Mighty Minerals, Vital Vitamins

Our bodies are built up from the food we eat. There is a constant breaking down of the tissues of the body; every movement of every organ involves waste, and this waste is repaired from our food. Each organ of the body requires its share of nutrition. The brain must be supplied with its portion; the bones, the muscles, and the nerves demand theirs. It is a wonderful process that transforms the food into blood and uses this blood to build up the varied parts of the body; but this process is going on continually, supplying with life and strength each nerve, muscle, and tissue.” Child Guidance, 378.

Our bodies were designed to operate without our conscious effort. We do not have to think through our body’s digestive process in order for it to happen, nor do we process out our blood’s circulation to get the life sustenance to our extremities. We do not usually pump our lungs manually to get air into them. We breathe without conscious effort. But in order to be able to do all these things, we need to provide our bodies with sufficient calories, vitamins, and minerals, which can best be done through a varied diet. Also, since the invention of dietary supplements, those who have a poor diet, or are compromised in their health condition, are able to use these aids to improve their overall health.

The substances that the body needs to develop and maintain properly are vitamins. There are 13 vitamins that are essential to our livelihood: A, C, D, E, K, and the B-family (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate). To break things down a little further, a vitamin is an organic compound that an organism cannot create in sufficient amounts on its own and must be obtained via another source, mainly through diet. As the word “compound” implies, each vitamin consists of several vitamers. These collective vitamers work together to produce the vitamin and the effect each vitamin has on the body. For example, cyanocolabim, hydroxocolabim, methylocolabim, and 5-deoxadenosylcolabim are all vitamin B12 vitamers. Each unique combination of vitamers are what allow the 13 different vitamins to play their different roles in the body’s upkeep. These roles are as diverse as regulating tissue growth and hormones and aiding in vision.

Today, we have an abundant supply of vitamins that come in the form of pills. But before these were available, food was the only way to obtain these necessary nutrients. Hippocrates, who is known as the Father of Modern Medicine said, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine, thy food;” which is still the best health practice. His finding, among many others, was that feeding his patients liver which is packed with vitamin A, was a cure for night blindness. We now recognize vitamin A as necessary for night vision.

The Renaissance period spawned the growth of oceanic travel which led also to the rise in scurvy cases. Scurvy is a disease defined by the lack of collagen formation which prevents wounds from healing, bleeding from the gums, extreme fatigue, and severe joint and muscle pain. James Lind, a Scottish surgeon, found that citrus fruits prevented the onset of this terrible ailment. The ultimate finding was that scurvy was brought on by a vitamin C deficiency. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, scientists were able to identify necessary components of the diet through deprivation studies. However, it was not until 1912 that the word “vitamine” was pronounced as a vitally necessary component to the human body and its functionality. Later, in 1920, the word was changed to vitamin.

Since then, vitamins have been classified into two groups: fat soluble and water soluble. Four of the thirteen human vitamins are fat soluble: A, D, E, and K. The eight B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble. Water soluble vitamins are dissolvable in water and thus are eliminated through urination. Because of this, the water-soluble vitamins must be replenished on a daily basis.

Both groups of vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the aid of lipids, or fats. However, fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fat for long periods of time and do not need to be replaced as frequently as the water-soluble vitamins. Replacing these vitamins too frequently leaves to a higher danger of toxicity (known as hypervitaminosis).

From the moment of conception, the human body develops through the use of vitamins and minerals. The nutrients play an integral role in the chemical reactions that are responsible for the creation of the body’s many intricate systems. When even one vitamin or mineral is lacking in an appropriate amount, the development can be seriously impaired. In order for the body to be properly maintained, these same nutrients must be available for use. They are necessary for everything from tissue repair to the support of chemical reactions that keep the body operational.

Minerals are the second of these two vital components. Unlike vitamins, which are carbon compounds, or derived from living matter, minerals are inorganic and make up about 4% of our body mass. There are two types of minerals: major or (macro) minerals, and trace minerals. Trace minerals are iron, zinc, copper, selenium, iodine, cobolt, fluorine, manganese, molybdenum, and chromium. The body requires less than 100 milligrams of trace minerals per day for optimum upkeep. The major, or macrominerals, are sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, sulfur (provided through adequate protein intake) and chlorine (amply provided through sodium). These minerals are needed by the body in quantities higher than 100 milligrams daily. Minerals serve three principle roles in the body. They provide structure in forming bones and teeth. Minerals maintain normal heart rhythm, muscle contractility, neural conductivity, and acid-based balance. Also in their realm is the regulation of cellular metabolism. Just like vitamins, minerals are obtained through our diet.

Vitamins and minerals interact with each other to produce the necessary effects in the body. For example, a combination of vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, fluoride, chloride, manganese, copper, and sulfur is necessary to keep bones healthy. And calcium, for instance, depends on the presence of certain vitamins such as vitamin D for its proper absorption. Because vitamins and minerals depend on the presence of one another to function optimally in the body , it is not enough to ensure that your body is just obtaining enough of one or the other; maintaining a proper balance of both is vital to optimum health.

“Health reformers, above all others, should be careful to shun extremes. The body must have sufficient nourishment. We cannot subsist upon air merely; neither can we retain health unless we have nourishing food.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 207.

“A diet lacking in the proper elements of nutrition brings reproach upon the cause of health reform. We are mortal and must supply ourselves with food that will give proper nourishment to the body.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 161.

1 Vitamins: Their role in the Human Body, by George F. M. Ball.