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Understanding Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that are required in the diet in very small amounts, and that perform a variety of functions in the body including serving as antioxidants and cofactors of enzymes. They are also involved in cell differentiation and growth. Despite only being required in minute quantities, deficiencies can result in serious disorders, while excess amounts (toxicity) can also cause problems. Vitamins are classified as either fat-soluble or water-soluble, based on their chemical properties associated with their absorption, transport, storage and excretion. Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) are absorbed and transported in association with fats. They require bile salts, for example, to facilitate absorption from the digestive tract. Furthermore, they can be stored along with body lipids, and are poorly excreted. Thus, it may take time for stores to be depleted before any signs of deficiency are noticed. Excessive intake of fat soluble vitamins may, however,…

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