Vitamins are necessary only in small doses, and must be present in the food we eat, because our bodies are not able to produce them. They do not represent a source of energy but are indispensable for growth and our vital functions. Vitamins are divided in two categories liposoluble, i.e. soluble in fat (vitamins A, D, E, K), which arc transported by lipids, and can thus be stored by the human body, and water-solubles, which tend to dissolve in water and can therefore not be stored in the organism, but must be assimilated daily in foods (vitamins of the B group, vitamin C,folic acid, niacin).
Amongst the principal vitamins, we point out:
VITAMIN A (RETINENE). It comes from carotene, which is liposoluble, and is transformed into a vitamin in the intestines. It is essential for delaying the ageing process, because it is an antioxidant, i.e. acts against free radicals, which are responsible for tumours and for ageing. When this vitamin is lacking, the skin becomes wrinkly and dry, and there may be signs of ageing and dermatitis on the skin. Moreover, vitamin A is also recommended for defects of vision characterised by reduced visual capacity in faint light or at night (nyctalopia).
It is found in carrots and in most green and yellow vegetables, in liver and cod-liver oil, eggs, milk and dairy products.
VITAMIN B COMPLEX. These vitamins help fight against stress and nervous exhaustion. They are necessary in the event of a prolonged use of medication, such as antibiotics, in case of fatigue, alcoholism, and diets in which an overabundance of refined foods are consumed to the detriment of other fundamental nutrients, such as vegetables and meat. In this group, the most important ones include:
VITAMIN B1 (THIAMINE). Is useful in the event of a lack of energy, chronic fatigue, irritability, and depression; it also helps in fighting against daily stress. It can help those who suffer from nightmares. a symptom that indicates neurological disorders, which this vitamin can reduce, is a tingling or burning sensation in the fingers. In addition to affecting the nervous system, a lack of this vitamin may induce disorders in the functioning of the heart and intestines.
It is found in whole grains, in bread, pasta, yeast and in pork. VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN). Helps release energy from foods and promotes healthy skin and eyes. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to redness of the eyes, conjunctivitis and cataracts, in addition to inflammation of the tongue. The skin around the nose and cheeks may appear scaly, and ulcerations may form at the corners of the mouth.
It is found in brewer’s yeast, milk, meat, liver and in green vegetables. VITAMIN BS (PANTOTHENIC ACID). Is useful for metabolising proteins, fats and carbohydrates, for the production of hormones and protection of the skin, hair and nervous system. A deficiency may cause seborrhoea.
It is found in yeast, whole grains, liver, egg yolks, legumes, fish, nuts and green vegetables.
VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE). Is needed for metabolising foods, particularly proteins, and for synthesising DNA and RNA.
It promotes the production of red blood cells. A deficiency may cause skin damage.
It is contained in cereals, soy flour, meat, liver and legumes. VITAMIN B12 (CYANOCOBALAMIN). Is needed to protect against pernicious anaemia, to maintain normal neural function and for growing.
A deficiency may cause damage to the nervous system, leading to tingling in the fingers and even to severe damage to the nerves, if the material that surrounds them starts to degenerate. This may lead to apathy, mood swings and disorders, paranoia, and, in the most severe cases, to weakness, stuttering and tremors.
This vitamin is found in meat, fish, milk and shellfish.
FOLIC ACID. Is used in the synthesis of nucleic acids and the production of red blood cells. A deficiency of this substance may lead to anemia.
It is found mainly in wheat germ, yeast, green vegetables (cabbage, spinach), in turnips, bran, liver and kidneys.
VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID). Is an antioxidant and antitoxin.
It increases the defences of the organism against infections, lends greater resistance to the lining of the blood vessels, the bones and teeth, and aids in the absorption of iron. It also contributes to producing collagen. A deficiency can cause scurvy, bleeding of the gums, and cracked skin.
It is found in citrus fruits, kiwis, peppers, tomatoes, and even in milk.
VITAMIN D (CALCIFEROL). Is essential for normal growth and teeth formation, since it enables calcium to be absorbed by the bones. A deficiency can lead to rickets in small children and to a serious fragility of the bones in adults (osteomalacia).
This vitamin is found in milk, butter, eggs, cod-liver oil, and tuna fish, and is synthesised as a result of exposure to light rays.
VITAMIN E (TOCOPHEROL). Is, like vitamin A, an antioxidant, that protects the cells of the body from free radicals and from the ageing process, Moreover, it increases the fluidity of the blood and is very useful in legs made heavy and tired by poor circulation. Vitamin E stimulates the immune system and helps maintain the proper functioning of the heart and muscles. A deficiency may lead to a dysfunctional metabolism.
It is found in green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, olive oil, vegetable oils, eggs and liver.
VITAMIN K. Is essential for the proper coagulation of the blood and to fight against hemorrhages.
It is contained in liver, soy beans, green leafy vegetables (broccoli, Savoy lettuce, cabbage), and in milk.
VITAMIN PP (NIACIN). Has an important role in the metabolism of sugars, and is used for reactions that release energy. A deficiency may cause dermatitis and a characteristic illness, called pellagra. It is found in meat, fish, yeast, bran and in vegetables.