Vitamins are organic molecules with multiple biochemical implications. Most vitamins are not single molecules, but rather molecular groups called vitamers. For correct functioning of metabolism, vitamins are essential micronutrients. This means that they cannot be produced in humans in adequate quantities or at all. Therefore, vitamins must be consumed in the diet.
Let’s discuss some of the biochemical roles when vitamins are consumed. Vitamin A regulates cell growth and differentiation. The B complex vitamins work as coenzymes to assist enzyme function. Vitamins E and C play roles as antioxidants. Vitamin D has a hormone-like role, directing mineral digestion for bones and different organs. Insufficient consumption of vitamins can lead to several diseases. Over consumption of vitamins can also be problematic, although excess consumption of water-soluble vitamins is less likely to have long term impact on health. When purchasing vitamins, it’s important to find high quality vitamins and follow the dosage recommended amounts on label or by your pharmacist.
Until the 1930’s, the primary source of vitamins was from food. The consequence of insufficient intake before that time often resulted in disease conditions. Subsequently, commercially produced tablets of vitamin B and vitamin C became available. By the 1950’s, mass production of vitamin supplements began which included multivitamins. Since then, the availability of vitamin tablets at local pharmacies has had greatly beneficial repercussions in improving lifestyle options available to the general public.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. “Listing of vitamins“.
Vitamin and mineral requirements in human nutrition 2nd Edition. World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2004. p.340–341. ISBN 9241546123.
Canadian Public Health Association. Food fortification with vitamins and minerals.