Vitamins and minerals are key nutrients required by the body to allow for optimal functioning. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals can cause serious disease states and other health problems. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are required for many processes in the body and cannot be made by the body. Supplementation of vitamins, minerals and EFAs can help lower the chances of specific nutrient deficiencies.
Supplements in this category include vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.
Vitamins are organic compounds that function to allow reactions to occur in the body. Vitamins are either water soluble or fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body whereas fat soluble vitamins can. Therefore, water soluble vitamins (B Vitamins and Vitamin C) must be present in our diet and daily consumption of fat soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K) may not be as important. Vitamin deficiency can reduce physical performance by interfering with the energy process or increasing susceptibility to colds and infections.
|Vitamin||Dietary Source||Function||Consequence of Deficiency|
|Vitamin A||Liver, dairy products, fish, dark coloured fruits and leafy vegetables.||Helps form and maintain healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin.||Night blindness, dry eye possibly leading to blindness and flaking skin.|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamine)||Enriched, fortified or whole-grain products, bread and cereal.||Helps the body cells convert carbohydrates into energy. It is also essential for heart function and healthy nerve cells.||Nerve problems (beriberi), heart muscle weakness and oedema.|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||Organ meats, milk, bread products and fortified cereals.||Works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth and the production of red blood cells.||Inflammation of skin and mucous membranes (including irritation around mouth and eyes).|
|Vitamin B3 (niacin)||Meat, fish, poultry, enriched and whole-grain breads and bread products and fortified cereals.||Helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. It also has cholesterol-lowering effects.||Pellagra (scaly dermatitis and mental disturbances), nervous disorders and diarrhoea.|
|Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)||Chicken, beef, potatoes, oats, cereals, tomato products, liver, kidney, yeast, egg yolk broccoli and whole grains.||Essential for the metabolism of food. It also plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol.||Loss of coordination and decreased peristalsis (rare).|
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)||Fortified cereals, organ meats and fortified soy based meat substitutes.||Helps form red blood cells and maintain brain function. This vitamin also plays an important role in the proteins that are part of many chemical reactions in the body. The more protein you eat the more pyridoxine your body requires.||Convulsions, irritability and anaemia.|
|Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)||Enriched cereal grains, dark leafy vegetables, enriched and whole-grain breads and fortified cereals.||Works with vitamin B12 to help form red blood cells. It is needed for the production of DNA, which controls tissue growth and cell function.||Digestive disorders, anaemia and prenatal neural tube deficits (birth defects of the brain, spine, and/or spinal cord).|
|Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)||Fortified cereals, meat, fish and poultry.||Important for metabolism. It also helps form red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system.||Pernicious anaemia (a deficiency in the production of red blood cells).|
|Vitamin H (biotin)||Liver and small amounts in fruits and meats.||Essential for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, and the production of hormones and cholesterol.||Mental and muscle problems (rare).|
|Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)||Citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries, cabbage and spinach.||An antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums. It helps the body absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue. It also promotes wound healing.||Scurvy and degeneration of skin, bone and blood vessels.|
|Vitamin D (calciferol)||Fatty fish, fortified milk products and fortified cereals, the sun||Helps the body absorb calcium. You need calcium for the normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. It also helps maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.||Rickets and skeletal deformity.|
|Vitamin E (tocopherol)||Vegetable oils, unprocessed cereal grains, nuts, fruits, vegetable and meats.||An antioxidant that helps the body form red blood cells and utilise vitamin K.||Muscle and reproductive disorders (rare).|
|Vitamins K1, K2||Green vegetables, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, plant oils and margarine.||Imperative for blood coagulation. Some studies also suggest that it is important for bone health.||Blood clotting disorders and bone loss.|
 Axelrod, A. E. (1971). Immune processes in vitamin deficiency states. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 24(2), 265-271.
 Antonio, J., Kalman, D., Stout, J.R., Greenwood, M., Willoughby, D.S. and Haff, G.G. (eds.) (2008) Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements, United States: Humana Press.
 Vitamins: MedlinePlus medical encyclopedia (2016), available: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002399.htm [accessed 25 Sept 2016].
 Patton, K. and Thibodeau, G. (2016) Structure and Function of the Body, 15th ed., United States: Mosby.
Minerals can be obtained in our diet from plant and animal foods. The basic functions of minerals are to help build body structures like bones, teeth and muscles, regulate metabolic reactions and act as small particles that carry electrical charges such as ions or electrolytes. Depending on their dietary requirements, they are classified as either major minerals (macrominerals) or trace elements. Macrominerals include calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulphur.
