Ever wondered about the vitamins we need or that we eat as part of our breakfast cereal. What they do? How they help us?
A vitamin is an organic compound and a vital nutrient that an organism requires in limited amounts. An organic chemical compound (or related set of compounds) is called a vitamin when the organism cannot synthesize the compound in sufficient quantities, and must be obtained through the diet; thus, the term “vitamin” is conditional upon the circumstances and the particular organism. For example, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a vitamin for humans, but not for most other animal organisms. Supplementation is important for the treatment of certain health problems, but there is little evidence of nutritional benefit when used by otherwise healthy people.
There are 13 recognised vitamins from A to E and K. The reason that the set of vitamins skips directly from E to K is that the vitamins corresponding to letters F-J were either reclassified over time, discarded as false leads, or renamed because of their relationship to vitamin B, which became a complex of vitamins.
The German-speaking scientists who isolated and described vitamin K (in addition to naming it as such) did so because the vitamin is intimately involved in the coagulation of blood following wounding (from the German word Koagulation).
Again, the excellent Compound Interest has produced a detailed image of the chemical structures of vitamins as below. Click on the image to enlarge.
Well-known human vitamin deficiencies involve thiamine (beriberi), niacin (pellagra), vitamin C (scurvy), and vitamin D (rickets). In much of the developed world, such deficiencies are rare; this is due to an adequate supply of food and the addition of vitamins and minerals to common foods, often called fortification.
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