What are vitamins? Simply put, vitamins are “substances that help our body stay alive”. More specifically, vitamins, unlike carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, do not directly generate energy, but are involved in the metabolism of various enzymes so that they can be utilized in the human body. Therefore, it is an essential substance for sustaining life.
The word ‘vitamin’ also has its meaning. The word ‘vitamin’ is derived from ‘vitamine’, which is made by combining the Latin word ‘vita’, meaning ‘life’ and ‘amine’, meaning nitrogen compound. Later, it was discovered that the vitamin had nothing to do with ‘amine’, so the ‘e’ from ‘amine’ was removed and it became ‘vitamin’. Nevertheless, the fact that it is essential to sustain “life” has not changed.
With the improvement of living standards and increased interest in health, vitamins have become very familiar in our daily life. It’s not uncommon to have a few vitamins on your shelf at home. Surprisingly, there is a lot of misinformation about vitamins. Today, let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about vitamins and take the time to correct them.
Before we start, let me point out one thing. What we call vitamins are actually a group of substances with different chemical structures and properties depending on their type. For example, vitamin A and vitamin C both share the name vitamins, but they are actually different kinds of substances. Today, rather than dealing with the details of individual vitamins, I will focus on the general content that can be applied broadly.
Is it better to take more vitamins?
In conclusion, it is not. Vitamins are substances necessary for the maintenance of life in the human body. However, excessive consumption can cause side effects. In particular, some people may need to be careful with certain vitamins. A typical example is fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E, D, and K, because excessive intake can cause side effects depending on an individual’s health condition.
For example, vitamin A can cause side effects such as keratodermatosis, flushing, impaired hair growth, loss of appetite, liver disorders, hypercalcemia, and fetal malformations when taken in excess. In particular, vitamin A is known to increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. For that reason, the US Preventive Medical Specialist Committee (USPSTF) recommends that smokers avoid taking vitamin A. On the other hand, excessive vitamin D can cause side effects such as soft tissue calcification, eye inflammation, itching, thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.
As these few examples show, taking more vitamins is not necessarily a good thing. In particular, vitamin preparations made in the form of pills or capsules contain a significant amount of vitamins. It is not advisable to mix these and take more than the recommended amount.
Is the regular diet a sufficient source of vitamins?
Conversely, there are those who believe that additional vitamin supplements are unnecessary. The reason is that people do not need to take vitamin supplements because they can get enough vitamins through food. But is that really the case?
In principle, that is correct. If you want to supplement your vitamin C, eat fresh fruit. For vitamin D, go outside and get some sunlight. But the reality is different from the ideal. You probably have to spend the whole day indoors. Sometimes you need to finish your meal with processed foods without vegetables. In your busy daily life, you cannot always take care of vitamins. Then, supplementing with vitamins will be pushed back.
In other words, it is necessary to take additional vitamins because you, living in a busy modern society, can not always eat a balanced diet in an optimal environment. Taking vitamin supplements may not be the best for your health, but it’s suboptimal considering the reality.
Are natural vitamins better than synthetic vitamins?
There are many people who think that natural vitamins are better than synthetic vitamins. This seems to be because the word ‘natural’ seems to be more beneficial to the body than the word ‘synthetic’. This phenomenon can be found in various areas besides the selection of vitamins.
To find out if there is a difference between natural and synthetic vitamins, we must first understand what natural and synthetic vitamins are. Natural vitamins are those that do not contain artificial fragrances, synthetic colorants, or synthetic preservatives, and have not undergone chemical processes during extraction.
However, even when vitamins are extracted from natural raw materials, compounds such as synthetic coloring agents and stabilizers are used in the process of making them into capsules or pills. This is the reason vitamin manufacturers promote as ‘naturally sourced vitamins’ rather than ‘natural vitamins’. Moreover, although there are differences between countries, the term ‘natural ingredients’ can be used even if only 1% of natural ingredients are included. The ‘100% natural vitamin’ we think of does not actually exist.
In addition, academia believes that there is no difference in efficacy between natural source vitamins and synthetic vitamins. The only difference is whether vitamins are extracted directly from food or made through chemical synthesis. They are actually the same substance. The preference for natural vitamins is a matter of personal choice. However, it is preferable to purchase it considering its price-effectiveness.
Choose your vitamins wisely.
As mentioned earlier, vitamins play an essential role in maintaining life by regulating the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and minerals that enter the body. Just like the role of vitamins, a balanced perspective is required for intake. As with many other things we need to take care of our health.
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