Vitamins are essential to life.  They contribute to good health by regulating the metabolism and assisting the biochemical processes that release energy from digested food.  They are considered micronutrients because the body needs them in relatively small amounts compared with nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water.

Vitamins are essential for normal growth and development.  If there is serious deficiency in one or more of these nutrients, a child may develop a deficiency disease.  Even minor deficiencies may cause permanent damage.  As we grow and develop, vitamins remain essential nutrients for the healthy maintenance of the cells, tissues, and organs.


Some vitamins are soluble in water and others in oil.   Both types of vitamins are needed by the body for proper functioning.  Water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water and, in general, are readily excreted from the body; usually within four hours to one day. As a result, these vitamins should be taken daily.  Vitamin C and B-complex vitamins are examples of water-soluble vitamins.  Oil or fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of lipids (fats).  These vitamins can be stored for longer periods of time in the body's fatty tissue and the liver.  These include vitamins A, D, E, and K.

The U.S. Food and Nutritional Board instituted the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) as a standard for the daily amounts of vitamins needed by a healthy person.  These RDAs were the basis for the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances adopted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Unfortunately, the amounts defined by the RDA give us only the bare minimum required to ward off vitamin deficiency diseases such as beriberi, rickets, scurvy, and night blindness.  What they do not account for are the amounts needed to maintain maximum health, rather than borderline health.  By providing our bodies with an optimum daily amount of necessary vitamins, we can enhance our health.


The value of eating a certain food to maintain health was recognized long before vitamins were identified.  Ideally, all of us would get all of the nutrients we need for optimal health from fresh, healthful foods.  In reality, however, getting even the recommended daily intake of vitamins from today's diet has become quite hard to do.  This means that for optimum health, it may be necessary to take vitamins in supplement form.  Vitamin supplements can be divided into two groups - synthetic and natural. 

Synthetic vitamins are produced in laboratories from isolated chemicals that mirror their counterparts found in nature.  Natural vitamins are derived from food sources.   There are no major chemical differences between a vitamin found in food and one created in a laboratory however studies have shown that vitamins found in natural whole food supplements, are absorbed, used, and retained in the tissues better than other supplements.

Supplements that are not labeled natural may include artificial coloring, preservatives, sugars, and starch, as well as other additives.  It is necessary to read the labels of the products you buy carefully.  Even the ones labeled "natural."  All vitamin supplements work best when taken in combination with food.  Make sure you take the appropriate amount of vitamins from balanced sources, to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.