Vitamins A-Z

Vitamins A-Z

Are you getting your daily vitamins?

You probably already know that you need to eat a varied and healthy diet to get all the vitamins you need but have you ever questioned how vitamins actually work and why our bodies need them?

Vitamins come in two forms - fat-soluble and water-soluble. We get the fat-soluble ones mostly from fatty foods such as butter and oily fish and our bodies are able to store these vitamins for future use. The other type - water-soluble vitamins (including all the B vitamins) are found in fruits, vegetables and grains and we need to get a ready supply of these because any excess gets passed out in our water.

A shortage of any one vitamin is likely to cause ill-health. Old-fashioned-sounding disorders such as beriberi, rickets and scurvy were all the result of vitamin deficiencies. These days, a lack of vital vitamins can still make you unwell so it’s important to know your vitamin A-Z.

How did vitamins get their name?

In 1905 English scientist Dr William Fletcher was researching the causes of beriberi - a disease that affects the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Fletcher noted that people who ate polished rice were more prone to contracting beriberi than people who ate unpolished rice. Fletcher twigged that there was something about the nutritional properties of the rice’s husks that helped prevent the disease. In fact beriberi is caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine). A few years later in 1912 Polish scientist Casimir Funk came up with the name ‘vitamine’ (later shortened to vitamin). The name was derived from the word ‘vita’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘amine’ from the compounds found in the thiamine contained in rice husks.

Can vitamins improve mood?

We all know we need to eat well to keep physically healthy but the latest research suggests that a higher intake of vitamins and minerals may also improve our mental health. In a series of recent studies*, Canadian experts found that people with mood disorders who consumed an increase in vitamins and minerals reported an improvement in their mental wellbeing. The findings suggest vitamins and mineral supplements could be used as an alternative to some psychiatric medicines for relieving anxiety and depression.