What Are Vitamins?
The chemical substances required for the adequate functioning of the human body are traditionally divided into six main nutrients groups, namely carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Amongst these nutrients, vitamins are found to play a very important role in our metabolism.
One thing to understand here is that despite being of utmost importance to us, our body is unable to synthesize vitamins. The only to obtain them is via food. This explains the importance of a balanced diet and also the fact that deficiencies involving most of the vitamins along with all the serious complications occurring secondary to it mostly occur in the areas deprived of the nutrition due to poverty.
What Are the Main Types of Vitamins?
Vitamins can be divided into two main categories.
- Fat Soluble Vitamins: The four vitamins included in this group are Vitamin A, D, E, and K. The remaining part of these fat-soluble vitamins after they have performed their desired function is stored in different tissues of the body tissues.
- Water Soluble Vitamins: Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex containing nine vitamins namely thiamine, B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobalamin), Folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin and choline, PABA, and inositol are all included in this group. With the exception of vitamin B6 and B12, these vitamins having once absorbed and performed their desired function are readily removed from the body in urine.
Importance of Vitamin A (functions)
Maintenance of the skin integrity, vision, an adequate immune system along with an important role in growth and development are some of the scientifically established functions of vitamin A as discussed here.
An adequate amount of vitamin A is responsible for normal vision. The retinal form of vitamin A combines with a specialized protein called opsin in the photosensitive cells of the retina to make a chemical substance called rhodopsin. Rhodopsin in the simplest words acts as a receptor for light, thereby activating the whole pathway that makes us able to perceive an image.
The retinol form vitamin A is found to promote the growth and maintain the integrity of the epithelial cells. Preparations containing vitamin A have also been successfully used in the treatment of dermatologic diseases such as psoriasis and acne.
Enhancement of the Immune System
Vitamin A is found to strengthen the immune system. It is obvious from the fact that vitamin a deficient kids suffering from measles are more likely to suffer from lethal complications of the problem and a simple vitamin A supplementation is found to significantly reduce the mortality in these patients.
Common Sources of Vitamin A
Vitamin A comes in two main forms depending upon the source of origin, whether plant or animal.
- The animal forms are collectively referred to as retinoids and are present in the following substances.
- Butter milk and other dairy products
- Carotenoids are basically colored pigments of the plant origin that are converted by our body into vitamin A. The most abundant source of Carotenoids as we all know is carrot, however, colored vegetables and fruits, in general, have varying amounts of these compounds.
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