Understanding vitamins

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Vitamins are organic chemical compounds required in small amounts for essential functions throughout the human body. With the exception of vitamin D, they can’t be made in the body itself so must come from our diet.

The recommended daily intake of vitamins is based on the average amount required for the majority of the population, but it varies depending on age, sex and lifestyle. For instance, post-menopausal women need more vitamin D to help guard against bone loss, while pregnant women need more of the B vitamin, folic acid, to prevent neural tube defects in the developing foetus.

Interestingly a balanced diet provides all of the vitamins that we need without requiring any supplements. Some foods, like cereal and bread, are fortified with vitamins as a public health measure to increase intake.