The 20th began with the discovery of the vitamins themselves and their deficiency as the cause of diseases such as rickets, scurvy and Beri-Beri. Between 1954 and 1974, 25 new human diseases were discovered that can be treated with the important nutrients.
Since 1980, researchers have discovered other influences of the vitamins that run off indirectly. Certain vitamins protect the cells from decay, while others strengthen the immune system. Today we know that vitamins affect physical deterioration and the aging process. They probably also have prophylactic effects on life-threatening diseases - for example cancer. The nutrients protect the central nervous system in fetuses and children.
Fat and water soluble vitamins
There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K, water-soluble vitamins B and C. The former are mainly found in fatty meals and animal products such as vegetable oils, milk and milk products, eggs, liver, fatty fish and butter . The body stores these vitamins in the liver and adipose tissue as a reserve for the future.
Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, but are excreted in the urine. They are present in fruits, vegetables, potatoes, milk and milk products. Unlike the fat-soluble ones, they are quickly destroyed when preparing and washing the food. Adequate storage and preparation of meals can reduce nutrient loss.
Minerals and trace elements
Minerals found in the earth and in stones can also be found in organic and inorganic combinations. They are essential nutrients that the body needs to survive and perform its everyday functions.
Humans receive minerals by ingesting plants that in turn extract the minerals from the earth and by eating meat from animals that in turn eat plants. Minerals make up 4% of the human body. They are the most important factors in controlling physiological processes and are part of the teeth, bones, tissue, blood, muscles and nerve cells.
Minerals are very important to keep the fluids in the blood and tissue in balance so that they are neither too acidic nor alkaline. They allow other nutrients to pass through the blood channels, as well as transporting nutrients to the cells.
Two groups of minerals are crucial in the body - macro minerals and micro minerals. The former occur in higher doses in the body of animals or we get them in larger quantities from food. These include calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and sulfur.
We also refer to microminerals as trace elements, which means that they are only in small amounts in the body or we obtain them in small doses. These trace elements include chromium, cobalt, copper, iodine, fluorine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.
Children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the elderly have to adapt their input to the individual minerals. Excessive mineral intake can be toxic.
Vitamin A is responsible for eyesight, bone growth, the development of teeth, the immune system, the reproduction of cells, the formation of hormones, for healthy skin and hair.
Human genes consider the code to be vital proteins that the body needs to carry out everyday functions. When these proteins are needed, the genetic codes have to be transmitted. Vitamin A helps regulate this genetic transmission.
Vitamin A is found in two forms in nature - preformed vitamin A and provitamin A, also known as carotene. Sources are animals and plants. The retinol form is found in animal products such as liver, eggs and milk, while the beta-carotene is found in plants such as carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes, spinach, pumpkins and apricots.
A normal development of the fetus necessarily requires the intake of vitamin A. However, consuming high doses of retinol during pregnancy is known to cause birth defects in the newborn. Babies and children are more sensitive to vitamin A and can get sick if they get small overdoses of vitamin A.
An overdose of vitamin A can damage the bones and thin the skin, causing weakness and brittleness, as well as fatigue and vomiting. A vitamin A deficiency increases the risk of infectious diseases and vision problems.
The vitamin B complex
The vitamin B complex contains eight different nutrients: vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12. The body cannot store vitamins from the B complex, and the daily intake of B vitamins is necessary. Each member of the group has its own range of functions in the body, and at the same time these vitamins work together to maintain health.
The primary role of the vitamin B complex is to keep the metabolism going, absorb energy from food and supply it to the body. The vitamin group enables a normal appetite, promotes eyesight, stimulates the nervous system, keeps the skin healthy, helps digestion, promotes protein utilization, supports the production of blood cells, helps the body to use fats, protects against defects in the backbone and brain.
In addition, the vitamin B complex helps form the genetic material and hormones, draw energy from carbohydrates and supports hair growth. The B vitamins are also necessary to prevent diseases such as overuse and pellagra as well as forms of anemia that result from a lack of these.
B vitamins are water soluble, the majority of these vitamins are excreted in the urine. They can have negative side effects. When consumed in large quantities, they can raise blood sugar and cause skin problems that damage the heart and liver. Overdoses of vitamin B3 can disturb vision, cause confusion, induce nausea and cause stomach problems.
Vitamin B9, also called folic acid, is essential for brain functions and plays a crucial role in mental and emotional health. It helps form the body's genetic material and is necessary when the cells and tissues grow rapidly, i.e. in childhood, puberty and pregnancy. Folic acid also works closely with vitamin B12, helping to form red blood cells and making the iron work in the body.
