By Dr. Sergio López Salamanca
Vitamins are organic compounds required in small quantities for the proper functioning of our bodies and cannot be manufactured by the body. In general we can classify them into two groups: water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. This feature is important because it determines solubility and chemical stability, the foods in which a vitamin can be present, the form of distribution in the body fluids as well as the ability to be deposited in different tissues.
We can speak today of a total of 13 vitamins considered essential for human nutrition, of which four are fat-soluble and nine water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K, and because they have precursors, they are not considered absolutely necessary in the daily diet. These vitamins are not removed immediately and tend to be stored in the body.
The water-soluble vitamins are B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin or nicotinic acid), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B8 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), B12 (cobalamin) and C (ascorbic acid). They are generally considered not to have precursors, so they must be ingested in the diet. They are excreted easily and not stored in body tissues.
It is important to consider that the daily requirement of each of these substances is very small, on the order of micrograms (millionths of a gram). Therefore, people who have a normal diet that includes traditional food groups will usually acquire the necessary amounts of vitamins that the body needs.
Vitamin supplements in most cases are not necessary. We must remember that eating larger amounts than our bodies need will not improve our health or provide greater vitality. The excess, in the case of water-soluble vitamins, will be eliminated mainly through urine. Excess fat-soluble vitamins will be stored in the body, at the risk of symptoms of intoxication.
It is important that vitamins not be thought of as inert substances whose intake poses no risk; the reality is that they are organic compounds with specific functions within the body, and therefore your prescription must be supervised by medical personnel. As I have said before, self-medication always represents a risk to health.