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Vitamins, Minerals, and Dietary Fibers for Healthy Living

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This article outlines several important micronutrients and their importance in the preservation of health.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Asna Fatma

Published At August 18, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 9, 2024

What Are Dietary Fibers?

Dietary fiber or roughage consists of the indigestible material of plant origin, the cellulose of plant cell walls, lignin in thickened plant cells, and bran in grains.

  • These pass almost unchanged through the gut.

  • Low-fiber food passes slowly through the gut. It tends to form hand dry lumps, which get stuck and can cause inflammation in the gut.

  • Fiber adds a firm, bulky mass to food. This stimulates the gut wall, causing contraction of gut wall muscles, peristalsis, and the secretion of mucus. This enables the food to move easily through the intestine.

  • Fiber absorbs poisonous wastes from the gut.

  • Fiber absorbs water and makes the feces moist and bulky.

  • Fiber helps avoid obesity by adding undigested bulk to food. This satisfies the appetite but does not make one fat. Cabbage, beans, peas, cereals, wheat bran, brown rice, wholemeal bread, etc., have high fiber contents. Without fiber, the feces become hard and dry and compacted in the large intestine, causing constipation. People with low-fiber diets are likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, cancer of the bowel, etc.

What Are Minerals?

Minerals are present in foods in the form of salts or inorganic compounds, usually as ions of calcium (Ca), sodium (Na), carbonates (CO3), sulfates (SO4), chlorides (Cl), and fluorides (F). Organic food components may contain different chemical elements, such as iron (Fe) in blood hemoglobin (Hb). Drinking water (H2O) may also contain soluble inorganic mineral salts.

What Are the Types of Minerals?

There are two types of minerals:

  1. Major Minerals: The major minerals are calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sodium (Na), chlorine (Cl2), and magnesium (Mg).

  2. Trace Minerals: The trace minerals are iron (Fe), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), iodine (I2), fluorine (F), zinc (Zn), and cobalt (Co).

What Are the Functions of Minerals?

Minerals have no energy value. However, the major minerals take part in the construction of body parts. Their functions include :

  • Bone and teeth formation.

  • Muscle activity.

  • Nucleic acid formation.

  • Blood and tissue fluid formation.

  • Skin, nails, hair, etc. formation.

  • Blood clotting.

  • Nerve impulse conduction.

  • Energy transfer.

  • Vitamin B1 formation.

  • Gastric juice (HCl) formation.

The trace minerals take part in metabolic functions and their function include:

  • Blood hemoglobin and muscle myoglobin formation.

  • Bone and teeth formation and growth.

  • Enzyme activity and vitamin B12 formation.

  • Thyroid gland function.

  • Protein synthesis.

Does Mineral Deficiency Cause Diseases?

  • Iron Deficiency Anemia: Itis caused by insufficient iron consumption, profuse bleeding, or inability to absorb iron. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include tiredness, pale skin, and breathlessness.

  • Goiter: Itis an iodine deficiency disease. It causes a swollen thyroid gland and a low metabolic rate.

  • Calcium Deficiency: Calcium deficiency causes bone softening and brittleness.

  • Sodium Chloride Deficiency: Muscle cramps are caused by a lack of common salt (NaCl). However, excessive consumption of salt may cause high blood pressure.

What Are Vitamins?

Vitamins are organic chemical compounds with different chemical compositions. They are needed daily in small amounts, ranging from a few micrograms (µg) to many milligrams (mg), depending on the concerned vitamin. Most vitamins are obtained ready-made from plant origin or animal origin foods. However, a few can be made in the skin with the help of ultraviolet light or in the gut by bacterial action.

Vitamins have no energy value. Their main function is to take part in metabolism, usually in coordination with enzymes. Since metabolic reactions are part of a long sequence of events, an alternation in any one of them can have widespread effects on the body.

What Is Vitamin A or Retinol?

It is also known as vitamin anti-infective. Vitamin A is derived from a yellow pigment carotene that is present in green leaves, carrots, red pepper, and palm oil. There are a-, b-, and g-carotenes, but b-carotene is the most important. Carotene is soluble in water and is converted into retinol by the body. Retinol itself is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver in the form of retinyl palmitate. Retinol forms part of the light-sensitive pigment of the retinal of the eye.

Vitamin A can be obtained directly from milk and milk products, liver, eggs, etc., or from carotene-containing foods such as carrots, red pepper, or palm oil.

The main functions of vitamin A are :

  1. Growth.

  2. Vision at night.

  3. Healthy moist membranes (nose, cheek, etc.).

The main problem that arises from the lack of vitamin A is poor vision or blindness in the dark. It may also cause the cornea of the eye to dry up (xerophthalmia) and eventually lead to blindness. Lack of vitamin A causes poor growth and reduced resistance to infection.

What Is Vitamin B-Complex?

The vitamin B group is a group of about ten or twelve vitamins that occur together. The B-vitamins are water-soluble. They are present in most unprocessed foods.

Most of the vitamins of the B group act as catalysts in the oxidation of carbohydrates. The absence of these catalysts may upset the body chemistry and lead to illness. Vitamin B deficiency occurs especially in people with restricted diets.

  • Vitamin B1 or Thiamine: It is also known as vitamin antiberiberi. Thiamine is exclusively available in whole grain cereals, beans, groundnuts, meat, milk, etc. Vitamin B1 helps the body to obtain energy from food by acting as a coenzyme. Lack of thiamine may lead to wasting and partial paralysis; water-logging of the tissues, and even heart failure. These are the symptoms of beriberi.

  • Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin: Riboflavin is available in the liver, milk, eggs, yeast, cheese, and green vegetables. Vitamin B2 enables the body to obtain energy by acting as a coenzyme. Lack of vitamin B2 may cause stunted growth, cracks in the moist skin around the mouth parts, soreness of the tongue, etc. It may also affect the cornea of the eye.

