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Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed by the intestine and carried by the circulatory system to the specific tissues in which they will be put into use. They are distinguished from each other by the degree to which they are soluble in water, a factor that influences their route inside the body. If you take excess amounts of the vitamins, some is stored in the body but most of it is eliminated in urine.

Vitamin C and the group of vitamins known as B vitamins are water-soluble. Alone, B vitamins are inactive. When they enter the body they go through several chemical processes to perform their function within the body. Only with the addition of other substances or parts of other molecules do they reach their functional, or coenzyme, form. This coenzyme forms with other components to make an enzyme. The enzyme serves as a catalyst in various metabolic and regulatory processes.

The vitamin B complex is a group of vitamins that share similar properties and include folic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin (more commonly known as B12).

Folic acid is necessary for the synthesis of nucleic acids and the formation of red blood cells. It can be found in foods including leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, cereals, beans, poultry, and egg yolks. A deficiency in folic acid can impair the maturation of young red blood cells, resulting in folic-acid-deficiency anemia. Pregnant women with an insufficient intake of folic acid are more likely to give birth prematurely or to deliver babies with low birth weight or with birth defects.

Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, functions as part of metabolic systems concerned with the oxidation of carbohydrates and amino acids, the constituents of proteins. Vitamin B2 is found in foods such as milk, eggs, leafy vegetables, kidney, and liver. An adult needs between 1.2 and 1.7 mg of the vitamin daily. Similarly, thiamin (B1) is crucial to carbohydrate metabolism. Thiamin can be found in cereal grains and in some seeds. Pork is a rich source of the vitamin. The recommended daily intake of thiamin is 1.0 to 1.1 mg for adult women and 1.2 to 1.4 mg for adult men.

Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine helps to break down amino acids, the building blocks of protein. It is also involved in creating serotonin and norepinephrine (two neurotransmitters) and hemoglobin components. No human disease has been found to be caused by a deficiency of vitamin B6 in the diet, but some obscure human ailments respond to its administration. An adult needs from 2.0 to 2.2 mg of vitamin B6 each day. Vitamin B6 is found in cereal grains, meats, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables.

B12 aids in the development of red blood cells. The human daily requirement for vitamin B12 is 3 micrograms; good dietary sources are eggs, meat, and dairy products. Vitamin B12 cooperates with folate in the synthesis of DNA. A deficiency of either compound leads to disordered production of DNA and eventually impairs the division of red blood cells, which causes a form of anemia. Vitamin B12 also aids in the creation of fatty acids in the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells. Vitamin C is essential for the growth of bones and teeth, for the maintenance of the subcutaneous tissues and the walls of the blood vessels, and for the healing of wounds. Some experts believe a high intake of vitamin C can fight the common cold.

Also called ASCORBIC ACID, it is involved in certain of the metabolic processes of animals. Although most animals can create their own vitamin C, humans, primates and guinea pigs must get the vitamin from outside sources in order to prevent scurvy. Scurvy is a disease characterized by debility, blood changes, spongy gums, and hemorrhages in the tissues of the body. Vitamin C is believed be crucial to the creation of collagen (a protein important in the formation of healthy skin, tendons, bones, and supportive tissues and in wound healing) and maintenance of the blood vessels; It has also been suggested that vitamin C could contribute to guarding against infection. An adult man needs about 70 mg per day. Citrus fruits and fresh vegetables are the best dietary sources of the vitamin.