The vitamin is important in pregnancy. Pregnant women who do not get enough folic acid are at risk of giving birth to children with birth defects. A study linked folate deficiency to autism. According to this, an adequate intake of folic acid should reduce the risk of developing diseases from the autistic spectrum.
Folic acid is naturally found in green leafy vegetables. Caution: Vitamin B9 dissolves in water and is therefore quickly lost when cooking. The longer leafy vegetables cook, the more of the substance disappears in the cooking water. If you just blanch the vegetables or cook them in the steam, you get the folic acid.
Folic acid is added to many foods today, such as flour, oatmeal or muesli.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and the body does not store it. Unlike many animals, humans are unable to synthesize vitamin C, so we have to ingest the substance with food.
A vitamin deficiency manifests itself in dry, brittle hair as well as rough and dry skin, delayed wound healing, nosebleeds and a higher susceptibility to infections. We know a serious form of vitamin C deficiency as scurvy.
Low levels of vitamin C link scientists to a number of ailments, from high blood pressure to gallbladder disorders, clogged blood vessels, and cancer.
Vitamin C is important to strengthen the vessels and form collagen, to protect the cell membranes from poisoning and to contain an overactive immune system. It also helps against allergies and viral diseases.
In medicine, the nutrient serves to support the immune system and to prevent viruses and cancer. The main task of the immune system is to protect the body from foreign substances and toxins. The vitamin is necessary for this.
It influences collagen synthesis and is therefore indispensable for the connective tissue. This in turn holds the body together - the skin, the bones, teeth, blood vessels, etc. Without collagen, scurvy is created, in which the teeth are loosened and then fall out as the most visible symptom.
Vitamin C can be found in all citrus fruits, i.e. limes, limes, lemons, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit and grapefruit. Other fruits that contain a lot of the vitamin are pineapple, papayas, strawberries, currants, blueberries, cranberries and watermelons.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble and accumulates in the liver like fatty tissue. Therefore, people with too much body fat store too much of the nutrient and the body can no longer implement it. Vitamin D is special because we produce it ourselves - in contrast to other vitamins that we consume with food.
The vitamin is formed especially when the skin is exposed to sunlight. A few foods also contain vitamin D, but these are hardly enough to compensate for a lack of sunlight.
The Inuit, who have survived months without sunlight (and artificial substitutes such as solariums) in the Arctic for many centuries, prove that this is possible. They take in vitamin D to a large extent with their daily food, namely in the form of high-fat fish and fish liver.
In a narrow medical sense, vitamin D is not a vitamin because we produce it ourselves in our body. Vitamins, on the other hand, are by definition organic substances from food.
The body needs the vital substance to absorb calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are necessary to build the bones. It also slows down autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Vitamin D helps to differentiate the cells, i.e. to ensure that cells can take on special tasks, and slows their growth. In short: the nutrient is essential for normal cell formation and a vitamin D deficiency can have serious health consequences.
During childhood, the body uses calcium and phosphorus to form the bones. If someone does not get enough calcium, or if the body cannot absorb enough calcium, bone and bone tissue suffer.
Vitamin E is probably one of the most unknown substances among those that science calls vitamins, and at the same time one of the most important. It slows down physical decay due to age, has a direct effect on the nervous system, increases fertility and builds up the muscles.
Put simply, the material is a bridge builder. It ensures that the cells can work together and that the connection between bones and muscles works. It also stops cellulite and smoothes the connective tissue.
Vitamin E is found in good doses in green leafy vegetables, nuts, wheat and lentils, as well as in whole grains. Animal products rarely contain the substance, exceptions are liver, heart and kidneys as well as milk and eggs. For infants, however, the following applies: cow's milk contains significantly less vitamin E than the milk from the mother's breast.
The vitamin builds up the hair and especially helps against thin hair and strengthens the hair roots. It protects the skin's natural moisture.
The substance balances certain hormones and helps against digestive problems.
The best sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, especially olive oil, corn oil, and soybean oil.
“Coagulation vitamin” is a cumbersome word, which is why doctors usually use the term vitamin K. It is fat-soluble and important to thicken the blood in the flow. It also plays an important role in bone building because it modifies the osteocalcin protein. This enables this protein to bind calcium.
Vitamin K is well suited for removing spider veins from the skin, as well as stretch marks and burn scars.
