Vitamins have gained a reputation of importance long before scientists were able to isolate and classify them. The Greek physician Hippocrates advocated ingesting liver to cure night blindness. While he did not know the reason for the cure, we know now that vitamin A, which helps to prevent night blindness, occurs in large amounts in the liver.
The formal discovery of vitamins revealed that they were organic substances, needed by the body in minute amounts. Vitamins have no particular chemical structure in common and often are considered accessory nutrients because they neither supply energy nor contribute substantially to body mass. With the exception of vitamin D, the body can not manufacture vitamins.
The diet or supplementation must supply them. Vitamins are needed for almost all reactions to occur within the body. While vitamins and minerals do not supply energy directly for the body to use, they are both necessary in energy metabolism.
We see synergy with vitamins, meaning that they all tend to work together, despite each one having its own unique properties. There are generally two types:
- Fat-Soluble Vitamins: This group is made up of vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Water-soluble Vitamins: Includes vitamins C and the B complex vitamins (thiamin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, cobalamin, riboflavin, and niacin).
Should your client take a multi-vitamin? Only you and the client can determine that, and if you find yourself having discussions about vitamins or other supplements, your clients will expect you to know how to guide them with good coaching skills and strong knowledge of supplements in general.
It is most likely that if your client has a vitamin deficiency, you will observe it easily, as vitamin deficiencies tend to reduce the body’s ability to function properly and can negatively affect overall health. The Journal of the American Medical Association recommends a multi-vitamin for all adults. But does every client need a multi-vitamin?
While we know that a deficiency would be bad, in the same way, over-consumption of vitamins or minerals in amounts over what is recommended can be risky.
Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body and therefore, if these vitamins are supplemented on top of intake or over- consumed, there is a risk of toxicity becoming a concern.
Water-soluble vitamins are excreted from the body and not stored, but come with the added challenge of taxing the body’s systems to clear if they are over-consumed.
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes) was introduced in 1997 in order to broaden the existing guidelines known as Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). The DRI values are not currently used in nutrition labeling, where the older Reference Daily Intake is still used.
If the eating plan for the client is on track, there should be enough variety encouraged with the plan to meet the vitamin and mineral needs for the active client. While whole foods are always best, supplements can be used if this is not practical or possible for the client.
Making things more confusing, some experts have come out in favor of taking a multi-vitamin but when this is the case, the multi-vitamin should never contain more than 100% of the RDA. Your own research and your client experience will ultimately tell you if you should suggest or recommend a multi-vitamin.
A vitamin is like an enzyme or catalyst. It assists in a chemical reaction. By themselves, they will help prevent nutritional deficiency. Vitamins though are not enough. Your client will also need protein, fat, and carbohydrate to fuel their body or to change an energy imbalance. If your client is able to focus on eating a variety of foods, their requirements of vitamins and minerals will probably be met. Only in cases where the FNC suspects a deficiency, should you approach the topic with your client.
Like other sciences, nutrition seems to generate a lot of new research that evolves and improves. The latest intake suggestions included here are from the USDA, from the Agricultural Library database. Some of these terms can seem a little unclear and we seek to explain and clarify these terms.
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