Vitamins – how important are they for the body?
Vitamins are vital substances for the body – without them humans would neither be able to perform nor survive. Which vitamins does the body need? What is the recommended daily amount? How does a vitamin deficiency manifest itself? Are vitamin supplements useful?
Find out everything you need to know about the topic below:
Vitamins the body needs…
There are a total of 13 vitamins, four of which are fat-soluble and nine are water-soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in fatty tissue in the body. They include vitamins A, D, E and K. They are found in fats and oils as well as in many low-fat foods. The exception is vitamin E, which is mainly contained in vegetable oils.
Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, there is a risk of overdose if consumed in excess.
The body does not store water-soluble vitamins, which is why a regular, sufficient supply is important. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C, the B group vitamins, folic acid, biotin, niacin and pantothenic acid.
In contrast to fat-soluble vitamins, there is hardly any risk of an overdose with water-soluble vitamins: because the body cannot store them, if the intake is high, the excess is simply excreted via the kidneys (i.e. in the urine).
Why does the body need vitamins?
Like minerals that we also consume with food, vitamins do not provide energy. Nevertheless, without them people are neither capable of performing nor living. Because they fulfil important tasks in the body.
Vitamins are involved in the production of energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins as well as in the production of hormones, enzymes and blood cells. They help to utilize food, control numerous biochemical processes, and protect against pollutants.
Reference quantity: How many vitamins does the body need?
In order to stay healthy and productive, the body needs all vitamins in sufficient quantities. One must get most of them through food. One can produce vitamin D themselves with the help of sunlight (UVB rays). Vitamin K is also a special feature: the vitamin K absorbed through the intestine comes either from food or from the intestinal bacteria’s own production.
It is very difficult to establish reference ranges for vitamins. How much of a particular vitamin someone needs depends on numerous factors. These include, for example:
The most important vitamins at a glance
There are different vitamins that have specific tasks in the human body. While the body can produce vitamin D and niacin itself, the remaining vitamins must be obtained through food. The most important vitamins include the following:
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and is also known as retinol.
Vitamin A has its best-known effect in building and regenerating the skin. Vitamin A is also important for the eyes and helps to see well, especially at night. In addition, the vitamin is involved in the production of testosterone , the development of sperm cells, the structure of the placenta and the maturation of the foetus. The bones, cartilage and teeth also benefit from the vitamin.
Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, also helps against free radicals: these are aggressive oxygen compounds that are constantly formed in the body, for example during metabolic processes, through UV radiation, nicotine or medication.
Liver and sea fish are rich in vitamin A, as are green, yellow and red vegetables.
Vitamin B1 is a water-soluble vitamin also called thiamine.
It is important for energy metabolism – the heart muscle and the brain in particular require a lot of energy and therefore vitamin B1. It also helps with the transmission of excitation between nerves and muscles. Thiamine is also essential for the regeneration of the nervous system after illness. According to studies, thiamine may also have a relieving effect on PMS, premenstrual syndrome.
Vitamin B1 is found in abundance in whole grain products, oat flakes, wheat germ, sunflower seeds and legumes.
Vitamin B2 is one of the water-soluble vitamins and is also known as riboflavin.
It is involved in numerous metabolic reactions, for example in breathing, the metabolism of fatty and amino acids and various other vitamins.
Good sources of vitamin B2 are milk and whole grain products, but also fish and meat. Offal such as liver, yeast and certain types of cheese such as mountain cheese or Camembert are particularly rich in vitamin B2.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, also known as pyridoxine. Lobster, salmon, sardines, walnuts and sesame seeds in particular contain a lot of it.
This vitamin is involved in central metabolic processes, such as the conversion and incorporation of proteins as well as the development and protection of nerve connections. It also supports the immune system.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for cell division, blood formation and nerve function.
The need for vitamin B12 can usually be easily covered through food. Good suppliers are primarily animal products such as egg yolk, meat, fish and dairy products.
If you follow a strict vegan diet, it is important to consume enough vitamin B12. The small amounts contained in foods such as sauerkraut or fermented soy products are not enough. Dietary supplements make sense in this case. Talk to your doctor before taking.
