What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are the organic compound, which helps in performing the biological functions of a living organism. Vitamins are referred to as an organic compound as it comprises one or more atoms of carbon and they are vital nutrients, which are required in a minimum quantity. This organic compound helps in maintaining the optimum growth of an individual. The nutrition source – vitamins are needed in minimal amounts, as their degradation is prolonged.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it was realised that the diet containing purified proteins, fat, carbohydrates and minerals was not sufficient to maintain an individual’s proper growth. An English biochemist “Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins” was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering vitamins in 1929.
Vitamine is a Greek word – “vita”- life and “amine”- refers to the compound found in thiamine, which was isolated from husks of rice and later it was shortened to vitamin. Later in 1915, two scientists named “McCollum” and “Davis” introduced the usage of vitamin A, B, C.
Before discovering vitamin A, B, C, these scientists assumed that there were only two vitamins- Vitamin A and Vitamin B. Later, a water-soluble and anti-scurvy factor named vitamin C was discovered.
CLASSIFICATION OF VITAMINS
Vitamins are of two types. Based on their solubility and other features, these organic compounds are classified into:
- Water-Soluble Vitamins. Vitamin B and C.
- Fat-Soluble Vitamins –Vitamin A, D, E and K.
SOURCES OF VITAMINS
Vitamins may be defined as a group of organic substances, essentially required only in smaller amounts to perform specific biological functions. These biological molecules are abundantly found in:
- Milk, cheese, egg, liver, red meat, poultry, fish oils and other animal products.
- Apricots, peaches, papayas, mangos, berries, kiwi, guava, grapefruit, orange, bananas and other fruits.
- Leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, vegetable oils, mushrooms, broccoli, beans and other vegetables.
- Cereals and pulses including, whole grains, seeds, nuts, fortified hot and cold cereals, pasta, dried beans, soy foods, peas, peanuts, lentil and other legumes.
IMPORTANCE OF VITAMINS
Vitamins are essential nutrients as they perform several crucial roles in the body. Vitamins are very much necessary for maintaining:
- Proper vision
- Proper growth
- Good and healthy skin
- Healthy immune system
- Healthy bones, teeth and gums
- Proper functioning of nerve cells
- Growth and development of cells
- The production and synthesis of both RBC and WBC
Vitamins are called micronutrients because our body requires only minute amounts of vitamins compared to macronutrients. This is because our body cells can produce or synthesize vitamins on their own. Similar to semi autonomous cell organelles, which can produce proteins required for their functioning. Similarly, skin and other cells in the human body can synthesise specific vitamins to some extent. Other vitamins synthesis by a human body are:
- Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight
- vitamin K and biotin are synthesised by bacteria living in the gut.
- Niacin, a form of vitamin B3, can be synthesised from the amino acid tryptophan.
Different vitamins have different functions in our body. Deficiencies of these vitamins cause several deficiency diseases. There are thirteen different types of vitamins and all are required for the metabolic processes.
These were some crucial facts and information about vitamins.
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