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Vitamins and Minerals


Though they are available in small quantity in a cell, they are essential to regulate the various metabolic activities of the animals. Since they are regularly used in the body, they should be taken in the food. For the normal functioning of the body the following mineral salts are important. These are Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Iron, Sulphur, Copper, Cobalt, Zinc, Iodine, Chlorine etc.


Water is an essential constituent of protoplasm which forms the physical basis of life, though it does not yield any energy. Protoplasm has nearly 90% water. This water is obtained through three sources such as-

(a) Through drinking as such.

(b) Along with food which is dissolved in it.

(c) Water formed as a result of the oxidation of food materials i.e., the metabolic water.


Without vitamins a diet cannot be called as a balanced diet. Because these are the substances which are present in very small amounts in food and are essential for the normal growth, body activity and in the prevention of certain deficiency diseases. In 1911 Funk called these substances as 'vitamine' but later on this name is retained as 'vitamin' as suggested by Prof. J.C. Drummond after dropping the letter 'e'. These are accessory, indispensable food factors, organic in nature, required in a very minute quantities to maintain normal growth of the body. They are more like the catalysts. They do not have energy or body building values. They are often called as regulators. The vitamins known at present can be divided into two groups based upon their solubility in water or oils.

1. Fat soluble vitamins-Vitamins A, D, E and K.

2. Water soluble vitamins- Vitamins B and C.

Vitamin A (C20H29OH) (Retinol)-It is a fat soluble vitamin, exist in nature as such or in the provitamin form and as carotene pigments mainly in green and yellow vegetables. Carotenes are converted into vitamin A in the intestinal wall. Vitamin A is found in abundance in the fish liver oil, dairy products like butter, cream, egg yolk, carrots, yellow maize spinach, peas, beans and other vegetables. Vitamin A is a yellow viscous oil. Ordinary carotenes include , ß and y carotenes.

The deficiency of retinol causes permanent dryness of cornea of eyes called xerophthalmia but in extreme case it causes destruction of cornea (Keratomalacia). Deficiency of vitamin A also results in the decrease of rhodopsin and the person suffers from night blindness (Nyctalopia).

Vitamin D (Calciferol)- Vitamin D are fat soluble and are known as antirachitic vitamins, because their deficiency causes ricket in man. In 1921 Mellanby recognized the need for a factor from food (Cod liver oil) which could prevent ricket. It is necessary for normal calcium and phosphorus metabolism and consequently for healthy bones and teeth development. At present 10 different compounds possessing antirachitic properties are known including two of great importance like vitamin D2 (Calciferol or Ergocalciferol-plant origin) and vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol-animal origin). Vitamin D occurs in large quantities in fish liver oil and yolk of eggs. It is present in a small degree in animal fats but practically absent in vegetable oils. Milk is an ideal food for growing children.

The deficiency of vitamin D leads to rickets or rachitis in children. In the growing children, the disease is associated with bowed legs and enlarged joints. Another disease associated with vitamin D deficiency is osteomalacia where the bones become softer than rickets and result into deformities. Serum calcium is sometimes reduced to the extent that it may cause tetany.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol) - They are colourless, non-crystallizing oils, soluble in fat solvent and insoluble in water but are stable to heat and acids. Vitamin E was investigated by Evans and sure in 1992 as it maintained the normal growth in rats but failed to bring continuation of pregnancy and normal child birth, thus it is called tocopherol or antifertility vitamin. These vitamins exist in two forms namely a-Tocopherol and ß-Tocopherol. The rich sources for them are cotton seed oil, corn oil, oil of wheat germs and plants, green lettuce and orange peels. All green leaves, eggs, meat, butter do also contain these vitamins.

Though the deficiency of these vitamins is antifertility in rats but their relationship with human reproductive physiology is yet to be established.

In the deficiency of this vitamin the germinal epithelium of testes is destroyed and testes fail to produce spermatozoa. In female ovulation and fertilization takes place but the foetus dies. Nursinig animals develop lactation disorders. Lack of this vitamin also causes a muscle ailment (Muscular dystrophy).

Vitamin K (Antihaemorrhagic) - ¬These are fat soluble, heat stable and resistant to reducing agents and light sensitive. These are necessary for the formation of prothrombin (in the liver) which participates in blood clotting. Dam (1934) named this vitamin K from the term 'Koagulation'. It is available in two forms K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is a yellow oil at ordinary temperature and its melting point is 20°C while vitamin K2is a yellow crystalline solid of melting point 55°C. Vitamin K1 Occurs in plant materials such as green leafy tissues, alfalfa, spinach, kale, cabbage, chestnut. Fish meal is a rich source of vitamin K2 while milk and eggs contain K1 and K2 in small quantity.

The deficiency of this vitamin causes failure of blood clotting called hypoprothrombinaemia. Recent view is that vitamin K in the form of coezyme Q forms the normal electron carrier and is also believed to help in the oxidative phosphorylation process.

