5 Common Vitamins and Their Uses

These days everyone is more aware of the importance of healthy eating and nutrition. Here's a quick look at 5 of the most commonly supplemented vitamins, their roles in the body and potential benefits.

Vitamin D
There are several variants of vitamin D, but the one most commonly included in supplements is Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. Vitamin D primarily comes from our skin, where it is made from cholesterol under exposure to specific wavelengths of UV light. Its most important function is to regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the bloodstream. It facilitates absorption of dietary calcium and assists both bone formation and bone remodelling, ie growth and repair. Additionally, vitamin D plays a role in the immune system and nervous system. Adequate vitamin D levels are important for maintaining strong, healthy bones in both children and adults, and may also help to prevent other diseases. There is a lot of research still being conducted on vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin E
The most important function of Vitamin E is as a powerful antioxidant. This means it protects our cells from oxidative (free radical) damage, as it is fat soluble and incorporated into cell membranes. Dietary vitamin E mostly comes from plant oils such as sunflower, canola, olive oil; and from green leafy vegetables. If dietary intake is insufficient, supplementation may be beneficial to provide antioxidant protection, however as vitamin E is stored in the body it is also important not to take too much, as excessive vitamin E levels can be associated with a risk of vitamin K deficiency and bleeding problems.

Vitamin B Group
These are a group of vitamins that are widely used for metabolism. They are essential for many of the biochemical reactions that are necessary to keep our bodies functioning, especially energy production. They are water soluble vitamins that cannot be stored in the body, thus we need to replenish them daily. Those who have very busy lifestyles or are under a lot of stress sometimes find that a B complex supplement or a good multivitamin can give them an energy boost.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another water soluble vitamin that must be obtained from the diet. It is particularly important for the formation of collagen, which is a structural component of many parts of the body, including skin, joints and cartilage. It is also important for wound healing and as an antioxidant. Traditionally vitamin C supplements are used to support the immune system during winter, and are often used in combination with other nutrients to promote healthy skin, hair and nails.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is primarily important for eye health - development and maintenance of both colour and low-light vision. It is also needed by the immune system and for growth. Like Vitamin E, it is fat soluble, stored in the body, and can be harmful in excess. Supplemental vitamin A is usually in the form of either retinol or beta-carotene and is often included in eye health supplements, due to its importance for the health of the retina. Cod liver oil is also a source of vitamin A that is traditionally used to support the immune system.

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