Nutrition: Vitamins and Minerals Chapter 5

The ABC's of Vitamins


Vitamin Breakdown: Water vs. Fat

As varied and numerous as their functions may be, the thirteen essential vitamins break down neatly into two categories: water-soluble and fat-soluble. “Soluble” simply means how the vitamin dissolves before its absorbed in the system. Vitamins A, D, E, and K dissolve with the help of lipids, or fats, and can be stored in cells until they’re needed. The other nine vitamins — Vitamin C and the B vitamins, which include riboflavin (B2) and folic acid (B9) — break down easily in water. Being water-soluble means the body can make fast use of these vitamins, but they can’t be stored. Unused water-soluble vitamins are cleared from the body with other liquid waste and must be replenished every day. READ MORE

AWOL Vitamins

Follow the alphabetical lettering of the vitamins and you quickly see it’s not so alphabetical at all: A, B, C, D, E, F … K? What happened to vitamins F, G, H, I and J?

Letter names were assigned to each vitamin in keeping with the chronology of their discovery, beginning with Vitamin A in 1913. Here are a few that didn’t make it into the alphabet soup:

  • Vitamin F: Two fatty acids were discovered and quickly labeled Vitamin F in 1923. But F got a downgrade in 1930 when it was determined that the acids were more appropriately grouped with the fats.

  • Vitamin G: Sometimes used to describe riboflavin, or B2. Once researchers decided that several vitamins fit matching criteria for the B family, the names changed.

  • Vitamin H: Sometimes used to describe biotin, or B7.

  • Vitamin I: Also used, although rarely, to describe biotin (B7). The letter I may also be avoided in medical nomenclature to avoid confusion with inositol, which has vital roles in the body but is not truly a vitamin.

  • Vitamin J: Sometimes used to describe choline which, although not a vitamin, is often grouped with B vitamins since it has similar functions and appears in many of the same foods.



What Vitamins Do

Vitamins are chemical compounds available in the foods that nature provides (and synthesized or distilled in vitamin supplements). Rather than working on their own, vitamins at the molecular level are cellular helpers, assisting in cell function, growth, and development. Even though vitamins are micronutrients, meaning we need them in microscopically small amounts, they are critical for the healthy metabolism of the body’s 100 trillion cells. READ MORE

Once absorbed through the digestive system and circulated in the bloodstream, each vitamin is relayed to an organ or system to help with a specific function. Each vitamin holds down several jobs, too.

Vitamins help build tissues in the body, from the lining that protects your eye to the muscles in your leg and the bone beneath them. They assist in the activity of enzymes, which are the catalysts for diverse chemical reactions in the body. They help balance hormones and relay messages to and from the brain. Vitamins strengthen and protect the functioning of the heart, brain, and lungs. And though vitamins don’t directly produce energy, they help elicit energy from the foods we consume.

Vitamins also aid in protecting the tissues they’ve helped to build. Some vitamins have antioxidant properties, meaning that they aid the immune system by blocking free radicals, which cause cellular damage. As such, vitamins are crucial in the prevention of many diseases, evident in the conditions that beset people with vitamin deficiencies. LESS

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.