THE PROTECTIVE ACTIONS OF VITAMINS
(from the book "LE VITAMINE" 3rd ed. PROF. A. FIDANZA, 1997)
Vitaminology has, in the last decade, had an exceptional period of development and research from all over the world has shown that vitamins have a new important role: that of protection. In fact, they protect cells and biological systems from the harmful effects of chemical, physical, bacterial and viral agents.
The ever increasing use of synthetic molecules in therapy, the introduction into the environment of toxic substances and the increasing use of additives, colorants and preservatives in foods are causes of an increase in internal pollution that is particularly harmful to cell protoplasm. Furthermore, due to wrong eating habits, there is an accumulation in the organism of intermediate metabolites which considerably alter biochemical equilibrium and are one of the elementary causes for metabolic and degenerative illnesses.
Basically, the protective action of vitamins consists of either the activation of physiological functions or the strengthening and preservation of organic defences. This explains their increasing use both in nutrition and in therapy.
The protective actions of the vitamins are strictly correlated with the multiple metabolic functions exercised in the course of transformation into their respective physiologically active compounds: the coenzymes.
Here follow detailed explanations and discussion of the protective effects of several vitamins:
Vitamin A and its derivatives
Vitamin A is a growth factor, is important for tissue differentiation and in maintenance of visual function. It acts as a cell membrane integrity factor, epithelio-protector and factor in glycolipid and keratin synthesis. It has anti- neoplastic activity connected with regulation of the function of epithelial differentiation.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids
Associated with reduction of plasmatic cholesterol, prevention of atherosclerotic damage, prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic illness such as diabetes.
Important in cholesterol esterification and as a prevention of excessive platelet aggregation. Has antioxidant properties and protects against chemical carcinogenesis induced from outside. Has shown protective potential in HIV positive children.
Various pharmaceuticals including contraceptives interfere with folic acid uptake and intestinal synthesis.
Shows anti tumoral activity and protects against mucositis as a consequence of administration of cytostatic pharmaceuticals. Protects against nitrosamine toxicity. Accumulates in central nervous system tissue where it protects against lipid peroxydation and plays a role in neurotransmitter synthesis. Anti-stress function.
Pantothenic acid and its derivatives
Is an important constituent of coenzyme A. Important for adrenal activity, stimulates tissue regeneration, anti inflammatory action. Normalises motility of intestine and has a protective function against atherosclerosis.
Antioxidants vitamins C and E and beta carotene
Prevention of free radical damage. C and E act synergistically.
Has important biological functions such as chetone body metabolism, myocardiac contractility and branched chain amino acid metabolism. Spin-traps free radicals, reduces pathological fatty acid accumulation and modulates immune response. (Aids, septic shock and chronic fatigue syndrome)
The protective actions of vitamins against the effects of environmental pollution.
The principal factors that have led to environmental pollution can be traced back to the phenomenon of urbanisation, to an increase of industrial and agricultural activity and the evolution of hygienic conditions and of the way of life of the population.
Atmospheric pollution leads to exposure to vapours, gasses, fumes and dust particles of a potentially toxic, irritant and cancer causing nature. The lungs, by reason of their direct and extensive contact with the atmospheric environment, are unique in their potential vulnerability to toxic agents and thus require a particularly efficient defence mechanism.
Epidemiological studies have shown that related health risks are not limited to the categories of majorly exposed workers but implicate also the general population which, even if to a lesser extent, has become susceptible to the onset of pathologies of respiratory, cardiovascular and cancerous nature. The presence in the water supply of micro pollutants of both natural and man-made origin leads to bioaccumulation and persistence with consequent environmental and health risks. The problem of environmental pollution seems to be one of the most serious problems of the present and it is necessary to pursue various strategies of intervention: limitation of the spreading of pollutants in the environment, information, epidemiological studies, programs of water sampling.
With regard to neutralising the damaging effects of the various pollutants, it has been observed that several micro nutrients have a protective function against the associated cytotoxicity. Numerous in vitro experiments and nutritional researches have in fact shown that the vitamins, especially beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C and nicotinamide may play a very important protective role.
The strengthening of the defensive mechanisms of the organism with adequate nutritive supplements may constitute a valid contribution towards the prevention of damage caused by environmental pollution.
Daily quantities of vitamins recommended in order to obtain protective effects: