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Vitamins and Minerals

What Are They and What Do They Do?

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Updated July 15, 2009

One of the primary things a woman with PCOS can do to help manage PCOS is to lose weight and maintain a healthy diet. Vitamins and minerals are an essential part of any healthy eating plan and are often the most overlooked. However, they play a vital role in our bodies and our health.

Vitamins have important functions within the body. They aid enzymes in doing their work as coenzymes. An enzyme is a special protein which cause a particular chemical reaction. Many enzymes require a coenzyme, which makes up a necessary portion of the enzyme. Without its coenzyme, thousands of chemical reactions would be left incomplete.

There are two different types of vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins require special fat molecules called chylomicrons to be absorbed with them into the lymphatic system prior to entering the blood. Once they do enter the bloodstream, proteins are needed to carry them through the blood vessels. Because excess amounts are stored in the fatty tissue, it is possible to accumulate such large doses that they can become toxic. This typically happens due to taking inappropriate vitamin supplements, not because of diet. Water soluble vitamins do not require special proteins to aid absorption into the bloodstream, and are able to move freely throughout the blood and body cells. Excess amounts are secreted in the urine, preventing such toxic buildup.

Minerals are inorganic materials, meaning they are not alive, or do not originate from living things such as plants or animals. Minerals are not destroyed by the body’s digestive process or food preparation and always retain their individual identity despite the chemical reactions they undergo. Examples of minerals include sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They serve many important functions within the body. Bones and teeth are made of primarily calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. The balance of fluids within the body are largely due to the movement of minerals such as sodium, potassium and chloride within the different body compartments. Calcium and potassium are key players in the transmission of nerve signals and muscle contractions.

The body maintains it’s balance of minerals in a variety of ways, depending on the mineral. Calcium is stored in the body and in the bones and is released when it’s needed elsewhere in the body. When the body is missing some key minerals, like iron, the body will increase the amount that is absorbed during digestion. Generally, minerals that are not stored in the body tissues do not accumulate to toxic levels because excess amounts will be excreted in the waste. Grains, vegetables, dairy and proteins are good sources of dietary minerals, while fruits, oils and sugars are not.

Source:

Dudek, Susan G. Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice 4th Edition. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. Philadelphia: 2001.

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