Many people strive to have a balanced diet and spend hours scouring for different types of foods to fulfill their daily quota in malls and groceries. But vitamins are notoriously hard to obtain from ordinary food because most natural sources contain only minute amounts of essential nutrients.
Indeed, a study by Oregon State University indicates that 75% of US residents do achieve the recommended daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, the Dietary Guidelines for America indicates that most Americans have deficiencies of calcium, iron, vitamin D, potassium, and fiber. Other studies indicate that most people take excessive amounts of sugars and carbohydrates but have a vitamin and mineral deficiency.
However, even if people were to consume foods that contain all the valuable nutrients, the body does not keep reserves of water-soluble vitamins B and C. Thus, a reduction in intake will lead to a deficiency in these nutrients. The inadequate nutrition from ordinary food is why people resort to multivitamin supplements. They are easy to get and provide most of the vitamins the body needs to maintain good health and vitality.
What are vitamin supplements?
Vitamin supplements are over the counter pills that contain all the essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs to function properly. However, the composition of each supplement depends on the brand and type of product. Most supplements contain vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K as well as minerals such as potassium and zinc. Others contain beneficial bacteria and herbal products such as ginseng in addition to conventional vitamins and minerals.
The role of different vitamins
Vitamin A prevents night blindness which is caused by the weakening of the rhodopsin pigment in the retina. People with this condition struggle to see in environments with low light levels. Further, the consumption of beta-carotene supplements averts visual impairment that occurs with age.
Vitamin A plays an important role in boosting immunity by contributing to the production of mucous barriers in the gut, genitals and other openings in the body. It participates in the production of white blood cells that fight pathogens in the body. It also helps maintain healthy bones thereby lowering the risk of fractures and deformities.
B1 plays an important role in food metabolism and nerve function. A deficiency in the vitamin causes beriberi which is characterized by walking difficulties, damaged nerve endings that may deteriorate to paralysis of the lower limbs. In extreme cases, people experience congestive heart failure.
B2 helps in the digestion and metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats by converting them into energy and other useful compounds. It also helps maintain the skin, stomach lining and blood cells in good condition. Taking B2 supplements reduces migraines and cataracts.
B3 contributes to mucus production while its deficiency causes pellagra. Pellagra symptoms include inflammation of the mucus membranes, dementia, and stomach disorders.
B5 contributes to several biochemical reactions in the body including the synthesis of fats and carbohydrates.
B6 plays a critical role in brain growth and health and boosts the immune system. It is important in the synthesis of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscles and other parts of the body. Deficiency leads to an impaired nervous system, psychiatric disorders, and anemia.
Vitamin B9 or folic acid is a proven remedy for birth defects and is recommended for young women of childbearing age. Women in this group should supplement folic acid from food with supplements to achieve the daily ration of 400 micrograms.
B 12 is a component of the blood and helps maintain a healthy nervous system. It contributes to well-functioning nerves and contributes to the production of red blood cells. It prevents the occurrence of megaloblastic anemia which is associated with general weakness.
Generally, people with deficiencies of B vitamins experience nervous disorders such as numbness as well as a weakened immune system, skin problems, and psychiatric disorders. For instance, some studies have shown that people with depression often have low folate levels in the blood. Other studies indicate that elders with adequate levels of B vitamins in the body experience less cognitive decline than those with deficiencies.
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that boosts immunity by helping the body get rid of free radicals. When the body accumulates free radicals it experiences oxidative stress and inflammation, which is associated with poor health and chronic diseases. Consuming vitamin C supplements can increase the concentration of antioxidants in the body by 30%. Vitamin C also prevents anemia by enhancing the absorption of iron.
Vitamin D regulates the absorption of phosphorus and calcium in the body both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth. Deficiency manifests in the form of brittle bones and osteoporosis. The body produces it when the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, the fact that most people spend whole days indoors makes it hard for the body to produce sufficient quantities.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble supplement that helps boost immunity while also enhancing the health of the eyes and the skin. It is a strong antioxidant that prevents cell damage from free radicals. Even though it does not directly prevent diseases, it boosts the vitality of vulnerable groups such as smokers, people who live in highly polluted environments and individuals who are overexposed to sunlight.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble compound that facilitates blood clotting. It contributes to the synthesis of prothrombin, which is the protein responsible for clotting. It is involved in bone growth and repair and improves bone density reducing the risk of fractures. Vitamin K maintains normal blood pressure in the elderly by preventing mineralization of the arteries. Deficiencies of this vitamin manifest through excessive bleeding from wounds.
What to look for in a multivitamin supplement
A good multivitamin should come from natural sources, free of allergens, and devoid of additives and fillers. It should contain all the essential vitamins and minerals in a highly bioavailable form. Further, it should have sound scientific support for its formulation and certification for purity from a reputable organization.