Vitamins are commonly understood to mean a heterogeneous group of substances that have comparable effects in the human body. For many chemical reactions in our body, for growth and development and for a healthy, strongly offensive organism, vitamins are indispensable. Unlike animals, humans rely on the regular intake of vitamins - such as vitamin C.
Daily dose of vitamins
The recommendations regarding the daily need for vitamins are to be understood as guidelines. They vary, depending on the institution issuing the recommendations. The differences arise from the fact that it is extremely difficult to measure the actual needs of the organism. Complex mechanisms make many vitamins recyclable, some vitamins are made by the body itself or intestinal bacteria. Complicated absorption mechanisms further complicate this assessment.
Vitamins: high doses
While agreeing on a reasonable minimum amount of vitamins needed, opinions differ on the upper limit. Especially in the United States, there are increasing numbers of scientists who recommend a supply of various vitamins in so-called megadoses (several times the recommended daily allowance).
However, this procedure should be viewed critically. On the one hand, vitamins are excreted unchanged after a certain dose, on the other hand, certain vitamins in large quantities can excessively increase the consumption of others, which can even lead to a deficiency situation. If already high-dose vitamin substitution, then it should be carried out very specifically after previous diagnosis and only with individual vitamins.
Synthetically produced vitamins
When taking nutrients has long been the option to consume this in an "artificial" form. From a chemical point of view, the synthetic ones have the same structure as the naturally occurring vitamins. In fruits, vegetables and animal products, however, the vitamins are found in combination with many other important substances whose function in the human body is still poorly understood today. The risk of incorrect dosage is lower for natural sources.
For these and other reasons, the "natural" way to get to his daily vitamin Ration is preferable, especially since a healthy body with balanced and varied diet requires no additional supply of nutrients. Vitamin supplements can not compensate for a deficient and one-sided diet.
Vitamins: deficiency symptoms
In Europe, severe deficiency syndrome with characteristic signs of disease, as often found in developing countries, is rare. However, many of the uncharacteristic symptoms that are due to vitamin deficiency are also quite prevalent among us. Increased tiredness, lack of drive, signs of depression, indigestion, and nervous system disorders may be signs of inadequate intake. Dry, chapped skin, rhinitis of the mouth, brittle nails and hair growth problems must also make one think of a lack of supply.
In a healthy, well-balanced body there is little risk of getting into a deficiency situation. The human organism has sophisticated mechanisms to store, reuse and use vitamins sparingly, which means that it uses extremely small amounts.
Nevertheless, there are special circumstances under which a lack of care can occur:
- Decreased intake through one-sided diet with a high proportion of "empty calories".
- Disturbed absorption (uptake), due to poor digestion (bile production or resorption disorder, after operations in the arm, in infectious or chronic intestinal inflammation, congenital defects and impairment of intestinal flora after antibiotic therapy).
- Increased demand, for example in the context of stress situations (infections, trauma, operations, chronic diseases), pregnancy or hard physical work (endurance sports, hard work).
- Disturbance of vitamin storage in hepatic dysfunction.
- Increased excretion in kidney and liver dysfunction or in heavy sweating.
Particularly at risk of getting into a shortage situation are:
- Infants, for exclusive, long-term (longer than 4 months) breast-milk diet.
- Children and adolescents with one-sided nutrition (too many sweets) and growth-related increased need.
- Pregnant women, especially since the fourth month, there is an increased need for vitamins.
- Elderly: Diet often deficient, intake and absorption capacity additionally reduced in old age.
- People who essentially cover their energy needs with alcohol. Alcohol means pure energy to the body and contains no nutrients. With longer, regular intake in larger quantities deficiency symptoms can appear (especially lack of vitamin B1).
An excess of water-soluble vitamins is largely eliminated via the kidney or the liver and therefore has at most short-term consequences. In contrast, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) accumulate in the body and can have far-reaching consequences if they are exaggerated. Especially in infants, when administering "synthetic" vitamins, the dose prescribed by the doctor must be adhered to.