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With so many advertisements pushing the supposed benefits of vitamins and supplements, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction in order to understand the true benefits of taking vitamins or the upside from using supplements for health purposes or in association with achieving fitness goals. 

There are two main families of vitamins, broken down into fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are the four fat-soluble vitamins. In the presence of dietary fat, these vitamins are more easily absorbed by the body. There are nine vitamins that are water soluble. With one exception, they aren't kept in the human body. Any remaining water-soluble vitamins are excreted in the urine. Although the body stores a tiny amount of these vitamins, they must be taken on a regular basis to avoid a deficiency. The only water-soluble vitamin that can be retained in the liver for a long time is vitamin B12.

Vitamins are a collection of compounds that are required for appropriate cell growth, development, and function. There are 13 important vitamins, according to US government sources. The term "essential vitamins" refers to vitamins that are required for the body to function effectively.  These thirteen vitamins are as follows (in alphabetical/numeric order): Biotin (B7), Folate (folic acid and B9), Pantothenic acid (B5), Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K.  A few of the lesser-known vitamins from this list may include Niacin, Biotin, Pantothenic acid, Riboflavin, and Thiamine. A bit more detail on these critical vitamins is as follows:

  • Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, aids the conversion of carbohydrates into energy in the bodily cells. It's critical to consume adequate carbohydrates during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is also necessary for the proper functioning of the heart and the health of nerve cells.
  • Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, interacts with the other B vitamins. It is necessary for body growth and red blood cell formation.
  • Pantothenic acid is required for food metabolism. It's also involved in hormone and cholesterol synthesis.
  • Niacin is a B vitamin that keeps your skin and nerves healthy and has cholesterol-lowering properties that may be preferable to prescription cholesterol medications for certain individuals.
  • Biotin is required for protein and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as the creation of hormones and cholesterol.

Be sure to avoid vitamin deficiency, which could have dire unintended health consequences. More information on Vitamin D deficiency, for example, highlights why vitamin D is so important.