Our bodies are
built up from the food we eat. There is a constant breaking down of the tissues
of the body; every movement of every organ involves waste, and this waste is
repaired from our food. Each organ of the body requires its share of nutrition.
The brain must be supplied with its portion; the bones, the muscles, and the
nerves demand theirs. It is a wonderful process that transforms the food into
blood and uses this blood to build up the varied parts of the body; but this
process is going on continually, supplying with life and strength each nerve,
muscle, and tissue.” Child Guidance, 378.
Our bodies were
designed to operate without our conscious effort. We do not have to think
through our body’s digestive process in order for it to happen, nor do we
process out our blood’s circulation to get the life sustenance to our
extremities. We do not usually pump our
lungs manually to get air into them. We breathe without conscious effort. But
in order to be able to do all these things, we need to provide our bodies with
sufficient calories, vitamins, and minerals, which can best be done through a
varied diet. Also, since the invention of dietary supplements, those who have a
poor diet, or are compromised in their health condition, are able to use these
aids to improve their overall health.
The substances that the body needs
to develop and maintain properly are vitamins. There are 13 vitamins that are
essential to our livelihood: A, C, D, E, K, and the B-family (thiamine, riboflavin,
niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12,
and folate). To break things down a little
further, a vitamin is an organic compound that an organism cannot create in
sufficient amounts on its own and must be obtained via another source, mainly
through diet. As the word “compound” implies, each vitamin consists of several vitamers. These collective vitamers
work together to produce the vitamin and the effect each vitamin has on the
body. For example, cyanocolabim, hydroxocolabim,
methylocolabim, and 5-deoxadenosylcolabim are all
vitamin B12 vitamers. Each unique
combination of vitamers are
what allow the 13 different vitamins to play their different roles in the
body’s upkeep. These roles are as diverse as regulating tissue growth and
hormones and aiding in vision.
Today, we have an abundant supply of
vitamins that come in the form of pills. But before these were available, food
was the only way to obtain these necessary nutrients. Hippocrates, who is known
as the Father of Modern Medicine said, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy
medicine, thy food;” which is still the best health practice. His finding,
among many others, was that feeding his patients liver which is packed with
vitamin A, was a cure for night blindness. We now
recognize vitamin A as necessary for night vision.
The Renaissance period spawned the
growth of oceanic travel which led also to the rise in scurvy cases. Scurvy is
a disease defined by the lack of collagen formation which prevents wounds from
healing, bleeding from the gums, extreme fatigue, and severe joint and muscle
pain. James Lind, a Scottish surgeon, found that citrus fruits prevented the
onset of this terrible ailment. The ultimate finding was that scurvy was
brought on by a vitamin C deficiency. Throughout the late 1800s and early
1900s, scientists were able to identify necessary components of the diet
through deprivation studies. However, it was not until 1912 that the word “vitamine” was pronounced as a vitally necessary component
to the human body and its functionality. Later, in 1920, the word was changed
Since then, vitamins have been
classified into two groups: fat soluble and water soluble. Four of the thirteen
human vitamins are fat soluble: A, D, E, and K. The
eight B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble. Water soluble vitamins are
dissolvable in water and thus are eliminated through urination. Because of
this, the water-soluble vitamins must be replenished on a daily basis.
Both groups of vitamins are absorbed
through the intestinal tract with the aid of lipids, or fats. However, fat
soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fat for long periods of time and do
not need to be replaced as frequently as the water-soluble vitamins. Replacing
these vitamins too frequently leaves to a higher danger of toxicity (known as hypervitaminosis).
From the moment of conception, the
human body develops through the use of vitamins and minerals. The nutrients
play an integral role in the chemical reactions that are responsible for the
creation of the body’s many intricate systems. When even one vitamin or mineral
is lacking in an appropriate amount, the development can be seriously impaired.
In order for the body to be properly maintained, these same nutrients must be
available for use. They are necessary for everything from tissue repair to the
support of chemical reactions that keep the body operational.
Minerals are the second of these two
vital components. Unlike vitamins, which are carbon compounds, or derived from
living matter, minerals are inorganic and make up about 4% of our body mass. There are two types of minerals: major or (macro)
minerals, and trace minerals. Trace minerals are iron, zinc, copper, selenium,
iodine, cobolt, fluorine, manganese, molybdenum, and
chromium. The body requires less than 100 milligrams of trace minerals per day
for optimum upkeep. The major, or macrominerals, are
sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, sulfur (provided
through adequate protein intake) and chlorine (amply provided through sodium).
These minerals are needed by the body in quantities higher than 100 milligrams
daily. Minerals serve three principle roles in the body. They provide structure
in forming bones and teeth. Minerals maintain normal heart rhythm, muscle
contractility, neural conductivity, and acid-based balance. Also in their realm
is the regulation of cellular metabolism. Just like vitamins, minerals are
obtained through our diet.
Vitamins and minerals interact with
each other to produce the necessary effects in the body. For example, a combination
of vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, fluoride, chloride,
manganese, copper, and sulfur is necessary to keep bones healthy. And calcium,
for instance, depends on the presence of certain vitamins such as vitamin D for
its proper absorption. Because vitamins and minerals depend on the presence of
one another to function optimally in the body , it is
not enough to ensure that your body is just obtaining enough of one or the
other; maintaining a proper balance of both is vital to optimum health.
“Health reformers, above all others,
should be careful to shun extremes. The body must have sufficient nourishment.
We cannot subsist upon air merely; neither can we retain health unless we have
nourishing food.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 207.
“A diet lacking
in the proper elements of nutrition brings reproach upon the cause of health
reform. We are mortal and must supply ourselves with food that will give proper
nourishment to the body.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 161.
Their role in the Human Body, by George F. M. Ball.