Newborns often suffer from vitamin K deficiency and this manifests itself in uncontrolled bleeding. In contrast, an injection with a vitamin K preparation helps. Undersupply is particularly widespread in developing countries and there is an enormous risk for male infants. Islamic believers, but also many non-Islamic cultures in Africa, are circumcising the foreskin of the boys. Vitamin K deficiency, coupled with unprofessional wound care, is a major cause of babies dying from circumcision.
22 minerals are necessary for specific functions of the human body, as far as science is today. We differentiate between macro minerals and micro minerals. The body needs the former in larger quantities. These include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, soda, chlorine and sulfur.
The organism, on the other hand, only needs microminerals in the form of trace elements. They include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, cobalt, fluorine and selenium.
Calcium is the most common of all minerals in the human body. The teeth and bones contain the most calcium, namely 99%. Neither could form without the material. Nerve cells, connective tissue, blood and other body fluids absorb the rest of the mineral.
Calcium is mainly found in dairy products. Sardines are also a very good source. Some plants also contain the mineral and offer an alternative to the daily glass of milk for vegans. Plant products include tofu, spinach and various types of cabbage.
Potassium is important for cell function and we need it to produce energy. Potassium together with proteins provides the osmotic pressure, regulates the acid-base balance and the water-electrolyte balance. The kidneys and muscles rely on potassium.
The mineral is found in spinach, chard and lamb's lettuce, whole grains, meat and fish. These should not be overcooked as this will lower the potassium level.
Magnesium promotes the muscles and nerves and keeps the immune system intact, ensures a regular heartbeat and strong bones. It also regulates blood sugar levels and helps form proteins.
Half of the magnesium in the body is found in the bones, where it probably interacts with calcium.
Magnesium deficiency manifests itself in foot pain, leg cramps or muscle tremors. There is also anorexia, vomiting, exhaustion and a feeling of weakness. If the magnesium level continues to decrease, feelings of numbness, abnormal heartbeat and heart spasms are added. In addition, sufferers suffer from personality disorders when the deficiency affects the nervous system.
With a balanced diet, we hardly suffer from an undersupply. Foods with a high magnesium content are nuts, seeds and whole grains. Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, which in turn contains magnesium.
On the other hand, almost no magnesium contains industrial products, especially white sugar and white flour.
Men need about 350 mg a day, women around 300 mg. Pregnant women, nursing mothers and athletes need significantly more.
Phosphorus is the “glue” for the body's cells and tissues. All cells contain phosphorus, 85% of which is in the teeth and bones. Together with calcium, the mineral provides the structure and strength. After calcium, it is the most common mineral in the human organism: almost one percent of our body weight is made up of phosphorus.
The mineral is widespread in plants and animals. Eggs, milk, meat, fish and flour are excellent sources to feed the substance. Whole grains also contain phosphorus in good quantities, as do fruits and vegetables.
But not a lot of the substance benefits the body. An overdose can lead to diarrhea and weaken the tissues. In addition, too high a phosphorus level prevents other minerals (magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc) from being processed.
Rarely is there too high a concentration of phosphorus in the blood. The cause of this is usually kidney disease.
Selenium gets plants from the earth and we get it from food. People need selenium: it strengthens the immune system and is necessary to build up proteins.
In addition to vegetables, Brazil nuts are valuable sources of selenium, as well as garlic, fish, shrimps, red meat, eggs, chicken and liver. Meat from animals that eat plants that grew in selenium-rich soil has greater amounts of selenium than meat from animals that did not eat selenium-rich plants.
Without selenium, the immune system no longer works effectively and the body can no longer produce certain proteins. This can lead to heart failure or diseases of the heart muscle.
How much selenium is formed depends, among other things, on the oxygen content, carbon and clay in the soil, and also on the pH value. Northern European countries such as Denmark, Finland, Scotland and Germany are poor in selenium.
Sodium is essential for cell functions, the nervous system and the contraction of the muscles. Together with potassium and chloride, it maintains the balance of body fluids.
A low sodium level prevents the nerves from communicating with the muscle tissue. This leads to muscle weakness, spasms and cramps, problems with the heart muscle and increased heartbeat or rapid heartbeat.
Too high a sodium level, in turn, leads to high blood pressure and to abnormally thick heart walls.
We find sodium in almost all foods. We consume the lion's share through finished products: bread, pastries, sausage and pickled meat. Chips and pretzel sticks also contain a lot of the mineral.
Zinc is found in every cell in the body, liver, kidneys, bones, red and white blood cells, the retina - they all store zinc. In total there are between 2 and 3 grams of the mineral in our body.
Usually we don't need any additional input of zinc if we get enough fruits, vegetables and proteins.
