Back in 1912, a man called Casimir Funk came up with the term that turned out to be a monumental cornerstone of modern medicine – vitamins. This discovery was a major scientific breakthrough in our understanding of health and disease. It became synonymous with leading a healthy life, and people quickly started building their habits and diets around balanced vitamin intake.
Fast forward a hundred years or so, and you’ll see that the hype surrounding vitamins is at an all-time high.
This is, of course, in part due to the fact all we need to do nowadays is look at the nutrition label on any food container and simply read through the list of vitamins with amounts per serving. It’s as simple as that – no hassle is needed, no calculating on your own. You just pick up an item and read what vitamins can be found within.
However, while we’ve reached a point where vitamin calculations are almost taken for granted, this does not mean we’ve all magically became experts on the subject. Sure, we all know that we need vitamins in order to stay healthy. But other than that, there are all sorts of things most people simply don’t understand about vitamins – and we’re going to take a closer look at some of them today.
1. You should get your vitamins primarily through food
While our society appears to be quite fond of the idea that vitamins can sufficiently be taken in the form of pills, the truth is that you should always aspire to get your vitamins from food. That way, vitamins come prepackaged with other substances beneficial for your organism, such as fiber and phytonutrients. It’s only when vitamins work synergistically with these other nutrients that you give your body the best possible nourishment it can get.
Obviously, this synergy can’t be adequately imitated with supplements.
Additionally, by taking your vitamins primarily from food, you basically eliminate the risk of overdosing your system with too many vitamins. As you can imagine, this risk tremendously increases if you’re taking vitamin pills.
2. Vitamins are necessary if your body is to function properly
Contrary to popular belief, vitamins are not a substance you take when you want to further reinforce your health. No, vitamin intake is necessary if your body is to perform its most primary tasks, like normal cell function, bone growth and converting food into energy.
In other words, vitamins aren’t a choice, they’re a fundamental requirement.
Every single one of the 13 vitamins we know about (A, C, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folic acid) are essential to the human body. They all have different roles, sure, but all of them are needed in order to keep the body going.
3. Chances are you probably don’t need multivitamins
According to recent studies, roughly 40% of Americans take multivitamins on a daily basis. What if we told you there’s a chance they’re just wasting their money?
Some scientists say that there’s still no strong evidence to back up the belief that taking multivitamins actually makes you healthier. However, since there’s no strong evidence that multivitamins are harmful either, the main problem with this habit is that many see it as a license to eat junk food instead of a vitamin-rich diet.
Junk food is loaded with excess sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat. Popping a multivitamin or two on a regular basis will do nothing to erase the negative qualities of that food.
4. Your body can’t make vitamins on its own (with the exception of vitamin D)
Our bodies are not able to produce vitamins out of thin air. You have to get them from food or supplements – otherwise, you won’t get them at all.
The sole exception to this rule is vitamin D. While this vitamin can be found in food, like fish or eggs, your body is also able to produce it when your skin is exposed to sun rays. Unfortunately, there’s no way to naturally produce any of the other 12 vitamins like this.
5. While it may sound like it, vitamin overdose is not a myth
Too much of anything you intake can turn out to be harmful at a certain point. Vitamins are no different.
There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. All of the B vitamins and vitamin C belong in the water-soluble category, which means that any excess your body doesn’t need is flushed out in your urine. Your body isn’t able to store them.
Fat-soluble vitamins (that’s A, D, E, and K), on the other hand, are a whole different story. They’re stored in your liver and in fat tissue, and body keeps them for long periods of time. That’s precisely why overdose is more likely to happen with fat-soluble vitamins.
Too many vitamins in your organism can lead to dizziness, nausea, headaches, coma, vomiting, constipation, weakness, weight loss and, in extreme cases, even death.
Ready for some good news? It’s basically impossible to OD on vitamins if you intake them through natural food. Yet again, supplements are the culprits as a vast majority of cases where people overdosed on vitamins can be attributed to pills of some kind.
6. Don’t worry – if you’re truly deficient in a vitamin, your body will let you know
Luckily for us, nature has made sure that it’s highly unlikely to have a serious vitamin deficiency without realizing something is not okay from a mile away.
For example, vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, while vitamin B12 deficiency causes serious fatigue and persistent tingling in hands and feet. A true vitamin deficiency will always have symptoms, so don’t think you have a vitamin-related problem just because you’re currently feeling a bit under the weather.
7. Vitamins are not capable of giving you more energy
Chances are you’ve probably come across a few bottles of vitamin pills that promise to boost your energy and keep you on your feet throughout the day.
We’re sorry to say, but vitamins can’t do that.
Vitamins – especially those belonging to the B category – play a role in the complex chemical process your body uses to convert food into energy, sure. But they themselves can’t actually give you a boost of energy. Calories are the ones in charge of that.
Getting the most out of vitamins is only possible if you understand how they work
Obviously, we did not break any new ground with the aforementioned facts about vitamins. And yet, we’re sure many of you were surprised by an entry or two on our list – and, trust us, you are not alone.
So, how can we start making sure people know more about vitamins than the standard “they are good for you” speech? Well, a solution would probably include presenting all the relevant facts in an appealing and engaging manner, right?
This is precisely what the team at MedAlertHelp thought when they created the following infographic.
Simply put, this infographic is a vitamin guide in a nutshell. It uses layman’s terms to underline the importance of all vitamins, but it also teaches you how to recognize signs of deficiency and outlines what the minimum intake for each individual vitamin is.
Additionally, the text also explains which natural sources you can use to get a significant boost of your vitamin levels, so you can apply what you learn here well after you’re done reading the infographic.
Nikola Djordjevic, MD, Head of Content at MedAlertHelp.org.
Coming from Serbia, Nikola is a doctor of medicine who started this project in 2018 out of his passion for helping others, particularly seniors. Apart from reviewing medical alert systems, he also writes a blog dedicated to health, aging, retirement, and other senior-related topics.