Vitamines were discovered in the first half of the 20th century, around 1906. People noticed that foods containing certain components are essential for maintaining good health. These substances were given the name ‘vitamins’. Christiaan Eijckman discovered the first vitamin and named it thiamine, now known as vitamin B1. The word vitamin is a combination of the Latin “vita”, meaning life, and the word “amine”, meaning nitrogen-containing compound. They discovered later that not all vitamins contain nitrogen (amine), but the word ‘vitamin’ was already in use at that time.
In the period up to 1970, research mainly developed methods to imitate vitamins as we now know them in supplements. After 1970 the research direction changed more towards the (preventive) role of vitamins in diseases. We get our vitamins in small amounts through food and drinks, which varies from a few micrograms to tens of milligrams. Vitamins do not provide energy. In principle, the body cannot make the vitamins itself but there are a few exceptions:
• Small amounts of vitamin K are made in the gut.
The body converts precursors of vitamins from food, such as provitamin A (carotenoids) and provitamin D into
vitamins A and D. In case of vitamin D, this happens in the skin under the influence of sunlight.
• The body can make niacin from the amino acid tryptophan.
WHICH VITAMINS ARE THERE?
You mainly get these vitamins from products that contain fat, such as spreading and cooking fats, fish, meat, nuts and milk. These vitamins are absorbed through your bowels and stored in your liver and body tissues until your body needs them.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
You get these vitamins from vegetables, fruits, bread and whole grain products, nuts, legumes and milk. These vitamins are quickly absorbed into your blood. If your body doesn’t need them at that moment, the excess vitamins are removed from your body directly with your urine.
- Vitamin C
- Thiamin (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Biotin (B7)
- Folic acid (B11)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin A contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- Vitamin A contributes to the maintenance of normal vision
- Vitamin A contributes to the maintenance of normal skin
- Vitamin A contributes to the maintenance of normal mucous membranes
Vitamin B6 has among others the following EFSA claims:
- Vitamin B6 contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system
- Vitamin B6 contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism
- Vitamin B6 contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- Vitamin B6 contributes to normal psychological function
- Vitamin B6 contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
- Vitamin C contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- Vitamin C contributes to maintain the normal function of the immune system during and after intense physical exercise
- Vitamin C contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
- Vitamin C contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system
- Vitamin C contributes to normal psychological function
*Health claims approved by the European Commission (EFSA)
Vitamin D is best absorbed in the bowels when fat or oil is also present. Vitamin D is best absorbed in the bowels when fat or oil is also present. The average intake of vitamin D from food is estimated at 80%. The body can store vitamin D in adipose tissue and organs, such as the liver.
Sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, meat and eggs. In the Netherlands, vitamin D is also added to low-fat margarine, margarine and baking and frying products (not to oil).
Health claims approved by the European Commission (EFSA) include:
- Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal bones.
- Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of normal muscle function.
- Vitamin D contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and protects cells, blood vessels, organs, eyes and tissues against free radicals. Vitamin E also plays a role in regulating metabolism in the cell.
Vitamin E is the collective name for a number of substances that are naturally present in food: the tocopherols, such as alpha, beta, gamma or delta tocopherol. Alpha-tocopherol is best absorbed by cells and is therefore by far the most important form of vitamin E. Vitamin E supplements contain alpha-tocopherol or alpha-tocopherol acetate.
Sources of Vitamin E are: sunflower oil, low-fat margarine, margarine, bread, grain products, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare and an excess in the body is not harmful.