What are the essential vitamins

Vitamins and their function in your body

Vitamins take on vital functions in our body, but for the most part they cannot be produced by it ourselves. We take in some vitamins as provitamins, which are later converted into the active form in our body (for example, beta-carotene becomes vitamin A). There are 13 vitamins in our body - 4 fat soluble and 9 water soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamins E, D, K and A are easily soluble in fats due to their chemical structure. That is why we only find them in our diet in fatty foods. With the exception of vitamin K, they can be stored in larger quantities in the body (liver, depot fat). Short-term supply deficits can be compensated. Fat-soluble vitamins are involved in protein synthesis.

Water soluble vitamins

Vitamin C, the B vitamins and folic acid use water as a solvent. With the exception of vitamin B12, the body cannot store them in large quantities. The body cannot compensate for a lack of intake for a long time. Water-soluble vitamins become co-enzymes in the body, the so-called "helpers of the enzymes".

Vitamin supply in Germany

Germany is not a country with a lack of vitamins - only the vitamin D intake and folic acid intake is insufficient in large parts of the population. Lighter forms of vitamin deficiency are known as hypovitaminosis, severe forms of avitaminosis. They mostly arise from malnutrition, absorption disorders (severe diarrhea) or from destruction of the intestinal flora (e.g. through antibiotics). A selection of the vitamins is considered in more detail below.

Vitamins A, C, E - the antioxidants

In metabolism arise continuously free radicals (Oxygen radicals). Free radicals are an important signal generator for adaptation processes, but can also lead to damaging chain reactions. These chain reactions lead to cell damage and are responsible for cancer and aging processes. Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E are able to "intercept" and neutralize free radicals.

Vitamin A - the "eye vitamin"

Vitamin A is an indispensable part of the process of vision. It is also an antioxidant and free radical scavenger and thus a protective factor for the skin and mucous membranes. Vitamin A is only found in animal foods, but can be formed from the precursor beta-carotene, which is found in plant-based foods. Sources of vitamin A are liver, liver sausage, tuna, egg yolks, dairy products, carrots, spinach, pumpkin and apricots. An overdose of vitamin A can have health consequences. Symptoms of overdose include headache, nausea, and vomiting, as well as peeling skin and reddening of the mucous membranes. [LINK - Article Carrots make good eyes]

Vitamin C - ascorbic acid

Vitamin C is a free radical scavenger and antioxidant. It contributes to the support of the immune function and to the development of connective tissue. Sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, acerola cherries, black currants, sea buckthorn, broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes and cabbage. Vitamin C is often used as a preservative in the food industry (ascorbic acid). The iron absorption from food is increased by vitamin C.
promoted. Symptoms of deficiency include tiredness, susceptibility to infection and scurvy.

Vitamin C deficiency - scurvy

Scurvy is known as the seafarers' disease because it used to be common among seafarers and was often their frequent cause of death. Scurvy results from a vitamin C deficiency after about 2-4 months. Symptoms include bleeding gums, poor wound healing, muscle wasting, and a high fever. In 1754 the ship's doctor James Lind recognized that scurvy could be cured with citrus fruits. Scurvy no longer occurs in modern societies of civilization.

Vitamin E.

Vitamin E acts as a radical scavenger and antioxidant in cell membranes, as it prevents the destruction of the cell walls. Due to its antioxidant properties, vitamin E is important for athletes to reduce stress-induced tissue damage. The vitamins are supposed to scavenge radicals. An early symptom of a vitamin E deficiency is a shortened life span of the red blood cells, the so-called haemolysis tendency. Good sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts, soybeans, and eggs.

Vitamin D - the prohormone

Vitamin D has hormone-like properties. It is essential for bone health, so it is a so-called bone vitamin. The vitamin takes on important functions in many other tissues. It is formed from cholesterol in the skin and kidneys through exposure to sunlight and is absorbed through food. The uptake through food is, however, less significant. Sources of vitamin D are high-fat marine fish, milk and milk products, butter, egg yolks and mushrooms. Deficiency symptoms are very diverse and range from fatigue and depression to skeletal pain. The bone deformations typical of a vitamin D deficiency occurred mainly in industrialized countries in the 19th century. In Boston at the beginning of the 20th century, around 80% of children from the poorer classes had bone deformities. It was not until 1919 that it was discovered that these symptoms of vitamin D deficiency could be prevented with cod liver oil and increased exposure to sunlight. A vitamin D deficiency is also associated with an increased incidence of type II diabetes. Finland until recently had the highest incidence of type II diabetes due to low exposure to sunlight. For a number of years, dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D there, which has reduced the incidence rate.

Vitamin D - Sun Exposure

The synthesis of vitamin D in the skin depends on the time of year, the time of day and the position of the sun. Effective vitamin D synthesis is more difficult to achieve in northern latitudes than in southern latitudes. The reason is the lower angle of incidence of the sun in northern latitudes. This must be greater than 35 ° in order to effectively stimulate vitamin production. In winter, vitamin D synthesis through the skin is hardly possible in these countries, even at lunchtime. South of the 37 ° latitude (Los Angeles, Sicily), light waves hit the earth's surface in such a way that a year-round synthesis is possible. In Germany a synthesis is only possible from March to September in the midday hours. Practical tip: "Vitamin D synthesis is possible when your shadow is shorter than you are tall." Sun exposure for at least 30 minutes is recommended.

B vitamins - participation in the metabolism

Numerous B vitamins are involved in the functioning of the metabolism. A deficiency in B vitamins can lead to decreased performance, so they are often added to energy drinks. A supply from normal food is very possible, however. Due to the increased metabolism, the need for athletes is increased.

Vitamin B12 - a particularly important B vitamin

Vitamin B12 is involved in the formation of red blood cells. Together with folic acid and vitamin B6, vitamin B12 detoxifies the amino acid homocysteine ​​in our body, which is a waste product of the metabolism. Homocysteine ​​is toxic and can damage blood vessels and nerves. Vitamin B12 also helps break down fatty acids and build up protein. Vitamin B12 can only be made using that made in the stomach Intrinsic factor be included. If there is a deficiency in this protein due to a gene mutation, vitamin B12 absorption is also not possible.

Vitamin B12 can only be produced by microorganisms. Sources of vitamin B12 are, for example, animal foods such as meat, fish and milk. It is also found in small amounts in fermented, plant-based foods such as sauerkraut or beer (yeast).

If there is a B12 deficiency, cell division in the bone marrow is disrupted. The result is anemia and degeneration of the spinal cord areas. B12 deficiency is common among vegans and vegan children; in vegetarians, the B12 supply depends on the proportion of animal products in the diet.

Folic acid (folate)

Folic acid is important for growth, development and metabolic processes as well as for hemoglobin formation. Sources of folic acid are, for example, green leafy vegetables, meat and fruits. The folic acid supply in Germany is usually too low. An undersupply can lead to increased homocysteine ​​levels and contribute to anemia in the long term. Pregnant women usually take folic acid supplements to prevent damage to embryonic development. Folic acid may increase the protective factor against colon cancer.

Vitamin supply via pills?

An adequate supply of vitamins can usually be ensured with a varied diet. Nevertheless, around one in three people in Germany takes vitamin supplements. However, vitamin supplements are only recommended in certain situations (such as folic acid for pregnant women). Since overdoses are possible with some vitamins (for example vitamin A), they should not be consumed in excess.

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