Sunday 13 December 2009, 23:15

Vitamins: when nutritional integration is required

Physiological and medical conditions requiring vitamin supplement

Vitamins: when nutritional integration is required

Vitamins are essential nutrients required in very small amounts by human body and playing a variety of physiological and metabolic roles. Since vitamins cannot be synthesized by the organism, they must be introduced with the diet in amounts meeting the requirements of the body.


In normal physiological conditions, vitamin dietary intake is usually adequate and no supplement is needed. Any excess is either removed with urine (water-soluble vitamins B and C) or stored in liver and fat (fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K).


There are however some physiological or medical conditions requiring supplement of one or more vitamins. As a general rule these conditions may be categorized as follows: 1) conditions of increased need for vitamins (such as growth, pregnancy, breastfeeding); 2) conditions of vitamins deficiency (malnutrition from any cause: chronic and debilitating illnesses, stress, gastrointestinal disorders, metabolic disorders, depression, anorexia and related eating disorders).


Moreover both increased need and deficiency may concern a single specific vitamin or, more frequently, multiple vitamins. Examples of increased specific needs include the supplementation with vitamin D in the first year of life and the supplementation with folic acid during the prenatal period. Examples of specific vitamin deficiencies are: vitamin C deficiency resulting from poor consumption of fruits and vegetables, vitamin B12 deficiency resulting from hereditary or acquired metabolic disorders (vitamin B12 transport disorders), vitamin K deficiency resulting from a prolonged antibiotic therapy. Other conditions, such as pregnancy, breastfeeding and general malnutrition, require supplementation with multiple vitamins (as well as with other important nutrients such as minerals and essential amino acids).


With the exception of particular conditions requiring parenteral administration (intestinal malabsorption disorders, emergency and critical care cases), vitamin deficiencies and/or increased needs may be effectively treated and managed via the oral route. Diet should be balanced and should include foods rich in the lacking vitamins. If this dietary measure is not sufficient - and this is often the case - it is advisable to take multivitamin supplements, often containing minerals as well.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Nutrition

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