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Larry Newman is the Chief Operating Officer, Technical and Regulatory Affairs of Kirkman Group, Inc. (Kirkman). Contact Kirkman at 1-800-245-8282; 6400 Rosewood St., Lake Oswego, OR.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vitamins Nutrition and Health

 By Larry Newman


Vitamins are defined as natural organic compounds required by an organism to stay healthy and support body functions.  A compound is called a “vitamin” when it cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by an organism and must be obtained from the diet.

All organisms do not have the same vitamin requirements to sustain life.  For example, some species of living organisms do not need vitamin C, while others, like humans, can’t survive without it.

Vitamins, along with minerals and other nutritional factors such as fatty acids and amino acids, serve as essential components of enzymes and coenzymes, which are compounds that are essential to all body functions.  These compounds all work together to support good health and prevent illness.

have diverse biochemical functions, which can include:

  • acting as hormones
  • providing antioxidant properties
  • cell regulation
  • tissue growth
  • catalysts in chemical reactions
  • catalysts in enzymatic activities

The foods we eat are our primary source of vitamins.  In order to obtain sufficient vitamin nutrition from our diets, it is necessary to eat a completely balanced diet of just the correct portions of protein, grains, dairy products, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables.  In fact, if you eat this perfectly balanced diet, many doctors and medical experts say that you will get enough vitamins from your food.  That may be true, but examine your own diet or that of your children.  Are you getting those 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day?  Is your fat consumption of the healthy variety?  Do you get sufficient protein? 
Do you consume dairy and grains?

Chances are the answer to most of those questions is "no".  In the case of individuals with special dietary requirements and/or sensitivities, diets are usually poor, and many are on dairy free, gluten free diets.  Many of these individuals only eat a few foods such as chicken nuggets and fries.  Furthermore, when foods are cooked, the heat and water based liquids used in preparation are often sufficient to degrade the vitamin content to nearly nothing.  Boiling a healthy vegetable in salted water for five minutes is sufficient to destroy most of the vitamins present.  Baking a casserole at high heat is another good way of destroying the vitamins present in the ingredients.  Because of this sensitivity to heat, it is not prudent to put vitamin mixes in hot foods or liquids or to supplement vitamins in foods that are to be cooked.  Mixing vitamins with cold, cool or warm (up to 100° F) foods or beverages is fine.  

Since few of us get that “perfectly balanced diet,” supplementation through nutritional supplements may provide important options to maintain good health and prevent vitamin deficiencies.  For humans, there are 13 different vitamins that are recognized as essential to our diets.  These include:

  • Vitamin A (Retinol)
  • Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B-3 (Niacin or niacinamide)
  • Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
  • Vitamin D (Calciferol)
  • Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
  • Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)
  • Vitamin K (Phylloquinone, phytonadione, or  menadione)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B-5)
  • Biotin
  • Folic Acid
Vitamins are categorized as either fat-soluble or water-soluble.  The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K.  All the rest are water-soluble.  Water-soluble vitamins dissolve very easily in water, and most are quite readily absorbed from solution.  They are also readily excreted from the body daily, as well.  Because they are not stored, daily intake of these nutrients is important.  Also, because they are excreted daily, overconsumption and toxicity are rare.
Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the aid of lipids (fats).  For that reason, it is recommended that fat-soluble vitamins be taken close to or with fatty foods or oils.  The body can store excess quantities of fat-soluble vitamins in the liver, and excess quantities of these can pose a health risk, especially with vitamins A and D.  For this reason, it is imperative that individuals not overconsume these oil soluble nutrients unless your physician advises this because of special dietary requirements or specific health conditions.

How Many Vitamins Do I Need to Take?

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, in conjunction with the FDA, has established guidelines for the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals.  They appear on labels as percent daily values in the supplement  facts box.  They are often abbreviated %DV. 

These are considered the absolute minimum requirements for sustaining good health in the general population.  They are the lowest levels that prevent the conditions associated with a vitamin deficiency for that nutrient, for example, vitamin C and scurvy. 
These daily values do not take into account a person's activity level; for example, athletes and others who expend enormous amounts of energy have increased nutritional requirements.  Daily values also may not consider individuals where there may be digestive and absorption issues due to an unhealthy gastrointestinal tract, thereby limiting the nutrient assimilation.  
Most nutrition experts agree that the percent daily values are far too low to achieve maximum health potentials.  Doctors knowledgeable in nutrition generally concur and recommend far more aggressive nutritional supplement programs.     

Natural and Synthetic Vitamins

The vitamins you receive from the foods you eat are generally natural vitamins because they are inherent in that food.  That is not the case with fortified foods such as cereal, however, as those foods are fortified with additional vitamins made synthetically.  The amount of natural vitamins in many foods is very low and it is not possible to make higher potency foods without the addition of synthetic vitamins.

The same holds true for dietary supplements.  Dietary supplements labeled natural have to be very low potency because natural products contain only low levels of vitamins.  That is why almost all nutritional supplements are manufactured with synthetic vitamins.  Some manufacturers try and deceive the public by making a product with synthetic vitamins and then adding a natural herb or vegetable to the mix and calling it "natural".  

There is no reason for this type of deception because with the exception of vitamin E, the body recognizes natural and synthetic vitamins as the same and absorbs them equally as well.  In the case of vitamin E, because of a structural difference in the natural and synthetic forms, the natural forms are absorbed better than the synthetic (about 2-1).  The problem with natural vitamin E, however, is that it all comes from soybeans, and a certain percentage of the population is sensitive to soy, especially individuals with special dietary requirements and/or sensitivities.

Vitamins - The "Kirkman® Difference"

All vitamin products are not the same.  Kirkman® has been producing pharmaceuticals and specialty nutritional supplements since 1949.  We work with the world’s leading researchers, doctors and scientists to develop our products.  Our mission and purpose is to offer the purest, most up-to-date, highest quality dietary supplements available and in the dosage forms which will be easy to administer to children, adults, and people with special dietary requirements.   

Kirkman® also specially formulates versions of its products that are appropriate for sensitive individuals or for those with allergic tendencies.  These versions of our products are what makes-up our very popular “Hypoallergenic” product line.  The hypoallergenic line is free of casein, gluten, soy, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and corn (where possible). 

All the raw materials that go into Kirkman’s products are monitored for source, potency, purity, allergens, PCBs, pesticides, microbiological contamination and heavy metals content by our quality control department. 

The “Kirkman® Difference” in vitamins, as well as all in of our other products, is that we offer continuous high quality that you can trust.