When you were a kid and you got told to eat your greens it was for good reason; they’re packed with vitamins. Vitamins are nutrients that your body needs to function well and fight illness and disease. Your body can’t produce vitamins itself, so you need to get them from your food or from a supplement.
Vitamins were first discovered by a Polish chemist in 1912. He managed to isolate vitamin B1, known as thiamine, from rice. He also discovered that this vitamin could prevent a disease called beriberi, which is a deficiency that causes inflammatory and degenerative changes of the nerves, the digestive system, and the heart.
Vitamins are necessary for reactions to take place in the body. If you are deficient in a certain vitamin, the normal bodily functions can stop working optimally and you become more vulnerable to illness and disease.
The body only requires a tiny amount of some vitamins, and we get them from 3 main sources:
Our body makes them Vitamin K and some of the B vitamins are produced by bacteria in the intestines. Vitamin D is produced when sunlight is on our skin.
Vitamins are classed as either fat-soluble or water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K, which build up in the body’s fat stores. These are toxic in high amounts.
Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are eliminated in the urine if they are taken in excess, and they can also be stored in the liver.
There are certain vitamins your body absolutely needs for good health, these are:
Vitamin A, is also known as retinol and its main functions in the body are:
- Helping the immune system to work properly
- Improving your vision in dim light
- Keeping the skin healthy
- Good sources of vitamin A include cheese, eggs, oily fish, fortified low-fat spreads, milk, and yoghurt.
How much vitamin A do you need?
The recommended amount is:
- 0.7mg a day for men
- 0.6mg a day for women
You should be able to get all the vitamin A you need from your diet, and any your body doesn’t need is stored, so you don’t need a huge amount of it each day.
What happens if you take too much?
According to some studies, having more than 1.5mg a day of vitamin A over a period of time can weaken your bones. If you take supplements that contain vitamin A, make sure your daily intake from food and supplements isn’t more than the recommended amount.
If you’re pregnant, taking a large amount of vitamin A can harm your baby, so don’t eat products that are known to be high in vitamin A or take supplements.
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and its main functions are:
- Protecting the body’s cells and keeping them healthy
- Keeping the skin, bones, cartilage, and blood vessels healthy
- Healing wounds
Good sources of vitamin C include oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and potatoes.
How much vitamin C do you need?
- Adults need 40 mg of vitamin C a day.
- You should be able to get all the vitamin C you need from your diet, but it can’t be stored, so you need to include it in your diet every day.
What happens if you take too much?
Taking more than 1,000mg per day of vitamin C can cause stomach pain, diarrhoea, and flatulence.
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Both of these minerals are needed for healthy teeth, bones, and muscles.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities, bone thinning, and pain.
Most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight during the spring and summer, but this might not be the case in the summer, especially if you live in the northern hemisphere. Try to get out in sunlight wherever possible, and get as much vitamin D from your diet as you can from oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and fortified breakfast cereals.
How much vitamin D do you need?
- Babies up to the age of 1 need 8.5-10mcg of vitamin D a day.
- Children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10mcg of vitamin D per day. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency, for example, people who are housebound.
What happens if you take too much?
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause a build up of calcium in the body which is bad for the kidneys, bones, and heart.
If you take vitamin D supplements, 10mcg a day will be enough for most people.
Taking more than 100 mcg of vitamin D may be harmful.
Children aged 1-10 years shouldn’t have more than 50 mcg a day. Babies under 12 months shouldn’t have more than 25 mcg a day.
Vitamin E helps to maintain skin and eye health, and it also boosts immunity.
Good sources of vitamin E include nuts and seeds, plant oils, and wheat germ
How much vitamin E do you need?
- 4mg a day for men
- 3mg a day for women
You should be able to get all the vitamin E you need from your diet, as it’s stored in the body until the body needs it. This means you don’t need to take in a set amount each day.
What happens if I take too much?
There’s not enough evidence available to conclusively say what the effects of taking high doses of vitamin E are.
