Vitamins are essential substances for life . We find in the word vitamins, the Latin ” vita ” which means ” life “. They are involved in a whole series of chemical reactions essential to the normal functioning of our body . Unfortunately, we cannot synthesize these precious substances ourselves. We must provide them through our diet. In general, a balanced diet should provide us with the 13 vitamins in sufficient quantity.
There are times in our life when our vitamin needs are increased: pregnancy, disease, growth, period of confinement… There are ways to conserve and assimilate as well as possible these precious vitamins, vital and essential to our body. And when food is no longer sufficient for a sufficient intake, it is then necessary to increase its intake through food supplements .
What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are essential substances for our organism . However, we are not able to manufacture it. Thus, it is the diet that is supposed to provide us with these valuable substances.
Unlike most nutrients such as sugars, proteins or fats, vitamins are needed in very small amounts because they work in low doses. To give you an idea, the vitamin quantities required are 1000 times less than the protein – lipid – carbohydrate trio .
Vitamins greatly participate in the metabolism of our cells . They are therefore involved in a whole series of chemical transformations that make our body build and function properly.
What vitamins are not
They are not foods, as they do not directly provide energy and therefore no calories. They do not participate in the construction of the organism either; they help cells carry out their chemical reactions .
These are not harmless substances because some vitamins taken in excess can cause health problems .
Vitamin deficiencies and deficiencies? What differences?
Vitamin deficiency or avitaminosis refers to the absence or insufficiency of a vitamin intake . This leads to characteristic health problems for a given vitamin. It can be due either to insufficient food intake or to a digestive deficiency.
The clinical signs caused by a deficiency do not appear suddenly. However, it is during a prolonged condition that symptoms occur. At this stage the body will then have exhausted all its vitamin reserves. A state of deficiency causes the appearance of serious diseases which very often regress when the body receives the missing vitamin again .
A few examples: a vitamin C deficiency causes Scurvy, a vitamin D deficiency causes rickets … Please note that in our industrialized countries, major deficiency diseases have practically disappeared because our diet is satisfactory to open up the need for vitamins. This is not the case in countries with undernutrition.
If deficiency diseases are extremely rare in our regions, this is not the case for states of deficiency. Some people can see their health deteriorated by a lack of vitamin . This state of deficiency is also called hypovitaminosis. It may then be an insufficient vitamin intake causing an increase in vitamin requirements.
People at risk
Insufficient intake can affect people in the following cases:
- People placed in retirement or care homes
- People on inadequate weight loss diets
- People with chronic intestinal disorders
- People who use drugs for a long time
Increased needs may affect people in the following cases:
- Young people in times of growth
- Great sportsmen
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women, or taking oral contraceptives
- When taking certain medications
- Smokers: the need for vitamins C and A is increased because nicotine is responsible for a faster loss of vitamins by desaturation of tissues
- Alcoholics (lives A, B1, B12, B6, C)
- People living in a polluted environment may have an increased need for vitamins, especially vitamin D (reduction in skin synthesis by reeducation of sunlight due to industrial fumes), as well as vitamins A, E, C
The main causes of impairment
An unbalanced diet does not ensure the qualitative and quantitative intake of all the substances essential for the proper functioning of the body . Avoid fast food and ready meals. The best is to prepare your own meals, but some people, often alone, take bad habits.
The decrease or the absence of appetite results from a depressive state : loneliness, boredom, demotivation… but can also be at the base of a vitamin deficiency .
Voluntary restriction of food intake can lead to vitamin deficiency . The unhealthy fear of obesity and the obsession with thinness specific to our society are often at the origin of this disorder, which mainly affects women.
It is in the digestive tract that vitamins are absorbed. If the digestive tract is not in good condition, absorption of food and therefore of vitamins will be incomplete , resulting in a risk of impairment.
Acute digestive disorders:
Digestion plays an extremely important role in the absorption of vitamins. Digestive disorders such as: constipation, diarrhea, intestinal infections, parasitosis, liver failure, etc. are signs of disturbed digestion . Disturbed digestion often rhymes with disturbed intestinal flora. It is therefore essential to maintain your intestinal flora so that your intestines can properly fulfill their role of absorbing nutrients!
Chronic digestive disorders:
People with chronic intestinal transit disorders have poor absorption of vitamins: chronic diarrhea, steatorrhea, pancreatic disorders, etc.
We don’t necessarily think about it, but serious dental problems can be responsible for insufficient food intake for “mechanical” reasons.
Surgical intervention :
People who have had surgery to remove part of the digestive tract.
The prolonged use of certain drugs decreases the absorption of vitamins (gastric dressings, laxatives).
Nb: It has been observed that even when the diet is balanced, the coverage of vitamin needs only reaches 80% of the recommended intakes. So where did the remaining 20% go? In our regions, food processing and preservation techniques are responsible for reducing the vitamin content of these foods.
The main causes of vitamin loss
- The sifting (separation of the bran and the flour) is often excessive. Extensive screening results in a very white flour. But the consequence is a significant loss of vitamins: 2/3 of group B vitamins would be lost. Thus, “white” bread is much poorer in vitamin B1 (0.08 mg per 100g) than “wholemeal” bread (0.25 per 100g). Hence the interest in turning to products based on organic wholemeal flour for a greater supply of nutrients.
- Skimming the milk removes most of the fat soluble vitamins.
- The purpose of blanching vegetables before storage or freezing is to improve their quality and also to reduce the volume of food. It consists of scalding the vegetables or steaming them. The loss due to scalding can reach 60% for vitamin C, 30% for B1 and 40% for B2.
- Dehydration leads to very significant vitamin loss.
- Cooking inevitably causes loss of vitamins (especially B1 and C). Prefer cooking with gentle steam but which denatures the food much less.
- Our way of life means that we eat more and more “ready-made” meals and less and less fresh food. If “ready-to-eat” processed foods greatly facilitate life, they are partly responsible for significant vitamin loss…. As we have just seen, this is due to the technologies of processing and preservation of foodstuffs.
It is preferable to cook your own dishes in order to eat fresh , seasonal and local foods . I am sure that you are nevertheless surrounded by small local producers with quality products. What is good is that we know where it comes from, the products were not kept for days in cold rooms before being offered to consumers in supermarkets. Result ? Your food is of better quality, filled with vitamins, minerals and trace elements, to the delight of your taste buds and especially your health!
Another tip: our health depends on the health of our intestines, the place of absorption of all the elements essential for the proper functioning of our body. This is where it all starts, but that’s why it’s important to pamper your intestinal flora.