Summary of selected mineral sources, functions and consequences of deficiency
|Mineral||Dietary Source||Function||Consequence of a Deficiency|
|Calcium||Milk, yoghurt, cheese, tofu, sardines, green beans, spinach, broccoli.||Formation of bones and teeth, supports blood clotting.||Rickets in children, osteomalacia (soft bones) and osteoporosis in adults.|
|Chloride||Salt, soy sauce, milk, eggs, meats.||Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance; also aids in digestion.||Muscle cramps, muscle fatigue.|
|Magnesium||Spinach, broccoli, artichokes, green beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, sunflower seeds, tofu, cashews, halibut.||Supports bone mineralisation, protein building, muscular contraction, nerve impulse transmission, immunity.||Nausea, irritability, muscle weakness, twitching, cramps, cardiac arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems).|
|Phosphorous||Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk.||Formation of cells, bones and teeth, maintains acid balance.||Rare.|
|Potassium||Potatoes, acorn squash, artichoke, spinach, broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomato juice, avocado, grapefruit juice, watermelon, banana, strawberries, cod, milk.||Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, cell integrity, muscle contractions and nerve impulse transmission.||Nausea, anorexia, muscle weakness, irritability.|
|Selenium||Seafood, meats, grains.||Antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect body from oxidation.||Unknown.|
|Chromium||Vegetable oils, liver, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, cheese, nuts.||Associated with insulin and is required for the release of energy from glucose.||Contributes to glucose intolerance and unhealthy blood lipid profile.|
|Copper||Meats, water.||Necessary for the absorption and utilisation of iron; supports formation of haemoglobin, and several enzymes.||Rare in adults.|
|Fluoride||Fluoridated drinking water, tea, seafood.||Involved in the formation of bones and teeth, helps make teeth resistant to decay.||Increased risk of tooth decay, osteoporosis.|
|Iodine||Salt, seafood, bread, milk, cheese.||Component of thyroid hormones that helps regulate growth, development and metabolic rate.||Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin, constipation, depression.|
|Iron||Artichoke, parsley, spinach, broccoli, green beans, tomato juice, tofu, clams shrimp, beef liver.||Part of the protein haemoglobin (carries oxygen throughout body’s cells).||Skin pallor, weakness, fatigue, headaches.|
|Manganese||Widespread in foods.||Facilitates many cell processes.||Unknown.|
|Sodium||Salt, soy sauce, bread, milk, meats.||Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, supports muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmissions.||Cramping.|
|Zinc||Spinach, broccoli, green peas, green beans, tomato juice, lentils, oysters, shrimp, crab, turkey (dark meat), lean ham, lean ground beef, lean sirloin steak, plain yoghurt, cheese, tofu.||A part of many enzymes, involved in production of genetic material and proteins, transports vitamin A, taste perception, wound healing, sperm production, normal development of the foetus.||Slow healing of wounds, loss of taste, retarded growth.|
 Maathuis, F. J. (2009). Physiological functions of mineral macronutrients. Current opinion in plant biology, 12(3), 250-258.
 Skolnik, H. and Chernus, A. (2010) Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
EFAs are required through supplementation and/or diet as your body cannot make them. The primary essential fatty acids are linoleic acid and linolenic acid. Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid, while linolenic acid – specifically, alpha-linolenic acid – is an omega-3 fatty acid. They are required for normal growth, the maintenance of cell membranes and for the functioning of arteries and nerves. They also support joint health.
There are several forms of omega-3 fatty acids – alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but only in small amounts. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and lower blood levels of triglycerides (a type of fat found in blood).
Omega-6s that contain linoleic acid convert in the body to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and ultimately to prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help regulate inflammation, blood pressure and heart, gastrointestinal and kidney functions.
Sources of EFAs
Flaxseed oil is one of the richest sources of alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and is also high in linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). It can be added to many foods/recipes without significantly altering the taste.
Krill oil is oil from Atlantic Krill – a small crustacean. Krill oil is a rich source of EPA (about 18%) and DHA (about 10%) in the form of phospholipids resulting in a higher bioavailability (rate of absorption) than fish oil., Krill oil also contains astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant). Krill oil is reported to have health benefits related to cholesterol levels, blood sugar, chronic inflammation and cognitive disease.
Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Many commonly available fish oils contain about 30% EPA plus DHA, with more concentrated preparations available. Fish liver oils (e.g. cod liver oil) contain higher amounts of Vitamins A and D than fish body oils. Daily intakes of EPA and DHA of people not consuming oily fish are likely to be less than 200mg/day, which is below the recommended 1000mg/day. Once fish oil supplements are consumed, EPA and DHA become enriched with blood lipids, cells and tissues and influence many aspects of physiology which are implicated to lead to improved health and lower risk of disease.
 Goldberg, R. J., & Katz, J. (2007). A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. Pain, 129(1), 210-223.
 Kris-Etherton, P. M., Harris, W. S., Appel, L. J., & Nutrition Committee. (2002). Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. circulation, 106(21), 2747-2757.
 Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy, 56(8), 365-379.
 Turchini, G.M., Ng, W.K. and Tocher, D.R. (eds.) (2010) Fish Oil Replacement and Alternative Lipid Sources in Aquaculture Feeds, Boca Raton: CRC Press.
 Burri, L. and Johnsen, L. (2015) ‘Krill Products: An Overview of Animal Studies’, Nutrients, 7(5), 3300-3321.
 Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 21(6), 495-505.