  • Vitamin B3 or Niacin: It is also known as vitamin anti-pellagra. Vitamin B3 can be obtained from beans, lean meat, liver, fish, cereal grains, yeast, potatoes, etc. Niacin (Nicotinamide/Nicotinic acid) can be made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan, which is present in most cereals. Vitamin B3 acts as a coenzyme in energy release. Avitaminosis of niacin may cause digestive and nervous disorders, memory loss, depression, etc. It may also cause blotch, scaly skin, or skin eczema. These are the symptoms of pellagra.

  • Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine: It is also known as vitamin antidermatitis. Vitamin B6­ is available in molasses, meat, cereal grains, etc. Pyridoxine acts as a coenzyme in energy release. It is also involved in amino acid decarboxylation reactions. Vitamin B6 has a special function in the utilization of amino acids to form proteins. Pyridoxine also takes part in the development of the pituitary gland. Vitamin B6 is very important for pregnant women. Vitamin B6 deficiency is rare in humans. However, lack of this vitamin may lead to dermatitis, microcytic anemia, poor physical and mental development, and metabolic disorders.

  • Vitamin B12 or Cobalamine: Vitamin B12 is available only in animal-origin foods. Therefore, a strict vegetarian is liable to suffer from cobalamin deficiency. Cobalamin contains cobalt (Co) and is made through bacterial action in the intestines of herbivores. Vitamin B12 enables the body to form protein and fat and to store carbohydrates. It takes part in the growth of the body and also in the formation of red blood corpuscles or erythrocytes. Lack of vitamin B12 ­results in the failure to produce RBC (red blood cells) and eventually leads to pernicious anemia (vitamin deficiency anemia), which means that there is not enough hemoglobin (Hb) in the blood. Cobalamin deficiency may also cause digestive and nervous disorders.

  • Other Members of the B Group: There are some other members of the B group. These include:

  1. Biotin: Biotin is available in the white portion of eggs. Its function includes mental and physical development and urinary excretion. It is also known as vitamin H.

  2. Pantothenic acid: Pantothenic acid takes part in the release of energy from food.

  3. Carnitine: Carnitine is synthesized from the amino acids methionine and lysine. It takes part in the transport of fatty acids.

  4. Folacin: Folacin or folic acid is available in spinach, beans, peas, fish, etc. It helps in the conversion of amino acids to proteins.

What Is Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid?

It is also known as vitamin antiscorbutic. Vitamin C is water-soluble. It is destroyed by cooking, grating, mincing, or long storage. Vitamin C is found in oranges, lemons, black currants, and green vegetables.

The functions of vitamin C are :

  1. Healthy maintenance of bones and teeth.

  2. Binding cells together.

  3. Blood plasma and blood vessel formation.

  4. Healing wounds.

  5. Healthy moist membranes.

If vitamin C is not sufficiently available in the body, the gums become soft, teeth grow loose, and wounds fail to heal properly. These are all the symptoms of scurvy.

What Is Vitamin D or Calciferol?

It is also known as vitamin antirachitic. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and it is primarily available in the following four forms:

  • D2 = Ergocalciferol (Ergosterol + Calciferol)

  • D3 = Cholecalciferol (Cholesterol + Calciferol)

  • D4 = 22-dihydro ergosterol

  • D5 = Dehydrositosterol

Vitamin D is available in butter, margarine, oily fish, milk, and milk products. It may also be formed in the body by the action of early morning sunlight on the skin.

The main function of vitamin D is to make and maintain healthy bones and teeth. It also takes part in the utilization of calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P).

Lack of vitamin D causes the bones to become too much soft and weak, and eventually, they may break under pressure. These are the symptoms of rickets.

What Is Vitamin E or Tocopherol?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. The E group contains a-, b-, g-, and d-tocopherols, of which a-tocopherol is the most important. The tocopherols are stable to heat, acids, and alkalis but are destroyed by ultraviolet light or oxidizing agents. Vitamin E is available in milk, vegetable oils, and egg yolk.

The metabolic function of vitamin E is not understood, but it reasonably acts as a biological antioxidant. It also appears to have a function in maintaining the integrity of biological membranes by preventing fats and oils from going rancid. Vitamin E requirements increase with increased intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Avitaminosis of tocopherol may cause dystrophy of both striated and cardiac muscles and even death through cardiac failure. Vitamin E deficiency may cause macrocytic anemia. Another disease is sclerema neonatorum, which is a type of edema found in premature infants.

What Is Vitamin K or Phylloquinone?

It is also known as vitamin antihemorrhagic. Vitamin K is available in the following forms:

  • K1 = Phytonadione.

  • K2 = Menaquinone.

  • K3 = Menadione.

Vitamin K is fat-soluble, non-steroid, and unstable to light. Menadione is the most important agent of the K group. Vitamin K is widely available in leafy vegetables, livers, eggs, etc. Vitamin K acts as a prosthetic group or activator for some enzymes necessary for the production of prothrombin by the liver. It may also become incorporated to some extent into the prothrombin molecule. Vitamin K helps in the clotting of blood.

Vitamin K deficiency is rarely reported. As its name suggests, lack of vitamin K results in subcutaneous and intramuscular hemorrhages. Vitamin K avitaminosis causes a decrease in blood prothrombin, and this causes prolonged clotting times.

Conclusion:

Human health is dependent not only on having a balanced combination of nutrients but also requires appropriate amounts of micronutrients that serve different subtle purposes. They are called micronutrients because they are required only in small amounts.

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Dr. Muhammad Shoyab
Dr. Muhammad Shoyab

Radiodiagnosis

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vitamins and mineralsdietary fiber
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