This covers issues regarding physical well-being, emotional wellbeing, diet, diseases and medical advances. A healthy lifestyle is constantly being promoted, yet what does this entail?
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that the body requires to function normally. In essence they contribute to a healthy life by supporting a variety of biological processes, including growth, digestion and nerve function.
There are two types of vitamins, either watersoluble or fat-soluble.
In humans there are 13 vitamins:
4 fatsoluble (A,
D, E, and K) and 9 water-soluble (8 B vitamins and vitamin C). Water-soluble vitamins, as the name suggests, dissolve easily in water and are easily excreted from the body. Since they are not readily stored, consistent daily intake is important. Fat-soluble vitamins on the other hand, are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of lipids (fats). They are stored in the liver and fatty tissues of the body. These vitamins build up and remain for a longer time in the body than water soluble vitamins.
Long before vitamins were discovered, the ancient Egyptians knew that feeding liver to a person would help cure night blindness, an illness now known to be caused by a vitamin A deficiency. The advancement of ocean voyages in the 14th century gradually resulted in longer periods at sea without access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This resulted in a particular type of illness called “scurvy” which is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Up until the early 20th century, scurvy was attributed to spoiled canned food. The table below shows that vitamins were only discovered recently in human history.
Since vitamins are so important, many people resort to vitamin supplements to boost their vitamin intake. Vitamin supplements have become a multi-million dollar business and you need only visit any local pharmacy to see the various brands and types of vitamins for sale. The perceived need for vitamin supplements has become a controversial issue. Doctors and dieticians recommend getting the required daily dose through proper diet rather than taking supplements as vitamins are easily found in food sources as you can see from the table provided. On the other hand, many people believe that the fast-food generation of today do not eat a well balanced meal which is mostly made up of meat and too little vegetables or fruits.
Generally, if you are a healthy individual who eats a wide variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, lean meats and fish, most likely you do not need supplements. The excess water soluble vitamins you take will be flushed out of your body and you are literally flushing your money down the toilet. The fat soluble vitamins gets stored in your liver and an excess will lead to more serious problems as a condition called “hypervitaminosis” or vitamin poisoning can develop. Vitamin supplements are more useful for people who are on special diets such as vegans and those who need extra doses of specific vitamins such as pregnant women who benefit from an increase dose of B9 or folic acid.