Vitamin B Complex-Earlier vitamin B was applied to a water soluble Substance which were separated from protein, milk, wheat germ and yeast but later on it was found that many substances are of the same nature hence the name vitamin B complex was given. The only common property exhibited by these vitamins is that they form coenzymes of different enzymes. Thus group B-vitamins help in metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, nucleic acids, minerals and numerous other substances. The following substances comprise the vitamin B complex-

1. Thiamine (B1)

2. Riboflavin (B2) or Vitamin G

3. Pantothenic acid (B3)

4. Niacin (B5)

5. Pyridoxine (B6)

6. Biotin (B7) or Vitamin H

7. Inositol

8. Choline

9. Folic acid (B9) or Vitamin M

10. Lipoic acid

11. Para-amino benzoic acid

12. Cyanocobalamine (B12)

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine, Antineuretic or Antiberiberi) is readily soluble, crystalline, insoluble in ether and chloroform and slightly soluble in ethyl alcohol. In dry state it is almost stable upto 100°C and during cooking it is usually not destroyed till 100°C. Thiamine is found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, yeast, eggs, fishes, pork, beef, liver, heart, kidney, milk, fresh fruits and other vegetables. Its deficiency may cause anorexia (lack of appetite), polyneuritis in animals and beri-beri in man. In this disease (beri-beri) there occurs polyneuritis, muscular atrophy, cardiovascular changes and edema.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin, Lactoflavin or Ovoflavin or Vitamin G) is a water soluble, orange-yellow crystalline compound. It is heat stable and acid stable but decomposed on exposure to light. It occurs widely in nature. Milk is an important source and other important sources are liver, kidney, fish eggs, leafy vegetables and fruits. Its continuous deficiency may lead morbid changes in the skin called cheilosis (inflammation of the lips, fissures at the corners of mouth, scaliness and greasiness), glossitis (inflammation of the tongue), seborrheic dermatitis and keratitis.

Vitamin B3 (Pantothenic acid) is a pale yellow viscous oil, readily soluble in water but insoluble in alcohol and other fat solvents. It is stable to heat, moisture and to the action of oxidising and reducing agents. It is richly found in liver, kidney, eggs, lean beef, cereal brans, crude cane molasses etc. In human the deficiency may cause burning feet syndrome, fatigue, cardiovascular disturbances, gastro-intestinal disturbances, numbness and tingling of the extremities etc.

Vitamin B5 (Niacin, Nicotinic acid amide or Pellagra preventive factor) is a water soluble, odourless, white, crystalline compound fairly stable to atmospheric air or heat. It plays a very important role in carbohydrate metabolisms. Excellent Sources for this vitamin are liver, yeast, wheat germ, lean meat, whole cereals and pulses etc. Common fruits and vegetables also contain very little of it. Deficiency causes pellagra in which patches develop on the skin, mouth and tongue develop soreness and inflammation, achlorhydria, diarrhoea, thickening and pigmentation of skin. In dog its deficiency causes black tongue disease.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) a water soluble, white crystalline solid and sensitive to ultraviolet irradiation. It is resistant to heat. This vitamin plays active role in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It also influences formation of RBC and synthesis of haemoglobin. Excellent sources of vitamin B6 are milk, egg, yolk, liver, meat, fish, yeast, peas and other leguminous plants. Deficiency of the vitamin produce skin lesions. Prolonged deficiency may cause fall in haemoglobin % mental depression and confusion etc.

Vitamin B7 (Biotin or Vitamin H) is a crystalline water soluble, insoluble in fat solvents. It is an important factor in human nutrition and plays important role in lipid metabolism. Deficiency cause dermatitis marked by scaliness and desquamation (shedding of scales).

Inositol is also known as muscle sugar. It is a white, crystalline, water soluble substance. Animal tissues such as muscles, brain, ABCs and eyes contain it. It is also widely distributed in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and yeast Milk also contains it. In mice its deficiency causes retardation in growth and alopecia. In man its nutritional significance is not known.

Choline is a well known lipotropic factor. Its main sources are meat, egg yolk, pancreatic tissue, bread, cereals and vegetables. It prevents the development of fatty liver as well as has a curative action. Deficiency is accompanied by the development of fatty liver.

Vitamin B9 (Folic acid) is tasteless, yellow and slightly soluble in water. It is a sensitive compound which is inactivated by acid, base, sunlight, heat and oxidation and reduction. It serves as an essential growth factor. Main sources for this vitamin are liver, kidney, yeast and mushrooms. It is also richly found in wheat germ, dried lime beans, spinach, chicken, peanuts and whole wheat etc. Deficiency of this vitamin in man may cause ailments such as macrocytic anaemia and sprue.

Lipoic acid is a crystalline, insoluble substance. Some authorities doubt about its inclusion under vitamins. It acts as an oxidising agent.

Para-amino benzoic acid (PABA) is a white, crystalline substance, soluble in water. The rich sources are liver, yeast, rice bran and whole wheat. In mouse achromatirichia (lack of hair pigment) could be curved by feeding this vitamin.

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamine) is a deep red, crystalline compound containing cobalt, cyanide and amino group. It is soluble in water and stable to heat. It is also a nutritional factor necessary for normal metabolic functions. The best sources for this vitamin are liver, egg, meat, beef, pork, milk and milk products. Deficiency causes disturbances in haematopoiesis, pernicious anaemia, typical sore tongue and several neurological involvements of the spinal cord.

Vitamin C (C6H8O6) (Ascorbic Acid) - It is also known as antiscorbutic or scurvy preventing vitamin. It is a colourless, odourless, crystalline, optically active, water soluble and strongly reducing Substance. It is also essential for the immunity or body defence. It plays important role in blood formation and maintenance of physiological level of RBCs. It is destroyed by excessive boiling or prolonged cooking. Drying, storing and ageing of food may also destroy vitamin C activity. It occurs abundantly in certain fresh fruits such as citrus fruits, lemons, limes and grape fruits. It is also found in vegetables. Deficiency causes scurvy (bleeding gums, loosening and falling out of teeth, sub-cutaneous and intra¬muscular haemorrhages).