B vitamins have an important role in changing carbohydrates, protein and fat to energy. Vitamin B6 also works together with the mineral iron to stabilise levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that, if raised, can increase the risk of heart disease. Vitamin B6 is assisted by vitamin B12 and folate. Vitamin B12 is also important for healthy blood and nerves. Together, folate and vitamin B12 contribute to the making and functioning of our genetic material (DNA), so they impact every cell in the body.
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Vitamins are compounds that are needed in small amounts by the body but are involved in a large number of chemical reactions. Vitamins can be separated into two groups;
- water soluble vitamins (Vitamin C, B Vitamins) Water soluble vitamins are needed in regular small amounts and are unlikely to reach toxic levels in the blood as they are excreted in urine
- fat soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, K). .Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body fat and remain there for some time so are more likely to be toxic when consumed in excess of our body's requirements.
Each vitamin has a different function – find out more information by clicking on the vitamins listed below.
Have you ever been told you need to ‘eat all your carrots so you can see in the dark’? There is some truth in this, as the orange pigment in carrots is turned into vitamin A by our bodies. Vitamin A is important in maintaining good eyesight, especially night vision. However, vitamin A is also important for growth and helping us to fight infection.
How many times have you heard it said that taking large amounts of vitamin C will prevent or cure a cold? Science has yet to prove this it true, but vitamin C is important in fighting infections.
Older New Zealanders might remember receiving a daily dose of cod liver oil as children. But do you remember why? Cod liver oil is a rich source of vitamin D, and was considered an easy way of preventing rickets, a bone-softening condition causing bowed legs or knock knees in children.
Vitamin E is important for all-round health. Just as oxygen causes an apple to go brown when cut up, it also causes oxidation and the formation of ‘free radicals’ in our bodies. Vitamin E is our strongest defence against free radicals, and this is why it’s often referred to as an antioxidant. Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties may also reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and some types of cancers.
Little-known but essential, vitamin K helps blood to clot. Most vitamin K is produced by bacteria in the gut, although there are also a few vitamin K-containing foods.