It is not uncommon to hear about the importance of vitamins. We are all familiar with vitamin C in orange juice and vitamin D when we sunbathe. The reality is that there are 13 types of essential vitamins and, as their name suggests, they are essential for the proper functioning of the body. Vitamins can have two nomenclatures: a unique name and another one composed of a letter that can be followed by a number. For example, retinol is also known as vitamin A. They are all obtained through food and if there are so many different types it is because each one has a different function. Unfortunately there is no one food that contains all the vitamins, so our diet has to be varied, whether we like it or not. We are aware that it may seem difficult and overwhelming, so from Life Length we have prepared an alphabet of vitamins with all the information you need to know about each one:

Before we begin we should clarify that vitamins can be classified between fat-soluble and water-soluble. The former can be stored in fatty tissues and in the liver and are difficult to eliminate. The latter are dissolved in water and there is no way to retain them for too long in the body, so they must be consumed regularly in our diet or taken through supplements. Surplus vitamins are expelled from the body through the urine, but if the levels are excessively high, they cause problems in the body.


Vitamin A (retinol)

Also known as retinol, it is a fat-soluble vitamin that affects our vision, cell reproduction, strengthening the immune system and the development of bone, soft tissues and mucous. Excess retinol can cause excessive weight loss, severe headaches and hair loss. The defect, on the other hand, makes us more prone to disease, leads to vision problems (especially in low light conditions) and can manifest as skin rashes. There are two types: Vitamin A, which we find in foods such as fruits and vegetables; and preformed vitamin A, which we obtain by eating beef and poultry.


Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

This is the first vitamin of the B complex. Yes, we have mentioned that there are 13 types of vitamins and 8 of them belong to the B complex. This type of vitamins are water-soluble, which means that they must be ingested regularly because our body is unable to retain them for too long. Thiamine plays a crucial role in different chemical reactions in the body, especially helping cells to transform carbohydrates into energy, it is involved in muscle contraction and in the nervous system. There are no known problems related to excess thiamine, but thiamine deficiency can lead to heart failure and nervous system impairment. We can acquire vitamin B1 from multiple foods such as meat and liver, fish, fruits or vegetables. 


Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

It is involved in body growth and in the production of red blood cells, which are involved in the transport of oxygen in the organism. Therefore, its deficiency may cause anemia, skin lesions and blurred vision. Its excess has no known contraindications. We can incorporate it into our organism by ingesting products based on cereals, green vegetables and lean meat, among others. 



Vitamin B3 (niacin)

It is a vitamin that intervenes in the transformation of the food we eat to be useful in our organism (metabolism). It also intervenes in the digestive system, the nervous system and the skin, which implies that its deficiency can produce pellagra, a disease associated with the lack of niacin that produces diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia. Eating meat, fish or whole grains will help us to maintain correct levels of vitamin B3. 


Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

Pantothenic acid collaborates with biotin (vitamin B7) in the metabolic process, that is, in the transformation of food into simpler substances so that they can be used by the body. It is also involved in the formation of cholesterol and certain hormones. Its excess can lead to diarrhea, but its deficiency can cause dermatitis, hair loss and drowsiness, among other problems. The reality is that it is unusual to have a pantothenic acid deficiency, since we can incorporate it into our organism by eating different types of meat, eggs, milk or whole grains (rice and whole wheat, for example). 


Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

This vitamin is involved in the immune system (more specifically in the production of antibodies), in the formation of red blood cells and in the correct functioning of the nervous system. Its excess causes various disorders such as anemia, joint numbness and abnormalities in the nervous system such as lack of muscular coordination. If we do not have enough pyridoxine we will suffer from peripheral neuropathy, dermatitis and can even make us more prone to depression. It is found in foods such as oily fish, some types of nuts and dairy products.


Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Biotin is involved in the metabolic process of fats, proteins and carbohydrates and is responsible for the production of certain hormones. Excess biotin is not harmful in itself, but may show altered values in certain tests.  A lack of biotin can lead to skin deterioration, hair loss and brittle nails. It is really strange to have a biotin deficiency if we take into account that it is found in a wide variety of foods including meat, fish, different types of seeds and some vegetables such as broccoli or spinach.


Vitamin B9 (folic acid or folate)

Folic acid plays a fundamental role in the formation of red blood cells and DNA, and is essential for cell reproduction.  It also works together with vitamin C and vitamin B12 in the creation of some proteins. During pregnancy it is important to maintain the correct levels of vitamin B9 to prevent brain and spinal malformations in the fetus. Excess folate poses no direct health risk, but can cover up low levels of vitamin B12. Low levels of vitamin B12 can cause neurological problems that, if left untreated, may become irreversible. Low levels of folic acid can cause mouth ulcers, diarrhea and growth problems. It can be found in foods such as nuts, vegetables and cereals.


Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)

This vitamin, as mentioned above, acts together with folic acid in the formation of certain proteins. It also intervenes in the creation of red blood cells, in the nervous system and in the reproduction of DNA, which is directly related to the growth and regeneration of tissues. Its excess can cause nausea, headache and diarrhea. This vitamin is stored in the liver, so long periods have to pass without introducing this compound in our body before it is considered that we have a deficiency and the problems manifest themselves. The lack of cyanocobalamin produces anemia and neurological damage that can be irreversible if not treated in time, especially in older people. We will maintain our normal levels if we include meat, eggs and dairy products in our diet.


Vitamin C (antiscorbutic)

This is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it must be incorporated into our body on a regular basis. Together with vitamin B9 it is involved in the creation of some proteins. It contributes to the production of skin, tendons and blood vessels. It is also involved in the regeneration of various tissues. Excess vitamin C is not common, as it is usually excreted in the urine. However, when it occurs, probably caused by taking vitamin supplements, it can cause insomnia, headaches and digestive discomfort. Conversely, a lack of vitamin C leads to scurvy disease, which causes anemia, poor scarring and weak blood vessels. We can obtain it by incorporating citrus fruits and some vegetables, among other foods, into our diet.


Vitamin D

It is a fat-soluble compound, which means that it can be stored in the liver and fatty tissues. This vitamin allows our body to absorb calcium, an element of which our bones are mainly composed. Excess vitamin D results in an excess of calcium in the blood. It can cause nausea, frequent urination and even the formation of calcium stones, stones that result from the accumulation of calcium. It is activated when we receive sunlight, provided it is done in moderation, since prolonged exposure to solar radiation has multiple contraindications.


Vitamin E

It participates in the formation of red blood cells, prevents blood clots from forming and has an antioxidant function that protects cells from free radicals that can deteriorate them. It should also be noted that many cells use this compound to communicate with each other. Excessively high levels of vitamin E can cause bleeding, nausea and muscle fatigue. On the other hand, its deficiency implies problems of coordination and reflexes to which muscular weakness is added. We can introduce it in our organism with vegetable oils, nuts and fish.


Vitamin K

It is a compound directly responsible for blood coagulation and is involved in bone health. The excess of this vitamin can produce clots and liver problems. A deficiency, on the other hand, produces the opposite effect: hemorrhages and difficulty in closing wounds, as well as osteoporosis. We can consume vitamin K through a variety of foods such as vegetable oils, some vegetables, meats and eggs.


Now that we have explained all the vitamins that have been discovered, we need to remember that all vitamins are essential and having a deficiency of them is detrimental to health. Life is not possible without each and every one of the 13 vitamins. There are pathologies that prevent us from assimilating some of these vitamins, which forces us to compensate by resorting to vitamin supplements. However, for the vast majority of people a balanced diet should allow us to have normal levels of all these vitamins. Once again, a good diet helps us to live longer and, of course, better.