Vitamins are essential for healthy growth, vitality and physical well being. In other words, they are vital for the normal functioning of our bodies. They occur naturally in minute quantities in foods and generally must be obtained from these foods or from dietary supplements.
There are 13 major vitamins which each have a range of functions in the body.
Vitamins are either fat soluble or water soluble.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. This means that a certain amount of fat is needed in the diet to help the body absorb these vitamins. Unused supplies can be stored in the body.
The B group vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble. They cannot be stored in the body so we need a daily supply of them from the diet.
How much do I need
Labels on food or supplement packs often compare the amount of each vitamin in the product with the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA). The RDA is the quantity of a nutrient which is needed regularly to keep most people fit and healthy. A small number of people may have higher individual needs than this and a few may need less than the RDA. The RDA does not cover those who are unwell or those with low body stores of a nutrient.
Recommended daily intakes of vitamins
|Vitamin A||500 mcg||600 mcg||700 mcg||600 mcg||700 mcg|
|Thiamin B1||0.7 mg||0.9 mg||1.0 mg||0.8 mg||0.9 mg *|
|Riboflavin B2||1.0 mg||1.2 mg||1.3 mg||1.1 mg||1.4 mg|
|Niacin B3||12 mg||15 mg||17 mg||13 mg||13 mg|
|6.0 mg||6.0 mg||6.0 mg||6.0 mg||6.0 mg|
|pyridoxine B6||1.0 mg||1.2 mg||1.4 mg||1.2 mg||1.2 mg|
|Folic Acid||150 mcg||200 mcg||200 mcg||400 mcg **||400 mcg|
|Vitamin B12||1.0 mcg||1.2 mcg||1.5 mcg||1.5 mcg||1.5 mcg|
|Biotin ***||0.15 mg||0.15 mg||0.15 mg||0.15 mg||0.15 mg|
|Vitamin C||30 mg||35 mg||40 mg||40 mg||50 mg|
|Vitamin D ***||5 mcg||5 mcg||5 mcg||5 mcg||10 mg|
|Vitamin E ***||10 mg||10 mg||10 mg||10 mg||10 mg|
|Vitamin K||Suggested adult intake is 1 mcg per kilogram of body weight|
These recommended vitamin intakes are based on the levels set for the UK population by the Department of Health. These amounts of each vitamin cover the needs of almost every individual within the population.
* Last three months of pregnancy only.
** The Department of Health advises women of childbearing age, who are planning a pregnancy, to take a 400 microgram supplement of folic acid each day.
*** No UK value available. Value based on the European recommendation for adults (90/496/EC).
Measurements in perspective
Even though vitamins are so important they are only needed in tiny amounts. Amounts of most vitamins are given in milligrams = mg. There are 1000 mg in 1 gram (g). 1000 grams = 1 kilogram. Amounts of other vitamins like folic acid and vitamin D, are given in micrograms = mcg or g. There are 1000 mcg in 1 mg.
Dietary Reference Values For Food Energy and Nutrients for the UK. Coma Dept.
Health No. 41 HMSO 1991.
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