Men need more zinc than women because the mineral leaves the body during ejaculation. So the more sexually active a man is, the more zinc he needs, because the sperm has the highest concentration of zinc in the body. We also need zinc to develop our smell and taste senses.
Zinc is mainly found in foods with a lot of protein: beef, pork and lamb contain more zinc than fish, the dark meat on the chicken contains more than the white.
The idea that “real men” need meat is not a macho fantasy. However, that doesn't mean that men who don't eat meat have to live without ejaculation. Vegans can eat more nuts, whole grains and lentils and thus balance their zinc levels. Fruits and vegetables, however, are not a good source.
There are traces of copper in all body tissues. It helps form collagen, enables iron to be absorbed and plays a key role in producing energy.
The mineral is necessary to form the pigment melanin and helps to transport the electrons. Together with iron, it plays an important role in the formation of hemoglobin. It is also found in enzymes that oxidize fatty acids.
Most of the nuts are rich in copper, especially para and cashew nuts, seeds, especially sunflower, chickpeas, liver and oysters. Cereals, meat and fish contain enough of the mineral to meet half of our needs.
Too high a copper content in the body can lead to hepatitis, nerve disorders and kidney problems. Too little copper, on the other hand, makes hair brittle.
If we ingest too little copper from our food, the gastrointestinal tract can no longer absorb it. Such an undersupply often leads to a lack of other minerals.
Conversely, a lot of zinc interferes with the absorption of copper. If you take in more zinc for a long time than you would normally get from a balanced diet, you can lower the copper level. Men who consume zinc supplements are particularly at risk in order to increase their ejaculations.
Under certain conditions, we need an extraordinary amount of the mineral, for example if we lose blood, burn ourselves, get kidneys or take steroids. With the blood we lose red blood cells and with it copper. The body needs more of it now.
If there is a copper deficiency, the pigments cannot form or form too little, as can the red blood cells. We can also absorb less iron because copper makes it easier for iron to be absorbed. The combined deficiency leads to anemia.
Undersupply is associated with hair loss, diarrhea, depression, brittle bones and significant growth disorders. Infertility is also a possible consequence.
The body needs chromium so that insulin can regulate blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to convert sugar, starch and other parts of the food into the energy we need for our daily activities.
In short: Those who consume a lot of physical energy need chromium. This can be found in many products: meat, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and also in some spices. One of the best sources is broccoli.
The more simple sugar there is in a product, the less chromium it contains.
The need for women increases during pregnancy and lactation.
People with a chromium deficiency are particularly sensitive to sugar and alcohol. You suffer from chronically low blood sugar levels and exhaustion. A high cholesterol level can indicate a chromium deficiency, because this is regulated by the trace element.
Manganese is important so that different proteins can work in the body. Manganese is mainly found in the bones, further in the kidneys and the liver. A lot of manganese contains nuts, lentils, seeds, tea, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.
A deficiency can lead to glucose intolerance and disturbed fat metabolism. In an emergency, skeletal deformities are the cause because the bones lack important minerals. Developmental disorders are also added, as is too low cholesterol levels.
Manganese deficiency is associated with infertility, weakness, confusion and vomiting, numbness and anemia. Brittle nails and hair are possible, and toddlers can even develop blindness.
Hardly anyone knows this mineral, and yet it is an important trace element for us because it breaks down sulfur-containing amino acids and reduces uric acid.
This heavy metal belongs to the chrome group. It only occurs in small amounts in the body, with a total of 8 to 10 milligrams, more than half of it in the skeleton, the rest in the skin, liver, lungs and kidneys.
We eat it via legumes, wheat germ, dill, parsley and chives, but also via eggs.
The body needs iodine as a trace element to form the thyroid hormones. These in turn are necessary for bone formation, brain development and energy metabolism. The thyroid processes up to 80% of all iodine that we ingest.
The iodine gets into the gastrointestinal tract through food, and from there with the blood into the thyroid. There the hormones are formed, the thyroid gland stores them and releases them into the blood in the necessary doses.
The two hormones of the thyroid are largely bound to proteins, only 1% remains free and acts as free T 3 and free T 4 on the metabolism.
A lack of iodine and a consequent deficiency of thyroid hormones leads to developmental disorders, especially in young children and embryos in the womb. Children who suffer from this hormone deficiency can suffer serious mental damage - in the past, the term cretinism was used for this.
Sufficient iodine intake is therefore essential for pregnant women, nursing mothers and small children, for example with special iodine tablets. The best sources of iodine in food are fish and seaweed.
