Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C, D and Zinc

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Vitamins are organic compounds of great importance for the correct functioning of the human body. These compounds cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by the body itself and must be acquired through the diet.

Minerals are inorganic elements that perform a variety of functions in the body. Although there are more than 50 minerals in the body, only 14 are essential for metabolic processes and therefore must be present in the diet.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen and has an antioxidant action, preventing skin aging and reducing the risk of various diseases, including cancer and degenerative processes associated with age. The nutrient also provides strength to bones, teeth, tendons and blood vessel walls.

In addition to these benefits, the vitamin is essential for the production of carnitine, a substance responsible for transporting fats to be burned and transformed into energy and has the function of increasing the production of defense cells and the number of antibodies in the body, making our bodies less susceptible to diseases and symptoms related to low immunity.

The compound is extremely essential for the proper functioning of the body and must be acquired through a balanced diet. If the diet is not supplying the necessary amounts, it is necessary to use food supplements to strengthen immunity.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D acts as a hormone in the human body and regulates the metabolism of calcium, phosphorus and bone. It stimulates steroidogenesis (the process of producing estrogen and progesterone) in the ovaries and testes. In the heart, it acts to control heart function and blood pressure, in addition to stimulating the growth of rhabdomyocytes, increasing muscle tone and strength in the brain and neural development.

The hormone plays an important role in glucose tolerance, stimulating both insulin secretion and increasing the sensitivity of its receptors.

Deficiency can occur due to several factors, such as low exposure to UVB light, decreased vitamin D synthesis in the skin, obesity or pathologies such as cystic fibrosis, gastrointestinal, renal or hematological diseases.

One of the main effects of this deficiency is decreased calcium absorption, leading to hypocalcemia. In adults and the elderly, this causes the bones to become fragile, leading to osteoporosis, and in children and adolescents, rickets and bone deformity can occur, with the loss of bone mass being very noticeable.

Other effects can be muscle spasms, pain when walking and changes in the pelvic bones (in children and adolescents) and osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults. In pregnant women, it can present with narrowing of the vaginal canal and delay in fetal growth.

In the case of vitamin D, only 10 to 20% of its requirement is obtained through the diet. The remaining 80% to 90% needed for good health is through exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. Still, it is important to consume foods rich or enriched with the vitamin and, if necessary, to supplement with medical advice because of the risk of intoxication if ingested in very high doses for several months.

Zinc

Zinc is a metal insoluble in water and alcohol, but relatively soluble in acid. It plays an important role in the synthesis of DNA and proteins in muscles and other organs, embryonic development and reproduction, in addition to acting in the body’s defense, healing and cell division.

It has metabolic functions, especially vitamin A, in the storage and release of insulin and participates in sensory processes of taste and smell. The metal has an oxidizing function by inhibiting the propagation of free radicals and is present in biological membranes with the purpose of stabilizing them.

A lack of zinc can lead to several pathologies such as teratogenicity, skin lesions, growth retardation, decreased and delayed healing, changes in the body’s immune function, hypogonadism, night blindness and behavioral changes.

Zinc is considered relatively non-toxic in humans, but acute zinc ingestion accidents can lead to cases of toxicity. A dose of approximately 1-2g of zinc salt, corresponding to approximately 450mg of zinc, can cause nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. The ingestion of approximately 12 g of elemental zinc can cause lethargy, headache, symptoms easily reversible with chelation therapy, commonly used in intoxication by heavy metals such as lead and mercury.

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