Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamins are essential for good health. They act as regulators in helping to process other vital nutrients such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that are essential to a healthy diet.

Most people can obtain the necessary vitamins through eating a healthy diet, however sometimes supplements are indicated. The latest report from The National Academies of Science Committee on Dietary Allowances contains many valuable suggestions that the average person can use to help meet his or her nutritional needs as established by the recommended daily allowances (RDA). It is generally agreed that most people who eat a variety of foods from the 5 food groups, do not need a vitamin supplement. Always consult your physician before taking vitamin supplements, because just as vitamin deficiencies are harmful, excessive amounts of vitamins are also harmful.

Left AlignVitamins were first identified in 1910 (Vitamin B1), with the latest being in 1941 (B9). Thirteen compounds are considered to be vitamins. There are four that are considered to be fat soluble, meaning they are stored in fat. You do not necessarily need to consume these on a daily basis, because they are not readily excreted. They are: Vitamin A, D, E and K.

The eight B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) and Vitamin C are soluble in water. The body does not store water soluble vitamins, so the B vitamins and Vitamin C should be included in a daily diet in order to fulfill your body’s needs.

Vitamin Information


Vitamin Food Sources Primary Function Effects of Excessive Amounts
Vitamin A - Retinol Yellow, orange and dark green vegetables, liver, cheese, milk, eggs, butter Known as the "growth vitamin".  Essential in maintaining healthy skin, hair, mucous membranes, and bone.  Provides visual pigments that aid vision in dim light. May cause headache, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, damage to the liver and blood cells, skin rashes, hair loss, injury to brain and nervous system.
Vitamin D - Calciferol Egg yolks, butter, milk, liver, fish, liver oils, tuna, salmon, herring, sardines, oysters Known as the "sunshine vitamin".  Aids normal growth of bones and teeth.  Important in intestinal absorption.  Protects against Rickets. May cause excessive calcium deposits in the blood; kidney stones, nausea, fragile bones, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol.
Vitamin E  - Alpha tocopherol Lettuce and other leafy green vegetables, seed oils, whole grains, dried beans, liver. Helps in production of red cells and in strengthening of muscle tissue.  Protects Vitamin A and fats from reacting with oxygen. May cause blood clotting problems, may destroy some Vitamin K in the intestines.  May interfere with conversion of beta carotene into Vitamin A.
Vitamin K Liver, potatoes, green leafy vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, cereals. Aids in synthesis of substances needed for blood clotting.  Helps maintain normal bone metabolism.  Made by bacteria in human intestines. May cause blood clotting problems.  May cause jaundice in infants.
Vitamin B1 - Thiamin Whole wheat grains, wheat germ, liver, kidney, pork, peas, beans, peanuts, oranges, various fruits and vegetables. Assists in the function of 24 enzymes, helping cells to utilize carbohydrates.  Assists in proper function of nervous system and digestive tract. Not known; it is known that B vitamins are interdependent, so an excess of one may produce a deficiency of another.
Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin Liver, kidney, lamb,, beef, veal, eggs, whole wheat products, yeast, asparagus, beets, peas, dark green vegetables. Cofactor in enzymes helping cells to use carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and to product energy.  Promotes growth, healthy skin, and healthy mucous membranes. None known
Vitamin B3 - Niacin Lean meat, fish, liver, yeast, eggs, whole grain breads, cereals, peas, beans, nuts. Essential component of enzymes that contribute to production of energy in cells.  Assists in the breakdown of fats. Sweating, palpitations, circulatory problems, inability to digest carbohydrates, duodenal ulcer, abnormal liver function, excessive uric acid in blood.
Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine Poultry, fish, liver, whole grains, cereals, breads, tomatoes, yellow corn, spinach, green beans, bananas, yogurt. An enzyme activator, it aids in breakdown of protein and carbohydrates and in forming hormones such as adrenalin and insulin.  Also helps regenerate red blood cells and produce antibodies. Liver dysfunction; dependency on high dose can lead to deficiency symptoms on return to normal amounts.
Vitamin B9 - Folic Acid Liver, kidney, green leafy vegetables, dried legumes. Needed for formation of red and white blood cells.  Aids in protein metabolism and in creating some components of DNA molecule. None known; however, because it is stored in the body, it is potentially dangerous and can mask a B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 - Cobalamin Liver, kidney, fish, dairy products, brewers yeast, wheat germ. Assists in production of red blood cells, functioning of the nervous system, and in building of genetic material. None known.
Vitamin C - Ascorbic acid Abundant in most fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers and dark green vegetables. Enhances activity of certain enzymes.  Aids body in use of iron and in blood clotting.  Helps formation of teeth, gums, and bones.  Aids in healing of bone fractures and wounds. Diarrhea, formation of kidney and bladder stones, increased tendency for blood to clot, urinary tract irritation; may induce a B12 deficiency.

Source:  The Volume Library  1, Copyright 2001 by the Southwestern Company

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