A Brief Tutorial On The Different Types Of Vitamins

How many types of vitamins are there? 13 to be exact, with the vitamin B complex accounting for over half of the number. These vitamins belong to two different categories, with vitamins B and C being water soluble vitamins and the others, vitamins A, D, E, and K making up the list of fat soluble vitamins.

Many of the vitamins making up the vitamin B complex go by two names. Vitamin B1 is also known as thiamine, vitamin B2 as riboflavin, and vitamin B3 as niacin. Lesser known names are ascribed to vitamin B5, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6, pyridoxine.  Folic acid is also a component of vitamin B6.

Each of the different types of vitamins is essential to our good health. We get most of these in a well balanced diet, as they occur naturally in the many different foods we eat. Most of our vitamin D comes from sunshine, but it is also found in some food items.

We can suffer a number of symptoms or disorders if we have a deficiency of any of these vitamins in our body. The symptoms of a vitamin deficiency can be mild or severe.  We can also run into problems if we eat too many of a given type of vitamin. This will rarely happen if we stick to a normal diet, but can occur if one is taking vitamin pills or supplements in excess.

Let's look at each of the vitamins, why we need them, what the sources are, and what the effects of either an excess or deficiency may be.

We need vitamin A for healthy teeth, skin, and good vision. A fat soluble vitamin, vitamin A plays a role in developing our bones and most of the soft tissue and membranes in our body. Its role in promoting a healthy retina has led to alternate name, retinol. Sources of vitamin A include carrots, kale, broccoli, dairy products and the meat. A deficiency is usually is first noticed in our vision, most commonly in the form of night blindness. Of all the vitamins, vitamin A is the most dangerous if present in excess. In extreme cases, hypervitaminosis A can result in liver damage and also present dangers to the fetus in a pregnant woman.

The vitamin B complex consists of water soluble vitamins, necessary for a healthy heart and nervous system, the formation of red blood cells, absorption of protein and breaking down of carbohydrates. The vitamin B complex is the energy vitamin, as red blood cells carrying oxygen through the body heavily depend upon the B vitamins. We get vitamin B from many sources, grains, green vegetables, fish, beans, and dairy products. Predicting the effects of vitamin B deficiencies is quite complex, given the number of vitamins involved, and the multitude of functions supported. An excess of vitamin B can result in nerve damage, and if vitamin be supplements are to be taken it's advisable to attempt to determine what an excessive dosage might be.

Another water soluble vitamin is vitamin C. An antioxidant, vitamin C promotes healing within the body. It is essential for healthy teeth and gums and for the tissues supporting our internal organs, collagen. We get vitamin C from citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, and a host of other vegetables. Vitamin C is sometimes taken in rather high doses, usually to prevent or combat colds or the flu, although its effectiveness in this role is unproven. Usually any excess of vitamin C in our body will be naturally eliminated, but an excess is known to play a role in the formation of kidney stones, mostly due to a synergy between vitamin C and calcium.

Our "sunshine vitamin", vitamin D, is a fat soluble vitamin. It is essential for strong bones and healthy teeth, and aids our body's absorption of calcium. Fish, egg yolk, and dairy products are the primary sources of vitamin D, aside from fortified cereals or other fortified foods, and of course sunshine. A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to rickets, a softening and possible deformity of the bones. An excess upsets the balance of calcium and phosphate in the body, leading to a number of symptoms including muscle weakness, and kidney stones. A deficiency in vitamin D can also negatively effect a child's growth.

What vitamin E does for us is imperfectly understood. It is a fat soluble vitamin, an antioxidant, and appears to have healing properties. It plays a key role in the formation of red blood cells. Whole grains, leafy greens, and nuts are among the important sources of vitamin E.  An overdose may cause little more than an upset stomach, though is known to negatively affect the absorption into the body of the other fat soluble vitamins, A,D, and K.

Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin noted for its importance in blood coagulation and blood clotting. We produce some of our own vitamin K, bacteria in our intestines performing that function, but can also get it from liver, cereals, and members of the cabbage family.

From the above, it's obvious that we need each of the types of vitamins, not too few and not too many.