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As you were growing up, your mother no doubt told you to take your vitamins. But have you ever considered that every time you eat something, you are taking your vitamins? The human body cannot make vitamins on its own, so they must be obtained from the food you eat, or from a synthetic source, such as a vitamin supplement 2. If a vitamin is absent from the diet, or is not properly absorbed, serious deficiencies can develop.This is why vitamins are called essential nutrients 2.

Types of Vitamins

There are two groups of essential vitamins, each classified according to the materials in which they will dissolve 2. The water-soluble vitamins on the other hand, dissolve in water, are not stored in the body, and are eliminated regularly in urine and feces 2. Because of this property, this group of vitamins needs to be constantly re-supplied.The water-soluble vitamins are comprised of the B-complex group, and vitamin C 2.

Function of Vitamins in the Body

Vitamins contain no calories, but play a critical role in how your body works 2. Vitamins assist in the regulation of metabolic reactions in virtually every organ system of the body 2. If a vitamin is absent, or present in deficient amounts, it affects the metabolic balance within a cell. If this deficiency or imbalance becomes chronic, illness ensues. Some of the fat-soluble vitamins assist in maintaining the integrity and functioning of various cell membranes 2.

How Vitamins Are Metabolized

Vitamin metabolism is an extremely complex process involving numerous biochemical actions and reactions.The human body is comprised of approximately 60 percent water 2. Nutrient absorption occurs at cellular levels throughout the body.

Where Vitamins Are Metabolized

The small intestine is not only the primary site of chemical digestion, but it also serves as a major site of vitamin absorption in the human body. Nutrients enter at a cellular level and are picked up and absorbed via blood capillaries and lymph fluids through the processes of active transport, diffusion and osmosis. The large intestine is where vitamin B-12 and vitamin K are metabolized. The fat soluble vitamins, once absorbed into the circulation, are carried to the liver and fatty tissues where they are stored 2.

Additional Considerations

Vitamins are necessary in order for the body to function properly.They are critical for growth and development, as well as for the prevention and cure of many health problems and diseases 2. While vitamin supplements cannot replace a balanced diet, in order to obtain the most benefit from vitamin supplements you should take them with food and plenty of water. For additional information about good dietary sources of vitamins, view The Food and Nutrition Information Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture web site 2.

The Wrap Up

As you were growing up, your mother no doubt told you to take your vitamins. If a vitamin is absent, or present in deficient amounts, it affects the metabolic balance within a cell. Some of the fat-soluble vitamins assist in maintaining the integrity and functioning of various cell membranes. The human body is comprised of approximately 60 percent water. The fat soluble vitamins, once absorbed into the circulation, are carried to the liver and fatty tissues where they are stored.

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