Iron is necessary to get the oxygen into the blood and red blood cells. A lack of red blood cells is therefore also called anemia due to iron deficiency. The undersupply reduces hemoglobin, which leads to the failure of vital organs and the blocked oxygen supply ends in the death of the cells.
Iron-rich foods are eggs, meat, almonds, avocados and green vegetables. The body cannot adequately absorb iron found in bread, milk and cereal products.
The body loses iron when urinating, sweating and shedding old skin cells. Bleeding leads to further loss of iron, so women need more iron than men because of their monthly period.
Iron deficiency affects the entire body. The central nervous system disorders show up as dizziness, headache, poor concentration and depression.
The problems in the cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary system are manifested by palpitations, congestion, shortness of breath, short breathing, tiredness, exhaustion and exhaustion.
The disturbed metabolism manifests itself as a lack of appetite, non-psychological anorexia and muscle wasting.
The damage to the skin, hair and nails leads to facial pallor, cracked corners of the mouth, brittle nails and regressed mucous membranes.
The weakened immune system manifests itself in an abundance of infections.
Boron affects a whole spectrum of life processes in which macro minerals are involved. It affects the glucose balance as well as amino acids and proteins, free radicals, prostate health, mental functions and estrogen levels.
Boron is important for building bones, treating osteoarthritis, building muscle and increasing testosterone levels. It also helps improve thinking skills and muscle coordination.
It is found in green leafy vegetables, especially in spinach, but also in plums, fruits (not in citrus fruits) and nuts.
Vanadium is found in the earth's crust. The human body only needs very small amounts of it. Vanadate is similar to phosphate, but binds more strongly to suitable enzymes. It can block phosphorylation enzymes, such as the transport of sodium and potassium. Vanadium also affects glucose intake. It stimulates glycolysis in the liver, which lowers the level of glucose in the blood.
Vanadium suppresses cholesterol production. A lack of the mineral leads to an increase in the cholesterol level in the blood plasma.
We mainly ingest silicon through our food and it promotes the healthy growth of hair and nails as well as smooth skin. Silicon is mainly found in apples. Legumes, raw cabbage, peanuts, carrots, onions, cucumbers, pumpkins, fish, almonds and oranges. Caution: The mineral is quickly lost when preparing food.
A silicon deficiency does not threaten vital functions, but it shows up externally. Silicon is closely connected to the connective tissue. If the fabric is missing, then there are wrinkles in the skin, brittle nails and thin hair. (Somayeh Khaleseh Ranjbar, translated and supplemented by Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Dr. Manfred Eggersdorfer, Dr. Dietmar Laudert, Dr. Ulla Létinois, Dr. Tom McClymont, Dr. Jonathan Medlock, Dr. Thomas Netscher, Priv.-Doz. Dr. Werner Bonrath: One hundred years of vitamins - a scientific success story; in: Angewandte Chemie, Volume 124, Issue 52, December 2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com
- Andrea Hartwig, Beate Köberle, Bernhard Michalke: Risk-benefit assessment of minerals and trace elements, KIT Scientific Publishing, Karlsruhe, 2014, onlinelibrary.wiley.com
- Julian Walter Holch, Marlies Michl, Volker Heinemann, Nicole Erickson: Vitamins and trace elements in oncology; German medical weekly, Volume 142, Issue 12, page 896-902, Georg Thieme Verlag KG, 2017, thieme-connect.com
- Hans Konrad Biesalski: Vitamins and Minerals: Indication, Diagnostics, Therapy; Thieme, edition: May 1, 2016
- Hans Konrad Biesalski: Vitamins and Health; in: Journal of Complementary Medicine, Volume 11, Issue 04, page 32-37, 2019, thieme-connect.com
- Magritt Brustad, Haakon E. Meyer: Vitamin D - hvor mye er nok, og er mer bedre for helsen ?; in: Tidsskr Nor Legeforen, Volume 134, 2014, tidsskriftet.no
- S.J. Padayatty, M. Levine: Vitamin C: the known and the unknown and Goldilocks; in: Oral Diseases, Volume 22, Issue 6, page 463-493, 2016, onlinelibrary.wiley.com
- Ga Young Lee, Sung Nim Han: The Role of Vitamin E in Immunity; Nutrients, Volume 10, Issue 11, 2018, mdpi.com
- Michael J. Shipton, Jecko Thachil: Vitamin B12 deficiency - A 21st century perspective; in: Clinical Medicine, Volume 19, Issue 5, September 2019, clinmed.rcpjournal.org