and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays key roles in sleep, appetite, and moods. Helps make red blood cells Influences cognitive abilities and immune function. Meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu and other soy products, potatoes, noncitrus fruits such as bananas and watermelons. Many people don't get enough of this nutrient. Aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may lower the risk of heart disease.
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Assists in making new cells and breaking down some fatty acids and amino acids. Protects nerve cells and encourages their normal growth Helps make red blood cells and DNA. Meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, fortified cereals, fortified soymilk. Some people, particularly older adults, are deficient in vitamin B 12 because they have trouble absorbing this vitamin from food. Those on a vegan or vegetarian diet often don't get enough B 12 as it's mostly found in animal products.
They may need to take supplements.