Copyright 2006 Ted Crawford

Vitamins are different from the macro-molecular nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) that we take in from our diets on a daily basis. Vitamin molecules are much smaller in size and are required by our bodies in very small amounts. We obtain most of our required levels of vitamins from a well balanced diet and significant diseases related to true vitamin deficiencies are rare in our society.

Vitamins are the essential organic nutrients required by the body and catalyze energy-yielding reactions but do not yield energy themselves.

There are 13 different vitamins separated into two groups: fat soluble (Vitamins A,D, E, and K), and water soluble (the B vitamins and Vitamin C). The fat soluble vitamins can be stored in fat in our bodies and thus can build up to toxic levels if we take too much of them. Water soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are flushed from or bodies rather quickly, so are much less of a problem with regards to possible toxicity. Vitamins are destructible and can be altered by such things such as cooking and food handling.

Minerals are small inorganic atoms or molecules and only some are essential nutrients and required in small amounts. Like vitamins, they do not yield energy although some may be essential for energy production.

Unlike vitamins, minerals are indestructible because of their elemental nature. Cooking, processing, and food handling cannot change the mineral content of food.

A nutrient requirement is the amount of nutrient used or required by the body to maintain growth and health and prevent signs or symptoms of deficiency disease. A nutrient recommendation is an estimation of the amount of a nutrient that should be present in the diet.

The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) were created and published in the United States in 1943 by the National Research Council during World War II. They were initially devised to serve as a guide for advising the military on nutritional problems related to national defense. Since then, the RDAs have served as a guide for planning and evaluating food programs, menus, and nutrition standards for food assistance programs. The RDAs have been revised many times and are a scientific consensus of recommended levels of essential nutrients needed by the majority of healthy Americans.

The RDAs also set ranges of “Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intakes” for vitamins and minerals. Therefore the committee has provided us with a level of the recommended intake of all the vitamins and minerals to follow. You should ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need from one formulation instead of taking several different pills.

Vitamin formulations may vary signficantly with regard to their absorption rates and that is the most important factor in selecting one to take on a daily basis. Did you know that the absorption rate can be as little as 5-10% in some of the hard, compressed “horse pill” vitamins? Do your homework before purchasing a vitamin supplement. Make sure that you are purchasing a formulation that is going to be well absorbed and do you some good.