Vitamin K helps the blood to clot, so wounds won’t heal properly without it. It can also help to keep the bones healthy.
Good sources of vitamin K include green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, cereals, and some meat and dairy products.
How much vitamin K do you need?
Adults need 1 mcg a day of vitamin K for each kilogram of body weight. You should be able to get all the vitamin K you need from a balanced diet. What your body doesn’t use gets stored in your liver, so you don’t need it every day.
What happens if you take too much?
There’s not a lot of evidence about what happens if you take too high a dose of vitamin K.
The B group of vitamins
If you have ever seen the names riboflavin and folic acid on your cereal box, you will have come across vitamin B. The B group are a group of 8 vitamins, sometimes referred to as the B-complex.
The B-complex vitamins are actually a group of eight vitamins, which include:
- thiamine (B1)
- riboflavin (B2)
- niacin (B3)
- pantothenic acid (B5)
- pyridoxine (B6)
- cyanocobalamin (B12)
- folic acid
These vitamins are essential for:
- The breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose which provides the body with energy
- The breakdown of fats and proteins which help the nervous system to function normally
- Maintaining muscle tone in the stomach and intestinal tract
- Skin health
- Hair health
- Eye health
- Oral health
The known benefits of B vitamins:
- They can ease stress
- They can treat anxiety and depression
- They can boost memory
- They can relieve PMS
- They can reduce the risk of heart disease.
The 8 compounds that make up the vitamin B complex help to regulate brain chemicals for a healthy mind. They are great for lifting the mood, improving memory, reducing migraines, reducing anxiety and depression, and boosting energy. The B vitamins are a great team that work together to benefit the body in a variety of ways.
Some B vitamins help the body’s cells to burn fats and glucose for energy. Others help the body to make neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and some of them help to repair the DNA if it is damaged by free radicals.
Many people don’t get enough of some types of B vitamins, and deficiencies in folic acid, B12, and B6 are common. Combat this by ensuring that your diet contains plenty of foods that are rich in vitamin B, such as dark-green vegetables, animal protein, and wholegrains.
You should be able to get what you need from your diet but if you are stressed, or having problems with your mood, maybe you should try a supplement.
How the B Vitamins Are Used to Prevent and Treat Health Conditions
Always speak to your doctor before taking supplements for any condition.
- You’ll need more if your diet is high in carbs and sugar.
- Recommended dose 10-100 mg
- Higher doses of this vitamin have been shown to reduce migraine headaches in sufferers
- Recommended dose 10-400 mg
- Helps to increase energy and repairs the DNA.
- Recommended dose 50-100 mg
- This is needed for the production and regulation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. It may play a role in relieving PMS
- Recommended dose 10-50 mg
- Pantothenic acid
- This can help wounds to heal faster and higher doses can help to reduce cholesterol.
- Recommended dose 10-100 mg
Folic acid (B9)
- This lowers risk of heart disease and stroke, and can prevent colon cancer. If taken during pregnancy, it can reduce the risk of birth defects.
- Recommended dose 400-800 mcg
- Cyanocobalamin (B12)
- Can improve memory and boost focus and concentration.
- Recommended dose 20-1,000 mcg
- High dosages of this vitamin, if taken with the mineral chromium, can regulate blood sugar.
- Recommended dose 30-100 mcg
Methylcobalamin is also known as Methyl-B12 or Mecobalamin and it’s a form of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 reduces the toxicity of heavy metals in the air, water, and soil, and in the body, it protects the brain and slows down the ageing process.
It promotes the healthy functioning of the nervous system and the health of the brain neurons, which is helpful for people who have degenerative brain conditions like motor neuron disease and multiple sclerosis.
B vitamins are known for their ability to reduce stress and as a result, they are one of the most commonly taken supplements. There is also some exciting research which suggests that Methylcobalamin might have beneficial effects on cancer, Bell’s palsy, chronic fatigue, depression, immune function and heart disease.
The Effects of Methylcobalamin
Methylcobalamin is the most common form of one of the most prevalent enzymes in Vitamin B12. Its effects are almost the same as Vitamin B12.
