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Basics of Vitamins

natural supplementsVitamins are organic compounds that are necessary in small amounts for the body’s function. By definition, vitamins are acquired within the diet and provide no energy despite their support functions. These functions may include digestion, absorption, metabolism, and/or regulating bodily functions. There are 13 essential vitamins that cannot be produced by our bodies and thus must be consumed from animal and/or plant sources.

Vitamins are added to the diet during the processing of food products via two main methods: Enrichment and fortification.

Enrichment:  Taking nutrients that are lost when the food is processed and adding them back into the final food product. Enrichment occurs in the production of grain products.

Fortification:  Supplementing a product with additional vitamins that wouldn’t naturally occur in the food product. One example of fortification includes calcium and vitamin D added to orange juice.

Vitamins can be classified by solubility, either as fat-soluble or water-soluble. The key difference between these two classifications is the body’s mechanism for absorbing the vitamin.

Fat-Soluble:  These vitamins are dependent on dietary fat for absorption and are stored within fat tissue in the body. We are less likely to be deficient in fat-soluble vitamins because of our ability to store them. Importantly, laxative use and certain medications can interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. The following vitamins are fat-soluble:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Water-Soluable:  Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the bloodstream easily and can dissolve in water. These vitamins are often consumed daily as the body’s stores are fragile and depleted quickly. For this reason, water-soluble vitamins are often consumed daily when supplemented. The following vitamins are water-soluble:

  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin C

Please check out our blogs for more in-depth information about each of these vitamins.

Written by Emily Condon, Medical Assistant at Bissell Clinic


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