Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Along with this folk wisdom, you might have also heard the following advice throughout your life:
- Drinking milk keeps your bones and teeth strong.
- Eat your carrots and you won’t need glasses.
- If you don’t eat enough citrus fruits, you’ll get scurvy.
However, there are solid facts behind these folksy sayings. Milk is often fortified with vitamin D. Citrus fruit like oranges have vitamin C. Carrots are rich in vitamin A which helps with vision issues. And even apples are a great source of vitamin C. Without a doubt, the importance of vitamins to human health should never be overlooked.
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic molecules or compounds which the human body needs to control a wide variety of processes and functions. Without them, we experience deficiencies that prevent us from being as healthy as we can be.
Vitamins aren’t found naturally in the body. In general, our bodies can’t produce them (except for D and K). Consequently, we get them into our bodies either through the foods we eat or through dietary supplements (1).
According to different sources (2) (3), there are 13 vitamins that the human body needs. These are vitamins A, C, D, E, K along with all the B vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyroxidine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin).
Most people can get these 13 essential vitamins from their diet. On top of that, your body can synthesize vitamin D and vitamin K. Later in this article, we’ll look at each of these vitamins in more detail.
Fat-Soluble Vs Water-Soluble Vitamins
Generally, we group vitamins into two main categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins:
- Fat-soluble vitamins – There are four fat-soluble
- vitamins (A, D, E, and K). The human body stores and transports these vitamins through fatty tissues. Since the body stores these vitamins in fat, taking too much of any of these vitamins can be harmful.
- Water-soluble vitamins – The other nine vitamins (C along with all B vitamins) are all water-soluble. Because they dissolve in water, the body removes them in your urine. As a result, the body constantly needs a new supply of these vitamins (4).
A Brief History Vitamins
Throughout human history, certain foods have been prized for their health benefits. Ancient Egyptians ate liver as a cure for night blindness. In the 1700s, British sailors began eating specific foods, notably citrus fruits, to prevent scurvy. During the 1800s, a number of nutritional studies showed that eating a variety of foods was better for overall health (5).
However, it has only been in the past century that scientists have discovered and isolated specific vitamins. Before the early 20th century, scientists only knew of the three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat (6). Not only that but as food processing technologies developed, people began unknowingly removing vitamins from foods like milk and grains.
In 1910, a Japanese scientist isolated vitamin thiamine (B1). A couple of years later, a Polish biochemist named Casimir Funk coined the word vitamine (later change to vitamin). In the following decade, scientists also isolated vitamin A, C, D, B2, and E. In 1948, B12 was the last of the 13 essential to be isolated (5).
Soon after the discovery of vitamins, news articles and magazine articles touted their benefits. Since then, the importance of vitamins has been understood by almost everyone.
Benefits of Vitamins for Different Types of People
Although it is possible for the average person to get all the vitamins they need from a balanced diet, in certain circumstances, this isn’t possible. As a result, some people with specific issues or conditions need to take vitamins. Below are a few specific groups of people who may benefit from vitamin supplements:
Due to their developmental needs, pediatricians sometimes recommend vitamin supplements for some children.
The human body changes as we age. Older people should take vitamins to promote overall health, but also to help prevent age-related health issues.
Pregnant and Nursing Women
Due to the toll pregnancy takes on a woman’s body, pregnant women often take prenatal vitamins. On top of that, nursing mothers are also encouraged to take multivitamins.
Vegetarians and Vegans
People who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet may not get enough vitamin B12 creating the need for a supplement (7).
What are the Most Popular Vitamins Today?
The importance of vitamins should not be overlooked. These days, some of the most common vitamin supplements are vitamin D, and multivitamins, vitamin C (8). Below are additional details about these and other popular vitamins (9):
- Vitamin A – These retinoids are essential for vision, skin health, growth, and development, as well as a healthy immune system. This vitamin also has antioxidant properties.
- Vitamin B – The body needs this group of vitamins for a number of reasons. B vitamins are necessary for a healthy nervous system, proper brain function, along with stress management. These vitamins perform help the body a number of other vital functions as well.
- Vitamin C – Known by many for its immune system boosting power, this vitamin also supports healthy brain function. What’s more, it is beneficial in forming connective tissue and it helps protect the skin from free radicals.
- Vitamin D – Important for bone development and immune system health.
- Vitamin E – An antioxidant that helps manufacture red blood cells, supports healthy cholesterol levels and protects against cell damage. In addition, vitamin E helps the body use vitamin A and vitamin K.
- Multivitamins – In order to get the most benefit from vitamins while only taking one tablet or capsule, multivitamins are a popular choice. These supplements contain a combination of the above vitamins and may also contain certain minerals like iron or calcium.
Learn More About Vitamins
At SMP Nutra, our goal is providing you with the highest quality nutraceuticals. What’s more, we can manufacture any custom formula with unlimited scalability. As a turnkey supplement producer, we adhere to only the highest industry standards. Contact us today to learn more about the vitamins we manufacture.