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Vitamins and their Deficiencies

Biology | 9-11 yrs | Learning Pod, Interactive

In an amusing story by Enid Blyton, eight year old Tom would fuss over his food and wanted his parents to stop telling him what to eat. Fed up, his parents agreed. So Tom had no breakfast, lunch or dinner and ate only sweets and drank only root beer.

It was fun for two days. On the third day he felt miserable, his stomach ran loose, his teeth felt like he wanted to chew something and he longed for his glass of milk that helped him run around in the garden with his dog. He went to the kitchen and smelt meat and vegetables cooking. His mouth watered, telling him that the body needed good food. Needless to say, he gobbled up whatever was put before him and soon felt good.

Well cooked food is vital to our health. A balanced diet contains carbohydrates and proteins and also our daily requirement of vitamins.

We do not need vitamins in large quantities, but in regular doses and they are necessary for a large list of tiny functions in your body. Vitamins are found in a number of fruits and vegetables, in eggs and milk, in fish and meats and soy. If we don’t eat these regularly, the body will slowly weaken, because the tiny functions that ensure that all the parts work correctly, stop happening. The absence of vitamins in a diet, will then cause serious health conditions, that can affect vital organs like the heart and brain.

How it works –

Some vitamins, B and C, are absorbed by the body in the small intestine. From there they are transported into the bloodstream. However, these vitamins are water soluble and can also be lost through urine. Therefore, they need to be replenished daily.

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. They are also absorbed in the small intestine. When the bile juice from the liver breaks down the fat, the vitamins dissolve in the fat, they are absorbed by the intestinal walls and then into the bloodstream. They are stored in the body and need not be replenished daily.

Here is a chart of Vitamins and their sources:

Vitamin A (Retinol or Beta-carotene)Keeps eyes healthy; develops bones; protects linings of respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts; maintains healthy skin and hair. Beta carotene fights free radicals (chemicals that damage cells).
Vitamin B1(Thiamine)Promotes healthy functioning of the nerves, muscles and heart. Metabolizes carbohydrates.
Vitamin B2(Riboflavin)Metabolizes carbohydrates, fats and proteins, produces hormones; promotes eye and skin health.
Vitamin B3(Niacin)Metabolizes carbohydrates and fats; helps functioning of digestive system; maintains healthy skin.
Vitamin B5(Pantothenic Acid)Produces hormones and maintains body’s immune system.
Vitamin B6(Pyridoxine)Metabolizes protein; helps produce hemoglobin; promotes functioning of digestive and nervous systems, and healthy skin.
Vitamin B12(Cyanocobalamin)Builds genetic material of cells and produces blood cells.
Vitamin C(Ascorbic Acid)An antioxidant, fights and resists infection; heals wounds; promotes growth and maintenance of bones, teeth, gums, ligaments and blood vessels.
Vitamin D(Cholecalciferol)Builds strong bones and teeth and maintains the nervous system.
Vitamin E(Tocopherol)Protects the lungs, nervous system, skeletal muscle and the eye’s retina from damage by free radicals; may reduce risk of heart disease by protecting against atherosclerosis.
Vitamin H(Biotin)Metabolizes proteins and carbohydrates; breaks down fatty acids.
Vitamin KPromotes normal blood-clotting.
Vitamin M(Folic Acid)Synthesis of protein and genetic materials; may help prevent some cancers, heart disease and stroke; when taken during pregnancy, protects against some birth defects.

It is important to eat nutritious food everyday in order to admit vitamins into the body. Too much pizza or doughnuts and not enough vegetables and meat will deplete the vitamin reserves in your body. Alcohol and cigarettes also slowly erode your vitamin supplies by not allowing proper absorption in the small intestine.

The logic is simple. If you fill your car with water instead of petrol, will it run? Similarly, if you don’t give your body the petrol it needs, how will it run? Moral of the story – the next time your parents tell you to drink your milk and eat your vegetables, DO IT!

Take the list of vitamins from the table and find out what are their sources. Based on your findings, you will know what you need more of in order to have a healthy diet.

Looking for more biology articles and videos? Go to: Biology for Kids.