The other forms of vitamin B12 are:
- Adenosylcobalamin (Dibencozide, Cobamamide, Cobinamide)
Methylcobalamin and Adenosylcobalamin are classed as co-enzymes, which means that the body needs them to help with some essential chemical reactions in the body.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in immune system function, and in preventing anaemia, and maintaining the health and function of red blood cells.
One of the main reasons that people take Methylcobalamin supplements is to correct a deficiency of B12. Vegans and vegetarians are particularly at risk of this, as the best sources of the vitamin are animal products. As vitamin B12 is most commonly found in these products, many vegetarian and vegan foods are fortified to prevent deficiency.
There are some foods that are derived from plants that are suitable for vegetarians, such as spinach leaves, nori, tempeh, and some mushrooms, which are a source of vitamin B12.
Brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast are also often fortified with synthetic B12.
Methylcobalamin has 2 important effects on the brain which give it its neuroprotective and longevity boosting capabilities.
The compound reduces the levels of the inflammatory marker homocysteine in the brain, and it’s this marker that is often blamed for the vascular degeneration of the brain.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is found in meats and it is produced in the body when protein is broken down.
If homocysteine levels are too high, it might be a sign that the metabolism of protein in the body might not be happening as efficiently as it should.
Excess levels of homocysteine are also linked to a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and the formation of arterial plaque.
Methylcobalamin also improves the functioning of the nerves in the brain. It can even encourage the regeneration of damaged nerves and prevents the brain from degeneration that is associated with the ageing process.
The vitamin also helps to maintain the protective sheath that covers the nerves.
It also plays a role in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to where they are needed in the body.
It also raises the amount of a compound in the brain called S-adenosylmethionine, which lifts the mood and has the same effect as a tricyclic antidepressant.
The supplement is thought to boost immunity and combat the signs of ageing, even at a cellular level. Taking a supplement each day can boost memory, concentration, and mental energy.
This vitamin can also prevent heart disease as it lowers the level of the marker for heart disease and heart attacks, and it can also be used to treat anaemia.
Many people take it to improve sleep, and relieve asthma and allergies. Just like other vitamins in the B group, it also boosts the mood and relieves stress.
It has also been studied for its effectiveness in protecting against age-related memory loss.
It protects the health of the nervous system, so it can relieve nerve pain and even regenerate damaged nerves. It has been found in studies to relieve pain in people with degenerative diseases.
Pregnant women are often advised to take a vitamin B complex as low levels of certain b vitamins has been linked to birth defects such as spina bifida.
There are different forms of this vitamin available. They are available in lozenges, oral tablets, liquid drops and sprays, and come in doses of 0.5mg to 6mg. Topical creams are also available.
Methylcobalamin injections are often given once per month to people who have problems absorbing nutrients or stomach issues. Injections are considerably more expensive than the other forms of the vitamin.
The recommended dosages for common conditions are:
- For stress relief and brain health, it’s usually taken in small doses of around 25mg or less.
- For nerve problems, larger doses of up to 40 mg per day are taken under a doctor’s supervision.
- For protection against age-related cognitive decline, 1mg per day is usually sufficient.
Methylcobalamin Supplements Can Help with Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are often see in people who follow strict vegan or vegetarian diets, because they don’t eat the main sources of this vitamin, which are animal products like red meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, and dairy products. In this case, taking a vitamin supplement can help.
Methylcobalamin side effects
It is safe for most people to take a daily Methylcobalamin supplement without experiencing side effects, however, some users have reported the following side effects:
- Diarrhoea or upset stomach
- Skin rashes, itching or hives
- Allergic reactions
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Increased heart rate
- Irregular heart rate
- Very rarely, high doses of the vitamin can cause blood clots.
People with anaemia should speak to their doctor before taking the supplement, and it can interact with alcohol and some medications so seek advice before taking it if you are on regular medication. It’s available as a topical paste to apply to the skin, and this can cause rashes in people who are sensitive to it.