Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients, that are responsible for many roles in the body. Roles that are required in order to maintain a healthy body. These nutrients are needed in small amounts and are accessible to us if needed, either through supplements or through our diets. In this essay, I will be discussing what a vitamin and mineral is, as well as the health benefits, deficiencies and sources of both the vitamin thiamin, and the mineral copper.
Vitamins are one of the organic compounds required in by living organisms in small quantities for good overall health. Vitamins can’t be made within the body, so must be made up for in our diet.. If a given vitamin is lacking, symptoms will occur which is known as deficiency disease.
Minerals are inorganic compounds required for a wide range of functions, both for health and industrial purposes. Seven minerals are needed in the body in only trace amounts for good health, otherwise known as trace elements. The trace elements include manganese, copper, zinc and iodine.
Thiamin, which is otherwise known as Vitamin B1, is a colourless compound with the chemical formula C12H17N4OS+. It is a B vitamin responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This vitamin is necessary in order to release energy throughout the body, such as your nervous system, brain and heart. Thiamin is also responsible in assisting with many other bodily functions such as skeletal muscle, electrolyte flow and digestion. As thiamin is part of the B-complex vitamin group, it helps in assisting other B vitamins do their function.
Thiamin is absorbed in the small intestine and transported to the liver where some of the highest concentrations are found. Other concentrations are also found in the brain and kidneys. Thiamin can be found in many foods throughout the diet, but many good sources include yeast, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, pork, fortified cereals, eggs and milk. Thiamin can also be found in many dietary supplements and multivitamins sold in shops, as it is part of the B-complex vitamin.
Although we can get thiamin from different sources, there are ways in which we aid in the depletion of thiamin absorption in the body, such as smoking, stress and the food and drink we consume, smoking. Alcohol and coffee are also known to be behind depletion of thiamin, as they block the process of absorbing thiamin, and as a result, your body will take nutrients from your muscles which then make you ache.
If enough thiamin depletion occurs, eating refined rices and grains which have been modified from their natural composition, can aid in the cause of beriberi. Beriberi is a deficiency of the nervous system which is directly related to illnesses such as alcoholism, sciatica, neuralgia and facial paralysis.
Seafood which is raw, has been proven scientifically to contain chemicals that destroy thiamine, however cooked seafood does not have any effect on thiamine.
“Thiamin can’t be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day” (NHS, 2017). The recommended daily amount for thiamin, is 1mg a day for men and 0.8mg for women. If you are deficient in thiamin, some symptoms include fatigue, stomach pain, insomnia, clumsiness, blurred vision and faintness on standing up. The elderly are more at risk for thiamin deficiency as many of them do not eat properly.
Thiamin is an important vitamin, responsible for major processes in the body. It has many benefits to the body and is non-toxic. As your body does not store thiamine, deficiency can happen very quickly. By having the recommended daily allowance, thiamin reduces the complications of diseases like such as maple syrup urine disease and pyruvate carboxylase deficiency. Lack of thiamine hinders metabolic processes, and can cause metabolic disorders associated with genetic diseases, such as Leighs disease. In worst case scenarios, thiamin deficiency can cause loss of hearing, permanent nerve damage, heart conditions, brain damage and even death.
Copper is an element on the periodic table, with the atomic symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is the earliest metal to be used by humans, for things such as plumbing, pipes and coins. It is a soft and malleable metal that can be drawn out into wires, which make it useful for conducting both electricity and heat. Therefore, copper is mostly used in electrical equipment such as motors and industrial machinery.
Although copper is used for industrial purposes, copper is also an essential trace mineral in plants and animals. Copper has to be absorbed in some way by eating, drinking, and breathing, as it is necessary for us to live.
Copper is useful for helping assist many health benefits such as brain development and infant growth. It is used to help trigger the release of haemoglobin, which is solely responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. By helping trigger haemoglobin from red blood cells, it is helping with the condition anaemia. Copper is also responsible in the creation of insulation around the myelin sheath, which is found in our nerve cells. This insulation is important as it is responsible for fastening electrical signals around the body, to the brain and back. Copper also helps stimulate collagen production which is useful for helping heal cuts and scrapes on the body.
Copper can be found naturally throughout the environment, in places such as soil, water and rocks, but can be sourced in many other ways, such as copper ores and phytomining. Copper which is found in copper ores, is used by being heated in a furnace and then purifying them in a process called electrolysis. We are running out of copper-rich ores, and research is being carried out to find new ways to source copper from copper-poor ores. The other source of copper is through an extraction method called phytomining. Plants can absorb copper compounds through their roots, are able to be concentrated, therefore we are able to burn the plant in order to produce an ash that contains the copper compounds.
As copper is used in many households, excess copper from water pipes and kitchen utensils are being absorbed by our bodies. Although copper is an industrious mineral, it can also be found in sources of food such as shellfish, leafy green vegetables, dried fruit and beans. The recommended daily amount for adults is 1.2mg a day, but we should be getting all the copper we need from our daily diet. Taking too much copper is harmful, so the recommended daily amount should not be exceeded.
Zinc supplements are known to interfere with the absorption of copper, which help in aiding in deficiency. It is rare to be deficient in copper, but the main deficiency symptoms include general weakness, anaemia, low body temperature, heart damage, hair loss and digestive problems. Extreme deficiency will include high blood pressure, kidney disease and signs of early ageing. Copper can be toxic to the body, but is very rare, and in rare cases can cause metabolism disorders such as Wilson’s disease.
To conclude, you should be able to get the essential vitamin and minerals you need, by eating a varied and balanced diet. However, there are reasons people may be deficient, for example, an intolerance to certain foods such as dairy or wheat products. There are also certain illnesses that prevents people from being able to absorb certain nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are recommended as part of your diets, but can be taken through supplements if needed, though you should consult your doctor if unsure.