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Vitamins are natural organic substances required by virtually all life. They are essential for the proper regulation of our reproduction, growth, health, and energy production. Humans are unable to manufacture most of the vitamins we require, and therefore must obtain these vital nutrients from dietary sources, either as whole foods or supplements.
Vitamins are commonly refered to as micronutrients because of the extremely small amounts required to maintain optimal health, as compared to macronutrients such as fats, protein and carbohydrates, which are required in much greater amounts. Vitamins, unlike the macronutrients, are not a source of calories, but without adequate amounts we cannot utilize the macronutrients and health and energy levels suffer.
Vitamins are divided into two sub-categories, fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. The four fat soluble vitamins, vitamins A, D, E and K, share a chemical relationship, based on the common need for cholesterol in their synthesis. The fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in fatty tissues and be released at a later time as needed. The nine water soluble vitamins, which include the B-complex family and vitamin C, cannot be stored in the body and must be replenished on a daily basis.
B vitamins function as coenzymes to facilitate human metabolism and energy production. They help us maintain healthy skin, eyes, muscle tone, and support the functions of the liver and central nervous system. They are also extremely important in helping to deal with depression, stress and anxiety. B-vitamins are normally taken in a balanced complex of other B-vitamins, but occasionally one B-vitamin may be necessary to treat a particular disorder. Deficiency in B-vitamins may result in lethargy, anemia, nervousness, lack of appetite, poor night vision, and skin and hair problems.