Vitamins | Minerals | Herbs | Personal Hygiene | Mother and Baby

Beta-carotene is a substance from plants that the body can convert into vitamin A and also acts as an antioxidant and immune system booster. Other members of the antioxidant carotene family include cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, and lycopene; however, unlike beta-carotene, most of these nutrients do not convert to significant amounts of vitamin A.

Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin. It acts as a coenzyme during the metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

PABA is the abbreviation for paraaminobenzoic acid, a compound that is an essential nutrient for microorganisms and some animals, but has not yet been shown to be essential for people. PABA is considered by some to be a member of the vitamin B-complex.

Vitamin A helps cells reproduce normally—a process called differentiation. Cells that have not properly differentiated are more likely to undergo precancerous changes. Vitamin A, by maintaining healthy cell membranes, helps prevent invasion by disease-causing microorganisms. Vitamin A also stimulates immunity and is needed for formation of bone, protein, and growth hormone. Beta-carotene is a substance from plants that the body can convert to vitamin A.

Vitamin B1 is needed to process carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Every cell of the body requires vitamin B1 to form ATP—the fuel the body runs on. Nerve cells require vitamin B1 in order to function normally.

Vitamin B2 is needed to process amino acids and fats, activate vitamin B6 and folic acid, and help convert carbohydrates into ATP, the fuel the body runs on. Under some circumstances, vitamin B2 can act as an antioxidant.

Vitamin B3 The body uses vitamin B3 in the process of releasing energy from carbohydrates. It’s needed to form fat from carbohydrates and to process alcohol. The niacin form of vitamin B3 also regulates cholesterol, though niacinamide does not.

Vitamin B5 Pantothenic acid, sometimes called vitamin B5, is involved in the Kreb’s cycle of energy production and is needed to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It is also essential in producing, transporting, and releasing energy from fats. Synthesis of cholesterol (needed for vitamin D and hormone synthesis) depends on pantothenic acid. Pantothenic acid also activates the adrenal glands. Pantethine—a variation of pantothenic acid—has been reported to lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

Vitamin B6 is the master vitamin in the processing of amino acids—the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. Vitamin B6 helps to make and take apart many amino acids and is also needed to make serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine. Vitamin B6 also aids in the formation of several neurotransmitters and is therefore an essential nutrient in the regulation of mental processes and possibly mood. To some extent, vitamin B6 lowers homocysteine levels—a substance that has been linked to heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin B12 is needed for normal nerve cell activity, DNA replication, and production of the mood-affecting substance called SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). Vitamin B12 works with folic acid to control homocysteine levels. An excess of homocysteine, which is an amino acid (protein building block), may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and perhaps osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin B Complex refers to all of the known essential water-soluble vitamins except for vitamin C. These include thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), biotin, folic acid and the cobalamins (vitamin B12).

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that functions as a powerful antioxidant. Acting as an antioxidant, one of vitamin C’s important functions is to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage. (Only when LDL is damaged, does cholesterol appear to lead to heart disease, and vitamin C may be the most important antioxidant protector of LDL.)

Vitamin D’s most important role is maintaining blood levels of calcium, which it accomplished by increasing absorption of calcium from food and reducing urinary calcium loss. Both effects keep calcium in the body and therefore spare the calcium that is stored in the bones. When necessary, vitamin D transfers calcium from the bone into the bloodstream, which does not benefit bones. Although the overall effect of vitamin D on the bones is complicated, some vitamin D is necessary for healthy bones and teeth.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body, such as LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). Protection of LDL cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. Two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that both men and women who supplement with at least 100 IU of vitamin E per day for at least two years have a 37–41% drop in the risk of heart disease. Even more impressive is the 77% drop in nonfatal heart attacks reported in the double blind CHAOS study, in which people were given 400–800 IU vitamin E per day.

Vitamin K is needed for proper bone formation and blood clotting, in both cases by helping the body transport calcium. Vitamin K is used by medical doctors when treating an overdose of the drug warfarin. Also, medical doctors prescribe vitamin K to prevent excessive bleeding in people taking warfarin who require surgery.

Multiple Vitamin supplements contain a variable number of essential and/or non-essential nutrients. Their primary purpose is to provide a convenient way to take a variety of supplemental nutrients from a single product, in order to prevent vitamin or mineral deficiencies, as well as to achieve higher intakes of nutrients believed to be of benefit above typical dietary levels.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by a licensed physician. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication.


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