The Basic Facts About Vitamins And Minerals

Published: 20th March 2012
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The individual cells in our bodies operate much like factories. The essential building blocks of enzymes, as well as essential co-factors and energy availability, are required for cells to operate properly and ensure survival of the human body. As we now know, vitamins and minerals are essential for life-sustaining chemical reactions to occur. An essential nutrient is defined as “one that must be provided to the organism by food because it cannot be synthesized by the body at a rate sufficient to meet its needs.”

Essential nutrients vary between the different species. When critical vitamins and minerals needed for healthy cell maintenance, growth, and development are removed from the diet, deficiency symptoms eventually become apparent. Depending on body stores, symptoms of these deficiencies can occur relatively rapidly or take months to develop in humans.

Vitamins are defined as “organic substances, needed in very small amounts, that perform a specific metabolic function and must be provided in the diet of the animal.” They work as catalysts and substrates in metabolic reactions and some vitamins also function as cofactors for enzymes, assisting them to function.

Vitamins are classified into two categories: fat-soluble and watersoluble.

The fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the aid of dietary fats. Because they are stored by the body, foods containing them do not have to be eaten daily and deficiencies are slow to develop. The water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water and deficiencies develop rapidly because they are excreted from the body if taken in excess. Vitamins are usually obtained from food sources, but a few can actually be manufactured within the body.

Vitamin K, for example, is synthesized by microorganisms in the intestine, vitamin D by the skin from ultraviolet rays in sunlight, and niacin is converted from the amino acid tryptophan available in meat. Another group of essential nutrients, vitamin precursors, are chemically related to vitamins. Vitamin precursors (also known as provitamins) cannot be used until converted by the body to its active form. One example is beta-carotene, the vitamin precursor of vitamin A.16

Essential dietary minerals are chemical elements that assist in the regulation of fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve impulses. They are classified as macronutrients, micronutrients, trace minerals, and trace contaminants. Macronutrients are those minerals needed in amounts of at least 100 mg per day or more. Micronutrients are needed in amounts no higher than a few milligrams per day. Trace minerals may be essential, but no conclusive evidence has established this. Trace contaminants are minerals found in the environment that are ingested unintentionally and have no known need. Minerals are absorbed through the intestine and the body usually regulates mineral stores to keep them in balance. As a rule, excess minerals are excreted, but some drugs, medical illnesses, and dehydration can interfere with mineral balance and result in deficiencies, toxicity, and sometimes even death.

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Dr. Leroy Rebello is a well established and internationally qualified anti-aging consultant and cosmetologist from Mumbai and a director in Eternesse – the best anti aging clinic in Mumbai. He lectures in reputed Institutions such as AIIMS, JIPMER and other Medical Colleges around India. With over 10 Research Papers published in Indexed Journals, Dr. Rebello is continuously researching and developing new treatments and cures. 

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