Vitamins are an integral component of a balanced diet. They are chemical compounds necessary for the proper functioning of various parts of our body. Vitamins are divided into two types; fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are those that can be stored in the fat tissues of your body. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored for a longer period of time. On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins are those which become a part of the water content of your body. They get eliminated in a short period of time if they are not used. A deficiency of any one of the essential vitamins can lead to certain complications.
There are four fat-soluble vitamins obtained from our diet. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K.
There are two subtypes of vitamin A which are present in animal-based food materials such as butter, fish oil, liver, etc., and plant-based sources such as carrots, spinach, kale, etc. Vitamin A is essential for multiple functions of your body but primarily helps in vision. It is also necessary for certain immune functions, growth, and fertility. The deficiency of this vitamin can cause night blindness, dry eyes, and keratomalacia (which may lead to loss of vision in the future). The immune system also gets weaker, especially in developing children.
Vitamin D is formed naturally by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. It is the best and easiest way to obtain a healthy amount of vitamin D. Some dietary sources include fish oil, fatty fish, and mushrooms. Vitamin D is an essential component for absorbing calcium and phosphorus from your diet, which is required to maintain healthy bones. It also plays a role in your immune system. The deficiency of vitamin D can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Vitamin E is present in certain types of vegetable oils such as wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, etc. It is also present in nuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, peanut butter, and fish oil. The major role of vitamin E in your body is to serve as an antioxidant which is important to prevent cancerous cells. It also supports your immune system and prevents the formation of blood clots. Vitamin E deficiency is rare, but it may cause muscle weakness, tremors, difficulty in walking, disturbed vision, and weakened immune system in severe cases.
Vitamin K has two subtypes which are obtained from plant-based sources such as kale, spinach, parsley, etc., and animal-based sources such as liver, butter, and egg yolks. Vitamin K is essential for your normal blood clotting mechanism, which is important in healing wounds. Deficiency of vitamin K is also rare, but if it happens, it can lead to impaired blood clotting, which increases the risk of internal and external bleeding.
There are nine water-soluble vitamins present in your diet. These include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, and C.
Vitamin B1, also called Thiamine, is found abundantly in lamb liver, pork, sunflower seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Vitamin B1 serves as a coenzyme for many chemical reactions. It triggers and accelerates those reactions which are necessary for the healthy functioning of your body. Deficiency of vitamin B1 can cause beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, is obtained from animal sources such as lamb liver, pork liver, etc. Other food items include goat cheese, nuts, eggs, milk, mushrooms, and green vegetables. Like vitamin B1, this vitamin also serves as a coenzyme in multiple chemical reactions. The deficiency of this vitamin is rare, but it can cause ariboflavinosis, which leads to anemia, tongue, throat, and eye problems.
Vitamin B3, also called niacin, is found in both animal and plant sources. It can be obtained from liver, turkey, pork, chicken, fish, peanuts, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and dairy products. This vitamin also serves as a coenzyme, particularly in glycolysis, which breaks down glucose to yield energy. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause pellagra which is characterized by 4 D’s: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death.
Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, is found in various animal and plant-based food sources. Some of them include liver, kidneys, beef, chicken, trout, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, egg yolks, and whole grains. Vitamin B5 is essential for the formation of coenzyme A, which plays an important role in multiple metabolic reactions. The deficiency of vitamin B5 is very rare, but it may cause sleep disturbance, irritability, and fatigue.
Vitamin B6 is also found in various food sources. Common sources include nuts, liver, salmon, sunflower seeds, tuna, pork, bananas, and potatoes. Vitamin B6 also serves as a coenzyme in various metabolic reactions. It is also important for the formation of WBCs and some neurotransmitters. The deficiency of vitamin B6 is very rare, but it can lead to anemia, dermatitis, depression, and confusion if it occurs.
Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, can be obtained from animal-based sources such as liver, meat, fish, eggs, etc., and plant sources such as leafy vegetables, legumes, cauliflower, and nuts. Vitamin B7 also serves as a coenzyme like the rest of B-type vitamins. The deficiency of this vitamin is also very rare. It can cause neurological disturbances in severe cases and may also affect hair and nail growth.
Vitamin B9, also called folate, or folic acid is found in lamb liver, peanuts, spinach, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, legumes, and green vegetables. It also serves as a coenzyme and is essential for cell division and DNA formation. For this reason, supplements of vitamin B9 are given during pregnancy. The deficiency of vitamin B9 during pregnancy can cause neural tube defects in the fetus. In adults, deficiency of this vitamin along with B12 can lead to anemia.
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is present in animal-based sources. Some of its common sources include liver, kidney, clams, mackerel, tuna, and oysters. Like all other B-type vitamins, it also serves as a coenzyme in various metabolic functions. The deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause megaloblastic anemia, neurological problems, and loss of appetite.
Vitamin C is another essential vitamin found in certain fruits and vegetables. Some common sources include oranges, lemon, kiwi, grapefruit, strawberry, bell peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. Vitamin C serves as an antioxidant and also plays a role in collagen formation. It contributes to your immune system as well. Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy which presents with weakness, fatigue, bleeding gums, and other connective tissue problems.
Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on May 09, 2023.