Vitamins are organic compounds required by humans as nutrients in small amounts known as micronutrients. The term vitamin is derived from the Latin words 'vital' and 'amine', because vitamins are required for life and were originally thought to be amines.

As most of the vitamins cannot be produced by humans, they must be obtained from the diet. An organic compound is considered a vitamin if a lack of that compound in the diet results in overt symptoms of deficiency.

Vitamins are classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. In humans there are 13 vitamins: 4 fat-soluble (A, D, E and K) and 9 water-soluble (8 B vitamins and vitamin C). While fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body's fatty tissue, water-soluble vitamins must be used by the body right away. Any left over water-soluble vitamins leave the body through the urine. Vitamin B12 is the only water-soluble vitamin that can be stored in the liver for many years.

Vitamins are essential to life and healthy living. Failing to get the necessary amounts of specific vitamins can cause deficiency states that are unhealthy and even dangerous. Thus, a sufficient intake of vitamins is crucial to prevent the development of deficiency-related diseases. In addition, some vitamins have a considerable potential in health promotion and disease treatment.

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Learn more about vitamins.

  • Other applications

    Throughout the years, the emphasis of vitamin research has shifted from mainly fighting deficiencies towards health promotion and disease treatment. Read More

  • Supply situation

    Nutrition surveys undertaken in several countries have shown that the estimated intake patterns for vitamins and other micronutrients vary considerably across Europe and in the U.S., depending on age, gender, and other factors. Read More

  • Deficiency

    While vitamin deficiency diseases such as scurvy or pellagra are uncommon, some population groups are at higher risk of vitamin deficiency than others. Read More

  • Sources

    The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods. Read More

  • Safety

    Vitamins and micronutrients occurring in foods are generally considered safe but long-term intake of very high doses of certain vitamins can be harmful. Read More