Vitamins are essential for people of all ages as part of a healthy diet. They build your immune system, metabolize food into energy, support growth, synthesize hormones and activate enzymes for proper functioning of your body. Without vitamins, your body would not be able to function and maintain itself. A vitamin deficiency could be severe enough to result in a critical condition or even death.
Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants that build and enhance your immune system. As these vitamins strengthen your immune system, they reduce your risk of illness. This could range from preventing a cold to reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer. When you are injured, vitamin C helps the wound heal quickly. Though vitamin K is not an antioxidant, it also helps mend your injuries by allowing your blood to clot to prevent further blood loss.
Growth and Maintenance
Vitamin A is required for the development of sperm and ovaries as well as normal growth over the years. It also continuously grows new cells for your skin, bones and hair to maintain their development and strength. Vitamin A is also well known for maintaining and strengthening your eyesight and night vision. Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption to promote bone growth, and the B vitamins maintain the health of your nervous system.
Metabolizing Food into Energy
One of the main reasons you eat is to fuel your body with the energy it needs for the day. The B vitamins are responsible for metabolizing the carbohydrates, protein and fat from food that you eat into energy. After the food is metabolized into energy, it is then ready to be released and can be distributed to be used throughout your body.
Enzymes and Hormones
Vitamin C and many B vitamins play the role of cofactor or coenzyme, which are required for the activation of many enzymes. Vitamin C is also an electron donor to the enzymes that synthesize hormones. Enzymes catalyze many chemical reactions while hormones are the messengers that direct and coordinate the functions in your body. Without enzymes and hormones, your organs would not function in such a synchronized manner or be able to adapt to changes.
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals; Pressman, Alan H.
- Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs: Vitamins -- Not Just for Enzymes
- Journal of American College of Nutrition: Vitamin C as an Antioxidant: Evaluation of Its Role in Disease Prevention
Khadejah Makkieh is a registered dietitian with a passion for writing, teaching and cooking. She earned a Master of Science in nutrition from Texas Woman's University and is currently working as a college instructor. Makkieh's writing has also been featured in the FASEB science journal.