Let’s Talk Vitamins

Amanda Peterson, RDN, LD | Molly Mills, RDN, LD
August 06, 2021
Graphic of vitamin pill and what goes into it.

You may have heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but what is so special about an apple? In other words, why do certain foods help to support our immune system? The short answer: micronutrients. Micronutrients, often referred to as vitamins and minerals, are tiny components of our food that make a huge difference in our health. During the July MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program support group, we talked about the importance of specific micronutrients, particularly after bariatric surgery.

Why Are Vitamins Important?

Eating a variety of food groups helps to ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals that you need. However, certain individuals such as aging adults, pregnant women, and those with digestive diseases such as celiac, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis are at a higher risk for vitamin deficiency and may need to take additional supplements. After bariatric surgery, patients are also at an increased risk of deficiency due to decreased food intake and decreased absorption due to intestinal changes.

Vitamin deficiencies can result in a number of problems. Low levels of vitamins A, D, E, and K can result in poor skin health, neurological problems, osteoporosis and/or slow wound healing. Not consuming enough vitamin B can result in anemia, low energy, neurological issues, and constipation. A solution to vitamin deficiencies is adding a multivitamin (or even individual supplements) into your daily routine. Some people may find it difficult to achieve satisfactory micronutrient levels from a healthy diet alone, and after bariatric surgery, micronutrients are not as readily absorbed from food, so vitamins are required FOR LIFE. A complete multivitamin will contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, but for the purposes of this post, we are strictly going to take a closer look at the role of fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins:

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin A plays a role in eyesight. You’ve probably heard that carrots are beneficial for eyesight. This is because carrots contain beta carotene, a form of vitamin A. Vitamin A is also important for skin and bone health and lowers the risk of some cancers such as prostate and lung cancer. Sources of Vitamin A include sweet potatoes, eggs, cheese, spinach, and mangos.

Vitamin D is important for the health of your bones! It strengthens bones and improves dental health. Sources of vitamin D include dairy products, fish, and the sun.

Vitamin E is vital to the health of your cells. This vitamin acts as an antioxidant to manage components that are dangerous to the cells. Current research also shows that vitamin E shows a positive effect on the prevention of Alzheimer's. Sources of vitamin E include fat sources such as oils and nuts as well as leafy greens.

Vitamin K is best known for its blood clotting abilities. It aids with this process by impacting the mineral calcium and clotting factors in the blood. Sources of vitamin K include leafy greens, eggs, and broccoli.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamin, is important for your brain and nerve functions as well as your skin and hair. It supports these areas by assisting in the conversion of food into usable energy for the body. Thiamin can be found in brown rice, watermelon, and soy products such as soymilk or tofu.

Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin, helps protect our nervous system, DNA, and blood cells. It aids in the breakdown of amino acids and aids in cell production (making it an important factor in iron absorption). Sources of vitamin B12 are poultry, meat, and dairy products.

Vitamin B6, also known as Pantothenic acid, affects our mental health, energy levels, and immunity. This micronutrient helps in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that impacts our brain and decision making. B6 can be found in fish, bananas, and potatoes.

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, and vitamin B3, also known as niacin, have very similar roles in the body. Both strengthen hair and nails and aid in the health of our blood cells. Vitamin B2 can be found in leafy greens, grains, and dairy products. Vitamin B3 is found in potatoes, mushrooms, and peanut butter.

Vitamin B5 is an important vitamin for your lipid (fat) production, hemoglobin (which is related to cholesterol and iron), and neurotransmitters which help the brain send signals all over the body. Foods containing vitamin B5 are broccoli, avocados, and tomatoes.

Vitamin C is versatile in its functions which include collagen production, immune system support and cell protection. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant which takes care of harmful cells to protect the healthy ones. This is displayed in immune system support.. Good sources of vitamin C are all major citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries and sweet peppers.

Conclusion

Overall, micronutrients are tiny components of food that make a huge difference in our health. While they each have their own special roles in the body, it is important to have them all to live a healthy life. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important to achieve satisfactory vitamin and mineral levels. However, certain situations, like undergoing bariatric surgery, will require taking vitamin and mineral supplements for life to optimize your long-term health.

Amanda Peterson, RDN, LD & Molly Mills, RDN, LD & Emily Martin

About the Author

Amanda Peterson, RDN, LD | Molly Mills, RDN, LD
Amanda and Molly are the MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program Registered Dietitians. With 15+ years of experience combined, they facilitate behavior change through nutrition counseling for weight loss and maintenance with children through adults.
Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery

Keywords: Bariatric, Weight Loss, Weight Management, Healthy Eating, Nutrition