We all know our ABCs – and it’s best to revisit them. In the case of dietary supplements, ABCs are the fundamental vitamins the body needs to keep on keeping on.
Undeniably, vitamins are best introduced into the body via foods – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even some spices. But this is not possible for most of the population, therefore, supplementation is abundantly available to fill in those gaps and even optimize circulating vitamin content.
Research into vitamins’ roles in health and disease states is so incredibly wide spanning. To appreciate the powers of vitamins, a review of some of the more recent studies shows just how comprehensive each is in its capabilities to keep you functioning optimally, and to repair what may be challenging.
You don’t feel vitamins work instantly, but they are industrious chemicals. They support healthy metabolism, immune function and resistance to stress, maintain cell membrane structure and function, produce healthy red blood cells, support joint function and structure, protect mucous membrane structure and function, regulate hormone production, support normal blood clotting activity, support healthy bone turnover, preserve night vision, and promote healthy skin, hair and nails.
Overall, vitamin A concentrates on supporting healthy vision, helps to absorb calcium, and is a potent antioxidant.
A hallmark of “getting fat” besides an increase in clothing size is that excess calories are primarily stored in the white fat; conversely, brown fat is what burns energy. A new study shows that vitamin A consumption can help increase fat burning in the cold (great for winter workouts!). In this study, researchers showed that cold temperatures increase vitamin A production in humans, and this added A converts the undesirable fat – white adipose tissue – into the desirable fat, brown adipose tissue (BAT). BAT is considered beneficial because it stimulates fat burning and thus, heat generation.
The addition of vitamin A to human white fat cells led to the expression of brown fat cell characteristics -- increased metabolic activity and energy consumption. The researchers concluded that converting white into brown fat could be a new therapeutic option to combat weight gain and obesity. "We have discovered a new mechanism by which vitamin A regulates lipid combustion and heat generation in cold conditions. This could help us to develop new therapeutic interventions that exploit this specific mechanism."
A vitamin A analog may help preserve vision and eye health, especially in people with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among the working-age population. Earlier research found that diabetes causes vitamin A deficiency in the retina, causing progressive deterioration of vision. In a new study, investigators gave diabetic mice a vitamin A analog, 11-cis-retinal, and found that the visual function in diabetic mice improved significantly after treatment with the single dose of 9-cis-retinal. In addition, researchers reported that the treatment reduced oxidative stress in the retina, decreased retina cell death and retina degeneration, and improved visual function.
Those who are deficient in vitamin A are more susceptible to skin infection, and a new study revealed a previously unknown bacteria-killing protein on the epidermis, called resistin, requires the vitamin to work. The researchers found that resistin is stimulated by dietary vitamin A.
B Vitamins (or B complex):
There are eight B vitamins – and people wonder: why don’t they have their own letters? B vitamins are closely related water-soluble vitamins, and, describes one source, “each work in a in such a close relationship all over the body that it is difficult to tell which Vitamin B is more important.” The Bs are as follows: B1-thiamine, B2-riboflavin, B3-niacin, B5-pantothenic acid, B6-pyridoxine, B7-biotin, B9-folate, and B12-cobalamin.
One recent review discussed B vitamins/complex starring role in promoting healthy central nervous system function. They describe, “Neurotropic B vitamins play crucial roles as coenzymes and beyond in the nervous system. Particularly vitamin B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin) contribute essentially to the maintenance of a healthy nervous system. Their importance is highlighted by many neurological diseases related to deficiencies in one or more of these vitamins, but they can improve certain neurological conditions even without a (proven) deficiency.”
Age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass contributes to poor outcomes including sarcopenia (muscle wasting), frailty and disability. And vitamin C is known to protect skeletal muscle. One research team analyzed vitamin C intake and plasma levels in approximately13,000 men and women in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition–Norfolk cohort, aged 42–82 years. The researchers found positive associations of dietary and circulating vitamin C with measures of skeletal muscle mass in middle- and older-aged adults, suggesting that dietary vitamin C intake may be useful for reducing age-related muscle loss.
Vitamin D (D3):
Vitamin D has become a multi-tasking superstar, as shown in research during the past decade. Now, researchers have shown that the overall composition of the gut microbiomes in a cohort of 567 older men were linked to their levels of active vitamin D. According to the study authors, in addition to discovering a link between active vitamin D and overall microbiome diversity, they identified 12 particular types of bacteria that appeared more often in the gut microbiomes of men with high amounts of active vitamin D. Most of those 12 bacteria produce butyrate, a beneficial fatty acid that helps maintain gut lining health.
Researchers in another study have found that vitamin D regulates calcium in the distal segments of the intestine (including the colon), a part of the intestine that previously was thought not to have played a key role in this process. Until this study, it was believed that vitamin D’s regulation of calcium only occurred in the proximal portion of the intestine (the part immediately adjacent to the stomach). The findings, according to the researchers, can be crucial in developing more targeted products for gastrointestinal health support.
Vitamin E is known to be a super antioxidant vitamin, as well as facilitating skin healing to reduce scarring. Recently, the vitamin was also found to prevent muscle damage after heart attack, and event that incurs lasting damage to the heart muscle. "One of the most effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents is vitamin E and its derivatives," said the researchers.
In another study, researchers explored the combination of vitamin E with a popular herb, Ginkgo biloba, to identify potential effects on brain protection. They found that the combination had favorable effects on learning and memory, hippocampal plasticity, and apoptotic marker proteins in a rat model of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Given this letter to reflect its primary role in healthy “koagulation” as the Germans spell it, recent research has found that low K status is associated with mobility limitation and disability in older people. Specifically, older adults with low circulating vitamin K levels were nearly 1.5 times more likely to develop mobility limitation and nearly twice as likely to develop mobility disability compared to those with sufficient levels. This was true for both men and women.
There are two K vitamins – K1 (phylloquinone, the one responsible for the coagulation and in the above study) and K2 (menaquinone), which has a body of research showing values for heart and bone health via protein activation. K2 supplementation, say researchers in a paper, has solid clinical evidence that it contributes to bone health by itself and in combination with calcium and vitamin D.
This information isn’t even the tip of the mammoth iceberg that stands in for vitamin research – but works to provide a clear idea of how important these essential nutrients are. Vitamins not only come in natural packaging – in produce – but are in other convenient forms (single and in multis) that serve as a tiny, tasty treat, such as gummies, shots, chews and even gums. Taking you’re A B C’s (as well as Ds, E, and Ks) has never been so enjoyable!