Deutsch: Vitamin / Español: Vitamina / Português: Vitamina / Français: Vitamine / Italiano: Vitamina

Vitamin is an organic compound and an essential nutrient that an organism requires in limited amounts. An organic chemical compound (or related set of compounds) is called a vitamin when the organism cannot synthesize the compound in sufficient quantities, and it must be obtained through the diet; thus, the term vitamin is conditional upon the circumstances and the particular organism.

Description

Vitamins are organic compounds that are crucial to maintaining metabolic processes and are required in small quantities for a healthy body. Unlike macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which are needed in large quantities, vitamins are required in smaller amounts. Vitamins do not provide energy themselves but help facilitate the energy-releasing processes from other nutrients, acting as catalysts.

There are thirteen essential vitamins that humans require from their dietary intake to maintain health, divided into two categories based on their solubility:

  • Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are stored in the body’s fatty tissue and liver, and can be retained for longer periods.
  • Water-soluble vitamins (C and all B vitamins) must be replenished regularly as they are not stored in the body.

Historically, the discovery of vitamins began in the early 20th century when diseases like scurvy and rickets were linked to vitamin deficiencies. Vitamins are found in various foods; a balanced diet usually provides all the vitamins a person needs.

Application Areas

Vitamins have a broad range of applications in food and health sectors:

  • Prevention of Deficiencies: Regular intake of necessary vitamins prevents conditions such as night blindness, beriberi, scurvy, and rickets.
  • Food Fortification: Adding vitamins to common foods such as bread, milk, and salt to prevent large-scale deficiencies in general populations.
  • Supplements: Especially in cases where dietary intake might not be sufficient.

Well-Known Examples

The impact of vitamins on health can be illustrated by several key functions and sources:

  • Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and is naturally obtained from sunlight exposure besides food sources like fish and dairy products.
  • Vitamin C is essential for the immune system and is abundant in citrus fruits and vegetables.
  • B Vitamins are vital for energy production and are found in whole grains, meats, and fruits.

Treatment and Risks

While deficiencies in vitamins can lead to serious health issues, excessive intake (particularly of fat-soluble vitamins) can cause toxicity. Balance is crucial, and most people can achieve this through a healthy diet rather than relying on supplements.

Recipes

Incorporating a variety of vitamins in meals can be both healthful and delicious:

Similar Terms

  • Nutrients
  • Minerals
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Macronutrients
  • Micronutrients

Weblinks

Summary

Vitamins are essential organic compounds that support various bodily functions, including metabolic processes and the prevention of certain diseases. They are categorized into fat-soluble and water-soluble types, each with specific roles and dietary sources. Proper intake of vitamins is critical for health, and while supplements are available, a balanced diet is usually sufficient to meet nutritional needs.

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