One of the best-known vitamins is water-soluble vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid.
It has a strengthening effect on the immune system, promotes the absorption and utilization of iron in plant-based foods and intercepts free radicals, i.e. cell-damaging oxygen compounds. Vitamin C is also important for building connective tissue and wound healing.
Parsley, wild garlic, red pepper, sorrel and Brussels sprouts are particularly rich in vitamin C.
Vitamin D occupies a special position among vitamins: it can be absorbed through food as well as produced by humans themselves through exposure to sunlight. The body absorbs most of its needs from the sun, only a small part is covered by nutrition.
Vitamin D is found in cod liver oil, Gouda, herring, and chicken egg yolk. Chanterelles and morels also contribute something to the vitamin D balance. However, the body only receives enough vitamin D if you exercise regularly outdoors and soak up the sun.
Vitamin D promotes the formation and maturation of bone stem cells. It also helps absorb calcium in the intestines and ensures that bones and teeth become hard and strong.
Vitamin E is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and has an antioxidant effect. This protects the cells from free radicals. Vitamin E weakens inflammatory reactions and prevents calcification of the arteries.
It has a positive influence on memory and recall.
Wheat germ oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil are rich in vitamin E.
Vitamin K is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and occurs naturally in two versions as vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. While vitamin K1 is mainly found in green plants, vitamin K2 is produced by bacteria such as E. coli.
Vitamin K is absorbed through the intestines and transported through the blood to the liver, where it produces blood clotting factors. The most important task of the vitamin is blood clotting. It also prevents calcium deposits in blood vessels or cartilage and is involved in cell processes such as cell division. Vitamin K also inhibits bone loss in women after menopause.
Vitamin K is increasingly found in green cabbage, chives, algae and vegetable oils.
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, must be consumed in the form of folate through food.
Folic acid is necessary for the growth and reproduction of cells, especially for the formation of red (erythrocytes) and white blood cells. Pregnant women or those who are using contraception or want to become pregnant have an increased need for folic acid. In the fetus, a lack of folic acid can lead to what is known as spina bifida (“open back”).
Folic acid is found as folate in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and salads, as well as tomatoes, legumes, nuts and oranges. If you want to become pregnant or are already pregnant, you can also cover your increased folic acid needs with dietary supplements.
The human body produces the water-soluble vitamin B3 – or niacin – itself: in the liver from the amino acid tryptophan. But protein-containing foods also provide tryptophan, which the body converts accordingly.
Niacin is involved in cell division processes, the production and breakdown of carbohydrates, amino and fatty acids, and the immune response. It helps muscles regenerate and renew skin, nerves and DNA. It is also involved in digestion. It is also important for the heart and helps with high cholesterol levels and arteriosclerosis.
You can meet your niacin needs with mackerel, whole grain products, coffee, peanuts or oyster mushrooms.
Biotin is one of the water-soluble vitamins and is also called vitamin B7 or vitamin H.
It is particularly known for its positive effect on skin, hair and nails. It supports so-called keratin proteins and the growth of blood cells, sebaceous glands and nerve tissue. It also has a positive influence on cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
High amounts of biotin are found, for example, in beef liver, yeast, egg yolks, peanuts and oatmeal.
Vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin and also known as pantothenic acid. It helps to convert the food consumed into energy that the body can use and to produce substances such as cholesterol, provitamin D, bile acids and certain amino acids. Pantothenic acid also supports the formation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and the red blood pigment heme.
Good sources of vitamin B5 are yeast, liver, fish, egg yolks, grains and legumes.
In the UAE
In the dynamic landscape of health and well-being in the United Arab Emirates, vitamin consumption takes centre stage as a proactive measure towards a robust lifestyle. As residents prioritize their health, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) plays a pivotal role in guiding and regulating healthcare standards within the region.
The UAE’s multicultural society has brought together an array of dietary traditions and practices, enabling residents to explore various approaches to nutrition that enhance immunity. It’s a place where the fusion of traditional wisdom and modern science has given rise to innovative immune-boosting strategies.